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Cathy Erway is an award-winning writer and blogger, author, and radio host. Starting in 2006, she faced the same dilemma many other New Yorkers have faced—how do I afford to eat in this city while living in this city? For two years, she blogged her recipes, experiments, and experiences on her blog “Not Eating Out in New York.” Eventually, she wrote her first book about the experience, The Art of Eating In: How I Learned to Stop Spending and Love the Stove.
Continuing to write about food and culture, she’s picked up bylines in publications like Eater, The Huffington Post, The New York Times, Grub Street, and TASTE magazine—the latter of which published her James Beard award-winning piece “The Subtle Thrills of Cold Chicken Salad.” Wanting to merge her love for culture and her love for food more, she explored her family’s cooking heritage and published the book The Food of Taiwan: Recipes from the Beautiful Island, cheekily marketing it with the phrase “It’s not just about bubble tea.”
When she’s not experimenting in the kitchen or pouring thoughts and ideas into words on her laptop, Cathy hosts the radio show “Eat Your Words” on Heritage Radio Network and the podcast “Self Evident” in partnership with the New York Media Center. She also co-founded the regular supper club at the Hapa Kitchen, so we know she eats out at least a little more regularly these days!
What You’ll Learn About Writing This Week:
- Your competitors are not necessarily people you should hide your ideas and writing from—regularly getting together to share ideas and processes will actually advance everyone’s careers.
- Read blogs and content that you like in your genre and industries to learn more about their best practices and routines.
- Sometimes, you have to make your community if you aren’t finding it.
- You don’t have to always write about one very specific focus in your niche. Sometimes, your most interesting writing and ideas can come from following your interests to other areas, and seeing how they intersect.
- To find new ideas, you should always dig down a few layers from what your current idea is. It keeps you from writing the same superficial articles as everyone else, and gets deeper.
- Just because you aren’t able to land the publications and websites you want to be published on right now, that doesn’t mean you won’t be able to do that in the future.
- One of the best ways to land new bylines will always be the relationships you cultivate, personally and professionally—you never know who you meet at a conference today that will be an editor at your favorite publication tomorrow.
- Even after years of writing and pitching, it’s still hard to get your writing out there. And that’s OK.
- A rejection doesn’t mean that your piece isn’t good or doesn’t have merit; it often just isn’t the right piece for a publication at this particular time.
- When you build relationships with editors at different publications, you buy yourself the credibility to be able to pitch pieces that are a bit more out-there, and sell them on your prior writing.
- In-depth reporting and articles don’t have to follow a large expanse of ideas and research. Often, honing in on that one thing you find after digging will be the unique angle that separates it from something else.
- You can “show, not tell” by telling a story about how you did something, and offering the prompt for others to do the same (with their own twists).
- You are going to have divergent interests and ideas, and want to write about things you may not be known for writing about, or have experience writing in. Find ways that new things are related to what you wrote about before to ease your way in, both intellectually and professionally.
- Don’t be afraid to pitch the ideas and concepts you love, that you are worried no one else would ever be interested in. If you are interested in them, there are other people out there who are interested as well!
- With the closures of many giants in publishing, we’re also finding more cooler, smaller outlets.
- Make sure you have fun with your writing, your cooking, and whatever else you happen to be doing!
Mentioned in This Episode (Links and Resources!):
You Can Find More of Cathy and Her Writing On:
Tweetable Quotes From This Episode:
- “I really wanted to be a food writer; I just didn’t know how to get myself published, so [my blog] was an outlet for that passion … and it gave me a lot of practice on the mechanics of how to write a simple, food-driven article.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- “We were a very tight-knit community, at least in NYC. I would host potlucks and get-togethers, and picnics with a lot of other food bloggers, and we’d bounce ideas off each other.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- “Following a natural interest in something will open up all these other avenues to explore.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- [On finding new ideas to write about] “You should follow the weirdest thing that presents itself to you.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- “People have a natural tendency to shy away from something that is inconveniently unpleasant. But maybe if you lean into that, you can find an angle around it that will get you really passionate.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- [On getting a pitch accepted] “You have to find the right person at the right publication at the right time. And if doesn’t work out, you have that idea in your back pocket.”
- “If you love something so much, you’ve just gotta find out why. What makes it so great? And what could make it better?” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- “You don’t have to stay in one corner. I think that would be sad.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
- “I think that the people who are doing it [running publications] these days are really passionate, and so you see that. Perhaps maybe we have less of it, but maybe there’s more quality.” – @cathyerway on #WritersRoughDrafts
Elisa Doucette is a writer and editor who works with professional writers, entrepreneurs, and brands that want to make their own words even better. She is the Founder of Craft Your Content, and oversees Client Strategy and Writing Coaching. Her own writing has been featured in places like Forbes, The New York Times, The Boston Globe, Yahoo! Small Business, and The Huffington Post, among others. She also hosts the Writers' Rough Drafts podcast here on CYC. When she isn't writing, editing, or reading words, she can usually be found at a local pub quiz, deep in a sun salutation, or binging TV shows for concept ideas and laughs.