Like so many other students that go through the Professional Writing program at Champlain, I was fortunate to have quite a few of Tim Brookes' Rules of Writing drilled into my brain. One rule in particular became my guiding light again and again as my career began inching forward. It was Rule #349: write what you know.
Having grown up in California wine country, my roots run alongside those of old vine zinfandel and Carneros pinot noir. The smells of my childhood are rosemary, garlic and freshly baking bread.
Today, I am a food and wine writer and my portfolio is peppered with nutrition, fitness and human interest stories along with recipe development, wine features and restaurant reviews. While pursuing this path, I quickly learned that while the romance is still in print, the real opportunity (and the money) is online. I entered the world of web content strategy and development kicking and screaming only to find out that I actually loved it. The path then led me to Los Angeles, where I accepted a job as an Associate Editor on Cooking.com. In 2012, I received a call asking if I had any food show concepts to pitch to a television production company. I was flabbergasted, and a few short months later, I become the co-creator, writer, and honored host of an adventure/travel pilot TV show about the benefits of the Slow Food movements called " Getting Fresh." I am currently shopping the show to networks and couldn't be more excited about this opportunity!
I can honestly say that this journey has taught me that success comes with following a passion. If you do what you love, and love what you do- and write about what you know- you will succeed. Truth comes through in words. They can be poems or recipes for pea soup, feature articles or Facebook posts, and a love letter to a friend. I never thought I'd be writing about food and wine for web and television, but I have learned that it's not the how or the where, but the what that counts. Tim Brookes' Rule of Writing #349 is not just for writers.
In preparation for writing this guest alumni column, I pulled out my old Professional Writing Portfolio, still bound and brand new-looking since my 2007 graduation when I presented it to Tim Brookes, Cheryl Burghdurf, and my fellow writers. I fancied myself a bit of an artist at the time and compiled an Anne Lamott type of collection full of insightful, humorous, exploratory nonfiction storytelling, sans some of the cynicism (and the dreadlocks). My portfolio contains nine pieces of writing, most of which support this vision with the exception of one seeming wild card: a "how to" website project on the subject of wine education, titled WinoLife.com. I had written that piece for an Electronic Media Writing Class in 2005. In the introduction to that piece, I wrote: "Electronic Media Writing taught me technical specifics of writing for certain media outlets such as radio, television, and the Internet. Of all the writing classes I have taken at Champlain, Electronic Media best displayed exciting career options for writers, and gave me faith that there is potential for economic advancement in the field of writing without having to compromise creativity."
Well, I'll be damned.
Allison Arbuthnot Sanders '07 is a writer, editor, and food and wine industry professional. Her freelance work focuses on local foods and farmers markets, recipe development, restaurant reviews, and whimsical wine reviews. She recently left Los Angeles to return home to the clean air and free spirits of the San Francisco Bay, where she just joined the staff as a writer in the Marketing and Communications department of San Josť State University. Learn more about Allison here!