WHAT LED YOU TO START WORKING IN DIGITAL/MEDIA PUBLISHING?
The short answer? Sheer passion for food and drink and a lifelong dream of writing. I wrote my own books and over 50 volumes of journals since I was 6 years old… but envisioned writing memoir and poetry as an adult, something I continued to find to private and terrifying to easily share.
As my world travels increased (plus growing up in suburbs of NYC and LA) — and I visit over 600 restaurants and bars around the world each year for over 15 years — my obsession for and knowledge of food and drink rapidly fanned into a flame. Within a year of moving to the food mecca of San Francisco back in 2001, people were coming to me constantly about where to eat, drink and visit (as they still do daily).
My husband wisely encouraged me to marry my writing and food/drink/travel expertise into starting my own site and newsletter. In 2007, we created The Perfect Spot and within 3 months I was offered my first freelance gig based on my site and articles. Within a year of that, I got a job at the Bay Guardian newspaper and eventually became their restaurant critic with a weekly column and food and drink articles. My whole career trajectory changed from there as I wrote for over 50 publications (and counting), became the SF Zagat Editor, Time Out food and drink and national editor at Table8 over 15 cities with writers and dining content around the country. And it all started with my humble site.
WHAT DOES A TYPICAL DAY LOOK LIKE FOR YOU?
It starts with espresso — always — and often I put on music, one of my other greatest passions in life, to keep me inspired and motivated. Often I focus on the projects requiring extreme focus and detail first: writing articles, which I do daily. Though that is “the meat,” the bulk of my time as a food/drink/travel editor and writer is spent responding to countless emails, invites and press releases, digging through menus and reviews, planning restaurant/bar research trips (I travel 1-3 times monthly), conducting interviews (of chefs, distillers, bar managers, winemakers, brewers, etc.), interacting with PR, editing and assigning articles and content to all my writers when I was national editor.
As a writer who also does her own photos with a professional grade camera (Canon 5D Mark IV), I spend many more hours processing photos. Then there is the consulting. As I created content at Table8, I consult on content for dining and drink apps and startups, consult on drink (spirits, cocktails, wine), moderate panels, do tons of food and drink judging and even lead drink and food tastings/classes at companies where we might dive into a subject like whisk(e)y.
So the bottom line is whether working from home or on the road, each day is similar only in that hours of computer time are required but each is different with an array of projects. I thrive on the variety and yet the continued juggling of dozens of projects, articles, consulting, people and events each week simultaneously requires extreme discipline and relentless organization — and commonly 6-day workweeks.
WHAT’S YOUR WORK SETUP LOOK LIKE?
As for many, my MAC is my lifeline, containing the bulk of the data and tools I need, with internet research crucial. I live in spreadsheets, charting out article subjects, crafting “hit lists” from endless hours of research for cities I’m traveling to the world over, checking off projects and timelines.
Oh the photography side, Lightroom is my most important tool as well as an external hard drive where I store hundreds of thousands of photos taken over the past decade (managing that is increasingly difficult as I continued to need ever more hard drive space).
WHAT DO YOU DO OR GO TO GET INSPIRED?
As someone who is privileged to write about food and drink around the world, and who has traveled to dozens of countries and ⅔ of the US — and knows many cities intimately — travel is one of the greatest inspirations possible. The amazing people, cultures, foods, drink, music, architecture and variety of this colorful world provide endless inspiration. But then there is the everyday inspiration.
Since youth, I refer to Julia Cameron’s classic The Artist’s Way when she talks about “filling the well,” basically giving your own creative “well” sustenance and nourishment. She encourages this in all the ways it may speak to a person: with images, long walks, hours to wander or play. I find art, imagery, and color certainly fill the well, including perusing vintage fashions (I love to look at vintage Vogue fashion from the 1930s-1960s) and interior design.
I also write poetry to get out of my constant article mindset — and as I have since youth, I journal and let my thoughts freeflow for clarity and clearing the mind. I watch artful films, new and old, and go to theater/plays at least once a quarter if not more often.
Walks through the redwoods, meadows, and forests of Golden Gate Park, which I live next to, are a lifeline. Music, contemplation, and reading remain my greatest ways to renew. While I’ve attended hundreds of concerts over the years — and that certainly “fills the well” — putting on vinyl/records or playing the music of all styles, is always easily accessible and immediate inspiration. Quiet contemplation is when the inspiration from filling that well with beauty coalesces and turns into ideas.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PIECE OF WRITING OR QUOTE?
I keep documents of quotes that inspire me from my constant reading (even at my busiest, I read at least a book a week, often 2-3) but I return to childhood for a wise word from J.R.R. Tolkein on the increasing darkness of greed contrasted by the “simple” joys of camaraderie around food and music: “If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”
WHAT IS THE PASSIONATE PROBLEM YOU ARE TACKLING AT THE MOMENT?
The long-term goal since youth was to write a book/books, but as is common in my part of the industry, even at the most “successful” book deal levels, getting a book published even by a major publisher is far from a moneymaking proposition. I have two proposals in very different directions I’d like to get started on but have been hesitating, given the ongoing intensity of demands and workload. I am trying to get creative about how I might schedule chipping away at a proposal since incorporating a new direction is something I believe has to happen incrementally rather than tackling it in a focused, quicker timeline.
Is there a Product, Solution, or Tool that you think is a Good Match For Your Digital Publishing Efforts?
I’ve long used WordPress for my own site, The Perfect Spot, and for our restaurant blog at Table8, through which I was managing all my writers and freelancers. Though it certainly has glitches and issues, WordPress has been a reliable behind the scenes tool where one can customize the look on the front end but have a wide range of self-publishing and layout tools at their fingertips.
ANY ADVICE FOR AMBITIOUS DIGITAL PUBLISHING AND MEDIA PROFESSIONALS JUST STARTING OUT?
As with anything worthwhile, dedication and at times, nonstop work, is required. There are days (and years) where you feel like work permeates almost every moment and you have to fight for balance and space for yourself and with loved ones. But if it is work you love and believe in, a disciplined tenacity can take you further than those who give up or cut corners. Not taking “no” for an answer means continuing to seek a way, to knock until a door opens. And this requires sometimes heroic dedication.
Also, relationships are key, as with any industry. Network endlessly, of course. But find authentic connecting points with those you meet in the industry, connections that can take you further than just work into friendship and colleagues territory. Those authentic relationships will be there when you need them and often lead to the best jobs, projects and future prospects.