Name: Anna Rider
Location: Boulder, Colorado
Years of Experience: 10+
Available for writing projects: Yes
Niche/Beat/Genre: Helping busy overachievers develop a habit of home cooking
Other website: https://www.linkedin.com/in/annarider/
Favorite food: Noodles—all noodles, never met a noodle I disliked
Writing tip for fellow writers: Use the spell checker.
Anna Rider began her writing career working at newspapers. Gradually, her love for food--specifically noodles and tofu--led her to create her own website, where she now teaches readers in-depth food knowledge and creates her own recipes alongside her husband.
How did you get started in writing?
My first full-time writing job was at a news organization in Florida called the Poynter Institute.
Before that job, I wrote a lot for free. I had written at local newspapers as an intern and started a travel blog in my sophomore year of college because I thought that learning how to use WordPress and Twitter back in 2009 was my ticket to getting a job after graduation.
I’ve also got a master’s degree in journalism and a bachelor’s degree in communication. Those two educational programs guaranteed I had to produce a lot of words and learn to write on deadline.
What area of writing do you specialize in now?
I predominantly write for my food blog at GarlicDelight.com where I publish ingredients profiles to explain how to prepare, cook, and store different ingredients. I’ve covered garlic (of course!), onions, ginger, celery, cabbage, etc. I write about cooking techniques, such as how to braise, how to stir fry, how to poach. I publish recipes that bring the ingredients and cooking techniques together.
I also love writing about tofu, mushrooms, noodles, and kitchen experiments.
I love writing about tofu because it’s a versatile ingredient that has a bad reputation for being watery and bland. I like to dispel myths about tofu and teach people how to bring this vegan ingredient into their kitchen.
I enjoy writing about mushrooms because they’re mysterious and beautiful. There’s so much that scientists are still learning about the world of fungi.
I love noodles, so any opportunity to write about noodles is another excuse to eat more noodles.
Finally, I like writing about kitchen experiments because I always learn something new from collecting empirical data. It gives my husband Alex a chance to participate in an article, because I rely on his background as a physicist to design my experiments. He sets up the conditions and I carry them out.
What’s your advice for struggling new writers?
If you’re struggling to write and produce, using a timer and an outline to speed up the writing (it works for nonfiction, at least). I like to set my timer for 15 minutes. But if I’m having a hard time, I’ll lower it to 10 minutes. If that doesn’t work, go out for a 20-minute walk and try writing freeform to get into a state of flow.
If you’re struggling to find something worth saying, I’ve found more reporting to be a reliable solution. I tell my friends who struggle to write that writing is 80% thinking and 20% putting pen to paper (or fingers on keyboard).
If you’re struggling to earn a living, realize this is hard. Making a full-time living from writing is hard. I’ve worked on this by developing my mindset as a business owner. Getting the right mindset has been the hardest part about monetizing writing because it takes a different perspective that doesn’t always come organically to writers.
A lot of full-time writers aspire to be artists. Developing your writing into an art is a fantastic aspiration. But few people can be full-time artists without making money from their art. Often the most successful artists are savvy businesspeople (or have business-minded agents representing them).
Even if you don’t aspire to be an artist with writing, monetizing a passion is still not something we’re taught to do in school or society. It requires developing new skills and seeing the world differently. It still requires more than hard work to become profitable at writing.
I’ve been thinking about value creation, target audience, and diverse monetization strategies. I’m still learning and developing in this area. I notice that the more I try new things to grow, the easier it becomes to monetize and get paid for what I want to write about.
What has been your biggest professional struggle over the years?
Figuring out whether to keep my day job and juggling my work-life balance. Surprisingly, it’s not a struggle to do the work, because I love the work and I love the process.
Elizabeth Gilbert provided perspective on how she dealt with this struggle in her book Big Magic.
My friend and mentor Sam Chan also helped me understand the importance of sustainability and how to strive for it in my work and my family life. Writing can be all consuming. Burnout stops me from doing the work. Understanding what is required for the work to be sustainable has been the biggest challenge I’ve faced for many years. I continue to struggle with this question.
How is your relationship with food affected by you being a writer, or vice versa?
Ever since I began writing about food, I’ve become a much better cook. Because I write deep-dive ingredient and cooking profiles, I learn the nitty-gritty of how to prepare ingredients and how they perform. I learn different cooking techniques and the “right” way to do things.
This has made a huge difference in the kitchen. Not all recipes on the Internet are well-tested and written with rigor. It’s also easy to learn bad habits from other home cooks. Not everybody has the privilege to go to culinary school, so we don’t always recognize that we’re doing something wrong.
Now that I write about cooking and create recipes, it’s forced me to approach cooking with new eyes and a systematic approach that improved my cooking.
In turn, a critical eye in the kitchen makes my writing better, too. I make many cooking mistakes which gives me ideas for what to write to teach people what not to do. Fussing about ingredients, cooking techniques, and recipes also puts me in the shoes of a beginner. This helps me write with clarity, avoid assuming the reader has the same knowledge as me, and focus on the essentials.
Do you have any favorite food/cooking/writing books that you would recommend?
The food books that have most influenced me are:
French Women Don’t Get Fat by Mireille Guiliano: She was the first introduced me to French home cooking when I was a teenager and seeded the idea that cooking and food are a source of joy rather than anxiety.
Plate to Pixel: Digital Food Photography and Styling by Hélène Dujardin: Her guidance on food photography was a gamechanger for me.
The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan: He opened my eyes to ingredients and the importance of asking where our food comes from.
Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking by Samin Nosrat: I like her focus on ingredients as the building-blocks of good cooking. I appreciate her “no recipes” approach to cooking.
I like to take my inspiration from non-food books because I like to bring new ideas from outside the food and cooking world. Helpful books in this vein include:
On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King: A fabulous take on writing and how to master the basics from a legendary, prolific, and commercially successful writer.
The War of Art: Break Through the Blocks and Win Your Inner Creative Battles by Steven Pressfield: A helpful book about doing the work and how to overcome the inner obstacles that stop you from doing the work.
Steal Like an Artist by Austin Kleon: Fresh ideas about how to be different and why stability in one’s personal life is the key to getting things done.
Any favorite kitchen products?
Kitchen shears (for opening packages, chopping herbs, cutting food into small pieces), sharp chef’s knife (the workhorse of the kitchen), strainers (for easy separation and drainage), tongs (for a set of heatproof hands), thermometer (to avoid overcooking), parchment paper (saves cakes and eggs from no-longer nonstick pans).
Any favorite food writers, chefs, or food-related TV shows?
Ina Garten on the Food Network. She seems so calm yet confident. She’s always having a grand ol’ time in the kitchen.
What do you snack on when you’re on deadline?
Dark chocolate (72+% cacao), dried mango, raisins, kettle BBQ potato chips, grapes, gummy worms, gummy penguins, and any other finger food that won’t leave a mess on my keyboard.
Anything else you’d like to add about being a writer who loves food, or being a writer in general?
Writing about food is a dream come true for me. I waited for a long time before I started doing it. Once I began, I asked myself, “Why did it take so long? Who was I waiting for to give me permission?”
Thanks to the Internet, anybody can write about food and publish it. You can do it for free if you have an Internet connection. The more you write, the easier it gets.