#BlogHerFood15 Liveblog: Craft: Capturing Your Own Voice

Craft: Capturing Your Own Voice

The explosion of food blogs and food vlogs and self-publishing and recipe apps means there has been an online explosion of every kind of food content you can think of. What will make yours stand out? Your unique voice. Your unique perspective. Short version: Do you.

Moderator:
Lea Ann Leming, SheKnows Media

Speakers:
Bita Cyrus, Honest and Tasty
Kat Kinsman, Tasting Table
Laura Otto, Mount Mary University

 "I'm interested less and less in perfection." ~ KAT

Q: 'HOW DO YOU DESCRIBE YOUR OWN VOICE?"

KK: Because I have a degree in metal smithing, I spent the first part of my career as a jack of all trades, learning how to write content of all kinds. Word choices are central to establishing "VOICE." You develop a vocabulary of "words that are yours." People can recognize your writing, even without a byline.  I ended up writing the way I speak. Think: 'What is the story that only YOU can tell?

BC: My voice comes from my experiences in my life. I have two autoimmune diseases, and I learned how ot deal with them through science, which is what led me to my work. We can view food as our medicine. The kind of recipes that I share are real recipes, but it's *my* take on them. A lot of my recipes are based on my large, Persian family. 

We all have life experiences that define and influence our voices. It's important to tap into that and bring that into your recipes and writing. 

It's about being true to yourself, authentic to your readers and keeping yourself aligned with showing who you are. It connects you to people. 

LO: "For me, voice changes depending on the medium. Voice is also connected to STORY; people want to form a human connection. Don't try to be something you're not. 

To be a good writer, you must be a good reader. Try to find a writer you like, but don't adopt his or her style. Over time, you'll develop your own voice. It takes time and practice, but you can do it.  

WHO ARE SOME OF YOUR FAVORITE BLOGGERS

LO:  A favorite is Joy Wilson ( http://joythebaker.com/) , because you feel as though you can be her friend. She's not afraid to try things that are different. Your readers will keep coming back to you if they feel connected to you: your kids, what your husband is doing… 

The posts that looks effortless, are NOT effortless.

 BC: I really love Cara Nicoletti from Yummy Books (http://yummy-books.com/). She reads a lot of books. Beautiful novels. She brings foods out of these books and makes recipes from them. She makes me feel as though I want to make a cup of hot chocolate and sit next down to her. 

On the flip side, I like Amanda Rettke (http://iambaker.net/). she is quirky and a LOVE that. Both are authentic to who they are, and that's what you want to come back for.

KK: Michael Procopio (https://twitter.com/procopster); the language he choses is hilarious, dark, twisted … there's heart and pathos to it. 

 Keith Pandolfi of Saveur http://www.saveur.com/author/keith-pandolfi just smashes my heart to pieces. Read the piece about going out to Perkins with his alcoholic father. He gets those details of human connection. Life in chains on Eater.com ~ things that have happened at fast food chains. 

Pete Wells the dining critic from the New York Times (http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/w/pete_wells/index.html). He switches things up. 
Francis Lam editor at Clarkson Potter, judge on Top Chef Masters (https://twitter.com/Francis_Lam)
Helen Rosner https://twitter.com/hels
Alex Hardy https://twitter.com/chrisalexander

Q: WHAT MAKES YOU CRINGE? 

KK: "I don't like cruelty. Snark. There's a place for critical feedback, but snark for snark's sake ~ we've moved past that.

LO: "Lazy writing. Excessive use of punctuation and overwriting. When bloggers try to adopt and mimic other bloggers 

BC: "I am the non-editor when it comes to my food blogs. It's stream of consciousness. When bloggers are trying to hard and it's obvious that they're not sure what their real voice is, so they write what they think will please others. 

HOW DOES YOUR VOICE CHANGE ACROSS SOCIAL CHANNELS?

KK: I use the platforms incredibly differently. #bunstagram for her hair on Instagram. On Twitter; I love it. It keeps me alive. It is an opportunity to build real-life friendships. You curate the version of yourself ~ based on how much you wish to keep for you. 

It's like traveling, with each platform having a different dialect.

BC: I'm more active on Instagram than any other platform. I like sharing things on Twitter. But I think you can spread yourself too thinly across the gamut of social media. If you feel strong on a platform, then it's more useful for you and your readers.

WHAT ARE STRUGGLES THAT YOUR STUDENTS HAVE?

LO:  Something common to writers is struggling with descriptive writing. I encourage them to use all five senses. One of the things writers tend to fall back on is the visual, but there are all senses involved. We call it a layering exercise. For example, beginning with a journalistic (who what when)… then we ask them to write again, adding the visual, then through sound, textures. 

I'll have them eat something and then write about it." 

CAN YOU TELL US WHAT IT'S LIKE TO PIVOT AND EVOLVE YOUR PERSONAL BRAND?

KK: Yes, the book is about anxiety. I hadn't meant to be a writer, talking about personal things. Food doesn't always make you happy. Sometimes it makes you sad. It's a way to connect people, but it's also a way to distance people from you. Then I opened up the door to myself, revealing myself to my readers ~ depression, mental illness.

None of us are all just one thing. We are intersectional beings." 

HOW DOES ALL OF THIS FIT TOGETHER FOR YOU: WRITING & YOUR DOCTORATE, MOVING FORWARD?

BC: I want to study preventative medicine because I want to find the answers dealing with autoimmune diagnoses. It really does change your life. When I entered the program, the science world gave way to the food world. 

 Food is medicine. Happiness is medicine. We are in control of what we put into our bodies. I have strong views of what health means to me. After I finish my degree, I don't know what direction I'm going. Maybe teaching? AFter going into the food world, I am seeing that I have other strengths, too.

WHAT DRIVES YOU ON YOUR OWN WRITING FRONT?

LO: I like to stay busy, so one of the great advantages of my job is that I have summers off. Writing is a process of growth. It takes many years to recognize when you're really there. It's a daily practice.

HOW DO YOU WORK WITH BRANDS AND KEEP YOUR OWN VOICE?

KK: You have to pick a lane. Be honest. People can tell. Be sure that you can sleep at night. That you're ethical and disclosing, and there are really wonderful things that can be done with brands. 

Or you can write without any reference to sponsored content within your writing, but you could have advertising on your site.

BC: The most important thing when working with a brand is to really believe in it. You can also know what brands you like, even if they aren't sponsoring you, because readers just want to know. It gives you authenticity. 

AUDIENCE QUESTIONS

DO YOU FIND THAT ANYONE CAN BE A GREAT WRITER IF THEY PRACTICE ENOUGH OR IS IT 'BORN'

Great question. There are people who are innately talented writers, BUT there were people in my undergraduate program who were "okay" writers, but have continued to work on their craft and have been successful. 

If you have the drive and dedication, you can improve your craft.

KK: For some people, it may not come naturally as "writing." But if you communicate via other means and think of it as storytelling. 

HOW DO YOU KNOW YOUR WRITING IS GOOD? HOW CAN YOU IMPROVE AND BECOME WELL KNOWN?

KK: Ask people and be prepared for criticism. Give people permission to be critical and be open to constructive criticism. You have to be willing to take that risk. Join a writing group, IRL or online. #National Novel Writing Month

FROM A BRAND PERSPECTIVE, HOW CAN BRANDS AND INFLUENCERS WORK TOGETHER TO BRING AUTHENTIC CONTENT?

LAL: "first of all, do your research on the blogger. Know them, their audience, their focus. Let the blogger keep his or her authentic voice. Be open to longer relationships v "one offs" Keep in mind the "would I use this brand" mentality for the blogger. Keep the brand talking points to a  minimum (but of course include legal nomenclature where required). 

Approach things from a "what are we both trying to accomplish" as opposed to a "don't do this," or "don't say that." 

WHAT ARE THE FIRST THREE THINGS YOU SHOULD DO WHEN STARTING OFF AS A BLOGGER?

BC: Choose a blogging platform or theme that will work easily for you. Get your foundation set. 

LO: It takes some planning. Decide what's your focus and what you personality will be. If you're a good writer, your audience will come.

KK: Give yourself time to develop your voice. Think "what is this gift I can give to myself and my readers. Give yourself permission to screw up. What is the story that only I can tell? and then tell that. 

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