Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Interview with a Travel Writer…Nicole Cotroneo

This week we talk with Nicole Cotroneo, a freelance travel writer from New York. She is a regular contributor for the New York Times and The Washington Post. Online, she is an associate editor of Globorati, a luxury travel website and author of the travel and food blog NY Girl Eats World.

Hi Nicole and welcome to My Year of Getting Published. Thanks for finding time during your travels to stop in and chat.

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

Always. I remember writing poems in third grade -- and I had a very generous teacher who praised them. God bless her. Fortunately, as I got older, I realized that I was a terrible poet and I turned to prose instead. I still was quite a dreamer, though. Even through college I had the great delusion that I would make a living writing fiction. But then I graduated and, well, I had to eat. So I began freelancing for a small, community newspaper. I'd never even written for my college newspaper. I had to learn how to do "journalism" real fast. Luckily I was working with some fine writers and editors who gave me a crash course in the biz. Everything I know I've learned from working with talented people.

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

I was an assistant editor at a Long Island newspaper and I was sharing an office with a writer who was enormously overqualified for our paper. In addition to being a published novelist, he'd written travel pieces for papers and mags like the LA Times and GQ. We hit it off and he offered to put me in touch with a travel editor at The Washington Post. I pitched her a story and she gave me a shot. A very lucky break, indeed.

3. 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 afraid to start small. We all want to see our byline in national magazines, but the only way to get there is to write, write, write for anyone and anything (well, you know -- with some discernment). Prove yourself to the editors you're working for on a local level and they will recommend you to their friends working in the Manhattan skyscrapers.

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

There's been an obvious shift in our industry. Online outlets have earned great credibility. They can break news faster than print media can. Before I started my blog I had a very snobbish attitude toward blogging -- those writers were the ones who couldn't get published. It was a terrible and narrow-minded view. I realized that I'd been living under a rock when I opened up Food & Wine one day and read an article about a food blogger. That was a big wake-up call for me. Now, I'm a complete convert. I'm not only blogging, I'm helping edit a luxe travel news and trends website.

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

Aside from the obvious safety issues, language barriers, etc., I think knowing when to put the pen and pad down is very difficult. As a writer I find that I process everything I see and do in my travels as a potential subject for a piece. Sometimes I have to pause and tell myself to simply enjoy the moment. When you're scribbling in a notebook, you're missing half the experience. Unless you're on a specific assignment, it's OK to let the moment wash over you. You have to trust yourself enough to know that those emotions and memories will stay with you -- and you can pull from them later.

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

My goodness, that's the hardest question yet! Last year I spent a great deal of time in southern Italy. It's a region that's still largely authentic. For a week I rented a little villa in a fishing village called Praiano on the Amalfi Coast. I suppose if there's one place I'd wish to be at any moment it would be there -- cooking in my little kitchen with fresh lemons I've picked from the tree outside, or at the beach, bobbing in the salty, emerald sea.

(note from Liz: Nicole's article Hey Neighbor is all about her stay in Italy)


Previous interviews:

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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Danielle Marconi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Danielle Marconi said...

I came across your blog as I was looking into the process of getting published.

I am living in Japan and met a Japanese elder woman with an extraordinary story of her experience when the atomic bomb in nagasaki was dropped. At the same time, besides teaching English like a machine here in Japan, I am a writer at heart, and a blogging enthusiast. (

Thanks for the advice!


hi danielle, thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment.

Good luck with the writing and publishing. Will head over and visit your blog soon.

Cheers, Liz

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