My humble little carbohydrate-loving blog officially turns one year old today, marking not only the first anniversary of my foray into the food-blogging world, but also the day I became a freelance writer.
I left my full-time webstaff job at the Hartford Courant on Oct. 28, 2009, with visions of supporting myself through the written word. It was a decision few understood. After all, I had relative job security (as secure as a job can be in the news industry) and a salary with benefits at a time when unemployment had hit record highs. But I also had dreams, and I felt my writing skills were languishing. (Headlines don’t count. When I worked the breaking news shifts on courant.com, our running joke was that we only needed a save-get key for morning stories. “Shooting in Hartford.” “Carjacking in Hartford.” “Stabbing in Hartford.”)
I also had an idea to start a food blog, figuring I could chronicle my dining experiences and cooking adventures while sharpening my writing. After all, I hadn’t had a full-time writing job since 2005. And that’s where my mentor and savior Jeanne Leblanc came in. Self-employed as a web consultant after leaving the Courant herself in 2009, she offered to build me a site as a wedding present. She is responsible for the design, structure, back-end HTML and functionality of Fun With Carbs (not to mention those flowing red wine and delicious baguette images), and I can’t thank her enough for her hard work, talent and support. More than just technical assistance, Jeanne provided a listening ear and a steady stream of good humor as I started out on my own. Everyone should have that kind of backup when they’re making a life-changing decision.
Fun With Carbs opened more doors for me than I thought possible. Within a few months, I had been asked to help judge a culinary competition at UConn, gained press access to the Mohegan Sun WineFest and caught the attention of Five Guys Burgers and Fries with a quick post about our visit to their Worcester location.
Not only was it tremendously fun, but it helped prove that I could write. Even though I’d worked for the Courant for more than three years, my editor colleagues knew me as a web producer, the person they could come to for help with online story placement, photo galleries and multimedia extras. Now they knew I had chops as a writer, and began to call on me for more assignments.
I published features on “foodie” couples and restaurants’ use of social media in the Courant, making invaluable contacts along the way – media professionals and fellow Connecticut gourmands that I still speak to regularly. This list of excellent people only grew when I did another feature on local food bloggers. I now have even more friends that I can text or email to share news of an upcoming event, a must-try restaurant dish or a successful recipe. It’s a great feeling.
Most importantly, my independent attempt at food writing led to the two steady professional gigs I enjoy most today: the A La Carte blog for the Courant / CTNow.com and my biweekly contributions to the A La Carte restaurant column in the Courant’s Flavor section. Through these avenues, I’ve met some of the state’s most passionate and gifted chefs and restaurateurs (and eaten some knock-your-socks-off meals along the way.) I’ve also had the opportunity to attend culinary events like the Taste of the Nation in Hartford and the upcoming Foxwoods Food & Wine Festival. Oh, and do you remember when I interviewed Anthony Bourdain?
I’ve had a hell of a year and I can’t wait to see what comes next. There are so many people to thank for their support – my phenomenal husband Rob (we were only one month into marriage when this all began,) my parents and family; my great friends, my former Courant buddies who’ve stayed in regular touch and advocated for me for assignments; my generous editors in the Features department; my fellow bloggers for their inspiration, guidance and innovation and so many more.
Happy Birthday, Fun With Carbs. I think you deserve a Funfetti cake.
(Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)