Read This Now: Amanda Hesser on Becoming a Food Writer
OK, step away from Wordpress for a minute. Put down your camera and your fork and read something instead. Specifically, Amanda Hesser's "Advice for Future Food Writers," which she posted this morning on Food52, the foodcentric website Hesser runs with Merrill Stubbs. In the piece Hesser, also an award-winning cookbook author and former New York Times columnist and restaurant critic, considers the current state of food writing through the lens of past and present career advice. Is it a cheery note to would-be foodists? No. More reason to go read it.
"I can no longer responsibly recommend that you drop everything to try to become a food writer," writes Hesser, noting the current state of journalism (print and otherwise) and the dramatic shifts in the food industry over the last few years, particularly as it pertains to careers in writing. Where there were once cushy staff jobs and expense accounts, we now live in a world where writing for free is actually considered normative. (Thank you, Arianna Huffington.)
But Hesser doesn't just slam the newsroom door in your face. "Don't feel glum," Hesser writes. "This new era is actually better. Everyone who can write well is now welcome to." She does give advice, in the form of seven suggestions. Skip both journalism and cooking school! (See: Sallie Mae student loans.) Start your own venture! (Like maybe get an MBA instead of an MFA. Just a thought.) Create a blog! (Hahaha.)
This is not to say that you shouldn't follow your dreams, as they say. By all means, if you want nothing more than to be R.W. Apple or Calvin Trillin, then grab a pen and a fork and get out there. Maybe, though, consider starting a plumbing business on the side so you can pay those restaurant bills and bar tabs. And one more final plea: While you're cutting up mirepoix and editing video and washing dishes at your local gastropub, maybe take a composition class. It will help some, not only with Hesser's suggestion #7, but maybe with the whole project, right?