Online food media inspires us to try new fad diets, eat more local, sustainable, and organic produce, revive age-long cooking traditions and challenge ourselves to eat vegetarian or vegan. We’ve all witnessed its power; you see a picture of a molten chocolate chip cookie on Pinterest and the first thing you do is make sure everyone within grabbing distance salivates over it with you. The only thing that would bring you more pride, is if it was your cookie, seen by thousands, on your food blog. You know you’ve wanted to start one ever since Julie and Julia hit theaters.

I interviewed Emily McDonald, Leaf Parade owner and writer, to find out how she channeled her freelance writing experience and every-tarianism eating habits into a successful blog. What she has to say will get you on the right track to creating the food blog of your dreams.

[Leaf Parade. Happy little Sunday things.]

The woman behind the scenes. Photo courtesy of Emily McDonald.

What made you want to start your own food blog?

At the time, I was obsessively following close to 100 food blogs and I thought, “Well I could do that too.”

So you post recipes and DIYs about once a week or every other week. What frequently inspires your work: family, friends, memories from times well-fed?

A lot of my recipe ideas come from specific food memories, while others really just come from my appetite.

[Leaf Parade. Cinnamon Knots.]

Easy cinnamon knots for when you’re tied up elsewhere. Photo courtesy of Emily McDonald.

How do you keep up to date with your posts amidst such a busy lifestyle? And more importantly, how do you keep up with your lifestyle when you’ve got a deadline to meet?

Keep a publishing schedule, write posts in advance and keep them in queue, publish like clockwork. The work I do for Leaf Parade is really work I’m doing for myself, and for fun. When it’s stressful, I take a break from it. Finding a balance and never being too hard on yourself is important.

What tips do you have for expanding your reader base from a local blog to one that’s visited by readers across the nation? 

Full time bloggers spend the bulk of their time self-promoting, strategizing their ad placement, and networking. Google Ads are a simple, less time-consuming alternative. As far as self-promotion goes, breadth is better. Submit your quality images to,, Pinterest and be visible on social networking sites. Not all of your readers are going to choose to access your material in the same way, so try to be available to everybody.

[Leaf Parade. Bleeding Heart Breakfast Smoothie.]

Breakfast smoothie for when you’re on the go. Photo courtesy of Emily McDonald.

Looking back, what were a few things you could not have begun and expanded Leaf Parade without?

The most important thing is enthusiasm. The first few months I had zero readers and zero means of monetization. You need to love doing it so much that you don’t care at all that it’s time consuming and that you’re literally making no money from it. My camera has also taken me far and I think that, from a material standpoint, it’s the best investment that I’ve made. Once I stopped publishing poorly-lit iPhone photos that looked like poorly-lit iPhone photos, I saw my daily hits skyrocket. I realized that it doesn’t matter how good your food is if you can’t show it.

[Leaf Parade. Blueberry Pie.]

Blueberry pie for when you’re missing home. Photo courtesy of Emily McDonald.

What has been the biggest obstacle?

When I first had this idea, I knew next to nothing about how to start a website. I dug around for weeks on forums, trying to figure out how to make my page look how I wanted it to look.

What has been your greatest success?

My greatest success has been the people and relationships I have made along the way. Blogging makes you feel like you’re a part of a community, and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

Any last nuggets of advice?

As always, a good writer is a good reader. Pick up an MFK Fisher volume or a Saveur Magazine, subscribe to blogs that are doing things that you admire. Be generous with yourself, and be open. Tell the kind of stories that you would want to read.

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