In July it will be a year since I began my twice a month cooking column for the j. weekly, a San Francisco Bay Area Jewish newsweekly. It has been a learning curve. For example, I kept providing more recipes and content than they could use, thinking that the extra was somehow a bonus for the publication. Instead, I frustrated my editors who never gave me the extra space and were getting tired of having to edit out 300-500 words each column. I finally listened to what the editors were asking for and now regularly come in at abut 570 words including 1 to 3 recipes, which has really sharpened my ability to tell the story and give directions in a minimum of words. I often repost the columns on my own blog where I can tell the story (or give the back story) with however many words I want.
Another lesson learned is that I choose story ideas as if I was the only person covering Jewish food in the Bay area on staff. I'm not, and that's not even my primary assignment -- it is to provide recipes that tie into seasons, events, Jewish life cycle, holidays and or special sections. After one overlap that resulted in a lead rewrite I didn't care for, I learned to ask about what others on staff might be doing on any "news" related food content and adjust my story angle appropriately.
I also try to listen to what commenters (my columns are posted on line) and readers are really saying about the kinds of recipes I'm providing in terms of what they liked and didn't like.
Also, since the column runs with a photo of me, I'm sometimes recognized in supermarkets and told how much my readers enjoy the column, given requests for recipes or taken to task for recipes that didn't interest them or failed. I try to keep this very real audience in mind, but I find I also need to listen to someone else, me. I have a strong vision of what kind of recipes and information I want to feature and while not every column can reflect this, I strive to do so as much as possible. I think it is having this clear idea of what my voice is and what my content should be that has made my column successful and led one editor to email me recently: "you know how happy we are with your columns."
I had assumed so, but it is so nice to see it in words. To me that's like a big thank you for listening.