Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Kim Wildman.

Today’s interview is with travel writer Kim Wildman, an Australian with itchy feet. Her writing has been published in a numerous magazines and online publications as well as enjoying the wandering lifestyle of a guidebook author for publications such as Lonely Planet and more recently Bradt Travel Guides. Kim is currently on a ten week round the world trip.

Kim also blogs about her travel and writing experiences at Wild About Travel+Writing.

Hi Kim. 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’ve wanted to be a writer for as long as I can remember. Though, I was
originally interested in writing fiction, not travel. My mother always said
I had a very vivid imagination! The first piece I had published was a short
story about treasure hunting in the Mediterranean which appeared in the
Brisbane Sunday Sun when I was 12 years old for which they paid me a paltry
$5. Then, when I was 16 years old, I became very influenced by SE Hilton
(the young author of The Outsiders first published in 1967) and imagined
that I would become the writing world’s next big teenage discovery and so
wrote my first novel.

Unfortunately, I made a very common mistake many writers make when starting out and tried to mimic her style (hence why my book was never published and why it today remains boxed away in storage in my brothers’ attic!). Somehow though I managed to get lost on my way to pulp fiction super stardom and ended up working as an account executive for a uniform company. That was until I travelled to South Africa for the first time in 1996 and was inspired to combine my three loves: travel, writing and
photography. Travel writing wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be though.
My articles were rejected numerous times. Instead of giving up my dream, I
decided to quit my job and went back to university to study journalism full-time, telling my friends that I was going to get a job working as a travel writer for Lonely Planet. Naturally, they all scoffed at me and assumed I would never do it.

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

My ‘break’ as such was part tenacity in knowing what I wanted and going for
it and also the good fortune of being in the right place at the right time.
As part of my journalism degree I had to do a two week internship with a print media publication. While most of the students in my class simply applied to do their internships with the local newspaper (the good old Toowoomba Chronicle), I‘d already gotten myself a job there as a casual writing advertorials and was still determined to work for Lonely Planet.

So I called up LP’s head office in Melbourne and asked if they would take me
on, and to my great surprise they said yes. It was then while I was in the
Melbourne office doing my internship that I was informed that the company
was actively looking for younger, female writers (at the time, most of their
authors were men over the age of 40) and was asked if I wanted to apply.

Naturally I jumped at the chance. So within three months of completing a sample chapter and two months after finishing my university degree I was off on my first assignment to cover Romania and Moldova in Eastern Europe.

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

Quite obviously, I’d say never give up. We’ve all been rejected. JK Rowling
was rejected nine times before some wise editor glimpsed the magic of Harry Potter. So follow your passion and hold on to your dreams no matter what. It should go without saying, but in order to become a better writer you must practice your craft. Write daily if you can, or in the very lest set aside an hour or two each week to devote to your writing. Take a class, do a workshop, keep a journal or write a blog, but whatever you do; write. Also it pays to find your niche and to write about what you know and love. Once you do that, it is much easier to find your voice and write from your heart.

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

I believe it will be some time (if ever) before the e-revolution completely overtakes print media. Like many other readers out there I still love my books - I love the look of them; I love the feel of them; and, I love the smell of them. That said, while I still do plenty of work for traditional publishers such as the guidebook I’m about to update for Bradt Travel Guides, about 90 percent of my income these days is derived from writing for online publishers. So personally I believe the internet has opened up a whole new world of opportunities for travel writers. However, it seems there is a common misperception that to write for an internet website or online travel ezine you either have to write for free or earn a pittance.

Bear in mind that all major media outlets and publications now have their own websites for which they continually require fresh content . Even traditional guidebook publishers like Lonely Planet and Rough Guide have seen the benefit of making their content available through the internet. So there are plenty of reputable online publishers out there that do pay, and pay well, for good quality writing. Granted online readers have a shorter attention span, so the articles you write are usually shorter and pithier. But this also means that they are quicker and easier to write which leaves you plenty of time to devote to that heart-felt, in-depth travel article which you can pitch to a glossy magazine.

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

As I mentioned previously, the writer who had the most influence on me was
SE Hilton. When it comes to travel writers, though, while I’ve read the greats -Theroux, Chatwin, Hemmingway - I often find their style of writing somewhat dry and tedious. I prefer to be entertained. I want the author to take me on the journey with them, put me in their shoes no matter where they are and have me rolling around the floor laughing at their [mis]adventures.

So my two favourite travel books are Bill Bryson’s Down Under and Irish comedian, Tony Hawks’ Playing the Moldovans at Tennis. Funnily enough, after I read Hawks’ book I ended up travelling to Moldova for Lonely Planet and consequently met almost everyone he mentioned in the book - I even stayed with the same family and had the same interpreter/guide. My only regret is that I didn’t take the book with me so that they could all sign it!

The book I am currently reading is Alain de Botton’s The Art of Travel. While it is much more academic, I love that he looks at the psychology behind our desire to travel. His main argument is that, more often than not, there is a huge difference between the everyday reality of travelling and what we imagine the experience will bring us. That in the end what we are looking for when we travel is what we are lacking at home. As a travel writer I think it is very important to keep this in mind.

6. As a writer and traveler, what are the biggest challenges you face on the road? How do you maintain a travel blog on the road?

For me the biggest challenge I face is knowing when to stop and smell the roses. I usually become so obsessed with trying to get all the information I need for whichever guide I am working on or whatever article I am writing that I often have to remind myself to stop and take a moment to relax and enjoy the sites and sounds of wherever I am. Thankfully, I seem to be getting better at this as I get older. Perhaps that just comes with experience though.

As to blogging while on the road, I only started my personal blog this year and so far have only been moving around within Australia, so haven’t encountered any problems as yet. My upcoming trip, however, which will take in South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Jamaica and Cuba, will be the first real test for me. Once I am on the road researching I am sure that keeping up my blog might prove a little challenging, especially in some parts of Africa that I will be travelling to.

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

Without a doubt, my favourite place is Cape Town. After living there for three years while I completed my Masters degree in African Studies at the city’s university, it has become home away form home. In fact, I feel more at home there than I do anywhere in Australia these days! Apart from being the most beautifully positioned, picture-perfect city, for me it is a place full of wonderful memories and fabulous friends. Just some of the amazing experiences I’ll remember forever include climbing Lion‘s Head at sunrise on Sunday mornings, watching the clouds froth over Table Mountain from the deck of my apartment in Rondebosch, learning about ‘the struggle’ on a tour of Robben Island, seeing Nelson Mandela deliver the inaugural lecture at the University of Cape Town, dancing under the stars at the first 4664 concert at Green Point Stadium, watching the Rugby World Cup and drinking Windhoeks with the boys at The River Club, rummaging through the antique shops and second-hand book stores at Kalk Bay, braaing on the beach with friends at Laguna, and having sundowners at Camps Bay. I can‘t gush about the city enough. Fortunately for me I will be back there next week!

Sphere: Related Content

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...