Recently, I synched my Apple TV with my Flickr account so that when the screensaver comes on, all of my pictures on there–over 28,000–dance across the screen. And, wouldn’t you know it, most of those pictures are pictures of food. In fact, when I open my iPhoto and try to find pictures of me and Craig or me and my family, I have to fight my way through a tangled web of food imagery; portraits of dinners and lunches and breakfasts past. Recently, though, as I watched these images scan past on the TV in my living room, I began to have a thought: these pictures of the food that I make actually reveal something about me. But what, exactly?
If you go into the back of my car, which you can’t really do right now because it’s in the shop (car accident; see my newsletter for details) you’ll notice a layer of paper on the floor. On that paper, you’ll find handwritten directions to various destinations: Little Flower in Pasadena, the airport, etc. Why, in these days of endless technology, do I bother writing out directions on pieces of paper? Hold that thought for a second and come into my kitchen. You’ll notice pieces of paper magnet-ed to the fridge and flattened on the counter with recipes written out by hand. By hand? Who writes recipes out by hand?
It recently occurred to me that I wrote a book.
Yes, almost a year ago my book, “The Amateur Gourmet: How To Shop, Chop and Tablehop Like A Pro (Almost)” was released by Bantam/Dell. The book, which will come out in paperback in the fall, has served me very well in its brief life. It led to readings at the Park Slope and Boca Raton Barnes & Nobles featuring giant posters that said “Meet Adam Roberts” which my mom has preserved like the Dead Sea Scrolls in my old bedroom; it led to meetings at the Food Network which, in turn, led to my job hosting “The FN Dish”; it garnered praise from Frank Bruni on his blog as well as positive reviews from Publisher’s Weekly and The Boston Globe; and, most importantly, it led to loving, thankful e-mails from readers just like yourselves who discovered my book buried beneath William Wegman calendars in the discount bin of your local bookstores and instead of tossing it aside, brought it home, read it, and were inspired to become passionate cooks and eaters. It’s this last bit that makes writing a food book such a rewarding and noble endeavor: with a few flicks of your fingers, you can change lives. So how do you do it?
I’m not here to tell you how to get a book published. You all know everything there is to know about my launch into the publishing world: you’re looking at it. I started a blog, the blog got attention, an agent e-mailed me, a book proposal was drafted, sold and then I got into the nitty gritty of writing a book. And that’s what this essay is about: how to write a book about food.
One of the most surprising things I’ve learned over the past few years of running this blog and entering the world of food and writing is this: when e-mailing a famous writer–food writer or not–the best strategy is to keep your e-mails short short short.
Eight paragraphs about your life, love and devotion to this writer’s writing will not win you much favor. Instead, pare it down to just a few sentences. You’d be shocked at what writers, when e-mailing one another, sacrifice to keep their e-mails short. The bloody corpses of punctuation, syntax, grammar and logic are strewn across countless e-mails in my inbox. And yet when I re-read e-mail exchanges I’ve had with successful writers, the e-mails are always pointed, smart, and incredibly succinct.
Same is true, actually, for agents and editors as well as producers, publicists, and directors. Keep it brief, keep it smart, and you’ll be rewarded. Just a tip from your old friend, The A.G.