Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Books About Writing & Food Copy

Writing North Idaho recently added a side bar to its blog, a list of favorite books about writing from each  WNI contributor.

 If  you haven’t read   them I encourage you to do so.  Each give wonderful insight  about the process of writing.  I bet there are  hundreds , maybe thousands of books written on the subject of writing, all with different themes and topics written by college professors, English teachers, newspaper editors, and published authors—some about scriptwriting,   travel writing, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, play, essay and memoir ; Others  about writing children’s  books, Christian books, mystery, Sci-fi and fantasy. All with the purpose to help the writer become a better writer , and reach their goal of becoming published.

Some books  are very specific giving  instruction on  plot, dialogue or description—Writer’s Digest published Guide to Query Letters, and of course there’s Strunk and White’s Element of  Style.  A book every writer should have on their shelf.

My background as a writer didn’t start with a particular genre, but as a journalist.  The books I read, and studied were text books about Journalism . After college I went to work for the Herald American/Call-Enterprise Newspapers  in southern California.  First as a proof reader at the Bellflower Herald Enterprise, then a feature writer assigned to covering stories of interest in the local area.  It gave me good experience in practicing the  Who, What, Where, When and How rule of classic journalism, and helped me grow as a writer.   But it was when the  Managing Editor, Tony Derry  named me as Food Editor that I grew as a creative writer .

After accepting the position, reality sank in and I thought , What do I know about cooking. It’s not like I’m Julia Child. I didn't even like to cook.   As a high school Freshman, I nearly  failed Foods class ! And  just prior to my becoming Food Editor I had invited a young man to my house to cook dinner for him.  It was a bit deceiving as it wasn't me who prepared the delicious fried chicken that night ,  it was my brother, Walt.  He was always a better cook than me.  It took some time before my cooking improved.  One of the first meals I fixed for my husband was baked halibut with a special orange sauce.  When I placed it on the table the sauce was burnt, and the halibut steak was  hard as a brick.  Gary looked at it, then looked at me and sweetly said, “Maybe we should go out to eat”.

While I didn’t like to cook , I did like to write  - even about food.

My job as Food Editor was to read the hundreds of recipes mailed to our department each week  and write  a 'savoring'  opening paragraph  about each one,  with a captivating   headline.  For instance, 


The number of recipes that ran each week would vary depending on number of pages in the Food section, which was dependent on the number of grocery market ads sold.   Typically,  25   -  35 recipes were featured in the Thursday edition.  But that doesn't mean I only wrote opening paragraph's and headlines for that number each week.  Tony was  insistent  I have a surplus of ready to go food copy in my file, at least enough for three weeks out. 

 Being Food Editor wasn't a burdensome responsibility ,  the challenge was in continually coming up with something new to write about pork and hamburger, sweet potato pie and apple pie.   That’s why when someone asks me when  it was I became a creative writer, I tell them it was while I was Food Editor at the Herald-American/Call-Enterprise.

If only there had been a  book  about writing Food copy,  how it would have helped my appetite for writing !


Anonymous said...

Will never look at a cook book or listen to a cooking show without thinking how much work must go into it. And this article on a part of your life that you are sharing is so enjoyable. Thank you for enlightening my day.


Patty said...

Always enjoy reading about food writing....this was fun!