Pitching the Heavy Table (Writers)

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

Natalie Champa Jennings / Heavy Table

The Heavy Table is always happy to consider pitches from outside its existing stable of writers. New voices keep the site lively and inject new perspective into our coverage of food and drink in the Upper Midwest.

When pitching ideas to the Heavy Table (email editor@heavytable.com) keep in mind that we look for stories that are focused, timely, and original. Our standard fee ($40 for a longish story) isn’t much, so if you require a certain amount of money, let us know up front so that we can look at our budget. If you’re able to provide professional quality images, that’s great – if not, no worries, if the story is worth running, it’ll be worth us commissioning photography. We don’t have any length requirements – anything from a couple of paragraphs up to 5,000 words might be perfect for the subject that you’re tackling.

The Heavy Table is all about the food. Nearly all of our stories have, at their heart, a food experience – smell, texture, taste, context. If you lead with the food, you’ll rarely go astray. Before you pitch us, read through 10 or 20 of our existing stories to get a sense of what we cover and how we write about food and a sense of place.

Here four common reasons we reject submissions and submission ideas:

1. Too Big

While it’s always admirable to aim high, if we’re going to commission a multi-part series or a new column concept, we’re probably going to hand it to one of our longstanding contributors. This isn’t a strict ban on big ideas, but when offering one up think: How will this add readers to the site? Why am I uniquely positioned to write it? How does it enhance or otherwise amplify the Heavy Table’s mission? Why is it worth of a multi-part or extremely detailed approach?

2. Too “Me”

It’s very tempting, as a writer, to assume that whatever you’re interested in is interesting to the world. Unfortunately this is rarely the case. If you’ve got any first-person aspect to what you’re pitching, think carefully about it. “My Three Favorite Korean Restaurants in the Twin Cities” isn’t very compelling unless you’re a Korean chef, or have done extensive dining in South Korea, for example. By contrast, “My Experience Eating Hennepin County Jail Food” would make for a pretty good read, as the subject is something not all of our readers have had the chance to experience.

Likewise when writing: Strive to eliminate “me,” “I,” and other first-person references whenever humanly possible.

3. Off Season

An apple orchard story should probably come in late August or early September; a North Shore travel piece would be best in late Spring. Hearty stews would be a good topic in November through January. The best stories have a compelling, timely aspect and come at or before the beginning of whatever event or season they’re pegged to.

4. Redundant

Before pitching, look around to see who else locally has covered your topic – how thoroughly, and how recently. The Heavy Table can and will cover things other organizations have tackled, but we try to find a different angle or take a deeper approach so that we’re not merely duplicating others’ work. This is doubly true for topics that the Heavy Table has already tackled.

Thanks for thinking of us, and good luck!

James Norton
Editor
The Heavy Table

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James Norton

James Norton is editor and co-founder of the Heavy Table. He is also the co-author of Lake Superior Flavors, the co-author of a book about Wisconsin’s master cheesemakers, and a regular on-air contributor to Minnesota Public Radio.

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One Comment

  1. Leigh Mathison 08/28/2015 Reply

    We live between Grand Marais and Lutsen, MN and just returned from a week in Ontario with your book Lake Superior Flavors in tow. The book was helpful and led us to some new discoveries. However, we think you need to add to or modify your comments about buying beer in Ontario. After reading about The Beer Store on p. 119, we went to Canada expecting to find only Molsons, Labatts and Coors. We were surprised to find a great selection of microbrews and international beers at the provincial-owned LCBO (Liquor Control Board of Ontario) stores.

    As it turns out, The Beer Store has a monopoly on the retail sale of 12 and 24 packs. All other beer, including microbrews, are sold at LCBO stores throughout Ontario. We visited the LCBO store on Fort William and Main in Thunder Bay and enjoyed a pleasant shopping experience in a modern store with craft and microbrews like Sleeping Giant sold by the can or 6-pack. My husband enjoyed creating his own 6-pack. The LCBO store we visited also has a great selection of wine, including many we have not seen in the U.S., at very reasonable prices, especially given the current exchange rate. We saw LCBO stores in many small towns we visited, although we did not shop in any others.

    We enjoyed our LCBO shopping experience so much that we plan to make regular beer and wine buying excursions to Thunder Bay. So Lake Superior travelers, do not despair! There are great local Canadian microbrews available at LCBO stores.

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