Liveblogging Day 4 of the Food Writers Symposium at the Greenbrier

09/16/2010 08:26 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

DAY 4 - 16 Sep 2010

Good morning again and welcome to the continued liveblog from the 2010 Professional Food Writers Symposium at the Greenbrier. For those who have missed out thus far, The Symposium has hosted nearly all of America's best food writers over the last 20 years, probably including your favorite. It's 4 days of intensive seminars on all aspects of the business of writing about food. Please bear with the typos and the lack of links, which are hallmarks of a liveblog. I'll fix and add as I can. Also please add questions in the comments section and I'll try to get them answered for you.


First thing I want to announce to everyone is that last night it was firmly established that David Joachim is, by far, the best bowling food writer out there. The Greenbrier, along with its countless other amazing luxuries and amenities, has a 10-lane bowling alley. Last night after a fine (but huge) dinner at one of the hotel's many fine restaurants, a group of about a dozen or so food writers descended upon said lanes and tried to remember the last time they bowled (For Elissa Altman, it was the Nixon administration).

David stole the show though, chalking up a turkey (3 strikes in a row, for those who, like me, had forgotten), and giving a very impressive impersonation of his father's bowling style as well. Good times were had by all.

Also, as if the glory of posting all this on HuffPo were not enough, we're now right on the front of the Beckley (West Virginia) Register-Herald! Included is a photo I took of our host, Lynn Swann (no, not the former wide receiver for the Steelers), which I took and submitted to the paper by their request and was not paid for. This makes for a nice segue between yesterday's discussion of money and today's prognosticating....


What's Next for Food Writers, Editors, Agents, Photographers and Broadcast Communicators

In our last segment of this marathon 4-day session we're all going to gaze expectantly into our crystal balls and try to determine where this business of writing about food, which Calvin Trillin called "like dancing about architecture," might actually be headed.

Are there still more technological changes poised to revolutionize what we do? Which way will magazines finally decide to go? Will blogs ever be profitable for more than a select handful of us? Are we all certifiably insane for thinking we might one day make a living from this? And many more questions (and hopefully answers) to come....

The panel consists of everyone who's been on a panel so far (10 people). Dave kicks us off by asking the panel what they've been reading. Molly Wizenberg is really focusing on the New Yorker Magazine and has found it quite intense to focus on it in that way.

Don Fry is in the midst of writing a new novel based in WWII, and for research he's reading Sea of Thunder, and Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors.

Kirsty Melville is reading one of my favorite books, and she too was inspired to do so by her kids. It's called Enders Game, and yes, it's sci-fi, and yes, you really should read it.

Joe Yonan is reading the Vitamin D Solution and another book my daughter loves called Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell

Rux Martin is reading Freedom by Jonathan Frantzen

Rick Rodgers is reading (and I'm not sure if I should tell you this) The Lost City of Z and Tony Bourdain's Medium Raw.

Carole Bidnick just finished reading the advance copy f her client Joan Gussow's forthcoming book, Growing, Older. I'm a huge fan and can't wait to read it. She's also in the Steig Larsson trilogy (as am I, great escapist stuff.

David Joachim is reading it too, and really enjoyed it from an analytical point of view, the way he built the story and developed the characters - great pacing.

Laurie Buckle says it's a hard question in a sense because due to her work she feels she reads and eats all the time. Among many, she's reading Rowan Jacobsen's new book, American Terroir, and this weekend he'll be in my very own Iowa City for Field to Family, and he will also be in a forthcoming edition of the Blue Plate Special.

Jim Peterson is reading the Larsson trilogy too, though he couldn't remember the title, and uses Proust as a seeping aid.

Elissa is readinr Wallace Stegner's Crossing to Safety and highly recommends it, and a dog-eared copy of Elizabeth David's Mediterranean Food is always in her bag. Dorie Greenspan's Around My French Table is outstanding.

Dave asks Joe about any new hot food trends, since he missed that session on Monday. He likes the stories that are poking holes in the conventional wisdom, especially lately regarding mistaken beliefs about the best actions for the environment, local food, etc. Thinks that will continue, along with a lot of greenwashing (fake CSAs, fake farmers markets). DIY will continue to grow.

Laurie is now asking Molly (and everyone) about honing message. What's most important? And she leads by saying she thinks it's about cooking every day. Molly responds by pointing out that since she and her husband opened their restaurant she doesn't get to cook every day. She sees an interest out in the blog world in everyday living; photos of a plant in the window - taking pleasure in the ordinary. Thoughtful approaches to that are very exciting to her.

Elissa says that while Twitter and Facebook are important, it's also important to step back away from the constant messaging.

The conversation is now turning to to simple pleasures, great flavors from really simple stuff. Molly referred to her story about a garbonzo bean thing, really simple canned beans, rinsed and dressed with olive oil, lemon, a little garlic and parm. Sounds yummy, and she says be sure to use Goya brand.

David asks Carol for best tips on how to work with an agent. She says to keep in contact with her (or your own agent) about everything you're writing, pitching, blogging, etc. Also get people to write about you and then tell her about that (again, if she's you agent).

Laurie Buckle is being asked if the iPad is here to stay. She says she may not be the person to ask, because she's so new to it, but see feels there are opportunities with this that she cannot do with the printed page, especially when it comes to photography - it truly pops. many others agree that it is not yet but will be revolutionary. Elissa even agrees even though she says she'd prefer to write with a quill if she could, and Joe Yonan says there's an app for that.

Which turned the conversation to apps, and Joe plugged Flipboard, which condenses your Twitter and Facebook feeds into a sort of personal magazine experience.

Molly thinks Twitter will continue to be a "really powerful community"

Don asked Joe about whether blogging has escaped the system of assignment-writer-edit-post that newspapers traditionally use. At WaPo, Joe says no, but the copy editor part often gets skipped. Recipes undergo the same rigorous testing.

Don Fry laments the loss of grammar in blogs and tweets "not just bad grammar, but no grammar. He asked Molly if she is edited and Orangette, and no, she says, she's not, but her husband is very helpful in finding her rhythm and voice.

Elissa says "we're taking about simple issues of quality, and quality is not flexible."

Laurie asks, "Jim, ihave a double-barreled question for you: Ho was your off-road driving lesson yesterday, and where are we going with narrative?"

The driving was not what he expected, and as for narrative, it is becoming more personal. Not just "here's how to make a crepe," but "here's what happened when I made a crepe"

Dave asked Laurie about how to pitch. Se says there are ways to make it personal - not just why it's a great idea but why you are the one to write it. Why this? Why You? Why This mag? And Why now?

Molly recommended again reading the mag's TOC, because it can read as a list of mini-pitches. A formal pitch should not be the length of a tweet, but if you can state it that briefly, that will usually be a good thing

We are beginning to wind down here, and I'm not feeling so well so I'm going to sign off here. Thanks so much for following along all the way here, please share, and watch for my condensation of this blog, submitted as an entry to the FoodBuzz blogging competition this weekend at my blog,

My profound thanks to all the organizers and participants, and especially to Edible Communities, who made it possible for me to be here this week. And remember: a writer writes, but a published writer rewrites.