We’ve all heard the call to think global and act local. Writers can use the same advice, especially when getting started. Dream big. Set your goals high. Imagine a global readership. But begin by seeking local markets.

My first paying writing job was as a food writer. I had an infant son. I was not teaching. I had just decided not to continue in the Ph.D. program I was in so as to be a SAHM. And I was compelled to do something. That something = writing. Somewhere I read advice for freelancers to start small and local rather than only pitch to national markets, so I got in touch with a local food and wellness magazine and asked about a job as a cookbook reviewer. To my delight, the editor said yes. Before long, the position turned into a regular food column where I shared my thoughts on vegetarian cooking and a handful of original recipes each month. The pay was nominal, but the rewards were in six figures.

What could be better? I was doing what I loved to do anyway—read about food and cook and create recipes and write about it all. From those columns came articles for The Milwaukee Journal, Vegetarian Gourmet, Vegetarian Journal, and Veggie Life, as well as a self-published newsletter that I wrote for awhile and even the chance to teach some cooking classes at a local community center. Eventually I built up the publishing history and clips I needed to write about a broader range of topics and approach broader markets.

All because I read the wise advice to pitch local.

Depending on where you live, local markets might be good-sized city newspapers, free magazines distributed by local stores, library newsletters, or online e-zines. Think about what you normally read in a week or a month, and jot down the name and contact info for the managing editor or, if the publication is large enough, submissions editor. If you don’t have much of a publishing history yet, you might even want to write a piece to pitch to them. Have it edited, polished, and ready to go. That’s what I did with my first newspaper article, my first non-column sale!

I no longer write a recipe column—not only are we no longer vegetarians, my interests were expanding, and it was becoming a chore to think of enough new recipes—but every once in awhile when I make a dish, I wish I were still a food writer. Maybe I’ll just share those occasional recipes here.

Confetti Black Beans

Note: I’ve left out exact amounts on purpose. This is a dish that should be easy to adjust for the number of people you are cooking for, the ingredients you have on hand, and your individual preferences for garlic, cumin, onion, etc.

Start a pot of rice cooking.

  1. Coat the bottom of a medium skillet with a thin layer of olive oil. Heat.
  2. Add some chopped onion, diced red bell pepper, and a pinch of salt. Sauté until vegetables soften.
  3. Add some minced garlic (as much as you like—I like a lot!) and thawed frozen corn or fresh corn kernels. Sauté about five minutes more.
  4. Add canned and drained black beans, a teaspoon (more or less) of ground cumin, and a splash of orange juice. Stir, cover, and simmer 5 to 10 minutes, until the rice is done.
  5. Before serving, stir in fresh chopped parsley or cilantro, and add more salt or cumin (or red pepper flakes, if you want heat) to taste.
  6. Serve over hot rice.