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Six Ways to Break Into Food Writing

Publishers post guidelines for writers that require published clips to be sent with query letters. Writers cannot get published clips unless they've been published. The logic is just as perplexing when writers try to break into new niches. Food editors ask for food-related writing samples prior to assigning stories to new writers. Never fear, there are ways to conquer that old "Catch 22."

Here are six ways writers and chefs can break into food writing. Some are sneaky roundabout ways; others make use of editors' needs for new writers to pen essays and travel pieces. Combining food with another writing niche is yet a third way to acquire those valuable food writing clips.

1. Try a sneaky way to get a food writing clip. Look at your professional expertise. How does it connect with food? If you are an architect or you've worked with one to design a kitchen, use that to write an article for a handy man magazine. Include tips on how to lay out a kitchen so that food lovers or amateur chefs will be delighted with the results.

Do you know a professional party planner or are you known for your gatherings? Write up a holiday event, including recipes, for your local newspaper or a regional magazine. Love the outdoors? Write about building a barbecue for a do it yourself magazine, or share tips on fileting fish for the weekend fisherman.

2. Write a personal essay about food. It's not only professional food writers that are writing essays about food memories, favorite meals and picky eaters. Everyone has a tale to share about summer fruit, Fourth of July cookouts or first bites of TV dinners. Who is going to buy these essays? Read the food magazines.

Saveur runs expressive essays on everything from bread soaked in milk to a first experience with a mango. "The Square Table," an online, non-paying market, accepts essays on dining. "Woman's Day" and "Family Circle" publish essays on food and its impact on family, life and relationships. "Parents," "Parenting" and "Child" publish advice regularly on getting picky eaters to try new foods.

3. Report on your vacation. But instead of writing something as banal as "what I did on my summer vacation," write a travelogue, including short reviews of restaurant meals. Oh, you didn't travel to Provence last June? Write about traditions at your family reunion. Why not do a round up of five or six small barbecue joints in Kansas City? Stayed close to home? Write about the food at the water, amusement, or theme park - what was good, bad, or healthy.

If you did travel abroad, I hope you took plenty of notes and photographs. Once you have your idea for a travel and food piece in mind, start looking for markets. Local newspapers in both the place you visited and where you live are possible markets. Frugal-themed newsletters and websites use articles on traveling and eating on the cheap. An article about how to dine well at amusement parks and fairs would interest readers of parenting and women's magazines.

4. Teach a cooking class; take a cooking class. Write it up as a publicity piece for the cooking school. Alternatively, write up how to teach a cooking class as a home-based business for women's magazines or entrepreneur publications. Maybe you live in a city that has food events, like Taste of..., wine tastings, chili cook-offs, or baking competitions? Alternative newspapers, weekly newspapers and regional magazines are possible markets for articles on how to put on a baking, or cooking, contest, the best in local wines, or which restaurants offered the best bites at a large gathering.

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