Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Angela K. Nickerson.

Today we are talking with Angela K Nickerson who is in the midst of a Virtual Book Tour to promote her recently published travel book 'A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome'.

Published by the Roaring Forties Press, this beautifully complied book looks like a coffee table book and acts like a travel guide and history and art lesson all rolled into one.

Angela is a teacher, a writer, and a tour guide. And she has just recently joined the blogging ranks with her new blog Just Go.

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

When I was a student, I loved to write. And I truly loved research. I often went overboard with my research papers doing far more work than was required because I was inspired and interested and just couldn’t stop myself. However, I really didn’t translate that into a career path. In my mind writers worked at newspapers or wrote fiction or poetry. I knew that I didn’t have the news bug. I was not prepared to be a starving novelist. And there are even fewer jobs for poets. So, I became a teacher – and my students did a lot of research!

However, teaching others to write didn’t satisfy my own desire to write. I found myself doing more and more journaling and fantasizing about “becoming” a writer. In reality I already was. I was writing all the time. I just wasn’t earning any money doing it. Over the course of a few years I transitioned out of the physical classroom (though I still teach writing privately) and started with small, local publications. I ended up with a column in a monthly magazine as well as several other publications that regularly featured my work… and then I got a book deal.

My journey has been a very slow one. And I am impatient to support myself completely as a writer. That is coming, but I do still have a “day job.” My goal is to be able to write full time within a few more years.

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

I love travel narrative. And there are some amazing travel writers out there who do remarkable work. One of my favorites is Australia’s Brian Thacker. I have escorted groups through Europe for several years, and Brian’s book Rule No. 5: No Sex on the Bus is a hilarious and rather realistic view of the debauchery and wildness that can come with SOME tour groups. I also truly admire Tim Cahill and Bill Bryson. And Pete McCarthy, an English writer, captures people and places remarkably well. Thomas Cahill and Tony Perrottet are also are truly gifted. They focus on history, but their books also make for great travel reading. I particularly enjoyed Perrottet’s book The Naked Olympics and Cahill’s Sailing the Wine Dark Sea.

I look at this list and see that there are no women listed. There are many fine women out there traveling and writing, but the writers that resonate with me tend to be male. I find that to be rather peculiar!

Tells us about the evolution of your book 'A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome' ? Where did the idea come from ? How hard was the concept to sell to a publisher?

I found this project by accident, providence, divine intervention, and chance. As a teacher I had developed a course called “The Bible as Literature.” I taught the major stories of the Bible, and I used the work of Michelangelo and other Renaissance artists as the “hook.” My students studied the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel, compared Davids by Donatello and Michelangelo, and explored the stories told in Ghiberti’s doors, the Gates of Paradise.

After I’d left the classroom, I came upon a call for proposals. Roaring Forties Press had begun a new series of books, the ArtPlace books, and they were looking for writers. Immediately I knew that Michelangelo and Rome would be the perfect fit. I wrote the book proposal, and it took about a year to hammer out the details and sign a contract. But now, three years later, the book is on the shelves!

So is it a history book, an art book, or a travel guide?

All of the above!

Rome is a huge and layered city. When I take groups there, so often I see tourists wandering around looking dazed and overwhelmed. And I totally understand why! There are thousands of years of history piled together in a living city filled with traffic and tourists. And while the typical guidebook is good for some things, it does not help the average traveler make decisions about what to see or to draw connections between various locations and sites.

A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome solves that problem. There are maps and locations, and it includes all of the primary sites to see in Rome plus so many great places to go that are off the beaten path. However, there are no hotels or restaurants listed. And it is written so that you can enjoy it equally in your living room or in the Sistine Chapel. Michelangelo and his work provide the lens through which the reader sees Rome.

The book is beautifully laid out with plenty of photographs and maps? Did you do any of the photography?

I took many of the photographs, actually, including the image on the cover (of which I am particularly proud). I love photography, and Rome is a fantastic subject. I learned a lot about taking photos for books in the process.

I see that you are taking small groups on tours of Michelangelo’s Italy in October and November?† Do you do much tour guiding?

I do! I’ve worked for tour companies and also take small groups on my own. It is a way to indulge the teacher in me, I suppose. The trips that I take on my own never have more than 10-12 people. I tell my clients that traveling with me is like traveling with a very knowledgeable friend. I set up the travel arrangements. I set the itinerary. I know good restaurants and shops and what to see in each museum. I provide a little structure. But my trips are not bus tours. We walk the cities. We stay in the heart of town. And my feelings are never hurt when people deviate from our set itinerary. In fact, when that happens I know that I have done my job: my clients are comfortable, intrigued, and inspired.

For more information you can check out my website.

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

I could, I’d drop everything and go work for a magazine or a publishing house for a few years. The writers who are most successful started in publishing and developed relationships with editors. They have a much easier time selling their work to people they already know.

For those of you who, like me, can’t do that: start small. There are lots of local publications out there that won’t pay much, but writing for them will give you a body of work, experience meeting deadlines, and great opportunities and contacts. And don’t limit yourself in what you can and will write about. I specialize in travel writing because that’s what I love, but I do personal profiles, business profiles, and religious writing as well. No writer can do everything well, but developing a broader portfolio will help you to make a living faster.


Thanks Angela for including Write to Travel as a whistle stop on your virtual tour. Will be following your journey through the blogosphere

Next stop on the virtual tour is Nerd's Eye View tomorrow for the Micro Travel Writing Workshop...

Early reviews of A Journey into Michelangelo’s Rome:


"Most travel guides are jammed with star ratings and brief descriptions of hotels, restaurants, shopping, and nightlife. By contrast, this book is full of art images, maps, and summary sidebars ranging in topics from the Reformation to madrigals. Through biography and history, the author creates a unique travel guide to Rome, focusing on the art and times of the artist Michelangelo."

She cried at the chapel -- then she wrote the book

"Almost seven years ago, Angela Nickerson, a teacher and art lover, first walked into Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel. Like millions before, she was overwhelmed by its beauty and scale and had to wipe away tears. But unlike the millions, that first visit inspired her to write a book: A Journey Into Michelangelo's Rome"

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1 comment:

laradunston said...

What an interesting interview and the book looks wonderful! I've been exploring new styles of 'guidebooks', that are bigger on inspiration and evoking a sense of place, wonder, and curiosity, than providing information and practical details. I'm going to have to test this out on my trip to Rome in a few weeks!

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