Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer: Candy Harrington

Candy Harrington is a travel writer who has created a clearly defined niche - accessible travel -to write about. She is the author of two books -There is Room in the Innand Barrier Free Travel - and editor of Emerging Horizons, a consumer oriented magazine about accessible travel (click here for a sample issue). Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including Transitions Abroad, Dallas Morning News, New Mobility, Arthritis Today.

Candy, welcome to My Year of Getting Published. Thanks for taking the time to talk about your career as a travel writer…

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

You know from my earliest recollection, I always wrote; however I'd
like to think my style and technique have improved over the years.
I've never had any formal training in writing, as it was just
something I had a natural talent for; but I have learned a lot from
"on the job" experience and from my colleagues. My first paid writing
job was as an advice columnist for a local newspaper (they are out of
business now -- go figure!). Looking back on it, I kind of cringe at
what I did, because at the time they didn't know I was a
third-grader. Basically I lied to get the job and told them that I
was a housebound old lady. At one point my cover was blown, but I
still ended up keeping the job until I was in high school.

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

Well, I've been covering travel for over 30 years and although I had
some success early on, (it was easier to break-in to the market back
then), my real break came after I redefined my focus and decided to
become the expert in accessible travel. That was 13 or so years ago.
Betsy Wade, who was at that time a prominent travel columnist for the
New York Times, wrote about my work in her column. It was a
right-place, right-time thing for me as I was subsequently contacted
by several newspaper and magazine editors as well as a number of NYC
publishers about other projects. One of those contacts led to what I
consider a very successful relationship with my current publisher.
I'm working on my third book for them (101 Accessible Vacations)
which will be released in September.

3. You're the founder and editor of Emerging Horizons, an accessible
travel magazine. Tell us a little of about the magazine and how you
became an expert on accessible travel.

Basically I was tired of writing what I considered travel "fluff". I
wanted to do something with more meat and something of more actual
use to consumers. It was a personal growth time for me as well. I
figured I had worked for almost 20 years learning the trade and it
was time for me to do what I really wanted to do writing-wise. A
friend suggested I try accessible travel and it sounded like a good
idea to me. I love challenges. I had absolutely no experience with
accessible travel; in fact, I didn't even know anybody who used a
wheelchair. I just approached the subject as I approached any other
assignment -- I researched the heck out of it. And I soon realized
that I found my passion.

Emerging Horizons is a magazine about accessible travel. It's about
travel for people with mobility disabilities -- from wheelchair-users
to slow walkers -- or what I call barrier-free travel. We are a
quality publication, not just a list of accessible destinations or
hotels. We have travel features, tips and tricks, a Q&A column, a
column about accessible inns and B&Bs, news and tidbits and consumer
education articles. One goal of Emerging Horizons is to raise
awareness about accessible travel options and let folks know that
they really do have choices. Oh yes, and we don't accept any
advertising -- we are 100% subscriber supported. I felt it was
important to totally separate editorial content from advertising, and
in my mind, the best way to do that is to just not accept any
advertising. But it all worked. Emerging Horizons is celebrating its
10th birthday this year.

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

Running a business (and writing is a business), managing my PR,
dealing with family issues and just maintaining my personal stamina
are all challenges. It's not a piece of cake and when I'm on the road
I can put in some very long days. I also always travel with my
husband, Charles, who is a travel photographer. That was one of the
deals we made when we started the magazine, as we've both been in the
industry for a long time and seen so many relationships buckle under
the stress of one person being on the road too much. We put a lot of
time into our work, but we love it. We also both have a good sense of
humor -- you have to, to survive in this business.

I think the biggest challenge though is maintaining my health on the
road, cause it really, really sucks to be sick when you have to work
and travel. You just have to suck it up and do it no matter how
miserable you feel. I take Airborne, and for the last three years
it's been a great preventative. But still, my health and mental well
being are my biggest concerns.

5. What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing? As an editor, do you have any tips for breaking into national travel magazines?

I would advise getting a staff position first to learn the ropes and
build up your network (you will need that later). Too many folks just
jump right into freelancing with no prior travel writing experience,
and I think to be successful you really need to understand how the
industry works -- not just how you think it works.

Additionally, you need to build your platform and establish yourself
as an expert in a specific niche. It's a pretty competitive market
today, and having your own voice and specialty will give you the
edge. I see multi-generation travel (and photography) as a wide open
niche right now, and I'm sure some savvy writer could really turn
that emerging market into a lucrative specialty.

Also (and this seems so simplistic, but many folks don't do it), take
the time to read the magazine -- really read it -- before you query.
You need to really understand how they approach travel, in order to
craft a query that will catch the editor's attention. Read everything
the editor writes and try to write your query in a voice that will be
most receptive to him/her.

And never, ever stop marketing yourself. Writing is the easy part --
selling yourself is harder.

6. Finally, what is your favorite place and why ?

That's easy! Our cabin in the Northern California Sierras. When
Charles and I aren't on the road, we spend the bulk of our time
there. We have an office up there with all the tech bells and
whistles, but we don't give out our phone number to anyone. It's just
a very peaceful and secluded place and I can be very productive up
there. In fact, I can get a full days work done before noon, and then
go outside and rake pine needles or gather wood or clean off the
roof. It's just a great place to be.


Previous Interviews: Terah Shelton, Rudy Maxa, Shannon Hurst Lane, Wendy Perrin, David Whitley

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Kara said...

Liz, I'm really enjoying your Q&As with travel writers!

And I LOVE that Candy's first PAID writing gig was as a third grader/"housebound old lady." Hysterical.


Hi Kara,

I'm also enjoying finding out about how everyone got started in writing, and in particular, travel writing.

Stay tuned...there's plenty more on the horizon...

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