Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer: Rudy Maxa

Today I’m talking with Rudy Maxa, award winning travel writer, radio personality (The Savvy Traveler 1997-2001) and TV presenter (Smart Travels). His travel articles have appeared in dozens of magazines and newspapers around the world, including Washington Post, GQ, Travel & Leisure and Forbes. Rudy is also a contributing editor to National Geographic Traveler and frequent guest on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News Channel.

Hi , Rudy and welcome to My Year of Getting Published. Thanks for finding some time in your busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.

1. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started in writing ?

Yes, I always knew I'd be a reporter. I hand-printed my first newspaper when I was nine years old, living on an Army post in the southern state of Kentucky. I reported on a VERY minor car accident that happened in front of my home. I was an editor of my high school paper and chose my college, Ohio University, because it had a great daily paper. In my fourth and last year in college, I was editor of that paper and then joined The Washington Post as an intern. Through luck, I became a reporter there, and I stayed there for 13 years as an investigative reporter and magazine writer (for the paper's Sunday magazine).

2. What do you consider your first "break" as a travel writer ?

I'd never intended to be a travel writer. About 15 years ago, when I was a senior writer and columnist at the monthly city magazine in Washington, DC, The Washingtonian, I was asked to do political commentary for a national business radio show called "Marketplace" on National Public Radio, our sort-of equivalent of BBC. I declined, but the producer kept asking me to do some kind of regular commentary. I have always traveled constantly, and I was always the one at a dinner party who knew the arcane rules of airline ticketing.

So I suggested a segment called "The Savvy Traveler", an every two-week, two-minute consumer travel commentary. That became very popular, and I began to be asked by magazines to write on consumer travel issues. Then that short commentary segment led to a national, one-hour radio show called "The Savvy Traveler" I co-created that and hosted it for four years while continuing to write for many magazines and newspapers.

Gradually, travel journalism became my full-time focus, and I left Washingtonian magazine after nine years. While doing the radio show, I began to host a half-hour series on national television called "Smart Travels: Europe with Rudy Maxa." We did 52, half-hour episodes, all in High Definition format. In fact, we were public television's first HD series. Last year, our fifth season featured Pacific Rim destinations, including two shows on New Zealand.

3. As a writer and traveler, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road ?

Other than airport security lines, I think technological challanges are the biggest hurdles I face. Will my cell phone work in Japan? (Usually, no.) Can I get a reliable, high-speed connection for my laptop? Why can't I figure out how to set the flash settings on my new, digital camera? That kind of stuff. It's funny, but the era of instant communication has brought with it it's own set of problems.

4. What do you enjoy most and least about writing The MaxaBlog ? What do you see as the future for 'travel blogs' ?

I am afraid to say I write on my blog irregularly. First of all, I don't get paid to write on my blog, so the incentive is always to complete paying assignments first. But the blog is handy for "showing the flag," as I call it. I can react quickly to sales, travel outrages, or news. I think eventually, like everything else on the web, the blogs that are accurate, trusted, and consistently interesting will outlast other, more amateur ones. I think blogs are certainly here to stay.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing? Any tips to breaking into national travel magazines?

Write, write, write and then write some more. Read travel magazines you want to write for so you can learn what kinds of articles they want. Read writers you like. Then look at how they structured their stories. Figure out what they had to do to get the stories and quotes. Write for local papers or other outlets--you'll probably need to do that so you have a file of clips before a national or international publication will hire you, even as a free-lance writer. Then you have to write a great query letter--short but clever--in order to catch the attention and curiosity of an editor.

Rudy, again thanks for your time and for sharing your thoughts.


Previous interviews: Shannon Hurst Lane, Wendy Perrin, David Whitley

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Julie said...

Good post, Liz. And happy birthday!!! Sorry I didn't have a chance to leave a comment yesterday...hope it was fun.


Thanks Julie, had a great day. Lots of fun and laughter. Now back to real world.

Cheers, Liz

shannon said...

Liz - I just love reading your blog. Thank you for taking the time to do all this. I have always enjoyed Rudy Maxa's shows and articles. It is nice to read about others who are in the business.

Happy Belated Birthday ;)


Hi Shannon, Rudy Maxa is great and I was amazed he agreed to do the interview questions. Stay tuned for the next one. Glad you're enjoying the blog.

Cheers, Liz

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