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Writing restrictions at NYT?


tigger26
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Hi Ms. Hesser-

I am wondering about the editorial guidelines / restrictions you receive from the NYT? You column is a wonderful mix of personal anecdote/ recipe / review; was this what you always intended or was there influnce from the masthead? Are there any columns you've written but then withdrawn as too personal? Or are you ever encouraged to insert more of yourself into a piece?

Thanks in Advance. I'm a huge fan!

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Further to this question, where and when do you get inspiration for your columns (are these middle of the night, in the shower, sit down at your desk, walking down the street ideas)?

How many ideas do you toss for every column?

Thanks for your participation in this Q & A.

Susan Fahning aka "snowangel"
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great questions. i think i may have answered them partially in jason perlow's "inspiration for mr. latte" question, so you might want to check that out.

generally, the times doesn't encourage writers to write in first person unless the topic calls for it. for instance, i once wrote a piece about searching for the best recipe for cassoulet. that required me to write in first person because part of the story was my journey in the kitchen.

i have noticed a number of remarks on egullet about how i use first person too often. perhaps this is true. in the case of food diary in the magazine, however, the column was designed to be first person and personal. (food DIARY, get it!) because of this design, none of the columns were rejected as too personal. however, a column like that would probably never run in the wednesday paper because, yes, it's too personal.

unfortunately, i think readers sometimes failed to make the distinction between that column and my other work. a few people, for instance, commented that my piece on the bagged salad industry "for once" did not use the word "i". that article ran on a1 and was in the national section. it was a reported piece. articles that begin there are never in first person.

ok, now that i have that off my chest, let's move on! the story ideas themselves come from all over the place. as you suggested, sometimes one might come when i'm walking down the street or going to sleep. others hit me when i'm talking to friends, or am in the kitchen talking to a chef for another story. that happened last week.

when i have an idea, i tell my editor. sometimes he nods with a blank expression. (rejected idea). sometimes he lights up. (story assignment) occasionally, i'll just have the seed of an idea and by talking about it with him, a story will evolve. also, now and then, he'll come to me with an idea. it's a fairly free form system. i don't really know the ratio of rejected ideas to successful ideas. i would hope that i'm getting better at not wasting time on developing bad ideas, but i can't say for sure.

(for the critics of my use of first person, i used the word "i" at least 16 times in answering this question.)

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