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Blogging and ethics

August 3, 2016 in News, Tips

Blogging and disclosure has long been a hot topic – see the blog posts below from 2012! – and now it’s been brought right up to date with the piece from Úna, which takes the format of a Q&A with a representative of the Advertising Standards Authority of Ireland (ASAI).

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by Kristin

Top Tips from Dianne Jacob’s Food Writing Workshop

October 4, 2012 in Tips

Two weeks ago, book coach, editor and writer Dianne Jacob came to Ireland for a food writing workshop at the BrookLodge Hotel, organised by Dorcas Barry and sponsored by Bord Bia and Fáilte Ireland.

Dianne’s blog is a must-read for aspiring and accomplished food writers. She writes about blogging, recipe writing, cookbooks, craft, finding agents or publishers, writing trends and interviews with food writing luminaries and the comments on her posts are always filled with interesting observations and lively discussions.

Dianne wrote a recap of her trip to Ireland on her blog, but here are a few top tips we picked up from her workshop. (You can also see some specific recipe writing tips here.)

On food writing:

  • Food writing used to just be about recipes. Now, it can be about many things – place, politics, memory, farming, guidebooks, reporting.
  • Writers used to be concerned with how to describe food, but it’s really about telling a story – and those are the blogs that people love to read.
  • The days are gone when a cookbook was just a recipe – you can get that online.
  • You have to offer something that’s uniquely yours. But how do you get other people interested in your story? You have to try to make meaning out of an event and what you bring to it with your own perspective as well as provoke emotion in the reader.

On writing techniques:

  • Change general words to specific ones.
  • Don’t go overboard with adjectives to describe food – be selective. Or use a simile or metaphor to describe something instead of an adjective.
  • Use action in your writing to keep your reader moving through the text and to help them visualise what’s happening.
  • Edit your own writing.

On blogging:

  • Five years ago bloggers had no status, but things have changed now. Many things can come out of blogs, like book deals or magazine/newspaper columns.
  • Who is your reader? You must identify your audience so you can customise your message.
  • Why should people read your blog? (Because they like your stories and recipes.)
  • Ask your readers questions and involve them.
  • If you’ve received something for free and are writing about it on your blog, be upfront and transparent about it.
  • Don’t be afraid to have opinions.

If you don’t already, be sure to read Dianne’s weekly blog, follow her on Twitter or Facebook, sign up for her newsletter and of course get a copy of her indispensable book, Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More.

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by Kristin

How to Write a Recipe Like a Pro

September 12, 2011 in Tips

As part of the #Irishfoodpix day at Bord Bia last week, where the 40 bloggers in attendance learned how to hone our food photography and styling skills, I gave a short talk on recipe writing. You might know me as one half of the IFBA along with Caroline or through my Edible Ireland blog, but in my day job I”m a freelance editor specialising in cookery and food books and have worked with many of Ireland”s best chefs and food writers. These are my top five tips for how to write a recipe like a pro.

1. List ingredients in the order they’ll be used.

Many people think they should list the most important or the biggest ingredient first, especially if it’s meat, but this isn’t best practice. Listing ingredients in the order in which they’ll be used in the method is not only more logical, but it makes it easier for cooks to follow along. Or if a cook loses their place in the method, a quick glance at the ingredients list will show them what comes next. If you’ve been cooking for awhile, you can probably figure out how to cook most recipes just by looking at the ingredient list – first this, then that.

2. If it doesn’t matter what order ingredients are used in, list them in descending order of weight, volume or number.

If you’re making a dish that calls for onions, carrots, celery and courgettes to all be added at the same time, it looks more elegant and orderly on the page to list them as 3 courgettes, 2 carrots, 1 onion, 1 stalk of celery. The same is true of liquid measurements and tablespoons/teaspoons. It’s a small thing, but it will make your recipe look more polished and professional and will show that you’ve taken care with it and have thought everything through.

3. Be specific.

A cookbook is really just a glorified instruction manual, so it’s important to be as clear as possible by being specific and spelling out everything. For example, say what type of heat you need to cook over (low, medium or high), give sizes of fruit and veg (e.g. large potatoes, small leeks), specify sizes of frying pans, bowls and baking tins and always give cooking times for individual steps. It’s important to specify cooking times to give readers an idea of how long certain steps or the whole recipe will take. Even a little detail like the size of a bowl or pan matters – if you’re using a bowl that other ingredients will need to be added to, make sure to specify a large bowl, or if you’re making, say, a pasta sauce in a pan that all the drained, cooked pasta will need to be added to eventually, make sure to specify a large pan. Here”s an example of what it means to be specific: don”t say ‘saute the onions, then add the carrots’, but rather, say ‘saute the onions in a large frying pan for 10 minutes on a medium heat, until softened but not browned, then add the carrots’.

 

 

4. Don’t assume anything.

Most writers cater for all levels of cook, and that includes beginners. Always explain things fully in a recipe and don’t assume readers will be able to fill in any blanks. Read through your recipe as if you’re a beginner cook – is everything clear? In The Recipe Writer”s Handbook, the authors say, ‘A recipe should appear simple and easy to prepare. It should not confuse the reader, require guesswork or offer inadequate guidance. Consumers want to be told what not to do, as well as what to do.’ If you follow tip 3 to be specific, this will go a long way towards making sure any reader, no matter what their skill level, can successfully make your recipe. And this leads us to tip 5.

5. Take advantage of chances to educate your readers.

By now, you”ve probably learned a lot of tips in the kitchen, whether it”s through your own trial and error, taking cookery classes, reading cookbooks or watching cookery programmes on TV. Why not share your knowledge with your readers? It can often be done by just adding a little bit more text onto the end of an instruction in the method. For example:

  • Instead of saying ‘brown the chicken in batches’, say ‘brown the chicken in batches, taking care not to overcrowd the pan so that the meat sears instead of braises’.
  • Instead of saying ‘cook the garlic on a low heat’, say ‘cook the garlic on a low heat so it won’t burn and become bitter’.
  • Instead of saying ‘sift the icing sugar’, say ‘sift the icing sugar to make sure your icing won’t have any lumps’.
  • Instead of saying ‘place the tart tin on a baking tray and pour in the filling’, say ‘place the tart tin on a baking tray before you pour in the filling to make it easier to transfer to the oven and to catch any drips’.

It might seem repetitive to say these things in every recipe, but remember that people won’t be reading the recipes on your blog or in your book straight through, like they would a novel, but rather will pick and choose them and so might miss some valuable information if you only say it once.

Another part of educating your readers is trying to anticipate questions or worries they might have as they make the recipe. For example, a short note like ‘don’t worry if the mixture looks curdled’ or ‘the cake should still have a slight wobble in the middle’ is all it takes to reassure your reader that they’re doing things right.

Julia Child was a pioneer in educating home cooks through her books. In an interview, she said, ‘I found that the recipes in most – in all – the books I had were really not adequate. They didn”t tell you enough. … I won”t do anything unless I”m told why I”m doing it. So I felt that we needed fuller explanations so that if you followed one of those recipes, it should turn out exactly right. My feeling is that once you know everything and have digested it, then it becomes part of you.’

Think of it this way – the best recipes are ones where the writer is like a friend in the kitchen with you, there to help out or reassure you if needed.

***

If you would like to learn more about recipe writing, I recommend Will Write for Food: The Complete Guide to Writing Cookbooks, Blogs, Reviews, Memoir, and More by Dianne Jacobs and The Recipe Writer”s Handbook by Barbara Gibbs Ostmann and Jane L. Baker (though if you were only going to buy one, go for Will Write for Food).

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by Kristin

Top 10 Tips from Bloggers International by Móna Wise

August 10, 2011 in Tips

Back in June, Móna Wise from the WiseWords blog (and @WiseMona) attended the first meeting of Bloggers International, which took place in County Laois as well as in Chipping Norton, England. Móna, who also recently attended the Plate to Page blogging workshop in Germany, went along to learn how to improve her blogging style, attract more readers and earn money from blogging. We asked Móna to draw up a list of the top 10 tips and lessons she learned from the evening. Thanks, Móna!

1. Research key words and implement them into a blog post: use Google keywords.
If you’re writing a blog post on apricots, then type it into Google search and try to incorporate a few of the ‘found’ words into your piece. This helps your article get discovered by the search engines. However, this was followed up with a word of caution: ‘Best practice is to optimize your blog post with only one or two key words.’

2. Research your post.

This is a no brainer, right? I’m guilty of sitting down with my laptop ready to ream off another blog post only to realise that I have no idea what I am talking about and need to do some research. If you are not knowledgeable on your topic, find a topic you are well versed in and write about that.

3. Keep your blog vibrant. Use short sentences and everyday language. Write as you speak.
I think any blogger, anywhere in the world, can take note of this one and hopefully learn something. There are so many blogs out there and the writing is just so forced. Didactic even. Sit down and have a conversation out loud with your monitor. Talk (out loud) about what you want to write and then start writing. In that tone, using that same voice. There is no need to overcomplicate it.

4. It’s not how many tweets, but what you tweet that counts.
It’s not how many tweets you have tweeted that show how fabulous you are, but more what you have tweeted and how you have engaged your followers/fans that matters.

5. Can a newspaper edit a blog post and publish it without permission? No, but it happens all the time.
Protecting your work is important, but unless you trawl the internet to find where your stolen work is resurfacing, this is just something bloggers have to come to terms with. There was quite a bit of grumbling from the audience on this one.

6. Stop obsessing about numbers and focus on engaging your readers.
This is why a lot of people blog – they want to develop a nice ‘it takes a village’ feel on their website or Facebook page. If you are trying to generate revenue from these two models, then spend your time engaging the customers you have already and stop chasing your tail trying to recruit followers/fans that may never ‘buy’ from you.

7. What are must-have plug-ins for WordPress blogs?
SEO All in One or the Ultimate SEO plug-in. I’m not going to lie to you. I have no idea what this one means. I know that SEO means ‘search engine optimisation’, but that’s it. All I know, and the reason I included this, is that when the panel members talked about this, it was like there was a sale on at Brown Thomas and everyone was racing to buy the newest Kate Spade purse. I don’t think I have either of these plug-ins on my blog but now feel that without them my blog will never reach its true potential and be ‘found’.

8. Facebook is not a silver bullet. You need to be ahead of the curve to achieve. Be creative.
I think a lot of people use Twitter and Facebook to drive business / readers to their blog (or website), but I can tell from my own experience that this only works and translates into sales with revenue if you take the time to engage your readers. Be social. Hang out. Chat. Tweeting just to get someone to click on your link might actually help you lose readers. Listen to your readers. Walk before you run. Ask your readers what they would like to see on your blog. Let them develop your ‘community’. If you get 50 of your current readers involved, they will ‘work’ for you by sharing your content. Interact with your readers and always respond to comments.

9.  How can you make money? Advertise your expertise – work will come from that.
This is what everyone wants to know. Very few bloggers make money just from blogging. You have to market yourself and the services you offer. Once you have a steady flow of followers, you will earn a bit of credibility and be the ‘go to’ person for what you have on offer. Slow and steady wins the race.

10. Two-way communication is what blogging is all about.
I think that Marie-Ennis O’Connor summed it up the best for any blogger out there. If you are a blogger (or want to start blogging), keep in mind the most important ingredient in the recipe for successful blogs. Without the readers, you are just a bunch of words (and sometimes pretty photos) on a page.

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Cooks Academy newsletter: bloggers wanted!

April 28, 2011 in News, Tips

Cooks AcademyCooks Academy, the Dublin city-centre cooking school where we were delighted to be able to hold our recent Bord Bia/Plate to Page cook-off, is starting to introduce a Bloggers Corner into their monthly What’s Cooking newsletter.

The newsletter goes out at the start of each month to just under 15,000 subscribers so is a great way for any blogger to promote their site to lots of similarly food-minded people.

They recently featured Lola Lu’s Kitchen and you can see that on the newsletter here:

Any bloggers who are interested in being featured can contact Alannah on  with:

- a brief bio
- a line on what your blog is about
- and don’t forget to include your logo!

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International Food Blogging Conferences

March 16, 2011 in Tips

The Daily SpudThis was originally posted in early December but we thought it was worth reposting so that more people get to take a look at it. Enjoy!

Talking food all over the world: Attending International Food Blogging Conferences by The Daily Spud

So you want to attend a food blogging conference?

The good news is that you have no shortage of options – if you’re willing to travel, that is.

West Coast USA is the beating heart of dedicated food blogging conferences. The first conference exclusively dedicated to food blogging, the International Food Blogger Conference (IFBC), was held in Seattle in May 2009 (and yes, I was there – for some idea of what you can expect, see here and here). That was followed later that year by BlogHer Food and the Foodbuzz Food Blogger Festival, both held in San Francisco and, later, events in more remote surroundings, like Camp Blogaway in the Southern California mountains and the Club Med Food Blogger camp in Ixtapa, Mexico (and er, no, I wasn’t there…).

Around the same time, the UK saw the first (and six months or so later, the second) Food Blogger Connect conferences. With the Irish food blogger community blossoming, events like the Bord Bia food blogger day that cover similar ground, albeit on a much smaller scale, are starting to happen here too.

These gatherings are hugely popular and very well attended. You can expect lots of other food bloggers (well, duh!), lots of food and, especially with the US conferences, lots of swag to take away, so travel light. Don’t worry if you’re attending on your own and know nobody to begin with. Most attendees will be in the same boat and are more than happy to meet new people with shared interests. It’s a great opportunity to get out from behind that computer and meet other bloggers in person for a change.

Conferences vary in size and focus, but, generally speaking, you can expect talks or workshops on writing and publishing, photography and food styling. You might also find discussion of techie topics, like SEO, legal issues, such as plagiarism and copyright, and the holy grail, “how do I make money from this thing anyway?” (the short answer to which is most food bloggers don’t). Inevitably, bloggers differ in their skills, experience and in what new things they learn at these conferences. The one thing that everyone is guaranteed to take away, however, is a new set of blogs for their feed readers and, better yet, a new set of blogging buddies.

If you are on the fence about whether it’s worthwhile for you to attend one of these conferences, you’ll find no shortage of blog posts written by people who have have been there and done that – they are blogging conferences, after all – so get thee to Google and start reading up. You should get a good feel for what to expect, if I haven’t already managed to give you just that.

Useful Links
Intl Food Blogger Conference:  www.foodista.com/ifbc2010 (2010 conference link, no dates for 2011 as yet)
BlogHer Food:  www.blogher.com/blogher-food-10 (2010 conference link, no dates for 2011 as yet)
Food Blogger Connect:  www.foodbloggerconnect.com (past and future conference info – FBC ’11 scheduled for August 12th-14th, 2011)

A couple of new conferences/workshops that I know of for 2011
Eat, Write, Retreat in Washington, D.C., May 20-22, 2011:  eatwriteretreat.com/
Plate To Pen in Weimar, Germany, May 20-23, 2011: platetopage.blogspot.com/

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Top 10 food styling tips for bloggers

March 3, 2011 in Tips

Following on from the IFBA food styling and photography workshop with Sharon Hearne-Smith and Donal Skehan in November, Sharon has sent us her top 10 food styling tips.

These could be very useful for anyone interested in entering our competition to represent Ireland at the From Plate to Page food bloggers’ photography and writing workshop.

(c) Lis Parsons

1. Beautifully styled food starts with your shopping. Be fussy about choosing the most beautiful, vibrant, interesting and aesthetically pleasing fresh and dry produce.

2. Your propping needs to be thought about before you even start on the food. Decide on a style you like and start a small collection of props that you can mix and match in shots. You don’t have to spend a fortune – many of the best and most interesting props can be found in skips, junk yards, charity shops, auctions or your granny’s cupboards! Look out for interesting shapes, textures and patterns, but never allow the props to overshadow the food, which should always be the star!

3. Prepare your food with love and careful consideration. Good knife skills, interesting shapes and thought for how you want the end result to look will help bring out the best in your food and style. Cut food differently to how you normally would and watch out for interesting patterns, shapes and textures in the food.

4. It’s important to think about the beauty of the end result when assembling food for cooking. Don’t just throw something together, especially if it can’t be changed once set from cooking. Be careful when mixing ingredients so as not to damage or squash them. Create peaks and valleys when filling pies or tarts to add interest to the shape. We like drips and splodges, as they are rustic, homely and help the food look yummy!

5. Be open to shooting stages as you go, especially if your raw ingredients, assembly techniques or process steps are beautiful. Step-by-step shots can help explain a process more easily than words, can make for an interesting story montage and could even be used on their own if the end result is less than perfect!

Clam Pasta (c) Lis Parsons6. Do a little cooking test first where appropriate. That way, you can decide the best method for the most attractive result. Keep a close eye on food while it’s cooking, as you might just rescue that lopsided cake or almost burnt chicken! Try and retain the bright colour of fruit and vegetables as much as possible, even if it means saving a handful back that have been barely cooked to use as ‘hero’ pieces when assembling.

7. When plating up, view the food roughly from where the camera angle will be. Carefully place each component of the dish on individually. Consider a good balance of colour and shape. Watch out for dark holes or gaps and favour oozing, succulent, golden, vibrant and delicious-looking pieces of food (the ‘heros’) on top. Ensure you see at least a piece of each of the components of the dish.

8. Save final flourishes until you are completely happy with your arrangement of the food, camera and props. Last-minute flourishes include glazing with oil or honey to give instant vibrancy, warmth and yumminess to the food, the addition of sauces, herbs, sprinkles of salt and pepper and dustings of icing sugar or cocoa powder. Add these a small bit at a time, snapping after each addition. It’s easy to add more, but not so easy to take it off!

9. When it comes to photographing the food, think about the composition of the shot. Are people involved in holding or eating the food? Is there an elaborate table setting or a simple plate of food? Or maybe the food is on a tray or in a lunchbox on someone’s lap? Consider your angle too – you might shoot from straight overhead, close in on the food, a very symmetrical shot where the food is lined up or even cut out part of the dish to avoid symmetry altogether. Your composition is as important as your food styling and photography skills.

10. Finally, look closely at other food photography, picking out what you like most about a particular shot. Be inspired by this as a starting point for your own creation, then work with what you have and all of the tips above and you are well on your way to improving your food photos for blogging!

Happy propping, cooking, styling, photographing and blogging, but most of all, don’t faff about for too long and get eating and enjoying!

Find Sharon Hearne-Smith online at www.blueberrypie.ie, sharonhearnesmith.blogspot.com or www.friendlycottage.blogspot.com. (Photos (c) Lis Parsons)

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