How Did This Happen?

Since I announced my book deal, a lot of people have asked me how it all happened; how did my career come to this point? I’m going to try to answer–so I hope this is helpful, and not too self indulgent.

I went to art school, where I learned many things that are still very useful to me on a daily basis.  One of the most important lessons I learned was that if I don’t put my work out there, no one will see it. Everything that has happened in my career has happened because of this blog.

I started Four Pounds Flour 4 1/2 years ago, simply because my friends seemed to enjoy my historic food adventures.  I thought that if they liked it, maybe there were other people who would like it, too.  I had also spent some time working in foodie culture in New York City, and I realized that there was an unfilled niche: no one out there had my same perspective on food.

I started writing with no expectations and I promised myself that if the blog stopped being fun, I would stop writing it. I began to meet a community of people through my writing, including new friends in New York. Soon, they starting asking me if I would do an event at such-and-such historic site.  When that event went well, I would be asked to do another. And another.  I’ve always loved teaching and performing, so it was a good fit for me.

When writing a blog, after a certain point you produce enough content (and hopefully enough reliable content) that your posts start coming up in Google searches.  That’s how I ended up on Appetite City and in the Wall Street Journal–someone was searching around for “the history of restaurants” or “recreating historic food” and they found me. Over time, my blog had built a respectable following. (Correction: Appetite City found me through Liza de Guia, creator of food. curated. who produced this video about my work three years ago.)

About two years ago, a literary agent contacted me.  I had done a private event for a local chapter of the DAR and one of the members (his wife) recommended he take a look at my writing.  We had a few meetings and I made my first attempt at a book proposal.  Nothing came of it, but I learned a lot and had something to show for it.

In February 2012 I was contacted by an editor at Simon & Schuster.  He had seen this post and invited me out for coffee. He told me I should write a book and we brainstormed some ideas.  We had a lot in common and had a sense we’d enjoy working with each other. He also recommended me to an agent.

It took a LONG TIME to write the proposal.  I conceptualized it for six months and I’ve been writing it on and off since August 2012.  There was a lot to learn in the process. There were a lot of rewrites.  In the end, I actually didn’t think Simon & Schuster would buy it.

But they did.  And I still can’t believe this is happening to me.  Getting a “big break” isn’t something I thought happened to real people.

Here’s my best advice: if you’re thinking of starting a blog, just do it.  The beauty of it is there is no one to answer to and no expectations of your work. There is no risk. Just make things. Write things.  Whatever your art form is–just get the work out there, in a public forum, where people can see it. If you work hard, and make good work, good things will come of it. I really do believe that.

If you have other questions for me, please feel free to post in the comments.  I’m probably going to be in the market for an intern this fall, so if you live in the New York area, and are interested in learning what I do first hand, keep it in mind!

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