Today, I received a phone call from one of the organizers of The Symposium for Professional Food Writers at The Greenbrier in White Sulfur Springs, West Virginia, informing me that I've won a scholarship which will enable me to attend this prestigious week-long conference.
This is an elite industry event that limits attendance to fewer than 100 food writers, editors, publishers, and agents, so it's a huge opportunity for me to network with people that are normally very difficult to access.
It's also a great way for me to become a better writer. The symposium consists of all sorts of workshops and coaching sessions that are geared towards helping the attendees improve their writing, tailor their writing style for specific publications, and think outside the box with regard to subject matter, style, and medium.
I was awarded the James Peterson Food Writing Passion Scholarship, which the website says "will be awarded to a food writer whose writing ties food with life and with a certain passion in being alive. The main criterion for this award is written excellence and "just good fun" in writing about food and drink."
Let's just let that sink in for a minute. They thought my piece displayed "written excellence"! I know, can you believe it? "Just good fun," sure, I can buy that. But "written excellence"? I may just re-write the blog description in my header to include that phrase. I mean, if the people reading this blog are being graced with written excellence, they ought to know.
The piece that won was my review of Broadbent's Original Hickory Smoked Bacon, and the director of the event, who called to tell me the news, was literally gushing about my writing. She said that there were hundreds of submissions for the scholarships, but that my entry was the unanimous winner, and that the judges said it wasn't even close. (!) She was probably stroking my ego, but I really don't care. I'm basking in it--at least for a few days.
Anyway, as you might've surmised, I'm really pleased by this development. When I found out about this event and their scholarship program, I figured, sure, what the heck...why not enter? So I selected a few pieces to submit, went over to Kinko's to get five copies of each piece printed off, and crammed the whole bundle into mailers, figuring that I'd at least be able to say that I gave it a shot. I did not expect to win, or even figure I had much of a chance.
It's really nice to get the validation that comes from having industry professionals tell me that my writing is good ("written excellence", even) . It feels great. This blog is mostly intended to be an outlet to for me to vent out all this stuff that I would otherwise just bore my wife, my friends, and random pizza delivery guys with. I've taken it fairly seriously, but that's because I enjoy writing and want to get better at it. But I've really just looked at is as an exercise, an outlet, and a fun pastime. Now I feel like I might be actually Doing Something.
The symposium is in early May, and I'll blog about it once I get back. Industry heavyweights like 12-time Beard Award winner Steve Dolinsky and French Laundry Cookbook co-author Michael Ruhlman will be there, and if I can manage to get some pictures of myself with them without coming off like some star-struck, wide-eyed food writer groupie, I'll share them here on the site. It should be fun.
I'll try not to let my head get too big, but don't be surprised if you're asked for your credit card number the next time you try and pull me up on your blog reader. After all, "written excellence" isn't something that people just give away for free.