Happy Friday! Now that I am not working full time, you might think that weekends are the same as weekdays, BUT, I start my days at the same time I did when I had an office job, and I do everything I can to make sure they are busy and full. Weekends are for true relaxation and husband/family time, so I look forward to them as I always did.
This morning I am out for a 100 minute run, so wish me luck please! There is a marathon or marathons in my future, and I am just waiting on confirmation of my bib number/s to be able to share the details.
Today’s Friday Foodie Feature is Leeanne Griffin, a food writer with a lot going on. I am just starting to learn more about the sites she writes for, but I have been following Leeanne on Twitter for quite awhile now and enjoy her love of food and wine, Northampton, MA, and her humorous tweets. If you get a chance check out one or all of the sites she writes for; they will definitely make you hungry!
I’m based in the Hartford area, and I was a website producer at the Hartford Courant until October 2009, when I made the leap into full-time freelance writing. It was a risk, particularly because my editor colleagues at the paper knew me as a “web staffer” and didn’t know I could write. So when I started Fun With Carbs in early November, they took notice. Then the features editors began to approach me about writing for their sections, and I was approached about starting a dining blog for the Hartford Courant and its sister site, CTnow.com, which launched in March. I also began writing the Courant food section’s restaurant column twice a month, starting in September.
I kind of fell into food writing as a happy accident, which largely stemmed from the site I created on my own. I don’t profess to be an expert by any means – I have no formal culinary training. I’m completely self-taught – and by that, I mean I eat and drink everything. I love learning new things. If I hear or see a culinary term I’m unfamiliar with, I Google it immediately. I keep lists of wines I like, and I make it a point to go to regular tastings and festivals. And of course, interviewing chefs on a weekly basis helps you learn more quickly, too.
How long have you been blogging?
I’ve been blogging since early November 2009, when I launched Fun With Carbs. My former boss at the Hartford Courant, Jeanne Leblanc, did all of the design and coding for me. (She is phenomenal, and an absolute whiz with WordPress.)
What is your favorite thing about blogging?
Blogging was a lifeline for me in the early months of my freelance career. I was still getting my name out there, and quite frankly, rediscovering my writing ability after so many years in web production. With the early mornings/late nights/weekend work that my job required, it left me little energy for extracurricular writing. Fun With Carbs helped me get back on track with the written word, and it was a great way to showcase my recent writing when I was networking with potential clients.
I also had no idea what kind of community and camaraderie existed between food bloggers, which I discovered once I started using Twitter regularly. It was through social media that I learned about other Connecticut and New England food bloggers and food enthusiasts, which was such a wonderful discovery. I’ve made some amazing friends through this process. Unfortunately, unlike bloggers in some bigger cities like Boston and New York, we aren’t as geographically close. We literally live across the state from each other. But we’ve planned some awesome dinner events in more central locations (Hartford, New Haven) and we’ve met up at festivals. I hope there will be a lot more of that next year.
Blogging for a media outlet is very different than blogging for personal reasons. While I have a lot of leeway with my content, there are different expectations, especially since I’m being paid to write this blog. There are some things you absolutely have to post about - a new restaurant opening (or a popular restaurant closing), big events, buzzworthy new items from national chains. (I’ve written extensively and repeatedly about the McRib, the KFC Double Down and Connecticut’s first Sonic Drive-In.) Sometimes these stories come in on a “breaking news” basis. Since the A La Carte blog launched with a built-in audience, the readership is there, so you’ve got to get the content on there. I’m also responsible for that blog’s social media efforts and text-message alerts.
Being affiliated with a media outlet also means that you have to follow their ethical guidelines. Because of this, I don’t accept free meals, gift certificates from restaurants or PR companies or sample products. I follow these practices across the board with both blogs. This results in a lot of out-of-pocket expenses, but it eliminates any danger of bias.
When I was just doing Fun With Carbs, I didn’t always want to write about every single dining experience. Sometimes I just didn’t feel like bringing my camera, or taking notes, especially if it was a nicer place where a camera flash would be way too conspicuous. That still happens when I’m at a festival or tasting – unless I’m there for “work” (A La Carte), more often than not I’ll just kick back and enjoy. Especially if an event is crowded, or if I feel like I’ll miss out on the full experience by playing journalist.
I’m also terrible at documenting my cooking, mainly because I almost never follow recipes and I always forget to take step-by-step pictures. I’m lucky if I remember to take a picture of the finished product. This is probably why you’ll see such a disproportionate number of “dining” posts on Fun With Carbs.
What has been your most fun blog post to write?
I’m proud of my recap of the 2010 Mohegan Sun WineFest, ( http://funwithcarbs.com/2010/02/2010-mohegan-sun-winefest ) mainly because it was the first event where I earned a press pass as an individual blogger and not a mainstream media representative. That was a huge coup for me and ended up leading to much bigger things.
I wrote a similar one for A La Carte on the Taste of the Nation event in Hartford this past May, and was happy about how it came out. (http://weblogs.ctnow.com/entertainment/dining/a-la-carte/2010/05/taste-of-the-nation-hartford-a.html )
In July, I interviewed the ultimate adventurous foodie, Anthony Bourdain. This article ended up running on the cover of the Courant’s Arts section in September. http://weblogs.ctnow.com/entertainment/dining/a-la-carte/2010/09/anthony-bourdain-in-springfiel.html
And then I attended the show, and posted a recap of his best quotes: http://weblogs.ctnow.com/entertainment/dining/a-la-carte/2010/09/bourdain-ruminates-in-springfi.html
Where do you see your blog this time next year?
I hope the A La Carte blog keeps getting bigger and better. There really isn’t anything like it in the Connecticut mainstream media market right now, so it’s cool being a niche product. I hope to keep attending excellent events and trying incredible food as a result.
And I’d certainly like to keep Fun With Carbs going strong. I feel some “mom guilt” about not maintaining it as frequently as I did at first, but it’s still my “baby” and an important creative outlet in my life.
Is there anything else about your blogging/writing experience you would like to share?
This is the best job I’ve ever had. It may not pay millions, but I’ve enjoyed this food writing experience more than I could ever articulate.