Writing Exercises

Will Write For Food


I recently purchased the book Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob.  I had been toying with the idea of buying it and was wondering it was worth the purchase.  Let me explain.  It has been a very long time since I have taken any kind of writing class and I really felt a little rusty on the process.  While I like writing and feel that I am somewhat proficient at expressing myself, I wondered if I was lacking something, and how I could improve.  My ultimate goal is to increase readership and I knew it was going to take more then a collection of learned items that in my situation where outdated and off topic. In my school days at various ages and stages including grade school, high school, and college my favorite classes were those that involved writing.  In my 8th grade english class I often earned praise from Ms. Ditillio whose observations written in careful cursive at the end of my papers including this one “you will go far with your writing,” still chimes and echoes in my mind.  In college one of the electives I took was a very interesting writing class that covered the subject of Alford Hitchcock movies, and my professor asked to use one of my papers for teaching further classes.  However I am far past the days of 8th grade and even college for that matter, and I realized my education hadn’t even delved beyond the basics, I have a lot to learn about writing in general and especially food writing.   These are just a few personal reasons I needed a book with helpful tips, tutorials, and advice.

More reasons for me to buy the book:  Dianne Jacob has a wonderful blog that I have been following for a while now.  She has an impressive career in the world of journalism which includes magazine editor, freelance food writer, writing professor, author, blogger, and writing coach to name just a few.  She also has earned much praise for the book Will Write for Food from food industry giants and some of my personal favorite personalities in the world of food.  She speaks from experience and ultimately from one of success. So you may be asking the same question I am asking myself right now, “What held you back from the purchase?”  Mainly my own stupidity, I often hold back from purchasing something for myself just because it is for myself.  So one day I decided to buy this as present for moi!  As soon as the book arrived I began to devour it just as if it was my favorite pizza. Usually a slow reader, I found that I could not put this book down.  It is a very entertaining read and it is packed with tips, observations, exercises and a host of other invaluable items for the food writer aspiring and otherwise.  I found that I had zoomed through the first two chapters without yet engaging myself in the writing exercises at the end of each chapter.  In the book Jacob’s recognizes that this may be the case for some writers and further encourages the reader to “Trust yourself,” instead of flipping past the exercises as I had already done.  This too echoed in my mind over and over, so today I went back to chapter 1 and worked through some of them.  Here I will share one of the exercises and what it yielded for me.

The first exercise challenged me to write an accounting of eating a favorite piece of fruit.  I was to use all the senses and instead of using a lot of adjectives to get the point across use similes and metaphors to create a livelier piece.  After the first writing, I was to go back and replace generic nouns with concrete ones, review sentence structure and make changes as needed.  I soon realized that I often rely on adjectives to describe myself and ended up changing some of those as well in the revision.  Below is what I wrote initially and the second is after the revisions.

1.  I took a huge bite of the softened peach, fuzzy like a boy’s young face and so juicy it exploded like dynamite with that first bite.  The day was warm and I was outside sitting in the sun.  Beams of light made their way through the trees above finding their way to my peach and warming it ever so slightly. I continue to eat it with haste as the juices ran down my arm.  It was sticky on my skin and naturally perfumed my hands and fingers.  I licked each finger with my tongue attempting to suck all the juice off, it danced against my tongue, softly sweet and tart.  All that soon remained was the pit and just in time as I saw my siblings running up to the house from the car.  It was the end of summer and I had just each the last remaining peach.

2.  The afternoon was warm and I was outside, sitting on the front stoop in the sun ready for a snack after the mornings chores.  Like hummingbirds beams of light darted their way through the leaves of trees above, landing on my peach and warming its flesh along with mine ever so slightly.  Grabbing it hurriedly from its place next to me on the large stone step, my mouth enveloped the fruit taking a huge bite of the ripe peach.  In my hands it felt like a newborn’s young face, fuzzy and soft.  With the force of July Fourth firecrackers at their peak the juice exploded in my mouth with that first bite.  As far as turning back from eating it, it was just not possible as the juices immediately streamed down my fingers, hand, and arm with the fervor of New Yorkers on the morning commute.   I continued to eat it with haste as the juice continued to run down my arm.  Sticky flesh, the juice covered me and perfumed my skin with nuances of far off Georgia orchards which continued to linger on my skin throughout the day.  I licked each digit with my tongue in an attempt to suck all the juice from my fingers.  A ballet on the tongue it danced, an exploding symphony of sweet and tart.  All that soon remained of the original sphere was the inner pit with its rough undulating surface reminiscent of the human brain.  As I finished chucking the pit into my mother’s flower bed I heard a series of pops, crackles and crunches, the far off sound of tires on a gravel road, the increasingly louder hum of the engine, a jolt, and sudden silence. The silence quickly ended with the creaking metal of doors opening and closing, the sounds of happy laughter, and feet stomping urgently to the house.  The fruit finished just in time the evidence of it no longer remained.  My family had returned home and while they were away I had eaten the last of the summer peaches.

This exercise was invaluable.  It made me realize how something is said is just as important (and sometimes more so) as what is being said.  I also realize that I need to work more on metaphors, I really feel that I used only one in the second paragraph and this was after the edit.  What do you think of the revision?  Did I bring awareness of all the senses as I described eating my peach?  Did I use too many adjectives?  Where the similes and metaphors able to convey the idea of what was happening?  I welcome constructive criticism.  I still have so much more to learn and fortunately I have many more chapters to cover.  Ultimately I am already in love with Will Write for Food.  If you are an aspiring food writer, or need a little updating, encouragement, or inspiration buy this book.  It is worth it, especially if it is just a gift to yourself.  

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