Hungry for Words

I began teaching Hungry for Words in 2006, a curriculum focusing on food writing and the various aspects involved in the genres that make up this endlessly fascinating area of writing. My first weekend intensive was held at the Richard Hugo House in Seattle. Since then, I’ve taught elements of the coursework all over the place, working with national conferences (including the International Association of Culinary Professionals, the International Food Bloggers Conference), bookstores, universities, culinary schools and writing centers throughout the United States. I also develop programs with groups of writers and, when my schedule  allows, one-on-one work with writers.

My signature piece is a weekend-long intensive that covers many areas of the art and craft of food writing, plus insight into the publishing business, trends in cookbooks, developing cookbook proposals, creating successful food blogs, that sort of thing. The exact subject matter shifts with each session. The weekend includes many writing sessions as well.

Hungry for Words:
A Weekend Inquiry into the Art & Craft of Food Writing

NEXT SESSION: Richard Hugo House, July 18-19th, 2015
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Anyone can write about a meal, but truly great food writing informs, entertains and inspires. In this weekend workshop, we’ll take a holistic approach to the art and craft of modern food writing, from understanding what made great food writers endure, varying approaches needed for different genres, generating ideas, assembling non-fiction book proposals, culinary travel writing and the complexities of recipe writing. Writing exercises will be incorporated into the weekend, each designed to stimulate and challenge.

Participants will leave the weekend armed with a greater understanding of the history and rigors of food writing, plus a hefty course book that includes numerous examples of great writing, additional writing exercises and a long list of titles for future reading.

The goal: To get you thinking, reading and writing, to help find or hone your unique voice and approach in the wide landscape of culinary writing.

This class is designed for aspiring and working food writers, bloggers and even seasoned culinary professionals who want to take a moment to step back and reconsider the way they approach their craft.

Note: The outline included is a guideline; the exact agenda is subject to change.

DAY 1

Warm-up writing exercise (20 minutes)

Food Writing in Perspective
After an ice breaker writing exercise, the course will begin with a historical overview of food writing going back to Apicius, arguably the first person to document food writing, to names you may know but not well: Samuel Pepys, Brillat-Savarin and Escoffier. We’ll then dive into more modern well-known food writers, including MFK Fisher, James Beard, Elizabeth David, Craig Claiborne, Julia Child, Ruth Reichl and others. What makes their writing endure? (90 minutes)

Break (15 minutes)
Writing exercise (30 minutes)

The Shifting Landscape
We’ll shift discussion to various forms of food writing – cookbooks, memoir, blogs, culinary travel writing, magazine articles plus a discussion of assigned reading. (90 minutes.)

Lunch break (Lunch provided)

The Curious Complexities of Recipe Writing
We’ll look at the recipe from every angle, from development to standards of recipes to writing them to copyright and more. We’ll look at how recipes evolved over time and variations on standard format to find your own voice in recipe writing. (2 hours)

Break (15 minutes)
Writing exercise (20 minutes)

Ideas, Pitches and Book Proposals
We’ll explore elements of book proposals and query letters, then delve into strategies for developing and defining creative story/book ideas, and what it takes to break into writing for publications or pitching a book or to expand your existing writing career even further.
( 2 ½ to 3 hours, with a 15 minute break)

DAY 2

Warm-up writing exercise (20 minutes)

Blogs, the Big Sites & Social Media
We’ll discuss the art and challenges of crafting your own food blog or writing for someone else, taking apart several blogs as case studies. We’ll discuss best practices in social media, major food sites and how to utilize all for promotion or traffic. (90 minutes)

Break (15 minutes)

I Know What You Ate For Dinner Last Summer
How do you adequately describe a meal or a gastronomic experience? We’ll analyze great culinary travel and restaurant reviewing examples to understand what elevates a description of a meal from a simple description into a larger story or experience, plus discuss ethics and murky economics surrounding the subject. (90 minutes)

Lunch break – 1 hour (at area restaurants)

Writing assignment (45 minutes)

Just the Facts: Beyond Wikipedia

Not enough food writers take facts seriously. We’ll discuss some basics of Food Journalism 101, the stuff that reporters know. We’ll investigate how to avoid common culinary myth “traps,” developing a research library, interviewing sources for substance and strategies to fact-check your work. The goal: to add an element of rigor to your writing to elevate it to a more professional level. (90 minutes)

Break (15 minutes)

Conclusion & Final Q&A
We’ll wrap up with practical information about the world of food writers, including what conferences are worth attending and organizations are worth joining. We’ll end the afternoon with a final discussion session over wine and snacks on anything covered over the weekend. (45 minutes)