Alan Richman wants you to know his thoughts on writing and how they extend to all kinds of journalism, not just in the food industry. He doesn't want writing to be exhausting, hates throw away "quick bite" type entries, knows when he's reading an article written by a woman, and has plenty of anecdotes to share about his wine critic ex-wife. One half hour with him, and you know all this. Imagine six sessions in The Craft of Food Writing at the French Culinary Institute—fifteen hours—you're practically old college buddies.
Richman leads this six week class—which starts up again in March (check the website closer to the end of 2008)—complete with visits from other New York media insiders. The evening I stopped by, we were joined by Gabriella Gershenson of Time Out New York, who gave her spin on pitching to editors.
The two hours of class each week are not boring lectures or a rant to 30 students on the sad economics of food writing. Weekly curriculum includes potential careers, food features, meal critiques, reviews, and the elements of reporting. This evening's session included ripping apart and praising various food glossies. Richman (and many students) expressed anger with some of the more popular food magazines these days—the ones that are choppy, edited to death, filled with lists of where to eat but not why, and written by unlikeable personalities you and I would never want to eat a meal with.
If you're interested in this course, consider it does not seem to be paced for the beginner journalist. Writers interested in the food industry or food bloggers who are ready to start pitching stories to editors would be in educational heaven. Tuition could be a deterrent at $1050—so if you've got someone willing to fork up the bills, don't pass it up. However, Richman does provide personalized feedback on writing assignments, which you would never get outside of the classroom, unless you are married to a food writer or related by blood. Consider it worth the price if it lands you published pieces after a few months.
More info and listings of other classes in FCI's Amateur, Advanced Studies, and Career Divisions can be found here.
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