Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Interview with a travel writer...Kimberly Kradel

Today we talk with Kimberly Kradel, writer, artist, photographer and website producer and editor. Instead of seeking out places to publish her travel writing and art, Kimberly has developed her own place, the Artist-at-Large, where she and other writers and artists can express themselves. The website's tagline says it all - ‘exploring cultures with eyes open.‘

Check it out. It’s a smorgasbord of travel writing, art, and conversation.

Hi Kimberly and welcome to My Year of Getting Published. Thanks for stopping in and chatting…

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

It was *one*, in a very long list, of the things I wanted to be. Fortunately I had parents and family that encouraged me in my interests, to a point. I think they would have rather that I had gone into journalism than art, or into a field with the possiblity of a stable income. But by the time I got out of high school, I knew that I was an artist, a photographer, a writer, and a traveler.

I thought that I was going to be a travel photographer, for an airline or a large travel agency. I loved the travel posters that were plastered throughout my high school's language classrooms. It didn't help that my grandmother was addicted to National Geographic and Life magazines. All the photos and destinations in the current issues were up for discussion at Sunday dinner.

I was a voracious reader as a kid. I was also an explorer. I started keeping journals and shooting photographs in art school and haven't ever stopped. But I'm an artist first and a writer second.

I also come from a family of storytellers, so writing down my life and travel stories isn't such a big stretch.

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

Working at Lonely Planet. Although I didn't write for them.

I had an office job at LP when I was a lot younger. Having that job really defined not only my focus on how I wanted to (or rather not wanted to) write about my travels, but also the subjects that I wanted to write about and the point of view from which I wanted to write.

It was during that time that I had the idea for, albeit in paper pub format, but it was a few more years before the web arrived and then a few more before I knew enough to actually develop it, produce it, and then had time to launch it. I made a lot of other career transitions between working at LP and launching my own site.

After LP, I worked at Ulysses Press as an Editorial Associate and Research Assistant before going full swing into the technology sector.

The cool thing about is that it combines all of my interests and abilities - art, travel, writing, photography, technology, and best of all, editorial control. I would not have gotten that satisfaction from just writing for someone else's publication.

3. What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing? Any tips to breaking into newspapers and magazines?

First of all, do your homework. Read the magazines, newspapers, and web sites you'd like to write for. Get to know their voice and point of view.

Hone your observation skills! You will definitely need them.

Start local. Write about what you know. Sell an editor a story on the wonders of your hometown, or something close by. This will help build up your clips file.

I think it's a great idea to work for a publisher to really learn as much as possible about how the publishing industry works before setting out as a freelancer.

Read the posts on and MediaBistro. The 'How to Pitch' articles on MediaBistro are excellent to read if you're just starting out. (They're also good for experienced writers.)

Don't be beyond finding a mentor - someone who can read your writing and can give you a good honest critique. Friends will tell you what you want to hear, mentors will tell you what you need to hear.

Network. Network. Network. Editors and PR people move around a lot, so it's good keep your contacts up to date. Nothing is better than an editor you've worked for successfully at a regional magazine who then moves into an editorial job at a major magazine. Did you just hear that door open?

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

From my perspective, it's all about the internet and mobile information.

Whether you are writing for a content site, an online version of a magizine or newspaper, or if you decide, like I did, to go it alone and publish your own work on your own site, the internet is the place to be.

Guidebooks will always have their place, but they are outdated even before they are stacked on the shelves at the store. There will also always be a place for travel narrative in book publishing. But people are going more and more to the internet for the latest travel information.

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

The biggest challenge is funding the travel!

The second biggest challenge is getting my readers to overcome the stereotype that going to museums and archaeological sites is a touristy thing to do. Being an artist who travels, searching out masterpieces and historical references is part of my career. It's part of my ongoing education.

For most people without an art background, a museum may just be one more thing to tick off on an ever expanding list of must see places, even if they don't know why they are must see. Maybe it's those people I'm writing for? See what a challenge that is?

But, I've got publishing from the road down. Which means that because I travel with my cameras and laptop, I don't have to go home to add content to the site. That also means I can travel for as long as the money holds out and I don't have to be beholden to schedules. I can sit somewhere for a few weeks or a month or more and really get to know a place, absorb it. Because I don't travel by query, I don't have to see or experience certain places or events. Many times I don't write about some of my experiences until a good year after they happen, after I've had time to process them and decide how I really feel about them.

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

I don't have one. I have about a hundred. Trying to answer this question just makes me realize what an incredible place this planet really is.

But one of my favorites is Saint-Denis Basilica just north of Paris. I love gothic architecture and Saint-Denis is one of the best examples of that building style. It was the first gothic cathedral in France. I love to sit in the back on the steps and watch the light change through the windows. I feel a really strong connection to that building. It is always the first and last place I see when I visit Paris.

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Anonymous said...

Great interview! I love the combination of art & travel. Learning about art is a great way to experience another culture in a deeper way.

Liz Lewis said...

Hi Jordan. I agree - culture and travel should be experienced through many mediums -art, food, wine, music, architecture, people...

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