Editor Q&A with Julia Westbrook of EatingWell

In Editor Interviews by Susan Maccarelli | |

Editor Q&A with Julia Westbrook of EatingWell

Please welcome to the Editor’s Q&A corner EatingWell Media Group Associate Nutrition Editor, Julia Westbrook.

Q: EatingWell is a national bi-monthly publication focused on healthful eating. Tell us about the types of articles you publish.

A: Our magazine is divided into several sections:

FRESH is our front-of-book section. Here we cover short, news-y or timely studies on a wide range of topics. The buckets for FRESH are food, life, thinking, health, fix, (sometimes travel) and ink. On the food page we celebrate food. Could be a restaurant, a farm find, a seasonal food, or something trendy in food/drink. On the lifestyle page, we get more into how food and eating intersect with lifestyle, such as non-profit food organizations, beauty, pets, books (not diet or cookbooks) and gifts. The thinking page covers controversial, timely, and pressing topics (i.e. current events) related to anything food (food policy, sustainability, social justice in food industry, etc.). New health and nutrition studies as well as deeper dives into trendy health topics appear on the health page. It can be multiple small stories or one page exploring various elements on one topic. The fix page is devoted to how to solve health conditions with food. Ink is our humor essay—topics include holiday entertaining, struggling to feed a picky eater, cooking mishaps and other food-related pieces.

NOSH is our collection of one-off, fast and easy recipes. These are typically developed in-house.

Our features fall into several categories. Single ingredient features take a deep dive into one ingredient with recipes. Typically, these features are new takes on an old favorite ingredient. Cooking class stories center around a technique or style (such as grilling). Travel features connect a food with its origin, always with an EatingWell spin. For instance, when we covered Southern French food, we did it through the lens of a chef who had used food to transform his health. These are all recipe-centric features. We also run sustainability features (ex: how agriculture contributes to water pollution) and health features (ex: the controversy of how diet may impact Alzheimer’s).

MORSELS is our back of the book section where we offer kitchen advice, shopping tips, and help with cooking techniques. This is done in-house.

TASTEMAKERS is a one-pager profiling a person who is a mover-and-shaker in food. So people who have started a non-profit, are helping to educate others, have made some kind of big health/food/sustainability impact on their community, etc.

Q: What should potential writers for your magazine know about your readers?

A: Half of our readers are 25-54. 62% are college educated and 57% are employed. About 40% have kids.

Q: As Associate Nutrition Editor, what types of articles are you specifically looking for?

Associate Nutrition Editor at EatingWell, Julia Westbrook

A: I’m looking for FRESH articles. Particularly, I’m always on the lookout for a good study, rising interest in a health topic, rising food trends, and food current events (particularly controversial and timely topics).

Q: According to your Writers’ Guidelines, EatingWell prefers pitches via email. What makes a pitch stand out to you?

A: Your pitch is the very first writing sample of yours that I will ever read, so write the pitch with the same skill/excitement that you’d use to write the story. (My brain almost immediately turns off after the phrase “I would like to write for EatingWell” or “I would like to write about XYZ.”) Style, voice and clarity get you major points.

While I’ll assume your readers are professional, it’s worth repeating: I’m looking for signs that I’m dealing with a professional writer. Signs include an actual story pitch (not just general interest in writing for EatingWell), a portfolio/website, my name in the email, and an indication that you’ve read the magazine. (It’s very obvious when writers haven’t read the magazine. Usually their pitches are off-brand or we’ve covered it recently.)

Q: The FRESH section in the front of the magazine is an ideal place for first time EatingWell writers to pitch according to your guidelines. Can you share some example titles from this section that have been a hit with your audience?

A: Stories that I think have been really successful are Vehicles of Change (July/August 2017), Why in the world are people eating charcoal (JA 17), Eye Candy (JA 17), Are Soda Taxes Helping Anybody? (JA 17); More Than a Walk in the Park (on food initiatives in botanical gardens, May/June 2017), Is Tipping a Thing of the Past (MJ 17), Head Off Headaches, Naturally (MJ 17); Farm Stays for Every Taste (March/April 17); Carb: Not a Four-Letter Word (on resistant starch, Jan/Feb 2017); The Price of EatingWell (Sept/Oct 2016), Time to Eat (SO 16).

Q: EatingWell’s Writers’ Guidelines provide emails for specific section editors. How does the submission/publication process work once something has been submitted?

A: Features and tastemakers are picked a year out. The FRESH lineup is picked about 4-6 months out from publication.

In terms of the process, once one of the editors gets a pitch, we do try to reply to all of them, even with a “no.” This can take a few weeks depending on the editor (but I’d say 2-3 weeks isn’t out of the realm of normal). If I’m interested in a pitch, I’ll usually ask follow up questions. If I like the answers, then I’ll bring it to a pitch meeting (I try to give writers a sense of when the meeting is so they know when it’s appropriate to follow up).

Q: Where is EatingWell headquartered and do you publish writing from international writers?

A: Our office is in Shelburne, VT. We do work with international writers, but keep in mind that story ideas must be relevant to our American audience.

Q: Can you give us any details about your payment structure for writers?

A: $1/word. Paid upon acceptance of the piece (so typically after a few rounds of editing have happened.)

Q: What advice do you have for newer writers focusing on food and nutrition who are may not be quite ready to write for your publication but want to work up to it?

A: Build your portfolio—local newspapers, smaller websites, etc. A quick note on blogs – this definitely counts as part of your portfolio, but isn’t a substitution for one. I want to see that you have experience with the back-and-forth editorial process, and you probably aren’t getting that with a personal blog.

Also, if you want to write about food or health or sustainability, build your portfolio accordingly. If you’re pitching me a health story, but you only have clips about fashion, it’s hard for me to tell if you’re the right science writer.

Q: What’s next for EatingWell

A: We’re always looking to cement ourselves as a thought leader in the food space. Because we publish only six times a year, this sometimes means that breaking news isn’t quite so breaking by the time our story comes out, so I’m often looking for a “second day news” spin. For instance, when the WHO came out and said that meat was a probable carcinogen, we didn’t just cover that study, we also looked at what “risk” really meant in relation to these types of studies as a whole.

I’ll also say that I’m always looking for good THINKING pitches. Common questions I ask when I receive these pitches: Is it controversial? Are there multiple sides to this issue? Are people getting riled up about this topic? Is it pressing? Why cover this now?

About the Author

Susan Maccarelli

Susan Maccarelli is the creator of Beyond Your Blog, a site helping bloggers successfully submit their writing for publishing opportunities beyond their personal blogs. She also offers online training and consulting to new bloggers looking for direction on submitting their writing for publication. Susan has interviewed dozens of editors from publications like The New York Times, Huffington Post, Brain, Child, Chicken Soup For The Soul, The Washington Post, and speaks at many respected writing and blogging conferences.