Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer..W. Ruth Kozak.

Today we are talking with travel writer W. Ruth Kozak, editor and publisher of TRAVEL THRU HISTORY, a travel 'zine that gives new writers a place to be published. Ruth is a published travel journalist, historical fiction novelist and playwright. She also instructs travel, memoir and creative writing classes.

Hi Ruth and welcome to Write to Travel. Thanks to taking time to chat with us...

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

I have been writing for as long as I can remember, most certainly since I was 10 years old. I first started writing little plays for my playmates and then plays for my classmates which were usually to do with the war (WWII) because we all had family members overseas. I started writing historical stories when my family moved across Canada by train when I was 12. During my teens I wrote several historical novels and that got me obsessed with other countries and other cultures, especially those in the Mediterranean area. Now I combine travel writing with my research trips for historical fiction.

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

In 1981 I published my first travel article about a trip to Greece and that convinced me this was a new genre where I could make my mark as a writer before attempting to publish a longer piece of work such as a novel. Since then I have published many travel articles and got another big break in 1993 when I was invited to work on the APA Insight Guide of Vancouver and Environs. I did the “Trip and Tour” section of that travel book. Now I am editing/publishing my own travel‘zine - a new site for new writers focusing on history & archaeology; culture; art & literary trips; exotic adventures and travel memoirs.

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

You learn to write by writing so if you want to break into the freelance market you must devote time to your craft and practice it just as musician practices every day to learn an instrument. It’s hard to stay disciplined sometimes but you must. And it’s easy to get discouraged, but you have to keep trying and honing your craft. Take classes, attend workshops and learn what it’s all about to be a writer.

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

At this time it seems much more difficult to get accepted by the major newspapers and many of the others don’t pay as much as they used to. There are too many ezines that are willing to take your work (for free and for their own benefit) so that makes it tough for us experienced writers, though for newbies it’s a good way to get your work in print. You just have to keep researching markets, sending stories out, and (like playing Bingo) you’ll eventually win. The reason I made the decision to start my own travel ‘zine was so I could mentor new writers, some who came out of my travel writing classes, and give them an opportunity for a paid publication.

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

My to-be-read pile is up to the ceiling, but I do like reading what I can of the genres I write (travel and historical fiction). When I’m preparing for a trip to a new destination I will usually chose a travel book to read about it. I really liked Jan Morris’ “Venice” which I read last year just before I went there. When I went to Chile I read a lot about the country and fell in love with Pablo Neruda’s poetry. I visited all three of his houses which was a big thrill.

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

Until recently I’ve usually traveled alone. As I’ve lived in and visited Greece since 1978 I feel quite relaxed about traveling all around that country on my own, and often camp there. I’ve also traveled in Turkey and across Europe from England to Greece by bus. I’ve only gone on a group trip once and that was a trekking holiday in Morocco. I much prefer my own company or that of a favorite close friend because that way you get to meet the locals, and talk to people along the way. I’ve never had any great challenges. I guess I’m a gypsy at heart.

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

Well, of course Greece is my second home and I return there as often as I can.
I am also very fond of Turkey and I’ve traveled there several times beginning in 1975. England/Wales is part of my family heritage so I have roots there. And my new ‘favorite’ place is Chile.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

The Why, Where, and How's of Green Travel...

If you’re still fence sitting on the need to travel green, then head on over to Go Green Travel Green. Their ‘25 Days to Green Travel’ series might just help you decide what type of traveler you want to be.

The first post in the series ‘31 Reasons to Travel Green: In Pictures’ is enough to make you cry. The pictures feature birds covered in oil, polar bears clinging to melting ice, polluted rivers, and much more.

The second post ‘Defining Green Travel’ also features stunning pictures, but this time to remind you of the beauty in the world.

The third post offers up the ‘Ultimate Directory of Top Green Travel Destinations’.

The fourth post focuses on ‘Learning About the Local Culture’.

Can’t wait to see what the rest of the posts reveal…

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Travel Writing Miscellanea...

Still more on the 'Travel Writers Go to Hell' saga...

Veteran travel writer Chris Taylor wrote Death of the guidebook: lost in a cutthroat world for The Age Newspaper.

And Michael Shapiro asks Can You Trust Your Travel Guidebook? over at The Washington Post.

Two useful articles over at The Traveler's Notebook...

The 10 Steps to Becoming a Successful Travel Writer

10 Steps to Surviving Your First Press Trip

And Intelligent Travel offers suggestions on Picking the Right Guide.

Jaunted has an interview with Stephanie Oswald who launched travelgirl magazine a couple of years ago and is now hosting All-Girl Getaways, a travel TV show.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

TED Video: Amy Tan on Creativity...

Novelist Amy Tan talks about creativity...

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Friday, April 25, 2008

Weekly Top Blog Post for Writers...

Slim pickings this week. Or prehaps I just wasn't looking in the right places. Only two posts caught my eye...

1. Zen Power Writing: 15 Tips on How to Generate Ideas and Write with Ease

2. Every Writer Is A Copywriter

If you know of any posts that should be listed here, leave a comment and let us know...

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Europe A La Carte Live Discussion about Travel Blogging...

I'm seriously late with this.

Karen from Europe a La Carte has organized and is hosting a live blogging session on “What readers want from a travel blog” right now.

Head on over and check out.

Participation is encouraged and no special equipment required....

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Elizabeth L. Blair.

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 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. 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.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Travel Blog of the Week...Travel Betty.

How can you resist a travel blog with a tag line ‘Encouraging Fearless Independent Travel For Women'?

Travel Betty is written by Tracy Deluca, a freelance copywriter from San Francisco, who is, in her own words, ‘a woman in love and lust with travel’ And it shows.

I really like the 30 second vacation series where Travel Betty posts a 30 second video featuring off the wall topics like ‘making fortune cookies in Chinatown’ and ‘Santa Cruz Still Weird’.

And then there’s the Spa Betty Series….

Energizing and entertaining, the Travel Betty blog makes reading about travel fun


Note from Liz:

This is the last 'Travel Blog of the Week' for a while. There simply isn't enough time anymore to read and review all the wonderful travel blogs out in the blogosphere.

However, if anyone wants to write a 'travel blog of the week' review, I'm more than happy to let you post it here. Only catch - the blog you review cannot be your own.

Send reviews to kiwiwriter at xtra (dot) co (dot) nz with subject title 'travel blog review'.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Travel Writing Miscellanea...

A few interesting things that I've come across this week...

Oz Traveller has put together A Round-up of Reaction to Lonely Planet’s Rogue Author Thomas Kohnstamm, covering reaction from a variety of bloggers from World Hum to Perceptive Travel.

Want to submit a travel article to the New York Times? Then you should read this Q&A with Stuart Emmrich, travel editor.

Just what a travel writer needs...a Wi-Fi Umbrella. No joke. Japanese company Pileus has created an umbrella that "... has a large screen on the top surface, a built-in camera, a motion sensor, GPS, and a digital compass, and it provides two main functions; A Social Photo-sharing and A 3D Map Navigation."

You can buy one through Sharper Image.

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Saturday, April 19, 2008

Travel Writer Pico Iyer talks…

About ‘living for a week in LAX Airport’…

About the mobile village and reads from his book Global Soul…

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Guest Post Friday: Finding Your Niche by Shannon Hurst Lane..

Welcome to Guest Post Friday: Today travel writer Shannon Hurst Lane writes about Finding Your Niche. Shannon is a Traveling Mamas blogger and author of The Definitive Guide to Travel Writing.

Finding Your Niche by Shannon Hurst Lane

There are many types of travel writers out there. It is important to write about what you know. You can write about what you love to do, and if you do it often, you are already an expert. You just need to share your experience and knowledge with others.

The first step in deciding which genre you specialize is to find the kind you most enjoy. You can even become an expert on a specific area. The best place to start is your own backyard. That’s how I started. My initial articles were published in my local paper and were about weekend getaways within driving distance. Become an expert on your area and you will have set the foundation for your travel writing career.

To be successful in the travel writing industry, you need to find the place where you fit. Ask yourself the following questions and write your answer down on a sheet of paper.

Where do I travel on vacation? Do I like beaches or mountains? Domestic or international? Am I a cruise aficianado?

What activities do I like to do when I travel? Golf? Go hiking? Do I enjoy fishing? Museums? History? Adventure? Spas?

What is my age group?

Do I have children? Do they reside at home? Am I able to travel at the spur of the moment or do I need a few week’s or month’s notice?

Do I own a Recreational Vehicle(RV) or go camping often?

What is my income? Am I a luxury or budget traveler?

There are many travel writing categories or genres. The following are a few of the most popular:

Golf Getaways
Destination Weddings
Wine and Food (Epicurean)

So if you can find your niche, you'll be able to find your way in this crazy industry of travel writing.


Don't forget - if you have something to say about writing, you can send it through to Guest Post Friday.

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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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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Everything you wanted to know about Press trips…

Well, maybe not everything. But there’s a couple of interesting articles over at Inkthinker and Notes in the Margin that can fill you in on the how’s and why’s of Press Trips.

Written by Roy A. Barnes, a travel writer from Wyoming, they are definitely worth a read...

Guest Article — How Writers Can Score Press Trips, Part I: Landing A Press Trip

How Writers Can Score Press Trips, Part II: Things To Keep In Mind Before Attending

To press trip or not is a controversial issue amongst travel writers. When Sheila Scarborough from Family Travel and Perceptive Travel Blog wrote a guest post here last year, it brought quite a negative response from some writers on the Media Bistro bulletin board.

Personally, I think that there is a place for press trips and FAM trips and that it is up to each individual writer to look into the ethic and moral issues involved in taking such a trip. Traveling and experiencing places to write about is not cheap (especially when you live on the other side of the world). As long as you are honest, fair, and true in your writing, press trips should be an acceptable means of gathering information.

What do you think?

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Monday, April 14, 2008

5 Reasons Travel Writers Blog...

Curious to find out why writers who already have a paid market for their work would also spend hours creating and maintaining travel blogs, I decided to put the following questions - Why do you think travel writers blog? What made you start a travel blog? - to few travel writers.

From their answers, I determined travel writers blog because...

* Writing a travel blog allows freedom of expression and ideas not always encouraged in newspaper and magazine writing.

* A Travel blog provides a storage facility for travel notes.

* Writing a travel blog provides connection with your readers.

* Writing a travel blog is like creating a travel library.

* Writing a travel blog provides exposure and some financial rewards.

Read the full post Travel Writers - Why Do They Blog? to find out which travel writers I asked and what they had to say.

So why do you blog???


'Travel Blog of the Week' will be back next week.


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Sunday, April 13, 2008

Last Call for the Micro Travel Writing Workshop...

Don't forget about the Micro Travel Writing Workshop over at Nerd's Eye View.

Here's your chance to have your writing critiqued by a travel writer.

Deadline is April 14th so you better get writing. You can check out the participation guidelines here.

I'm more than happy to have my writing critiqued, so here's my entry...

The Jailhouse Accommodation in Christchurch, New Zealand.

A prime example of ‘Gothic Revival’ architecture, this 1876 building has a colourful history. Designed by Christchurch architect Benjamin W Mountfort, it was the original Addington Prison - a lock-up for local crime-lords and petty criminals. But not any longer. Addington Prison has been transformed into The Jailhouse Accommodation and the only people who enter it’s doors these days are tourists looking for somewhere cheap to lay their head.

The new owners have tried to maintain the authentic prison atmosphere. Four cells, including the solitary confinement cell, are still in their original condition, with prisoner’s art work decorating the walls. The rest of the rooms have been renovated and are more inviting. Offering comfortable beds (straight from the 2006 Melbourne Commonwealth Games) and a secure and safe environment, the Jailhouse Accommodation is becoming a favorite among travellers, especially those on limited budgets.

It might not be your first thought when looking at accommodation in Christchurch, but a night in this jail is not such a bad idea.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008

The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

This has absolutely nothing to do with travel writing and absolutely everything to do with living life and chasing your dreams...

I originally wrote about this over at Healthbolt. I am so in awe of Randy strength in the face of what amounts to a 'death sentence' that I want to encourage everyone I know to watch and learn from him.

So grab a coffee, get comfortable and click the play button...

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Write to Travel Gone Geeky: Alltop, Babelfish, Widgets, and Gizmos...

Have had a number of geek attacks this week. And as a result, I've been adding some widgets, badges, and gizmos to Write to Travel blog.

First up, has added Write to Travel to it's list of Travel Blogs - so welcome to anyone who has arrived here from there. I noticed that it's listed by the old name 'My Year of Getting Published'. Not sure how to change that so that stays. And someone pointed out to me that the blog has been listed twice (a slip of the click I'm sure).

In thanks, I've added the Alltop 'badge of honor' on it and you'll find your way to bloggers heaven. Set up in wonderful catergories such as travel, food, health, wine, etc, etc, there are web resources for you to simply get lost in for hours and days.

Next geek attack resulted in finding the Babelfish widget or gizmo (not sure which is what). I added this so that Write to Travel could claim to be truly international. You'll find the widget/gizmo on the sidebar just below the categories list. It translates the page into six other languages. So now you have the chance to see Write to Travel in eight other languages.

And then I discovered SpringWidgets and found I could create widgets that showcase my writing on Healthbolt and Perceptive Travel Blog. So of course I had to add them to the mix. You'll find them just below the Babelfish Translator on the sidebar.

Wonder what else I can add ???

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Weekly Top 5 Blog Posts for Writers...

1. Typical Blog Wages - How Much Money You Should Make Blogging

2. Freelance Writing Guide for New Freelancers

3. 6 Things to Do Before You Send Your Query Letter

4. How to Photograph Children During Your Travels

5. Why Your Guidebook is Wrong

Plus one:

Put Your Writing on a Diet

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Online Travel Writing Workshop...

Nerd's Eye View is running a “Micro Travel Writing Workshop” with writer Angela Nickerson. Angela is on a virtual book tour to publicize her new book A Journey into Michelangelo's Rome.

Here's the deal...

You write a 200 word (or less) post based on the following prompt.

Michelangelo was just one of the thousands of architects, artists and laborers who molded and shaped St. Peter’s Basilica over two centuries. Every building, grand or humble, has a story and is the product of human hands working together. Choose one of your photographs of a building — large, small, monumental, inconsequential — and in 200 words or less, tell the building’s story.

Don't forget to include in your post the photograph that you are writing about.

Then drop a link to your post over in the Micro Travel Writing Workshop comments section.

All posts will be critiqued by Angela and the entire workshop will be posted up on Nerd's Eye View.

Sounds like a good deal to me. Count me in (I'll just have to come up with an inspiring photo first).

This workshop is a one week deal...the deadline is April 14th. So get writing.

And don't forget about the 'Six Word Travel Article' challenge.

Angela, by the way, will be the subject of next week's 'Interview with a Travel Writer.'

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Lara Dunston.

Today we talk with Australian travel writer Lara Dunston who, with her husband and co-writer Terry Carter, have been on the road for the last two and a half years. And they have no plans at this stage to stop traveling. So far they have been to over 60 countries and have had their travel writing published in magazines and newspapers all over the globe, including National Geographic Traveler, Lifestyle+Travel, Get Lost, Paperplane, USA Today, and The Independent, as well as an array of in-flights and hotel magazines. Together they have also written, contributed to, and updated around 30 guidebooks for Lonely Planet, Dorling Kindersley, AA Guides, and Thomas Cook, and this year will add Footprints and Rough Guides to their ever-expanding list of publishers.

Lara also maintains the Cool Travel Guide Blog and with Terry also blogs at Grantourismo.

Hi Lara. Welcome to Write to Travel. Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts on travel writing.

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

When I was a teenager I dreamt of writing a sweeping melodramatic epic like Dr Zhivago or Anna Karenina (one side of the family is Russian!) but thought a career as a journalist was more practical. My main passion was film, however, so after a year of an arts degree I switched to a communications degree and majored in film and writing, so I ended up making films and wrote film criticism for Australia's most respected film publication, the now-defunct FilmNews.

While at uni, I had also written for the student newspapers, first at Sydney University, then UTS (University of Technology Sydney) - mainly film reviews, but also on arts, culture, comedy, book reviews – and that taught me a lot. My day jobs all involved writing in some form or another – I worked in PR/media relations in government, I was a publicist for a band, I did PR for a photographic gallery – and in all of those jobs I was writing. I wrote press releases, letters, articles, did interviews with photographers, and so on – all of those experiences were value in learning about language and how to create narratives.

My first feature film (and my last, I might add!), a low budget road movie, attracted a bit of attention and I was invited to teach film, so then I found myself trying to write educational yet entertaining lectures for all the different courses I taught. My film (Come By Chance) was two years in the making and it nearly killed me as we travelled all over New South Wales and Queensland in Australia making it, so after I nearly had a nervous breakdown, I found myself retreating to anything except film. I did a Masters degree, I wrote a teenage romance novel for HarperCollins, and after doing a short course in travel writing and photography with a friend, I got into travel writing.

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

My husband Terry, who I co-write with, was working as a publishing manager at Universal Press in Australia. They published travel guides, street directories, camping and caravanning books, travel and incentives magazines, and so on. Terry had actually started with them as a writer before moving into graphic design, book design and desktop publishing. I was freelancing then – teaching film, writing my teen novel, doing some PR etc – and they needed some bits and pieces of travel writing for their magazines, which you could call my first ‘break’. They then gave Terry and I the opportunity to write The Sydneyside Guide, which was probably one of the first compact guides in Australia then – that was before Lonely Planet’s ‘Best Of…’ series – it was a mini-guide to Sydney’s best sights, restaurants, bars, cafes, etc, and it’s still published as part of their funky little Compact Street Directory.

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

Aspiring travel writers need to focus on a few key areas.

Firstly, they need to know travel: they need to do a lot of it; they need to get to know a wide variety of destinations and develop specialization in one or two; they need to get experience in travelling by different means and on different budgets (for example, they need to have experienced both low-cost airlines and business class, to have stayed in youth hostels and five star luxury resorts, and so on, and to be able to appreciate why a traveller would choose one or the other); they need to develop their knowledge of geography, ethnography, anthropology, architecture, art, culture, cuisines, languages and so on.

Secondly, they need to learn the craft of travel writing; they need to studying everything there is out there; read widely; understanding different genres and audiences and markets; and develop not only their own style of writing but the ability to move between different styles.

And lastly, they need to get to know the business side of the travel industry and travel media and publishing in particular: how it works; the impact of advertising and marketing; how to trust your instinct and identify trends; the publishing process; the production process; how commissioning editors, editors, art directors, photo editors, designers, and cartographers work, and how to work with them; they need to learn how to pitch, and then begin to network and pitch ideas for stories or guidebooks.

Most of all they need to treat it like a profession, and if they’re operating as freelancers, treat it like a business.

Forget this idea of travel writing being such a dream job that they’re lucky to get a project that takes them to some wonderful place they never imagined going. Whatever job they get offered they need to sit down and create an itinerary and a schedule and figure out the daily/hourly fee and expenses and whether they’re going to make money out of it or not. They need to learn the value of their work and never work for anything less than what they’re worth. There are too many publishers out there and a wealth of opportunities - travel writers shouldn’t consider themselves ‘lucky’ to be working for a particular publisher, no matter what ‘name’ the publisher might have, and they shouldn’t let themselves be exploited.

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

I think traditional publishing still has a future, alongside web content and digital publishing, I just think some of these people who run some of these publishing companies are clueless when it comes to technology and have panicked and in the process given away far too much content than they should have thereby exploiting their authors and giving away the very thing that represents value for their company. Other publishers have been a lot more smart about it, giving away a certain amount of content, just enough to entice the reader to go and buy the book, or created innovative products, such as DK’s custom guides where you can create your own covers – they’re very cool.

So, unlike some travel writers, I don’t think traditional travel publishing is dead but in the future people will have a lot more choices as to how they get their travel information and use it. I also think there’ll be a return to and desire for quality travel writing written by writers who actually travel and who have solid industry knowledge and destination expertise, and the skills of discernment that an ordinary traveller who vacations a few times a year and contributes to Trip Advisor or writes up their journal on a blogging site just doesn’t have. We saw recently with the whole Max controversy at the Guardian, which attracted hundreds of comments from irate readers, that readers are fed up with reading content produced by other travellers and want a return to quality travel journalism.

There are a lot of publishers out there and some pay extremely well, others pay fairly and some very pay poorly. And they each work very differently. Take guidebooks for instance: some publishers will provide letters of recommendations to help you secure media rates (like corporate rates but for travel journalists) or set up contra arrangements so you can trade ads for services, a tour for example, thereby allowing you to make much more money than the fee they pay. One I can think of, but which I won’t name, insists its writers pay for everything and doesn’t allow them to accept media rates, yet by the same token doesn’t pay fees large enough to cover all their expenses and then some so that writers who play by the rules might not make any money on some books and those who don’t follow the rules (and get away with it) can make a packet.

What aspiring travel writers need to appreciate is that there are a lot of publishers out there and they should cast their net wide. Business advisors always recommend investors don’t put all their eggs in one basket – that’s my advice too – develop relationships with guidebook publishers, magazine and newspaper editors, PR professionals who often oversee the writing of corporate travel publications, companies that produce in-flight and hotel magazines. Write for an array of publications and you can make a good living if you’re good.

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

Paul Theroux is both one of the most evocative and perceptive of writers and one of the wittiest and it’s rare that you find writers who can do both of these things well – make you imagine and feel like you’re in a place as well as laugh at the people, culture and places and situations he himself gets in. A couple of books that really inspired me when I was younger were Katie Hickman’s A Trip to the Light Fantastic: Travels with a Mexican Circus, and Henry Shukman’s Sons of the Moon. Both books really took me to those places, to Mexico and the Andes respectively and showed me how you could develop innovative angles to hang universal stories off. Robert D Kaplan is another writer I love because he doesn’t separate the history, culture and politics from the place and its people – his Mediterranean Winter is a must-read if you want to be a travel writer. And then I love reading the old 18th and 19th century travel writers – a lot of them available for free on the Project Gutenburg site. Contemporary writers have a lot to learn from the old travellers – they really new how to write descriptively and evocatively about a place and capture a mood. They were just so adventurous and audacious too.

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

My partner and I don’t write about war zones, we haven’t been to Afghanistan and we don’t write about sub-Saharan Africa, although I’m not ruling any of that out for the future, so our challenges are few and trivial really. We seem to be most focused on: avoiding excess baggage fees and the weight of our luggage (because we’ve been on the road for over two years now so we’re very weighed down with research materials, clothes for different seaons, and lots of technology); making sure we have internet access in hotel rooms (I’ve found that the commissions I mostly get are the ones I respond to immediately – first in first served) and there’s nothing worse than missing a deadline and having to blame it on not having net access (it sounds like the dog ate my homework but sometimes there’s just nothing you can do); getting the kind of hire cars we want (why is it that even though you pick a car out on the website you never get the one you book?!); and coordinating travel arrangements (we’re writing outlines for three first edition guidebooks at the moment and planning itineraries for research trips and making plans for all three at the same time – it can get very tricky!)

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

I don’t have one favourite place. I like different places for different reasons and at different times of the year or when I’m in a particular frame of mind. In the Middle East I love Damascus, Aleppo, Beirut, Dubai and Abu Dhabi and I feel a real connection to all of those cities – Damascus and Aleppo are so atmospheric and full of life, they’re the quintessential 1001 Nights cities with labyrinthine alleys you can easily get lost in but they’re living breathing cities at the same time; poor Beirut despite its troubles is incredibly vibrant and the Beirutis are the region’s party animals; Dubai is this dynamic dazzling city that’s forever changing, both steeped in tradition (Bedouin) yet open and tolerant and forward-thinking, as is Abu Dhabi; both cities are worth getting to know – it’s their Arabian heritage and traditional culture that I really find appealing. In North Africa I love Essaouira and Alexandria, white cities on the sea. In Europe, San Sebastian, Madrid and Barcelona, are my favourites – like the Arabs the Spanish know how to live – I love their late night culture, and focus on food and socialising. But then I also love St Petersburg, Venice (off-season!), and Zurich – once again all cities on water. I find ‘second cities’ really appealing – for instance I prefer Lyon to Paris – it’s more Parisian in some ways! I’m very fond of Thailand generally – mainly for the gentleness of the people, the general serenity of the place (chaotic Bangkok aside) and the spicy complex cuisine, but ask me to name a favourite town or beach and I couldn’t. I find most of the beaches very disappointing, but that’s because I’m Australian and we have the best beaches in the world. I’m drawn to landscapes too – deserts are favourites, the Australian outback, the Arabian desert, the arid landscapes of Morocco and Syria – but then I’m also drawn to the Mediterranean, and because we’ve worked on so many books in the Med, it’s a landscape I’m very familiar and am fond of, the wildflowers, olive groves, Aleppan pines and eucalyptus trees, a landscape that’s very easy to write about.

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Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Now Blogging at Perceptive Travel Blog...

I recently picked a new writing gig. It's over at the Perceptive Travel blog. This blog is the brainchild of Tim Leffel to compliment his online Perceptive Travel Magazine.

Perceptive Travel Blog has around for over a year, featuring the writing of Sheila Scarborough (also of Family Travel), Antonia Malchik, and Steve Davey. Turns out that Steve has moved on and they needed another travel writer to take his place. And they choose me.

I'll be posting there every weekend about my travels and thoughts about travel and travel writing. Stop and check it out.

In fact, head on over now and read all about my recent road trip to the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island.

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Monday, April 07, 2008

Travel Blog of the Week...wandering woman writes from spain.

Some might not classify wandering woman writes from spain as a travel blog but as far as I'm concerned it is. The posts focus on Spanish culture, people, history, and everyday living. Written in a conversational manner, the 'wandering woman' makes you feel that you are part of life in Spain.

From A good day in Spain

"It's been a good day in Spain.

It all started bright and early at El Árbol, when an old woman asked if I'd help her reach the things she needed from the top shelves. I tend to be on the other side of that question, you understand. But, today, damn if I didn't reach every product. I was wearing my magic Camino de Santiago boots; I think they stretched me.


Later, as I politely looked for someone to whom I could quietly ask which of the 6 closed cash register lanes we should line up at, the same firey old woman gave me a lesson in living in Spain. She bellowed "¿QUIÉN VIENE A LA CAJA?" ("WHO'S COMING TO THE REGISTER?") without moving an inch. A cashier arrived in seconds."

Learn about Carlos Saura and fados

"!Carlos Saura has made a movie about fados! And every article I devour about it includes what may just be my favorite word in all the world, saudade, a word I fell in love with during a far-too-brief first visit here.

Wait! What do you mean, Carlos who? Get with me here, guiris! ¡Españoles, porfa, decidles quién es! Carlos Saura, as in Tango and Flamenco."

Find out what it's really like to walk the Camino de Santiago

"I was tired and bored. I was 10 or 20 kilometers outside León, more than eager to leave the asphalt I'd been walking all day far behind me. I didn't know I'd sprain my ankle for the second time later that afternoon and spend the next 3 days holed up in an albergue. I only knew I was alone, walking on asphalt, destined to stick with this highway for at least another 10 kilometers. I hadn't seen another soul all morning."

Beautiful photographs, entertaining stories, and a chance to glimpse real life in Spain make the wandering woman writes from spain blog a must read.

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

The Dictionary in the Internet Age...

Like words?

Then check out this entertaining talk by leading lexicographer Erin McKean about words and how the print dictionary is being transformed by the internet.

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Friday, April 04, 2008

Long Story Short: Six Word Travel Article...

"For sale: baby shoes, never worn."

Not all of us have the skills of Ernest Hemmingway to create a poignant story in six words.

But it can be done.

And it seems to be all the rage at the moment, with online magazines such as SMITH getting people to submit 'six word memoirs' which they turned into a real book entitled Not Quite What I Was Planning.

As travel writers, we are always trying to paint pictures with words.

So my challenge to you is how well can you paint the picture using only six words?

In other words, can you create a 'six word travel article'

Here's mine from my recent road trip to the West Coast of New Zealand...

'Ice glacier melting, no footprints left'.

What's your 'six word travel article'?

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Interview with a Travel Writer...Sean McLachlan.

Today we talk with travel writer Sean McLachlan whose articles have appeared in Yoga Journal, The World and I, Ancient Egypt Magazine, Global Journalist, and Reuters Wire Service.

Sean is the author of Byzantium: An Illustrated History, Moon Handbooks London, It Happened in Missouri, and co-authored update of Insider's Guide to Phoenix.

Currently living in Madrid, Sean also maintains two blogs - Grizzled Old Traveler and Midlist Writer

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

Actually no. As a kid I wanted to be either an astronaut or a spy, but I ended up working as an archaeologist for ten years. Excavating in Israel, Cyprus, and all over the United States sustained my love of travel. Eventually I realized I didn't want to go into academia and I looked around for what else to do. During the Nineties I got caught up in the zine movement, publishing my own travel/archaeology zine titled Ichthyoelectroanalgesia and writing about my travels for other zines. Eventually I decided, "Hey, why not try to do this for a living?"

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

Getting to co-update the third edition of The Insiders' Guide to Phoenix for Globe Pequot. I got that through contacts and sheer luck. One of the people who was supposed to do the update bailed at the last minute, and a friend of mine, who lived too far away to take the job herself, tipped me off. I had been living in Arizona for many years and had accrued some journalism clips, so I got hired! I paid back my friend by helping her out on her own guidebook a couple of years later.

Guidebooks are great for freelancers because they keep needing to be updated. I did another edition of the Phoenix guide before I moved away, and the experience on that book helped me land the contract to do Moon Handbooks London.

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

As always, start small and write what you know. Try to break into local markets like newspapers and magazines and do unusual takes on local sites. Smaller local and regional publications are usually hungry for decent copy. Of course, I didn't start this way, I started by being in the right place at the right time, but you can't really plan for that! Well, actually you can. Be visible, be social, and be professional.

If you want to break into local publications, you might want to look at an article I did for The Writer, later syndicated on Written Road - Ten Tips for Landing Great Features in Your Home Area.

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

Travel is a huge industry and that's not going to change anytime soon. What is already changing, however, is how people get their travel information. Travel blogs are very popular now, as are forums like Lonely Planet's Thorntree, and while ebooks and portable ereaders haven't made the major strides that their proponents predicted ten years ago, I can't think of a genre more appropriate for the medium than travel books. Imagine having a library of guidebooks and other works on the local area on an ereader. If someone isn't working on putting guidebooks on mobile phones yet, they should be! These changes are inevitable, so in the next few years writers who are tech savvy are going to be way ahead.

Of course, some things never change. Accurate information, clear and engaging writing, and a unique take on an area will always be important ingredients for successful travel writing.

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

As a teenager I had eclectic and rather odd reading tastes. One genre I loved was Victorian travelogues. Yes, they were always biased, occasionally clueless, and described a world that no longer exists, but their writers were true adventurers. My favorite was Sir Richard Francis Burton, who was remarkably open-minded for his time, but a real cad otherwise.

Oh, and I agree with Lola Akinmade about Kerouac. For sheer forward momentum and complex yet flowing prose, you can't beat him. Hi Lola, if you're ever in Madrid, I'll show you the sights. You'd love it here!

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

Never having enough time! There is not a single country in this world I don't want to go to, but there aren't enough years in a lifetime to see all I want to see, especially since I like to spend at least a month or two in each country or major city. I've been to more than twenty countries, but will I get to the more than hundred others before I shuffle off this mortal coil? Probably not. Of course, trying to go to them all would make a great book, but I'm not sure anyone would give me a big enough advance to cover the expenses. Any takers?

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

India. No question. I've spent more than a year there on three different trips, and briefly worked for the New Delhi bureau of Reuters covering Kumbh Mela, a giant Hindu pilgrimage, but I always hunger to go back. Give me a free ticket anywhere in the world and I'll pick India over all the places I want to go but have never been. The people are wonderful, the food is awesome, and the depths of culture and history are truly bottomless. I'm sure the same is true about China, but I've never been there. I'm actually a bit afraid to go to China because I know it will probably hypnotize me the same way India has, and I don't have the time for two cultures so vast and complex!

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

'Write to Travel' Nominated for Travvies Award…

Been reading any good travel blogs lately ?

Want them to have to recognition and attention they deserve ?

Then head on over to Upgrade: Travel Better and start putting in your nominations for the 2008 Travvies.

You can nominate up to three blogs in each of the eight categories on offer…

- Best Travel Blog
- Best Single-Author Travel Blog
- Best Group-Written Travel Blog
- Best Destination or Trip Narrative Blog
- Best Informative/Practical Travel Blog
- Best Photography on a Travel Blog
- Best Big Media Blog
- Best Podcast or Video Blog

I’ve just been over there to enter some of my nominations and was very pleasantly surprised to find that Write To Travel had been nominated for a Travvies in the Best Informative/Practical Travel blog category (thanks to Heather on Her Travels). I feel very honoured.

Nominations close 6 April, so get on over there and start nominating now. Can’t decide who to nominate - check out my ‘travel blog of the week’ series for some ideas. And of course, Write to Travel wouldn’t say no to some more nominations!!!

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