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Mackenzie Patel

This might sound like a shameless promotion, and yes, it is. The quality of Spoon University is worth every supercilious adjective, metaphor, and Facebook caption I write. In my 20 years of existence, I’ve written for a smattering of publications—everything from the Tampa Bay Times to a sketchy Spanish travel site appears in my portfolio. It’s diverse and unconnected, but this unpredictable experience has sculpted my writing aptitude into a useful skill. I’ve only worked at Spoon for a semester, but this four-month streak of sexual articles and banana burritos has been great. This obsession exists because Spoon 1) invests in their writers, 2) has an organized internal platform to pitch ideas and write articles, and 3) has badass leaders that lead Spoon with class and style.

Applying to Spoon was a midnight-deadline whim. To be fair, I hated cooking and thought spinning juicy words about sweets or bowtie pasta would be a useless waste. Who wants to read 300 words about ways to spice up your Betty Crocker cupcakes? Fattening up the writing resume was my main incentive to apply—that and my strange fixation on filling out applications. The interview was informal, and the editor I met, Li, was fantastic. At our staff meetings, she encouraged every writer with statistics (i.e. “we published 53 articles this month”) and was open-minded to every crazy idea I entertained. Slut article, anyone? The NYC headquarters of Spoon also inspire and educate their writers, grooming us into the competent content creators we want to be. Every member must complete training on writing, photography, or marketing; new modules on leadership and founding a chapter have also been added. Accessing resources such as Spoon’s style and grammar guide, SEO optimization, and copyrighting practices has been priceless. As a writer, I’m confident that Spoon executives care about the creators that drive their website and reputation. It’s easy for Spoon HQ to forget the cogs in favor of the Instagram-worthy machine, but they treat us with respect and enthusiasm too. Spoon also offers valuable opportunities for their writers during off-peak times—their “intensive writing program” for this summer is just one example. For 10 weeks, students must produce 5 articles a week for a total of 50 polished, publishable articles to add to our foody portfolios. I’m already interning this summer, but the prospect of literary stress/growth is too exciting to pass up. The best part? We can “work in [our] pjs, or from [our] favorite coffee shop, because it’s remote!”

Next, Spoon University has a publishing platform, Secret Sauce, that is efficient and easy-to-use for writers. Its layout is *flawless, * and the clean, white interface reminds me of Instagram.  I’ve worked for other publications that have a more haphazard publishing process, so I appreciate Spoon’s easy navigation. I know exactly when my articles are due, who is editing them, and the social media distribution of page views. I’m Type B to the hilt, but the charts and black and white stats satisfy the ounce of organization in my body. The author dashboard with page views, credited photos, and recent activity also legitimizes my peculiar writings. Every time an article is submitted or published, I get a cutesy email with graphics and praise (i.e. “Well, aren’t you wonderful”) that brightens my inbox. Thanks, Spoon University for validating my self-worth. I have multiple WordPress sites, but the dashboards are lackluster and confusing (not to mention lacking in GIFs and swear words). By contrast, Secret Sauce has clear categories of article title, photographers assigned, status, and due date—I feel official, not like the ranting, inconsequential college student I was before with LearnTravelArt.

In the wise words of Nicki Minaj, “Honestly I gotta stay as fly as I can be.” Spoon executives embody this kickass attitude and have leadership skills that drive me to be as cheeky and ambitious as possible. It’s no secret that females dominate Spoon University—even in the University of Florida chapter, there is not one male staff member. It sucks and is not representative of the college cooking population (dudes enjoy kitchen time, too), but it is empowering in a perverse way. Samantha Dilling, the deputy editor, is based in NYC, yet she reaches out if I’m struggling with an idea or article. She’s also a talented writer as well, and she responded to my Facebook message fangirling over her Medium piece. Sarah and Mackenzie, the co-founders, even sent me a Happy Birthday message on March 25th. It’s like a group of fashionably dressed, glass-office women are cheering me on from behind a computer screen. Mackenzie and Sarah founded Spoon in March of 2014 as two girls living off campus and struggling to cook healthy, economical food on their own. Now? Their teenage idea has grown to a viral phenomenon, something I aspire to replicate. In addition to HQ, the leaders in my own local chapter are fantastic. I already mentioned Li before, but her acceptance of my bizarre pitches was welcoming. Other people roll their eyes, but she embraced my sexual food ideas without a blink.

Once I’m impressed by something, I’m committed and a loudmouth supporter of it. Spoon University challenged me with deadlines and learning new photography skills, but I’ve grown because of it. Any organization that teaches through Drake/New Girl GIFs and says “take charge of your Spoon destiny and kick some major ass” is a keeper.

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