Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Restaurant Reviews, Articles, Memoir, Fiction and More Paperback – Apr 10 2005
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From Publishers Weekly
Passion is the theme of this informative guide focusing on the art of food writing. "Many food writers I've met are enthusiastic, intense, and energetic in an obsessive kind of way, and love nothing more than immersing themselves in research," writes Jacob, seasoned food editor and writer. The author devotes much of the book to outlining the elements of good writing, like finding one's own unique voice or knowing the most vivid adjectives to use in reviews. Covering all the various careers available in food writing, Jacob offers tips for creating a successful cookbook, writing recipes with clarity and even writing food-related fiction novels. The end of each chapter includes helpful writing exercises, allowing readers to put her advice to practice immediately, and the book also contains plenty of practical information (e.g., how much freelancers should expect to get paid). Less useful are the brief but generally uninteresting stories about how successful food writers got their start. Still, this comprehensive guide, though at times monotonous, is a great tool for anyone looking to make a career out of a love of food.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Food writing so often appears an enviable profession to the outside world. Jacob casts a cold light of reality on just how difficult making a living in the world of culinary journalism can be. For those yet undaunted by the challenges presented, she provides a practical guide for getting published as a cookbook author, restaurant reviewer, or food magazine writer. She begins with advice applicable to any professional wordsmith: the critical importance of research, fitting an article to a publication's needs, working with editors, and the like. She provides sound direction for those aspiring to restaurant criticism, a job many romanticize but for which very few have the requisite stamina, talent, and discipline. Addressing the sensitive area of remuneration for the writer's efforts, Jacob honestly confronts the role of competition and of limited publication budgets. Her observations and instructions on matters of writing style would well serve writers of all sorts. To make her points, Jacob records advice and guidance from a host of successful food writers and editors. Mark Knoblauch
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Top Customer Reviews
However, there does seem to be an insatiable demand for yet another way to cook a chicken or bake a pie. Ms Jacob's how to book is a good start for those who want to enter the market.
I found the writing exercises at the end of the chapters to be enlightening and very useful. I consider myself already a pretty decent quill when it comes to redaction, but those made me realize food writing is very special in itself and should be specifically practiced. Also, the reference books listed are indeed very pertinent and I found myself ordering some of them in my following amazon order.
Whatever your goal is in life - writing a cookbook, a food blog, having better understanding of food scenes for fiction or historical writing, writing a food critic column in your local paper, etc - this book will help you in making your efforts pay off.
The author has done extensive research to widen her perspective of the industry; she interviewed hundreds of food writers/editors and summarizes their typical days, their backgrounds their criteria for story selection. Most importantly, Jacob makes her readers feel encouraged and excited about writing. She understands the struggles of starting out and maintains an energizing, friendly voice free from snobbery.
Her extensive lists of food-describing adjectives and her writing exercises alone make this book worth a read. After all, one must practice writing, have stamina and maintain enthusiasm to succeed. "Passion is paramount."
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
The author's research in compiling this book is extensive. In presenting her ideas, she doesn't limit readers to her own personal experience; she interviewed hundreds of successful food writers and asked them how they got started, what a typical day is like, and what advice they have to give.
Despite her years of industry experience, Jacob truly understands the heart of a beginner, and her voice is as far from snooty-hooty as one can be. Readers will feel encouraged and energized after reading chapters on the secrets of restaurant reviewing, cookbook compiling, recipe writing (yes, it is an art form!), memoir and nonfiction food writing, and food in fiction.
Jacob's passion is so contagious, her words dance across the page. She seems especially interested in the trend of narrative food writing, and she gives you tips on how to make your writing full of jolt and flavor. What are the three laziest adjectives used to describe food? She says "nice," "wonderful," and "delicious." She writes, "They are so vague that readers don't know what you mean other than something positive." Instead, she offers an extensive list of adjectives in chapter 5 that make it well worth the price of the book.
I'm only a simple home cook. My creativity usually involves whipping up kid-friendly favorites without having to dash off to the grocery store for exotic ingredients. Although I've written a few of my own recipes, I certainly didn't realize what an exciting art form food writing can be.
While reading this book, we ate out at a new restaurant, and I imagined myself as one of those fancy New York Times reviewers in disguise (didn't know they may actually wear wigs!). I had our waiter answering a myriad of questions, and even dashing back to speak with the chef. I brought home a menu and scribbled all over it my impressions.
I'm intrigued as to how to better describe tastes and food. And I never considered children's books to be a place where good food writing can exist. After reading WILL WRITE FOR FOOD, I am much more aware. I appreciate the recommendation from Writer's Digest and will certainly add this to my bookshelf of favorites.
I love the way she describes what it takes to make a great reviewer: [They] have passion, knowledge, authority, a great writing style, and stamina...They give the reader a feel for the place, its rhythm, and overall vibe. And they keep up their energy level and enthusiasm. Passion is paramount."
She quotes experienced food critic Alan Richman who says he can't wait to see what a restaurant has in store for him. He shares, "I get a hop in my step."
A well done book, indeed.
--Reviewed by Heather Lynn Ivester
One other thing I loved about this book were the quotes from food writers and exerpts from books. I now have a huge list of books I want to read.
"Will Write for Food" is a book I will definitely refer to again and again.
The only reason she got docked a star is that the book is full of typos, mistaken words (like not even usage errors, but those are there too), missing words, and at least one case of apostrophe abuse. Maybe I'm being too harsh, but I think that if you write a book on writing, you'd really best make sure it's flawless. Still, it's a book I might actually add to my personal library at some point. I'd highly recommend it if you're at all interested in writing about food, or even just writing in general.
The second most important thing about Ms. Jacob's book is that it does not intend to teach you how to write. She does give a few pages of suggestions and hints, especially on word usage in culinary applications are spread here and there around the book. And, a few references to sources on training for writing are given, including my very favorite `The Elements of Style' by Strunk and White.
Thus, the book is more about the food writing market than it is about writing. This is a very good thing, as all your writing efforts are worthless if you don't have a clear notion of your audience, your medium, and your medium's picture of their audience. And, the quantity and quality of sources, especially web sites given in this book are truly astounding. There is not a single culinary web site of which I am familiar that is missed, although the name of the TV Food Network web site is a bit out of date. And there are many, many more which are new to me. I am also happy to see that Ms. Jacob includes a mention of a personal web site or blog as a means of getting your writing in front of an audience. This is the modern world's version of self-publishing with even less overhead than a paper and hard covered book. She even mentions `printing on demand' where the vendor only prints the physical volume when they receive an order for the book. All this means is that this is a very up-to-date manual on all your outlet alternatives.
So, Ms. Jacob's primary focus is identifying all the culinary writing markets, finding the one which best suits your interests and skills, and giving you suggestions on how to maximize your success in each market. Along the way, there are lots of interesting bits of information on, for example, why there are so few negative restaurant reviews. From the newspapers' point of view, there is simply no point to publishing a highly critical review of a local eatery, even if they don't advertise in the paper. People give much more interest to suggestions on where to go than where not to go. Unfortunately, Ms. Jacob's book was probably in galleys when Ruth Reichl's `Garlic and Sapphires' book was published, so there is no reference to that book. So, if you are really interested in restaurant reviewing, Ms. Reichl's latest book is also a must read.
Along the way, Ms. Jacob quotes a really impressive range of successful culinary writing professionals, starting with Judith Jones (VP at Alfred A. Knopf and original editor for Julia Child, Madhur Jaffrey, Lydia Bastianich, and Diana Kennedy) and including Julie Sahni, Deborah Madison, Tony Bourdain, James Villas and Ruth Reichl. With all these bases covered, I'm surprised she has no mention of Michael Ruhlman who is both a major culinary journalist and collaborator in cookbook writing with Thomas Keller.
As Ms. Jacob does not cover cookbook reviewing (my favorite culinary writing hobby), I will comment on her extensive tips on writing recipes. In general, I believe her tips are very good for the amateur or newbie recipe writer. And, I wish most cookbook writers would follow her suggestions. But, I believe there is room for more than one paradigm of a good recipe. Ms. Jacob gives us what may be called the Julia Child paradigm, where the author assumes little general culinary knowledge on the part of the reader. So, as most people react to Ms. Child's recipes, you have the feeling of the author's standing at your side and walking you through each step. This method is especially good for teaching traditional recipes to amateurs.
A second paradigm may be called the Elizabeth David model, as you find in her books on Mediterranean, French Provincial, and Italian recipes. Here, the object is less to give detailed instructions than to cover as broad a field as possible, spending a lot of time on comparing and contrasting recipes from different regions. The recipes are not so sparse that a trained cook could not reproduce them, but doing so may require a fair amount of specialized culinary expertise.
A third paradigm may be called the Joel Robuchon model, which is what I expect to find in any cookbook written on a restaurant's `haute cuisine'. This model allows both unusual ingredients and difficult techniques, as the object of this writing is not so much to teach the amateur a recipe, but to simply tell us how it is done at the chef's famous venue. The best practitioner of this style is probably Thomas Keller and literary collaborator, Michael Ruhlman.
At one point, Jacob advises against using a rather long list of words for culinary techniques in recipes. This list includes `blanch', `braise', `fold', `poach' and twelve other technical terms. I cannot disagree more on this point. The only case in which I would avoid these words is in a community fundraising cookbook. Any book written to teach should not hide its flame under a skillet!
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