Planting the Seeds for Better Nutrition and Health

Oct 4, 2012

template-bannerimage-article Sharon Palmer copy

PROLOGUE:
I met Sharon Palmer when she contacted me to help her prepare for her book tour (for her new book The Plant-Powered Diet).  She had tons of public speaking and writing experience, but had never been on TV, and she knew her book tour would require that.   Sharon was so easy and fun to work with!  She already had wonderful communication skills that, with a little guidance and insight, were transferrable to doing on-camera work.  By the time we were done working together, she was ready to rock her book tour and I was ready to share the exciting story about her new book.

MELISSA:
How did you become interested in a career in nutrition, and how long have you been an RD?
SHARON:
I have been an RD for 25 years.  I’ve always been fascinated in the relationship between food and health.  I knew from an early age that I wanted to be a dietitian and I’ve never regretted my career decision.

MELISSA:
Tell me a little bit about your nutrition philosophy – what are you known for?        SHARON:                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        I write frequently on the topics of plant-based nutrition and sustainable food systems.  Though I cover a wide range of food and nutrition topics—even restaurant reviews—these are the subjects that I’m most passionate about.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

MELISSA:
What prompted you to write your book, The Plant-Powered Diet?
SHARON:
As a writer for the past 12 years, it has always been a career goal to write a book.  I became impressed with how important a plant-based diet is for health—it’s a diet that we can all follow and benefit from.  I wanted to share my knowledge with others and help guide them to optimal health.  I believe that RDs have a unique way of imparting nutrition knowledge, we are very practical and “hands-on”.  Many nutrition books out there—while they are wonderful—are more philosophy than practical help.  As a dietitian, I know that people need much more specific, guided help—they need you to literally walk down the supermarket aisles with them.  It’s been an incredibly valuable experience that I will always treasure.

MELISSA:
I’m so excited about this book – it really has something for everyone and I think your approach and your message is unique and powerful.  Tell us a little bit about the book.
SHARON:
My book can help everyone—whether they are vegan, vegetarian, or omnivore—find their way to a healthy, whole plant-based diet.  This is a diet that has tremendous health benefits for the individual, as well as the planet.  By eating more whole plant foods, you can reduce your risk of obesity and chronic disease, as well as lighten your carbon footprint.  It’s a very practical guide that walks the reader through each category of plant foods, such as plant proteins, whole grains, vegetables, fruits, herbs and spices, and beverages, and offers helpful solutions for which foods to pick every day.  In addition, there is a meal plan, menu planner, shopping list, pantry guide, and 75 tested, analyzed recipes.

MELISSA:
And it’s yummy, too!  You do a great job of making that important point in your book.  And the recipes were all developed in your very own kitchen, right?
SHARON:
Yes, I developed and tested all of my recipes in my home kitchen; my husband and two teen-age sons were my guinea pigs.  If we all decided the recipe had been perfected, it was analyzed and included in my book.

MELISSA:
What a wonderful “test kitchen”!  How long did it take you to write the book?  Tell us a little bit about your publishing experience – what were some of the challenges and learnings as a first-time author?
SHARON:
I set out to write my book a year and a half before it came out.  My first step was to get help writing my book proposal with the help of an expert—it was a work of art when I was finished with it.  I then found a NY literary agent based on my proposal and landed a book deal with a publisher whom I felt really good about—The Experiment had published food and nutrition books that I respected.

MELISSA:
When you contacted me to help you prepare for your book tour, tell us a little bit about what you were looking for, what was most helpful, and/or what did you learn from our work together.
SHARON:
I wanted assistance with getting ready for facing interviews and doing television.  I also wanted to craft my promotional messages.  You helped give me confidence, instructed me on many insider tips on how to present my messages, and helped me shape my messages.  I now feel very confident when talking to the media about my book.

MELISSA:
Excellent!  I was thrilled you came to me for help and happy that you found it worthwhile!
What other writing or nutrition communications do you specialize in?
SHARON:
I am the editor of Environmental Nutrition and the Contributing Editor of Today’s Dietitian.  In addition, I have written over 750 articles, which have appeared in a number of publications, including Prevention and Better Homes and Gardens.

MELISSA:
You also have The Plant-Powered Dietitian Blog – please tell us about it.
SHARON:
I started blogging as a way to reach my readers and followers.  It’s a fun, informal way to discuss things that you find interesting, such as plant-based eating in a new country or your take on the latest health research.

MELISSA:
When it comes to writing and other nutrition communications, what comes naturally for you and what do you have to work harder on?
SHARON:
Writing comes naturally for me, and I’m a very organized person.  It was difficult managing the very long hours when I needed to keep up with my regular writing work and complete book manuscripts and marketing tasks.  In addition, media skills have never been my strength, but I am making great progress in this area.

MELISSA:
Yes – you are doing great!  What skills or experiences do RDs need to cultivate if they want to write a book or blog like you?
SHARON:
You need to have good writing and organizational skills to write a book.  And most importantly, you need to develop a media platform; you need to get busy writing, tweeting, and speaking so that you create a media presence.  If you have an interesting voice or take on nutrition, start a blog!  There are so many great RD inspired blogs out there.  Start posting, taking photos, uploading recipes—inspire followers to take notice.

MELISSA:
What other tips do you have for other RDs who want to write a book?
SHARON:
Find a subject that is original or fresh and has not been over-developed.  Spend time working on your book proposal and media platform before you pitch your book to an agent or publisher.

MELISSA:
What tips do you have for other RDs who want to do other types of nutrition communications?
SHARON:
Start building your portfolio.  Nobody wants to give an assignment to a writer who does not have writing credits.  So, start writing for your favorite organizations, DPGs, charities, websites, local papers, and blogs.  Then when you build up a portfolio, gradually start finding other venues that you’d like to pitch your work to.

MELISSA:
Please share one experience that either taught you a lot or you think would help other RDs.
SHARON:
When I first decided to take on freelance nutrition writing, I went straight to the top: Oprah Magazine, Better Homes and Garden, Sunset, etc.  I wasted a lot of time trying to get work with too little experience so early in my writing career.  Take your time building your writing career, learn as you go so that you will be ready for bigger challenges.

EPILOGUE:
Sharon, thanks so much for all of this great advice!  Enjoy the success of your first book!

Make sure you check out Sharon’s website, blog, and her fabulous new book!  Sharon is also graciously sharing a handout from a writing skills workshop she did for the California Dietetic Association.  You can follow Sharon on Twitter at @SharonPalmerRD.  Let us know if you have any questions for Sharon or tips you’d like to share!

Did you enjoy this interview?  Click here to read more!

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