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  • a food blogger who has been blogging for a while and feels stuck in a creative rut?

  • happy with your writing but feel your photography needs work - or vice versa?

  • tired of attending traditional format conferences where you are one of dozens of bloggers simply listening and taking notes ?

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Monday, 3 January 2011

Looking back, looking forward

New year is always a time of partying and celebration with friends and family. But on a personal and professional level it is also a time of reflection and evaluation; of planning and regrouping; of refreshment and renewed inspiration. And it is in this reflective spirit that we have decided to ask each one of the four Plate to Page workshop presenters to look back at 2010 to tell us what they feel they have achieved; as well as forward at 2011 to share with us some of their goals for the coming year. Today we hear from Jeanne, the accomplished writer behind CookSister! The other post in the series so far is from Ilva Beretta of Lucullian Delights and Ilva Beretta Photography. Stay tuned for two more posts in the series this week.

As every cat knows, a doorway is a most magical thing. It provides not only a means of passing through what appeared to be an impenetrable wall; but also provides you with a viewpoint from where you can observe not only the room you have just left, but also the room you are about to enter. For some of my friends, new year celebrations provide a perfect reason to let their hair down and party as if there is no tomorrow. For others, new year symbolises an ending and as they gaze back at the past year with its disappointments and wasted opportunities, as spent as a popped balloon, they see no reason to celebrate at all. But I am on the side of the cat. For me, new year celebrations provide a doorway between the year that was and the year yet to be; a means of breaking through past obstacles into a brighter future; and a unique moment when you are encouraged not only to look backwards but also forwards to the year yet to come, as filled with promise as a blank page and a new fountain pen.


Standing here on the doorstep of 2011, if I look back at my older posts, I marvel firstly at where I found the time to write such epic pieces; and then I cringe at the sheer volume of stuff I tried to cram into each post. For goodness sake - in one post a while back I covered FOUR barbecues and their recipes in one post! I think if I can pinpoint one thing that I have improved on over the past year, it is the fine art of editing. I have pruned posts down to tell one story at a time, and have worked on suppressing my natural inclination to verbosity. As a writer, I have always found it really hard to self-edit. Once I have written something, it is like having a child - and by extension, deleting those written words feels like killing my children. But I feel that over the past year I have made great strides in being stricter with editing and keeping my pieces tighter, a habit which proved to be invaluable when I was writing a number of pieces for publication in magazines and books this year. I would dare to say that any writer looking to improve their writing could benefit from making a more conscious effort at editing more ruthlessly and tightening up their prose.

BluebasilBrownies by CookSister

The achievements of which I was proudest in 2010 were my published pieces that appeared in two coffee table books from National Geographic as well as a cookbook and a book of food writing essays. I was also thrilled to have magazine pieces published online as well as in print magazines in the UK and South Africa. On the visual side, I also saw my own photographs featured in print (p20-21) for the first time and it finally felt as if the extra effort that I have been putting into my food photography is paying dividends.

PumpkinSoup by CookSister

And looking forward to 2011? I am bad at making proper resolutions and even worse at sticking to them. But I have found that formulating some goals and, more crucially, writing them down focuses my mind and helps me to achieve what I set out to do. Not wishy washy goals like “be a better writer” but specific ones that actually have measurable outcomes. In 2011 I am hoping to devise a writing/posting schedule that I can actually stick to for more than a week or two. And off the blog in the "real" world, I am aiming to get more of my writing published in magazines over the next year. I want to stop doubting myself and learn to trust in my own abilities and take some risks - if you're careful all the time then what's it worth? But most of all I am looking forward to sharing the writing and blogging tips that I have learnt over six years with those of you who have signed up for our two Plate to Page workshops in Spring and Autumn 2011. Happy new year!

Chocolates by CookSister


Excellent post, Jeanne. "...observe not only the room you have just left, but also the room you are about to enter...", I really like that because it's not intimidating. (You have a very smart cat.)

Setting realistic goals is the thing to do and I plan to do the same.

If I weren't on the other side of the world and if I could afford it, and if I weren't terrified of flying I'd be at your Plate to Page workshop in a heartbeat!

Yes what is it worth! Dare to be daring is what I say. You have been a great friend keeping me focused on many things (also distracting me on other things ;o)) and I look forward to achieving some of those goals with you right by my side!

You ladies inspire me so... Keep up the wonderful work, words and visual treats.

terrific post Jeanne - we are beyond excited to meet you and the others this year; cannot believe that May is only 5 months away! I'm going to print out your cat quote - what a wonderful perspective!!! xo

I have a feeling something wonderful is going to happen this year - and that is more than just receiving a batch of (lovely) treats through the post.

Inspiration and support...

Wishing you the best with everything you've set for yourself to achieve this year.

@CherylK - thanks so much! I always prefer to inspire than to intimidate ;) And as for smart cats - is there another kind?? Really wish you could make it to Plate2Page - maybe one day...

@MeetaK - ah yes, the Temptress and the Distractress make a great team. Can't wait to C US Shine this year, my darling Borg-sister ;o)

@Soma - that's such a wonderful thing to say! Thank you & all the very best for 2011.

@Debra - can there be anything more flattering than somebody wanting to print and keep something I wrote?? Nope, didn't think so ;) Can't believe it's only 5 months and super-excited to meet the 2 of you too!

@Andrew - does that mean you're NOT sending me more brownies?? ;o) Thanks for the kind words - and thanks for the inspiration you've been to me over the years - and the three addictions (if only we could rememebr what the 3rd one was hahaha!)

@Aparna - thanks sweetie - and may 2011 be a ROCKING year for you too!

Excellent post Jeanne! Wish you the very best and i hope you have a fabulous year ahead! :)

Jeanne, you and I are so alike yet so different in our writing styles and approaches which makes you both a teammate and an inspiration to me. I so easily follow your processes as you write, but your writing is so earthy and real, so beautiful and poetic yet straightforward. It is hard to explain in so many words, but I have learned so much from you this past year! It is an honor to work alongside of you! You so deserve each and every accomplishment and 2011 will be a fabulous year!

What an inspiring set of objectives you've set for yourself, Jeanne. I used to think of myself as a hyper-organized person who just got on with things in a systematic way. But I've become such a terrible dawdler as a food blogger. I screw around for hours in the kitchen, fuss endlessly with my camera to no particular end, get sidetracked, and then gallop through the process of actually pulling together a post. You write and craft yours in such a thoughtful, beautiful, and engaging way that is so worth trying (struggling?) to emulate.

@Baker Street - thanks very much, I'm glad you enjoyed it! And all the best for 2011 to you too :)

@Jamie - it is so funny to compare our writing styles - they could hardly be more different! But as they say, opposites attract and here we are :) I think we make a fab team, from back at that first meeting before FBC '09 where we pulled our presentation together, into the future with our other projects. We're defintely going to be DOING IT as opposed to dreaming it in 2011!

@Barbara - thank you! If I have inspired one person, my work here is done ;) And as for faffing and dawdling - oh, I do that too! I often have the text ready to go but then spend so long editing and faffing with photos that the entire process gets delayed. The thing with writing is that it's not always possible to be totally systematic about it - sometimes you do have to wait for that 10% inspiration to strike... and then get on with the 90% perspiration of writing it down coherently! So don't be too hard on yourself. All the very best for 2011!

You are a wonderful person Jeanne, and your writing reflects it too. I am so happy to know you. Wishing you all the best in the new year; may you achieve all that you have set out to and more.


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