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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. Youd 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
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 arent the target market of "Cheap Eats and Sleeps."
BEGIN WITH THE BASICS: AWAIs Travel Writing
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 womens 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
Recently I moved to Malta to explore that
amazing country and others nearby around the Adriatic and the Aegean
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 YOUVE 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
wont leap at the chance to publish your tale of the Orient Express no matter
how brilliantly written.
"Same old, same old" doesnt 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 whats 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
Query letters are like an entrepreneurs
"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 well 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,
its 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