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Today we talk with travel writer Elizabeth L. Blair, also known as Desert Mama of Traveling Mamas fame. Her writing has appeared in a variety of online and print publications - Christian Science Monitor, GoNomad, USATourist News Magazine, Baby Zone, and Long Island Mothers Journal - as well as numerous anthologies such as Chicken Soup for the Bride's Soul (2004) and Haunted Encounters from Around the World (2004).
Hi Elizabeth and welcome to Write to Travel. Thanks for stopping by...
1. Did you always want to be a writer? How did you get started in writing?
I'll admit I was one of those kids who said, "I'm going to be a writer when I grow up." I would sit in my "office" (my walk-in closet) and write stories.
I also said I was going to have a job that allowed me to travel. As life would have it, I ended up becoming a flight attendant. I spent most of my twenties in the sky, exploring cities far from home, and I loved every moment of it.
In my mid-twenties I returned to college on my days off from flying and ended up thriving in my writing classes. In fact, the first story I wrote for my first writing class ended up being published, and I received a check for it. When I realized I could make a little extra cash writing, I bought the Writer's Market book, began submitting, and ended up with several published clips.
2. What do you consider your first "break" as a travel writer?
I answered an ad for USATourist.com. They were looking for some writers to help with the content pages. I had lived in several of the cities they were looking to cover, so I pitched an outline for a city and they accepted.
In the meantime, they were in need of someone to write the monthly USATourist News Magazine. I was asked to take over for a couple of months and ended up taking it on permanently. It's been over three years and it has been such fun watching the site and newsletter evolve. USATourist.com is geared towards international travelers visiting the U.S. and is translated into five languages, so I get to correspond with readers from around the world. I just adore that aspect of it. (Thank goodness for Google Translate.)
3. What advice would you give to someone who wants to break into writing?
Write about your interests, hobbies, and most importantly, what excites you. It's fun to look back and see how my articles and even my bios have followed my life.
For those wishing to break into travel writing I strongly suggest becoming a tourist in your own city. While it is fun to go to an exotic location and write about it when you're first starting out, it's easier to get your work accepted if you're an "expert" at something. Writing about the city where you live (or have lived) makes you just that. I wish I had realized that early on.
My other advice is to meet other writers. I enjoy chatting with people who have been writing for years. They have wonderful stories and advice (and make me grateful typewriters are a thing of the past).
4. What do you see as the future for travel writers in the printed media and online?
The convenience of the web is unsurpassed when it comes to needing immediate, up-to-date information and that can only benefit writers since websites wishing to stay current will always need to be updated. Combine that with the fact anyone can have their own website or blog, there's no argument this is an exciting time for writers.
I also believe books and magazines will always be in vogue. There's nothing like reading a book or flipping the pages of a magazine, especially when flying or hanging out on the beach.
The good news is that many websites are starting to offer rates competitive with glossies and that's promising.
5. Which travel writers and/or travel books have influenced you?
I have been an avid reader since I was a child but I can't name a particular writer who has influenced me. Usually it's whomever I'm reading at the time. Right now I have Natalie MacLean's book Red White and Drunk All Over on my bedside table. She's a terrific writer and I'm learning quite a bit about the international wine world.
6. As a writer and traveler, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road?
Overall, I am very at home on the road. I lived out of a suitcase for so long traveling is just second nature for me.
As a parent of two preschoolers I thought being away from them would be very hard, but it ends up they're extremely resilient (my husband is great with them and a firm supporter of my writing). They're also getting a fabulous geography education. I do wish I had more time at the destinations I visit, as I often leave saying, "I'm not done yet." I would love to write every article in the moment.
7. Finally, what is your favorite place and why?
I have so many wonderful travel memories and appreciation for every place I visit, it's hard to choose only one destination. I was recently in New Orleans which has always been one my favorite cities. (I grew up in Baton Rouge.) I have to say that for a city that has been through such a catastrophe, the soul of the city is as vibrant as ever.
I spent a few years in Steamboat Springs, Colorado. There is something very special about that town. It's so laid back and there's so much to do, especially if you love the outdoors. The town has a waterfall, hot springs, and the town locals have an extremely friendly demeanor. My dream is to spend my summers there then live the rest of the year here in Tucson where the sunsets are absolutely spectacular. That would be in between traveling, of course.
Elizabeth has upcoming articles in May issues of AirTran Airways GO Magazine and Draft Magazine.
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
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