Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Interview with a travel writer...Ian MacKenzie.

Today we talk with Ian MacKenzie, travel writer and editor of Brave New Traveler, an online travel magazine and co-founder of TravelBlogger, a travel blogging community.

Ian, 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?

Acutally, I originally wanted to be a cartoonist. I basically ripped
off the style of Garfield and created two dinosaurs called Tyler and
Terry. I put together a book of comics and sold it to local kids for $5
each. A few years later, and a number of rejection letters from major
national papers, I decided I didn't have much of a future in cartooning.
Instead I started writing – mostly fantasy and science fiction. I
took a course in high school, and did well, so writing made more and
more sense.

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

Well after high school, I began to take writing seriously. I worked on
a writing diploma at a distance learning college and researched various
print magazines where I could submit my work. I had moved on from
fantasy and science-fiction stories by then, gravitating instead towards
horror (I was a big fan of Stephen King at the time). Ironically, my
first accepted short story was a science-fiction piece I wrote without
much intention to sell it. I got the word while backpacking through
Australia and it was a nice ego boost. I decided then that I would start
to write about my experiences abroad, and hence, began “travel writing.”
Upon my return I published a number of pieces in local newspapers and
online travel magazines.

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

Be persistent. This means sending you submissions to a never-ending
stream of publishers. It also means you have to learn how to deal with
rejection. Your submissions will be rejected for a number of reasons:
not the right tone for the magazine, not the right style, not the right
timing. But take heart that it's part of what every writer must
experience. Stephen King, in his book “On Writing”, describes how he
took every rejection letter he received and hung them on a nail. By the
time he sold his first story, he couldn't fit any more on the first
nail, and had to add a second.

4. Having developed Travelblogger and Brave New Traveler,you obviously believe in internet as a place for travel writers. What do you see as the future for 'travel blogs'?

I think travel blogs and travel writing are seen as interchangeable, but
I believe they're two different ways of describing an experience.
Travel blogging is generally a personal account, more like a diary.
Whereas travel writing is more the “classic” style, a focused narrative
about a certain topic. Obviously there will always be crossover, but I
think both types can exist without encroaching on the other. As travel
blogs become more rich (with video and audio added) the challenge will
be for travel writing to offer as compelling an experience. National
Geographic has already embraced this idea, and offers a number of web
extras with most of their print articles, such as behind the scenes
photos, video clips, and wallpapers.

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

The biggest challenge is dealing with uncertainty. No guaranteed income
or immediate plan for the future can be stressful, so being a travel
writer isn't for everyone.

6. Finally, what is your favorite place and why?
I really enjoyed Laos in Southeast Asia. It was beautiful, warm, and
populated with friendly locals who were a little unsure of how to deal
with the relatively recent influx of outsiders, but welcomed us
nonetheless. The atmosphere was world's away from the hustle of
Vancouver, which in itself is known for being Canada's most laid back
major city. Plus, I'm a sucker for the tropics.


Thanks Ian. Anyone who hasn't already stopped by Brave New Traveler really should make the's definitely worth a visit.


Previous interviews:
Sheila Scarborough
Candy Harrington
Terah Shelton
Rudy Maxa
Shannon Hurst Lane
Wendy Perrin
David Whitley

Sphere: Related Content


Julie said...

Another great interview Liz--I also should say I really enjoy reading your blog and have gotten so many good links and articles from you. Now I have a question for you: Can you recommend a travel site that reviews guidebooks or suggests which company writes the best guidebooks for different types of traveler? I was at the bookstore today trying to buy one on Southeast Asia (I'm going to Singapore and a couple other undecided countries in less than a month), but I didn't know which book to buy...Frommers, Lonely Plant, Let's Go...are they all the same? Anyway if you know of any resources, let me know; if not, no problem. I'm going to start checking out some of the links on your sidebar in the meantime. Thanks!!!

Harmony said...

Hi Liz,
you have just won the Thinking Blogger Award.

visit my blog for details


Hi Julie,

I have the same problem when I'm looking for a travel guide book. Usually I end up in the bookstore for hours, flipping through all the choices until I come up with the one that seems the best fit. I think sometimes it depends on which country you're heading to as to what is best...

most of the travel guidebooks you mentioned also have web sites... check them out to get the feel of their focus....

envy you going to singapore etc, only been there once for 12 hours, didn't get to see should be able to get a lot of food writing out of your travels...

have fun. Liz


thanks harmony, i'm honored. will head over and check it out.

cheers, liz

Julie said...

Thanks, Liz. I figured as much. I ended up buying the Lonely Planet guide to Southeast Asia, and I think it was a good pick. My husband's aunt and uncle are currently living in Singapore so that motivated this trip. I do hope to get some good story ideas out of it!


Julie, hope you have a great trip and turn out lots of article ideas from it...especially on the food and markets there...are you going to go and have a singapore sling at the Raffles Hotel..

Cheers, Liz

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