Writers@Work: Building A Freelance Food-Writing Career
August 10, 2021
Note From Rochelle
If you’re a Feedburner blog subscriber, and you’re getting this message twice: never fear! Feed burner is going away soon. This should end in a week or two.
I am out of the office this week and next, taking a much-needed break from work and social media. I’m planning to stay offline, but for that to happen, I might have to lock up my computer (and iPad and phone).
Today I’m delighted to welcome my friend and fellow ASJA member Kristine Hansen, who will be talking about her new book, Wisconsin Farms and Farmer’s Markets.
Writers@Work: Building A Freelance Food-Writing Career
An Interview with Kristine Hansen
Welcome, Kristine! And congrats on your book, Wisconsin Farms and Farmers Markets: Tours, Trails and Attractions. Can you tell us about it?
This is the first guidebook to Wisconsin agritourism that I’m aware of, with opportunities to experience farm-fresh food and farm life around the state compiled in one place, such as farmers markets, county fairs, vineyards, pizza farms, farm stays, folk schools, Christmas-tree farms, flower farms, sunflower fields, U-pick fruit orchards, and farm stands. I’m proud to say I even have a chocolate farm (Roots Chocolates in Baraboo) and a beer farm (Duesterbeck’s Brewing Company in Elkhorn) in the book. We sure love our farms in Wisconsin! To be included in the book, a farm had to welcome visitors in some way, whether it’s ongoing tours, a farm stand, overnight bookings, or workshops.
Can you talk about your road to publication for this book?
I’ll admit I got lucky with my first book published with Globe Pequot Press (Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, and Savory Recipes from the State’s Best Creameries). In early 2018, an editor saw an article I’d published about Wisconsin cheese on TravelandLeisure.com and messaged me through my website asking if I’d like to write a book about Wisconsin cheese. Um, of course?
But the contract didn’t come easily. The next step was to write a proposal featuring the table of contents, my author bio, a brief sketch of a marketing plan (including where I’d promote the book and any competitive titles already out there), and a sample chapter. It was due in two weeks, and I planned to be traveling that entire time, so it was many late nights of work. Once the proposal was approved by the editorial team, I had six months to write the book. (This is where my early career in newspaper journalism really pays off—I used to dictate stories over the phone or have less than an hour to file the story.)
After that book published, I re-pitched a book proposal I’d had a hard time selling a few years earlier: profiles of Wisconsin’s organic-vegetable and fruit farmers, along with their recipes. My editor had since moved on to another division and sent me to a colleague at the same publisher (welcome to book publishing!). She suggested we turn this into a travel guide, folding in all the above categories. I’m glad she had the foresight to see how we could make the book better than in my proposal.
You juggle a busy freelance writing career with book writing. What tools or techniques do you use to stay organized and meet your deadlines?
I’ve found there is a magic number (somewhere around 4-5) of projects I can juggle at one time before I fall apart. Anything less than that and I’m twiddling my thumbs. Spreadsheets with deadlines keep me organized as well as not waiting too long to get started on lining up interviews or—the hardest part—the writing. Currently I’m juggling non-fiction journalism assignments for a mix of magazines and websites about food, travel, design, and real estate, along with required readings, homework, writing and edits of my classmates’ writing in a two-year novel-writing program through Stanford University. That’s my “labor of love” right now: trying to get a novel published. My first novel (unpublished—so far!) is set on a Sonoma County winery and my second novel traces the story of a painting across two continents over a century. Whether fiction or non-fiction, I love to tell stories with a deep sense of place.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into the food, drink, design and travel writing market?
Start small and local, and don’t wait. If you have a local magazine, newspaper or website, pitch ideas in the form of article queries (just a few paragraphs outlining how you’ll tell the story and why it needs to be told now) or make yourself known as an expert in these topics who would be happy to handle assignments.
Think about the stories only you can tell. Are there art openings near you? An interesting chef? Start building your portfolio. Writing a Wisconsin-cheese cookbook wasn’t even on my radar. But since writing articles about Wisconsin cheese was, I was positioning myself to write this book without even knowing it!
Joining writer’s organizations has been invaluable to my career, too. I’m on the board of the American Society of Journalists & Authors and also a member of FreelanceSuccess.com and various Facebook groups for writers. Even if I’m not actively engaging by participating in conferences, webinars, or online forums, I’m observing examples of other writers’ success, including where they’ve published and how they’ve overcome challenges. I find the work of other writers very inspiring to my own career. And because I work out of a home office, I can’t look around me for community and energy—I have to go out and find it.
What are you reading now?
Because my career is largely about writing non-fiction, I adore reading fiction. I just finished fellow Milwaukee-area writer Lauren Fox’s Send for Me which was heartbreaking but also so beautifully written. Next up is actually a re-read for one of my book clubs: Tommy Orange’s There There. It’s one of the few modern-day novels written by an American Indian writer. I’m looking forward to seeing how I experience the book the second time around. It’s not often I read a novel twice. But I know many people who do—and say subsequent readings are often more enlightening.
About the author. Kristine Hansen is a Milwaukee writer who covers art/design, food/drink and travel for both local and national media outlets. A Northern Illinois native, she’s the author of two books about her adopted state: Wisconsin Cheese Cookbook: Creamy, Cheesy, Sweet, and Savory Recipes from the State’s Best Creameries (2019) and Wisconsin Farms and Farmers Markets: Tours, Trails and Attractions (2021).
NOTE: The books links lead to the Write Now! Coach bookstore on Bookshop.com. Write Now! Coach receives a small percentage of your purchase, which helps to support this blog.