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How to Write a Cookbook Retreat with Theresa Albert

Take your recipe book from concept to complete cookbook! We’re excited to have talented instructor Theresa Albert leading the “How to Write a Cookbook” Write Now Retreat over the course of three days. Read the Q&A with Theresa below to learn more about the retreat and how to get started writing your own cookbook!

What’s been the biggest challenge or hardship in your food or writing career that you’ve overcome? 

The constant pitching stories, ideas, columns, jobs, and delivering at the same time!  It is an endless exhausting loop even when you have a name and a track record. Learning to funnel everything I agreed to produce through my own brand and my own message was key.

What was the biggest breakthrough or proudest moment in your food or writing career?

I would say the day that Food Network called and asked if I wanted to audition to host Just One Bite, but that was predicated upon by another lucky break. When I pitched my first book, an editor took a chance  on me, an unknown, and it was through promoting that book that Food Network even knew about me.  So I suppose the raw book deal meant more even though the Food Network was probably a bigger thing in the long run.
The funny thing is that the writing of that book was a total mishap that simply kept me company as I recuperated from an accident. Making lemonade out of lemons over and over again is what it takes to keep going.

What can students in your cookbook writing retreat expect?

Honest feedback. It’s what everyone needs before they get the reassurance and encouragement that they will need next.

What do you like most about teaching cookbook writing?

I love helping people understand exactly what motivates them about food. It is a great connecter in real life but food writing comes without the sensory depth that cooking for someone provides. Unless you know exactly what it is you’re trying to convey from your guts and soul, you can’t reach the reader.

Will you be using any cookbooks as examples?

I don’t think using models is all that helpful. This is a work of art as much as it is a science and a practice. I would suggest that students go and browse at a bookstore and find what speaks to them. Perhaps take a picture to have a few examples for inspiration. And then we put them away and find each person’s medium.
 It is also helpful to do a scan of books like yours and those that would be competition. If you get to the point of actually pitching an idea, you’re going to have to build a business plan including these things.

What is something unique you bring to this retreat?

I have really fun earrings in the shape of carrots .

If there is one piece of advice you give your students, what is it?

Your writing is a reflection of how you think and feel. You have to get that clear in yourself before you can talk to someone else.

What inspired you to begin writing cookbooks?

I had no intention of writing, I was working as a personal chef and using my body to cook.  I had a devastating accident that left me in bed for months… I decided to do what I could and use my brain. So I wrote out the recipes and the meal plans that I had been using for clients and figured it would make a good book.  Luckily, HarperCollins agreed that the concept was sellable and useful.

What do you think is the biggest challenge in cookbook writing, and do you have any suggestions on how to overcome it? 

Measuring. Not only ingredients and technique but also weighing out the right words. The only way to overcome it is to have friends and family test your recipes to be sure all ingredients and steps are accounted for. Better a friend tell you that your cupcakes suck than a reader writing in to the newspaper where the recipe was published.

What aspects of cookbook writing come most naturally to you?

The photos. When I create in the kitchen, the first run through is always a  creative endeavor… And then I’ll take photos until one of them takes my breath away. Sitting down and measuring  is next and writing that down is the hardest thing for me to do. That just takes discipline and practise. But it’s the love of the creation that always brings me back.

About Theresa Albert

Cookbook author and Food Network host Theresa Albert teaches nutrition to culinary students and events management to PR post graduates.  Her interactive and energetic teaching style is as inspiring as it is informative.

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Do you have a favourite cookbook? Have you ever thought of writing your own?