Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Guest blog: Food Writing with Dina Guillen

Dina Guillen, author of Cooking Club: Great Ideas and Delicious Recipes for Fabulous Get-Togethers,stopped by to share her thoughts on food writing. Read on!

Food writing, like any writing, involves passion. If you are not passionate about it, don’t do it. It can be really hard, day after day, coming up with something to say and finding the right words to say it. But if you are sincerely passionate about it, the excitement and joy you feel jumps off the page and everyone feels it.

That being said, the next thing I would recommend is that no matter how passionate you are, you’ve got to ask yourself “why would a stranger read my book/blog/article?” Michael Ruhlman wrote an essay on food writing, and in it he said “Writing is not about the ‘me,’ it’s about the ‘not me.’ This is always true, even in personal essay and memoir.” I couldn’t agree more. People don’t care about my opinion, no matter how passionate I am about it. But if I include facts and information and data – then I’ve got an audience.

We received really nice feedback and reviews from readers of our latest book, Cooking Club: Great Ideas and Delicious Recipes for Fabulous Get-togethers. Everyone appreciated that we took the time to profile other cooking clubs around the country and put their advice in the book, plus we included pages of cooking club tips and guidelines, and entertaining tips for each themed menu. When you seek out advice and expert opinion and include it in your writing, it is much more valuable to the reader.

If you are looking to get published,the one tip I can give you is do your homework. While we were writing our first cookbook, The Plank Grilling Cookbook, I spent a lot of time in the bookstore and in the library researching book publishers who had published similar cookbooks to the one my friends and I were writing. I also bought a book called, How to Publish Your Nonfiction Book: A Complete Guide to Making the Right Publisher Say Yes, by Rudy Shur. We followed his advice every step of the way and it proved to be invaluable.

We prepared a proposal that described what our book was about and we were very strategic in explaining how it was different then anything out there, but not too different to scare people away from the topic entirely. It was important to communicate to the publisher how they were going to make money if they published our book. We wrote about our target audience, and some marketing strategies to sell the book. We had already written over half the cookbook, so we included two or three recipe chapters, as well as a table of contents. We packaged the proposal with a grilling plank, and mailed it to almost a dozen publishers that we had researched – hoping the grilling plank would get their attention since we didn’t have an agent to do that.

Shortly thereafter, we received four offers from publishers. That was incredibly exciting for us!

And finally, when it comes to food writing, it helps to be organized and detail oriented, especially when you are creating recipes. There is a big difference between a teaspoon and a tablespoon, ¼ cup and ¾ cup, baking soda and baking powder. It is so easy to type in the wrong amount, or wrong ingredient, and there are so many little details with writing a recipe. Testing the recipes before they make it in your cookbook will eliminate those mistakes. And if you don’t get overwhelmed by the details, then it is a really enjoyable experience. People will trust you, know that you took the time to get it right, and hopefully want to come back and buy your next book!


Thank you again to Dina Guillen for stopping by!