What I Learned at Food Blog South 2014

Real Life – Conferences

What I Learned at Food Blog South 2014

Update 2016: This event is now being administered by the Southern Foodways Alliance and is billed as Food Media South.

Sweet Homewood Alabama – Birmingham Bloggers, Writers, Food Experts

“If you love something set it free, if it comes back to you it is yours. If it doesn’t it never was.”

The Lead In

During 2013, I had lots of sorting out to do. I had reached a point where blogging quit being fun. Blogging was an obligatory chore, more burden than bundle of joy. I had to let it go.

I was writing, doing television and media work, growing an heirloom vegetable garden, cooking, canning and preserving the harvest. I was advocating for agriculture in Appalachia. I was, and am, keeping many pots stirred.

Bloggers are supposed to blog. I get it. But time spent blogging and keeping up with all the supporting social media efforts of Facebook, twitter, and Pinterest when the local food movement in Appalachia is reaching critical mass was just not on my list of priorities in 2013.

Why I Love Food Blog South

That leads to Food Blog South 2014, a conference that is about real people who love food and who genuinely relish sharing their culinary experience with their readers, be that the mega-cool urbane literary agents or their husband’s mother’s cousins who live in time zones three times removed. These folks blog because they love food and the connections it builds.

Food Blog South is a small intimate conference. Attendees sit at round tables instead of stacked in stationary rows of conference chairs. I like that dynamic!

The arrangement makes it much easier to mix and mingle, table hopping to greet old friends and make new acquaintances. No matter what glittering speakers are on the agenda, it is the people at the table who make the conference experience a giggle.

And at Food Blog South everyone sits at the table.

Here is what I took away from Food Blog South 2014:

Twelve is the magic number.

Cathy Barrow aka Mrs. Wheelbarrow suggested a goal of sending out 12, count them 12 pitches to magazines each month. That sounds like a lot, but you have to feed your face.

All that glitters.

Marion Laney explained how winning a James Beard Award will leverage your brand, and increases creditability. It is a lofty goal to aspire to. Many try. Most fail.

Do what makes you happy. If you garner an award, celebrate. But for the love of biscuits, do not lose sight on what brings a smile to your face and powers your feet to eagerly hit the floor running and seize the day!

Sometimes I make things more difficult than they have to be.

Joe York who creates documentaries for the Southern Foodways Alliance was gracious enough to give me twenty minutes of private mentoring. His solution to my stumbling block for organizing video clips? Old fashioned 3 x 5 notecards. Could it really be that simple?

I feel foolish. I feel elated. Roll ’em!


Fellow blogger and a most articulate author, my friend Perre Magness Coleman of The Runaway Spoon commented over dinner at Frank Stitt’s Highlands Bar and Grill “some situations and some people are just Whack-a-do.”

The takeaway? You cannot fix everything. Do what you do and know life’s little hiccups often self-correct.

Remember, good things come to those who have a vision and see it through.

Last year, I sat beside fellow Kentuckian and then aspiring author and chef Scott Wilson at Food Blog South. This year he returned toting his published book. Scott followed his dream and made it happen.

Kentucky Food Bloggers Jessica Pendergrass, Scott Wilson, Joyce Pinson

KY Food Writers Jessica Pendergrass, Scott Wilson, Joyce Pinson


Virginia Willis served as MC for this year’s Food Blog South. Between sessions she shared clever snippets of wit and wisdom, in a way that only she can do. I was living in the moment and not taking notes. But one word stuck with me in her message to achieve success; patience.

I know I should embrace that word. Heck, I should probably have it chiseled in stone and set on my desk as a daily reminder. But here’s the thing. Life has taught me you had best shake the tree and harvest while the apples are ripe. They might not be hanging around tomorrow.

Patience, it is a virtue I may never cultivate. But I am making an effort.

Some folks lead by example.

I have long given up trying to keep up with blogs, though Coconut and Lime was a blog that inspired me early on. Rachel Rappaport is one of the most successful bloggers who attended Food Blog South.

I did not connect the dots until after I had gotten back to Kentucky. Typical of me, I am more interested in making friends than checking resumes.

We had dinner together. We downed a few bourbons. We admired the physique of Birmingham’s Vulcan statue, a fine specimen of manhood. Heck, we even talked about pawpaws trees and heirloom fish peppers. I did not know she was one of the rockstar bloggers and she never let on.

Rachel is just Rachel. She reminded me of why I started blogging in the first place.

And that brings me to Ms. Kathy. Author Kathy Hester makes me laugh. It is a gift.

Blogging can be FUN again!

If I took away one thing from this conference, it was that blogging can be fun again. If for no other reason than to talk to friends. There are newspaper stories to write. There are magazines to pitch to. There are TV and video cameras pointed every which way. There are book deals to reach for. There are shiny awards that would look nice over the fireplace.

But if there is no laughter, if there are no friends, if you live a life of solitude where giggles are frowned upon for fear you will not appear “serious” you live no life at all.

I’m not making promises. I have many projects in the works and sometimes I get caught up in their momentum. But I think it’s time to start talking to my friends and quit worrying about what will or won’t be. Welcome to Friends Drift Inn 2014!

Life is short. Share the giggles!

Shoutouts to my dear friend Jessica Pendergrass who understands the difference between eclectic and eccentric; and recognizes both traits within me. She is a trusted confidant, wheel woman, and a writer of force with stars on the rise.

Thanks to Shaun and Jason and the rest of the Food Blog South committee for putting together a conference for real people. See you next year!

More Food Blog South Posts

Food Blog South 2013 Recap

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About Joyce Pinson

Joyce Friend Pinson is a regional farm-to-table columnist for the Appalachian-News Express. She is a local television host. Her column show and blog, Friends Drift Inn, explores food, gardening, and real life farm-to-table stories from the perspective of a baby boomer in Appalachia. Joyce has a background in agriculture, media, and small business. Joyce is an heirloom gardening addict and home canner. She has a penchant for big hats, pointy toed shoes, and bourbon. Along with her husband Charlie, Joyce really does live in a barn where they ballroom dance. And laugh. And cook. And giggle.