the kitchen reader: will write for food

by Stacy

The January selection for The Kitchen Reader book club was Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More by Dianne Jacob chosen by Sarah of Simply Cooked.

I had heard great things about this book from other bloggers and already subscribed to Dianne Jacob’s blog, but I hadn’t gotten around to reading the book until now. Thanks, Sarah, for choosing it!

The book was originally published in 2005 but was revised and re-printed in 2010. There is advice from renowned editors, famous writers, and a veritable who’s-who of food bloggers. The book starts with some basics: a definition of “food writing,” examples of good food writers, writing with the senses, and finding your voice as a writer. Jacobs stresses that the basis of good food writing is simply good writing that happens to focus on food.

After discussing characteristics of food writers and tips for getting started, the rest of the book is broken into chapters on food blogs, freelance writing, restaurant reviewing, cookbooks, recipes, memoirs and nonfiction, fiction food writing, and getting published.

Though not every chapter applied to me personally, I think the book is a great resource for food writers — no matter how casual. Jacobs manages to walk the line between encouragement and reality while outlining the challenges and statistics of getting food writing published. She never implies that any of this is easy, which I appreciate. If food writing is your passion, however, she tells you how to best invest your energy in order to succeed.

The sections on blogging didn’t offer a ton of new information for me, but that’s not the book’s fault that I waited this long to read it. The benefit of the book is having all this information collected in one place so that other people don’t have to scour the internet learning how to blog better. Why did I not read this book a year ago?

The end of each chapter features writing exercises to help the reader try the methods described in the previous pages. Exercises range from writing simple food descriptions and restaurant reviews to researching a food topic or developing a recipe. I tried several of them and immediately noticed a difference. The book helped me realize that I resist specific descriptions of food, erring on the side of more generic (and less helpful) adjectives. It’s been disappointing that I haven’t had a chance to practice since I haven’t posted much lately, but one of my goals for the year is to improve my writing. The tips from this book will be a part of accomplishing that goal.

One downside of the book is that it relies heavily on online references — convenient for blogging, a bit clunky on paper. The flip side of the coin is that Jacobs offers a plethora of online resources (and suggested readings lists) to gain deeper insight into the topics she covers. A good suggestion from the book is to read good food writing, and she offers plenty of options.

Have you read Will Write for Food? What did you think? Check out The Kitchen Reader blogroll for more insights!

{ 12 comments… read them below or add one }

Jill January 31, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I read the older version and thought it was interesting and helpful, so I’m sure the newer addition is even better. I thought she had great tips, and I should have tried the writing exercises. I’d like to be a better storyteller, and I think this book could help.


Stacy February 2, 2011 at 2:37 pm

Agreed. Some of the writing exercises made me think, “Ooh, that’s hard!” Which I think is a good sign.


Jenn January 31, 2011 at 3:59 pm

I haven’t read it, but it has been on my “to read” list for a while now! Glad to hear that it is so helpful!


Stacy February 2, 2011 at 2:38 pm

It was on mine for a while and now I wish I had just read it earlier! Thanks for the retweet. =)


sarah, simply cooked January 31, 2011 at 6:06 pm

Stacy, I was also thinking to myself, why did I read this a year ago? And the reading lists have inspired me even further–I’m off to the library this week to pick up some more great food reading. I have also started reading more widely about good writing; I subscribed to a funky word a day and bought Elements of Style. I look forward to hearing about what you decide to implement next. Thanks for taking part this month!


Stacy February 2, 2011 at 2:39 pm

That’s awesome! I was also reading another writing book and now I feel so inspired to write better!


PharmaFoodie (aileen) January 31, 2011 at 7:42 pm

You’re so right about the awkwardness of the medium, printed word vs the web! I kept reading tips in the book, but found myself constantly interrupted to look up some references, which made the flow a little choppy. I never took my blog that seriously but this book is really making me think – and now I find myself spending lots and lots of time in front of the computer…


Stacy February 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

It’s amazing what a little perspective shift will do once you think about what your blog could be, isn’t it?


Liz the Chef February 1, 2011 at 9:50 am

Funny, I recently read the updated edition and had an identical reaction to yours. Do you follow Dianne on FB? Her posts are little gems…


Stacy February 2, 2011 at 2:41 pm

I don’t follow her on FB, just her blog. I’ll go look though. =) Thank you!


Bridget February 3, 2011 at 10:56 am

Stacy, you always have such well-written and thorough book reviews. I’ve seen this book on shelves, but had never really checked it out. Now I want to read it!


Stacy February 5, 2011 at 4:08 pm

Why thank you. =)
Even though I don’t aspire to write (for example) food-themed fiction, it was still interesting to read about how you might approach such a goal in addition to the applicable blogging tips.


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