>In my March column at the Writers on the Rise zine, I challenged writers to come up with freelance ideas for the food section. Here’s what I said there:
Newspaper food sections are an often-overlooked place to sell freelance articles. Perhaps you don’t even read the food section because you have more than enough recipes or you don’t like to cook, but you do like to eat, right?
The trick to getting into any section is to come up with something they’re not already doing. Food is a broader category than you might think. You could come up with delicious ways to cook a ham, new ways to make fun and exciting cupcakes for your child’s preschool class, or profile outstanding chefs. You could write about ethnic meals that your family enjoys, telling where to buy the ingredients and how to prepare the food.
But think beyond recipes. What’s the difference between all those apples in the produce section? Should you use Fuji, Granny Smith or Red Delicious for your pie? Or, what’s the latest on pots and pans? Some people believe that aluminum pots and cookware coated with nonstick surfaces are unhealthy, so what are the alternatives? Or, how do you cook when the power goes out?
To crack this section, as with any other, e-mail a query to the editor. Grab her attention with a tantalizing lead, describe what your article will be about, including a few sample recipes or suggestions, and tell a bit about your writing background.
YOUR CHALLENGE: Brainstorm food-section article ideas. List where you would send them and why readers would be interested. Keep in mind that your ideas could be resold to multiple newspapers and might also apply to food-oriented trade papers.
Okay, so that was my challenge, but clearly a writer published in today’s Oregonian didn’t need me to prompt her. Her front-page feature on the chef for Cirque du Soleil’s “Corteo” show, now playing in Portland, is sheer genius. Most people wouldn’t think about what it takes to feed all the people involved in the circus. They’re focused on the tricks, the music, etc. But Maria C. Hunt, a San Diego freelancer, interviewed the chef when the circus was in San Diego. Cooking for this group has special challenges, including running a kitchen on the road, dealing with many different nationalities, and making sure the food is the kind of healthy fuel needed by performers who do amazing things with their bodies. Bravo, Maria. Not only did she get page-one coverage in Oregonian food section, but the same story could run in newspapers wherever “Corteo” goes.
When it comes to food writing–or any kind of writing–think outside the Bisquick box to grab the interest of editors and readers.
If food writing interests you, check out the Association of Food Journalists .www.afjonline.com, or the International Food, Wine and Travel Writers Association ,www.ifwtwa.org.