Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Barbara Hudgins.

Today we talk with travel writer Barbara Hudgins. Barbara is the author of several travel books, including New Jersey Day Trips (now in it's 10th edition). She writes a travel column which has appeared in The Madison Eagle, the Bernardsville News, and various other newspapers. Her articles have also appeared in national magazines such as Signature, Women's World, and Foreword.

Barbara is also the author of the recently published book 'Crafting the Travel Guidebook' that looks to be a very useful resource for anyone considering writing a travel guidebook. You can get a sneak preview of the book here and purchase here.

Hi Barbara, and welcome to Write to Travel. Thanks for taking the time to talk.

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

Yes, I always wanted to write, but like many people thought fiction was the way to go. I was an English major in college and took a class in short stories. But my first professional writing was for a newspaper, although I knew nothing of journalism. I was living in Albuquerque, New Mexico on very little money and I missed the New York theater terribly. I walked into the leading newspaper and asked to do theater reviews. They had someone who did the local community theater beat but they gave me concerts, ballets and that sort of thing. I’m talking about classical concerts here. I fudged it well enough that they finally let me cover the shows. I had an 11:15 pm deadline and would have to leave the theater by 10:30 pm. It taught me to write fast—very fast.

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

It was by accident. I was writing freelance real estate ads in the 1980s when my children were young. The advertising company asked me to do a booklet on recreational activities in the New Jersey area. When I started researching I discovered there was not one decent guidebook to New Jersey, so I wrote one. It sold very well. Because I became an expert on the area, a local papers asked me to write a column. I still write occasional articles both on daytrips and foreign destinations.

The newspaper gave me access to freebie entrance to many of the local destinations. It was much easier to say I’m the travel writer for this newspaper chain than to explain that I was the author of New Jersey Day Trips, a book that not everyone might have heard about. I would also be asked for freelance articles on the subject from various regional papers or magazines.

3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into travel writing?

Well, starting from a local base always helps. There are local newspapers, websites and small magazines that will take newcomers. They don’t pay very well, but it’s a beginning. Or start with something you feel passionate about. I know one woman who wrote a directory of motels that accommodate dogs because she was so angry that she was unable to find lodging for a night for her Labrador in a rainy night on Cape Cod. And ecotourism was certainly helped by the passion of travel writers. Since just about every destination has been covered it’s mostly a matter of slant and specific interest nowadays.

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

The printed media market is shrinking. The online world is expanding. For the travel writer, the competition consists of all those thousands of people online who are writing on travel forums and travel communities offering their opinions and descriptions –for free! They don’t think of themselves as travel writers but they are attracting the same travel consumer.

As for the online e-zines that do take travel articles and stories—they pay nothing or next to nothing even for professional writers. The best they can offer is the ability to snag a sponsored trip if you are writing for a well-known online magazine. And there’s insane competition for those spots! Probably the quickest way to get a paycheck is to become the editor of some travel zine, or become an guide or start your own blog and hope to attract sponsors.

Take your travel interview blog, for instance. Twenty years ago you would have had to contact an editor—either of a travel magazine or writing magazine with a query. Then he would ask you who you lined up. Then you would have to line up a few names of enough consequence that he would be interested. Then you would have to write to all those people and wait for answer. Finally, when the article was finished and accepted you might get $250 USD.

Now, you just go ahead and do it! Of course you do not get any paycheck— at first, at least. But who knows—you could collect all your interviews and create your own POD book and sell that. Anything is possible. It’s figuring out how to make money at it that’s the problem.

As for travel books, which is more my forte than articles—there are some trends. One is the related destination book such as wedding destinations, great spas, food-related vacations, or “finding-your-own soul” travel. For American baby boomers who are retiring it’s long-term trips and RV vacations. And of course there’s no shortage of hiking and biking books and there is always room for another in a new territory.

There is also the melding of categories or genres. For instance the self-realization book has been combined with the long-term travel. Travel memoirs, if well-written, can still kick it.

And of course there are all those travel destination books that are dominated by a few brand name publishers—they are always looking for new blood to do the 7th edition of some guidebook.

5. Which travel writers and/or travel books have influenced you?

Strangely enough I really didn’t read many travel books until I wrote my own. And those I read, I analyzed for slant, format and organization rather than reading them for enjoyment. It was the stories of Hemingway and Paul Bowles that made me want to visit Paris and Spain and North Africa.

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

Well, I’m a city girl---um, woman. I was born in New York (Brooklyn to be precise) so although I love sun-baked beaches (as long as I’m in the shade) cities hold an excitement for me. So it’s always going to be Paris because sitting in a cafĂ© watching the world go by is great recreation to me. Then certain places retain a sentimental hold for personal reasons and so I’ll take the view of Magens Bay in St. Thomas above any other.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...