Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Interview with a travel writer...Keith Kellett

Today we are talking with British travel writer Keith Kellet who writes primarily for the internet. He is the Lenscape editor at Just Say Go and UK correspondent at GlobalFoodie. His articles can be found at various websites including France for Freebooters, Time-Travel Britain, Live Life Travel, and Nature of Animals. He also maintains the Travelrat's Travels blog.

Hi Keith and thanks for stopping by for a few questions.

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

When I was at school, I couldn’t decide whether I wanted to join the Air Force, or be a journalist. The careers master said I must make my mind up: I couldn’t be both! Unfortunately, he’s not with us any more, because I’d love to go up to him with my discharge papers and valedictory letter in one hand, and my journalism diploma and some clips in the other, and say ‘Nyaaah!’

One day, in the Mess bar, I was talking to the Education Officer who was also editor of the Station Magazine. I’m afraid I told her what I thought of her production, and she said she could only work with the stuff she received. And, if I could produce a phrase like ‘self-congratulatory, inward-looking, parochial pap’ while on the outside of half a gallon of best bitter, I should be able to produce a halfway decent article. When could she expect my first contribution?

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

I didn’t really have one. I started doing camping, hiking and outdoor stuff to subsidise these hobbies, and sort of drifted from there through history, nature, food and drink and local issues into travel.

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

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to give up the ‘day job’. Try to diversify. Travel is a pretty narrow field, and there’s a lot of competition to get into it. In fact, if you can write in some other field as well, so much the better. As to breaking into magazines, best advice I can give is read all of them you can get your hands on, and try to work out what they’re not covering, what they need and if there’s maybe a place for your material. As we used to say in Westmorland ‘It costs nowt to ask!’.

And, if you can work out how to break into newspapers … please tell me!

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

It sounds like pie in the sky, but I foresee an increase in anecdotal, rather than informational travel writing in print, rather like writers such as Lawrence Durrell and Patrick Leigh Fermor used to produce. You see, guide books are out of date almost as soon as they’ve hit the streets. To a lesser extent, magazine articles which say ‘You should go to … ‘ rather than ‘We went to …’ tend to age somewhat, too.
You can get far fresher information from the Web. But, there’s a place for the more anecdotal kind of writing there, too.

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

Fitting into an economy-class airline seat!

Finally, what is your favorite place and why ?

Jordan! There’s so much to see, and everyone is so friendly and helpful … only an over-importunate baggage porter at Amman airport spoilt a 100% record!

...........

Previous interviews:

Nicole Cotroneo
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

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6 comments:

Shannon said...

I met Keith when I rambled around the UK a few months ago. What a great guy. He really knows his stuff. Keith was nice enough to take me for a tour of where he lives and a few places within driving distance. It was wonderful to get a tour with a local(and a friend) and makes for a great travel story.

KIWIWRITER said...

That's the great thing about the internet. You can meet people not once but twice - online and off...

Roberta said...

Glad you did this interview, Keith. Good job!

Jane Fermor said...

A nice interview, but Keith's stuff seems to published in non-paying media. I cannot quite see how you can make a living as a travel writer when you merely place your work websites and e-zines that pay zilch. Or nearly zilch. Take European Journal, Keith, where you had a neat article. But they pay about €10 for a piece that surely took you a couple of days to research and write.
Jane Fermor

Anonymous said...

I'd be with Jane on this one. European Journal is a sort of vanity publishing venture which allows those whose work has been rejected elsewhere to see their names in print. There seems to be a big difference between travel writers who seriously write to make a living, and those who dabble and let their work be published for merely a small honorarium.

For new writers like Keith, the challange must be to make that leap to getting work properly remunerated. Magazines and newpapers like Granta, Wanderlust, National Geographic, the Sunday Times Travel Magazine, Cosmopolitan, CN Traveler, High Life, She, History Today, The Times, etc all spring to mind. And I guess some of those might well pay a decent check.

fahrusha said...

I am enjoying reading some of the writings of Mr. Kellett. I am privileged to have a friend who is a very well-known travel photographer and be acquainted with another and I'd say there are both money and perks in that field.
That being said, nothing captures the flavor of an exotic place in a past era better than the anecdotal account of the avid traveller of that bygone day.

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