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Write Around the World
by Barbara Bode

"Imagine yourself regaling friends with stories of your trip," advised the seasoned travel writer addressing a group of mostly novices assembled for a travel writing seminar. You’d begin with whatever would appeal to them most. One set of experiences exploring cultural developments would be just right for folks interested in history. Skydiving and wind surfing exploits, on the other hand, would intrigue the active adventurers among your acquaintances.

Successful travel writers focus on attention grabbing highlights rather than chronicling every detail. And they identify their specific audience. What appeals to backpackers turns off fans of luxury cruises. Spa seekers aren’t the target market of "Cheap Eats and Sleeps."

BEGIN WITH THE BASICS: AWAI’s Travel Writing Seminars

The travel writing workshops hosted by the American Writers & Artists Institute (AWAI) provide a solid grounding in the basics of writing for an audience of adventurers be they of the active or arm chair variety. As those of you who write for other audiences know, the proper approach and tone are critical.

Leading these workshops are experienced travel writers who know their craft. By following their basic rules, I sold three articles shortly after attending their four-day seminar in Paris this Spring. In fact, the editor of  In Touch, the slick membership magazine of an upscale women’s networking organization, was so pleased by the response to my pieces that she asked me to write a regular column. Two other publications bought other pieces I wrote and will be publishing them in the near future.

Recently I moved to Malta to explore that amazing country and others nearby around the Adriatic and the Aegean… and to write about my adventures. The moving process left me feeling I needed a tune-up. Luckily, another travel writing workshop was on the horizon. This one was held on board ship, a Royal Caribbean cruise liner headed down Mexico way… Los Angeles to Baja to Puerto Vallarta.

Again, thanks to the AWAI workshop, I sold another article upon my return. The workshop message is straightforward. Traveler benefits and the "big idea" -- a central point or theme -- are what a travel reading audience wants. The goal is to entice a reader to get up and go where you went. The allure is in the details.

SELLING WHAT YOU’VE SEEN

Read before you write. Incredibly, vast numbers of wanna be travel writers submit stories to editors without a clue about their publications. No surprise that the editor of  Cruise Traveller won’t leap at the chance to publish your tale of the Orient Express no matter how brilliantly written.

"Same old, same old" doesn’t sell. Your adventure or your take on it needs to be unique. Stories about the United States Capitol are hardly original but the international marketing of the Senate bean soup served there daily in the dining room might well appeal to food industry publications. A keen eye for unusual details is a major asset.

Part of what’s unique about an article is your opinion, why you were moved to visit and write about this subject. Bring in your own voice, not necessarily by writing in the first person – although you can do that judiciously – but by offering your personal point of view. Make sure that viewpoint is upbeat, however. While readers might be amused by a clever trashing of a place, publishers generally will not be.

In addition to reading and researching back issues of publications, check their writers guidelines. Follow their rules. Identify the section of a publication where your piece might make a good fit and send a query letter to the editor of that particular section pitching your idea.

Query letters are like an entrepreneur’s "elevator speech," succinct and to the point. You need to grab a prospective editor in the 5 seconds that it takes an elevator to reach the next floor. A query letter that presents an idea in vivid terms from a new perspective hooks an editor and wins an assignment.

MATCH IDEAS TO MAGAZINES

Experience teaches beginning writers to have few illusions about the ease of selling what they write. A systematic approach to marketing makes an enormous difference. There are several publications that provide publishing industry information, guidelines and tips. Review those on a continuing basis and keep a record of which publications might be interested in your various story ideas. Editors of those are the ones to whom your query letters should be sent.

"The truth is, travel writing is hard work," concluded the seminar speaker. "Ah but the places we’ll see," was the rosy glow in the thoughts of the participants.

NEXT AWAI TRAVEL WRITING WORKSHOP

AWAI's next Travel Writing Workshop will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada, in late January. If you love to travel and like to write, it’s no gamble… in fact, participation could make you a winner.

Details are on their website at http://tinyurl.com/z6va or call 1-800-926-6575.

© Copyright 2003, Barbara Bode

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