Friday, June 29, 2007

Timing is everything...

This post ‘Pitching is a Bitch’ over at Written Road caught my eye today.

Nicholas writes

“…I’ve this magazine on my mind the past 6 months because I really wanted to write for them. It’s a great magazine that focuses on world cuisines and often has travel related features and smaller pieces. Over the past 6 months I developed two ideas: one on native Hawaiian foods from street stalls around Oahu and another on Peruvian Ceviche and Tiradito (both a little more complex and specific, but that’s the gist of them). They both would fit in well with the magazine well and I think if I pitched the right maybe one would be accepted.”

But before he had the chance to send off the pitch he discovered…

“…that there already is a piece on Hawaiian food. It’s a bit different and more general about eating on the islands as a whole. Shit. I pick up the next issue and open the page to find a feature on Northern Peruvian cuisine.”

I just had a similar experience. I’ve been thinking, research, and planning article ideas about my trip to Spain for the past few months and have finally started to send out query letters. The first one I sent out, to the editor of the travel section of a UK newspaper, came back with the response…“sorry, Liz, we already have someone doing just this .”

Pitching really is a bitch…

But I‘ll take heart in what Nicholas concludes…

“…just have to develop the pitches for another magazine and try something else for Saveur. If I want to look on the bright side I guess I know I’m on the right track for making the magazine, but still….shit.”

Yes, I’m on the right track…

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer...

I've been a bit slack lately with chasing up candidates for the 'Interview with a Travel Writer' series. As a result, there is no interview to post. So I thought I'd list all the interviews that have been done over the past few months just in case you missed some.

Barbara Sjoholm
Mike Gerrard
Heather Hapeta
Thomas Swick
Leif Pettersen
Rolf Potts
Ian Mackenzie
Sheila Scarborough
Graham Reid
Candy Harrington
Terah Shelton
Rudy Maxa
Shannon Hurst Lane
Wendy Perrin
David Whitley

I'll start looking for new interview candidates tomorrow...

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Win $100 Amazon Gift Certificate and a pile of books…

This is for all those that enjoy a good ‘meme’ challenge.

Author Rosina Lippi (aka Sara Donati) is looking to get the word out about her new book Tied to the Tracks and she’s adopted a unique marketing idea.

She’s running a ‘Bucks and Books’ meme contest

The Meme Topic

Five Reasons the Best [Writers, Bloggers] Come from [a geographical space, real or imaginary]

The Prize

- an Amazon gift certificate for $100 dollars
- a pile of books, including some of Rosina’s

Head over to Rosina’s Storytelling2 blog for further contest details.

Here’s a list of some of the interesting meme already entered:

Why the Best Writers Come from Gotham
Five Reasons the Best Writers Come from Texas
Five Reasons the best writers come from Dubai
The top 5 reasons the best bloggers come from the planet Earth
Five Reasons the Best Bloggers Come From the Bel Paese (Italy)

I’ll be posting my ‘Five Reasons the Best Writers Come...' later this week…

Anyone else in ???


(I discovered this contest over at Sandier Pastures, a blog about desert living, Dubai style)

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 25, 2007

Travel agents vs internet websites…

Travel planning is fun. You can spend hours reading magazines, pouring over brochures, scouring the internet for ideas on things to do, how to get there, and where to stay.

And then you head to the travel agent….which is usually also great fun. But this time, not so much.

So now I’m wondering - do I need a travel agent or should I just book everything myself over the internet ?

The flight plan the travel agent came up with had me en route for over 40 hours, heading off to places like Shanghei and Frankfurt on my way to Madrid.

My flight plan has me hopping over to Singapore for a couple of days, then continuing on to Paris…and catching the train to Madrid.

And this is only the first leg of the trip that will eventually take me to New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco and then home.

My travel agent says that she can’t book the fights I’ve found because they are all on different airlines (Qantas, Emirates) and it’s too risky!!!

I don’t quite get that.

So she’s heading back to the drawing board and seeing what she can come up with.

Meanwhile, I wonder if I should book direct at each airlines website ??? Maybe I need a different travel agent ??

Any thoughts ?

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 22, 2007

I really must unplug the computer and do the housework…

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Are You the Next Great Travel Writer?

Any College students out there ?? This is for you.

(from the National Geographic Traveler website)

"Win the chance to travel on assignment for National Geographic Traveler.

National Geographic Traveler and Travcoa, a global travel company, have teamed up to find the next great travel writer. We're asking students all over the North America to send us a 300-word essay on a travel experience that moved you, excited you, or changed you. The author of the winning essay will travel on assignment to Mongolia with National Geographic Traveler's Editor-in-Chief Keith Bellows, courtesy of Travcoa. Even better, the winner will have his/her story published on the National Geographic Traveler website.

Submission deadline is December 31, 2007, by 5 p.m. PST.

For more information and to enter, click here.

Sphere: Related Content

Interviews with Travel Writers...

Something different this week.

Here’s a list of audio interviews I have discovered in my travels through cyberspace:

Arthur Frommer on a Half-Century of Travel - Author, editor and guidebook pioneer Arthur Frommer sits down for a Q&A with fellow travel writer Pauline Frommer.

Don George interview by Erik Oslen at (2005)

Tim Cahill (2006) - writer of travel, adventure and humor books, articles and essays - discusses his early years at Rolling Stone Magazine and Outside Magazine, his writing process and technique, and the risks and rewards of a life dedicated to documenting the world's most unreachable people and places.
Let me know what you think of them. I haven’t had a chance to listen to them yet…

Just one more thing to add to my ‘rainy day to do’ list…

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Planning a trip as a Travel Writer...

I’ve been busy lately planning a month long holiday in September. Except it won’t just be a holiday. It will be my first trip as a ‘travel writer’. Not that I have any commissions lined up (yet!). It’s just that I have put myself in a mindset that I will be travelling as a writer.

No longer will I simply take off to places unknown without a list of article ideas to follow up.

No longer will I travel without notebooks, recording devices, and business cards.

No longer will I travel without first sending out numerous query letters trying to get one or two editors interested in where I am going.

I am a travel writer….

Today I sent out three query letters relating to my travels…

Tomorrow I will visit the my travel agent…

Where am I going ? Spain and New York.

I’m looking at a week in Madrid and then a week in a small village outside Madrid where I have discovered a unique activity that I feel has article potential (not to mention will be a lot of fun).

Then I’ll be off to New York for my lunch date with Wendy Perrin (consumer travel editor of Conde Nast Traveler and founder of The Perrin Post)and a chance to explore New York City.

Meanwhile, I will continue to research, plan, and scheme about ways to write and travel…

By the way, a new 'Where's Wendy?' contest is starting on June 21st...I'll be testing my knowledge again.

Maybe I can win a second lunch...

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A taxing time...

I haven’t had a file a tax return for a number of years. Why ? Because the New Zealand government did away with the need for everyone to file each year, requiring only those who had multiple incomes, claims, and deductions to file. So I never needed to file.

Until this year. Having earned some money (translation = very little money) from freelance writing here in New Zealand and overseas, I am now required to file a return. So I’ve been scrambling over the last week or so to collect all the relevant information for my accountant.

Turns out I’ve been pretty good at keeping track of my query submissions but not so good at the financial records. I had information stashed away all over the place which took time to find. But I’ve pulled it all together and sent it off to the accountant. Now all I have to do is sign the return and wait for a refund (I hope!!!)

Lessons learned:

- Keep the paperwork in one place and update the spreadsheet weekly to make life easier next year.
- Know what’s deductible and keep receipts.

Meanwhile, I’ve been doing some reading about keeping track of my financial records and I’ve found a few useful resources worth checking out.

Kristen at Inkthinker has put together a great questionnaire to help you establish ’What is your financial picture?’

Debbie Ridpath Ohi at Will Write for Chocolate has put together a great collection of articles about freelance writing and taxes

New Zealand writers should check out ‘Taxing times’ in the February 2007 edition of Freelance Writer.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 15, 2007

Travel Writers Talk on BBC Radio 3...

BBC Radio 3 has been all about travel writing this week. Check out the audio essay series featuring four travel writers discussing great works of British travel literature.

11 June - William Dalrymple discusses Fanny Parkes and her book on India

12 June - Tahir Shah looks at Bruce Chatwin’s The Songlines

13 June - Colin Thubron focuses on Robert Byron’s The Road to Oxiana.

14 June - Joanna Kavenna talks about Louis MacNeice and WH Auden's Letters from Iceland (check here for when available)

Each audio essay only available for seven days from it’s initial broadcast so you have to get in quick….sounds like the perfect way to relax over the weekend.

(this discovered via World Hum)

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer…Barbara Sjoholm.

Today’s interview is with Barbara Sjoholm. Barbara's travel articles and essays have been published in the New York Times, Smithsonian, Los Angeles Times, and Slate. And she is the author of Incognito Street or How Travel Made Me a Writer.

Hi Barbara. Thanks for taking the time to stop and talk with us at My Year of Getting Published.

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

Yes, I wanted to be a writer from the time I was eight. I never wanted to be anything else in spite of the fact that everyone around me thought my ambition was fairly hopeless. I started by writing and writing and writing. Much of it was not very exciting. Eventually it seemed to improve. I had my first short story published when I was 25. Right around that time I also started writing for a non-profit biweekly newspaper, doing reviews and features. So then I began to be published all the time. It seems to take on its own momentum.

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

I wrote mainly fiction for years and also translated from Norwegian. I had a mystery series about a Spanish language translator named Cassandra Reilly, who was based in London, and I sent her all over the place. So I suppose I snuck into travel writing through the back door. I went to Transylvania and Venice taking notes for where Cassandra might go. Eventually it occurred to me that I could just write about myself on the road—or at sea, as it turned out. My first travel book was about my journey around the North Atlantic in search of stories about women and the sea.

Along with fiction I had started also writing essays and memoirs. I published essays taken from my book The Pirate Queen first, and then essays about Lapland, which was my next destination. It was relatively late before I considered doing travel journalism. Not knowing any better, I started at the top. I decided I'd like to be published by the New York Times, so I sent them a few pieces, and they accepted one. After that Smithsonian magazine sent me to Newfoundland and Slate to Lapland. However, much of what I write is still longer essays about travel and places for literary magazines and anthologies. I seem to need a lot of space to get into the story I want to tell.

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

You must be persistent in this field just as in any other. Probably the most important thing to do is read travel magazines and newspaper articles and attempt to copy the style of articles you enjoy. Literally copy! Write the piece out in your own handwriting and feel how the sentences work and what seems interesting. Notice the transitions, the way details are used. Pay more attention to your writing and less to getting published at first, but when you have a piece you really like, send it out over and over until it gets into print or online.

It doesn't hurt to get to know editors, go to conferences, and in general just get savvy about the business. But in general it's the writing that sells the story, not just the contact.

4. What do you see as the future for travel writers in the printed media and online ?

Electronic publishing and blogs have really opened up an avenue for beginning travel writers. On the other hand, there's more competition. More people travel, more people write well these days. The articles in magazines are getting shorter, and the fees aren't getting any higher. It's a very difficult profession to make a living from, I think. Literary magazines rarely pay much, though you have a chance to really tell a story that means something to you. Learning to be a traveler who has something to say about those travels in a thoughtful, fun, beautiful way is worthwhile in itself, even if most of your income is from another source.

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

Homesickness, weird food, strange people, uncomfortable beds, snowstorms, airports, and did I mention homesickness?

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

I am always very happy in Barcelona. I like the tapas, the coffee and pastries, the night life, the art and architecture, the little squares in the Barri Gotico. And it reminds me of my youth and being happy there long ago.


Previous interviews:

Mike Gerrard
Heather Hapeta
Thomas Swick
Leif Pettersen
Rolf Potts
Ian Mackenzie
Sheila Scarborough
Graham Reid
Candy Harrington
Terah Shelton
Rudy Maxa
Shannon Hurst Lane
Wendy Perrin
David Whitley

Sphere: Related Content

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Follow up on the 2007 Lonely Planet Bluelist winners….

Remember the Lonely Planet’s Bluelist competition earlier this year.

Check out how the winners (Lisa Burns, Doy Quint, Baxter Jackson, and Sylvia Dubery) got on with their week long trip to Marrekesh with a Lonely Planets author. You can read their blog here

And watch the travelogue here

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 11, 2007

Travel Writers write about travel writing…

I have a list of books I want to read…some I can find in the local library or bookstore.

For some I have to travel all the way to the Amazon… that is.

What did I buy ?

Books about travel writing of course...

A Sense of Place by Michael Shapiro

Incognito Street by Barbara Sjoholm

By the way, Barbara Sjoholm is next up on the ‘Interview with a Travel Writer’ series. So don’t forget to come back in a couple of days…

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Zimmers show a new twist to ‘My Generation’…

Looking for inspiration ?

Then check out The Zimmers, a group of pensioners with a combined age of over 3000 who are heading up the British music charts. The youngest band member is 64. The oldest is 99. They live in old people’s homes and rely on carers to look after them. They are often overlooked by the younger generations.

And they are singing the old Pete Townsend song ‘My Generation’.

Their You Tube video has been seen by over 2.9 million and over 100 million people in more than 50 countries have seen clips of the band on television.

Here’s five thing we can learn from The Zimmers

- it’s never too late to try something new
- it pays to be courageous
- always think outside the box
- don’t take no for an answer
- when you dream, dream big

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Lack of response from some editors…

I’m still waiting on a response from editors on a number of query letters that I’ve sent out over the past few months.

Maybe this explains why...

cartoon from

Cartoon by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 08, 2007

Granny J from 'Walking Prescott’ talks…

Remember Granny J over at Walking Prescott ?

She walks around town most days, snapping photographs of the interesting, the unique, and the plain ordinary that is Prescott and posts on her blog.

The photos are brilliant and she was the inspiration for my Christchurch Tour Guide blog. It’s going to take some time for me to develop a visual blog anywhere near as good as Granny J’s but I’ll try….

Well, it seems that Prescott has a thriving blog community and they met up for a Blog Fest. The local radio station got wind of it and they put together a series of interviews with the local bloggers.

Here’s Granny J's interview. Have a listen to what she has to say about Prescott and blogging….

Sphere: Related Content

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer...Mike Gerrard.

Today we’re talking with Mike Gerrard, British travel writer and photographer. Mike has published in newspapers around the world, including The Washington Post, The Times, and the Daily Express plus magazines such as CNN Traveller, Wanderlust, and Real Holidays and online at Suite101.

Mike is also the author or contributing author to over 20 guide books such as the Rugby World Cup 2007: Official Travel Guide, National Geographic Traveler Guide to Greece (2001, 2004) and Colours of Paris (2005).

Hi Mike and welcome to My Year of Getting Published. I'm glad you were able to stop by and share your thoughts on travel writing.

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

Ever since the age of about eight or nine, when I realised that there were actually people called writers, who wrote scripts and books and things. My dad was a part-time writer, and from a very early age I was fascinated by his typewriter and used to love playing with it. So it's probably in the genes.

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

Selling my first travel piece to the Daily Telegraph in London. It was the first travel article I'd ever written. I'd been writing about computers and doing general journalism up till then. I was always interested in travel and travel writing, but whenever I met anyone who'd done it, or tried it, they always told me how difficult and competitive it was, and really put me off having a go.

The Travel Editor at the Telegraph then was Bernice Davison, and she was incredibly helpful and supportive, in ways that I think few travel editors are these days. Maybe they just don't have the time any more, but Bernice would always respond with a note when I sent something in, and told me how to go about getting commissions and setting up trips and so on. She was terrific.

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

I used to try to give lengthy answers to questions like this, but a travel writer friend of mine told me what he said to people, which seemed to sum it up. It was: travel a lot, write a lot, and send it in. It really does come down to that. If you're good, it should be noticed.


You also need an amazing persistence and an ability to absorb rejections, or complete lack of responses, without taking it personally.

4. What do you see as the future for travel writers in the printed media and online ?

I think the future is online. In the printed media I've seen it get harder and harder for people who have been good, successful travel writers for a long time to get commissions. Today lots of publications want celebrities to do stuff for them, and they want lists of the Top Ten this, and the Best Beaches and so on. Very few want real writing any more.

Mind you, working for the online media is even further away from real writing, but I think that's where people have to look.

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

Someone who once came on one of my travel writing courses, Tony Kelly, who is now a good friend and a very successful travel writer himself, explained this, I think. After he'd been writing himself for a few years, he said to me that there was something I hadn't warned them about on my course, which was that once you become a travel writer, you can never have a holiday again.

There's a lot of truth in that.

You're always taking notes, just in case, making sure you've got photos and leaflets and opening hours and things. Working trips are very tiring, which people don't realise.

Last year I worked with my wife on the Official Travel Guide to the 2007 Rugby World Cup. We did one trip to southern France to go round most of the venue cities there, and we were away for 5 weeks. Apart from the last couple of days, we had no time to relax at all. It's tiring, working 30+ days in a row, in the heat, tramping round museums and hotels, spending your evening planning the next day and downloading photos and burning DVDs to back them up. We were reviewing every restaurant we ate in, so even at mealtimes the notebook was out and you're 'on duty'.

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

Home. It's the only place I do have a chance to switch off, for the occasional weekend when we're not working.


(note from Liz: Mike has also written a how to book for aspiring Travel Writers called ‘So You Want to be a Travel Writer?’, providing information on how to break into the British travel market.)

Previous Interviews:
Heather Hapeta
Thomas Swick
Leif Pettersen
Rolf Potts
Ian Mackenzie
Sheila Scarborough
Graham Reid
Candy Harrington
Terah Shelton
Rudy Maxa
Shannon Hurst Lane
Wendy Perrin
David Whitley

Sphere: Related Content

Monday, June 04, 2007

Head to for reviews of travel books…

Want to know what’s worth reading in the world of travel guides and travel books ?

One of the best places to go is the book section of (the traveler’s web log). There are over 200 posts related to book reviews, interviews, book festivals, articles, bookstores, author talks, and anything else related to travel.

But be warned…you’ll end up with a list of books that you just have to read…

Here’s a few of the book reviews that caught my eye….

Paris by Pastry (Stalking the Sweet Life)

Assassination Vacation

The Heart of the World: A Journey to the last secret place

Change Your Life Through Travel

I can see a trip to Borders or in my future…

Sphere: Related Content

Sunday, June 03, 2007

The 10 Sins of Travel Writing…

Most writing articles talk about what you should do to create great articles. But it’s just as important to know what not to do, as Thomas Swick (editor, South Florida Sun Sentinel) points out in his ‘10 Sins of Travel Writing.’

1. All travel stories sound the same.
To stand out from the crowd, your story must have a personal voice and a point of view. This does not necessarily mean writing in the first person, though that is often the easiest way to achieve these elements. Remember that almost any place you write about has been written about before; your challenge is to find something new and original to say about it. And, since every person is unique, the best way to do this is to examine your own individual reaction to a place. What about it struck you, amused you, depressed you, intrigues you, moved you?

2. They are riddled with clich├ęs.
Avoid the “land of contrasts” school of writing - “best-kept secrets” that “pulsing with.” Again, find a more creative way of saying things.

3. They tell instead of show.
Don’t tell readers the people are friendly; show them this through an anecdote. Likewise, don’t say that city, harbor, etc. is beautiful; describe it in such a way - with well-observed details - that we see that it is.

4. They try to cover too much.
Don’t try to squeeze every aspect of a city or country into your story. Often a well-chosen (and well-described) vignette conveys a better feel for a place than a broad overview.

5. They gush.
Bad writers pick up on all the predictable things and, in hopes of elevating them to a grander status, write noisily about them. Good writers notice the unexpected things and present them calmly, without fuss.

6. They ignore the people.
Doctors are accused of treated diseases, not people. Travel writers suffer from the same cold, clinical approach. If you go anywhere for a story and don’t make contact with at least one local - of you don’t, as Forster said, “connect” - you have failed. For how can you ever hope to understand a place without talking to the people who live there? Dialogue helps a travel story immeasurably, but so few writers include it.

7. They are superficial.
Most travel stories just scratch the surface. It is not enough to describe a place, you must try to understand it and pass on that understanding in your writing.

8. They are humorless.
Travel - the displacement from the familiar to the foreign - is rich in comedy, but rarely do I get a story that makes me laugh.

9. They lack continuity.
A good travel story is more than just a collection of random impressions; it has a definite theme. Decide at the beginning what point you want to get across about the place and then work your impressions around it. Don’t simply write an article, but tell a story. (This is where the people come in handy.)

10. They fail to enchant.
So few of the travel stories written, and published, these days convey any sense of the wonder of travel. They are dry compilations of information relieved, so their authors think, by “cute” leads of unbearable triteness. Yet a travel story, in the right hands can have the narrative flow of a short story, the elegance of poetry, the discursiveness of an essay and the substance of a history lesson.

Note from Liz: Thanks to Thomas Swick to letting me reprint this and also to Shannon Hurst Lane to bringing it to my attention. I‘ll be putting a copy of this on the wall in front of the computer to remind me of travel writing sins to avoid…

Sphere: Related Content

Saturday, June 02, 2007

The Smithsonian magazine editor talks…

Mr Media, aka Bob Andelman, has just posted an interview with Smithsonian editor Carey Winfrey.

This is well worth reading if you’re considering pitching to the Smithsonian magazine.

Carey Winfrey talks about what qualifies a story as something the Smithsonian magazine would be interested in, what doesn’t, and how important it is to get the right balance.

When you're competing with over 4,000 other article pitches a year, this is important stuff to know...

Sphere: Related Content

Friday, June 01, 2007

Monthly Roundup...(May)

Another month done. It’s the first day of winter here in New Zealand. And so far, it’s been a mild one. In fact, the last couple of weeks have been great - sunny days which have warmed up nicely after a slight frost. But you know winter is coming because there’s less daylight. Personally, I can’t wait for the shortest day to get here and then we’ll be heading back to summer….

It was a slow May writing wise. I think I overdid things in April and early May with the two freelance conferences and completing a couple of writing assignments. I seemed to have run out of energy….so I did very little for the rest of the month.

What I did do:

Query letters

- one to an online magazine (no response as of yet)
- one answering ad at Freelance Writing Jobs (got response but decided it wasn’t for me)

Blog Carnival

- Creating the Travel Writers Carnival seemed like a good idea at the time but it fell through as all the submissions were travel articles rather than on the craft of travel writing.
- submitted two posts from Christchurch Tour Guide to the weekly Carnival of Cities.


- wrote daily posts at My Year of Getting Published.
- wrote 18 posts at Alzheimer’s Notes.
- wrote 20 posts at Christchurch Tour Guide.


- entered the Problogger Top 5 group writing project.
- sent entry to the Travel Rant Blog a Thon Challenge


- organized for a guest blogger (Sheila Scarborough) to report on SOBCon07.
- joined Media Bistro so that I could access the How to Pitch articles.


And that was May...

Stay tuned for June as I have great plans afoot...

Sphere: Related Content
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...