Tag Archives: travel writing

Don’t Forget to Write (Creatively)

SignatureWhen I first started out as a freelance writer, my stories were mainly observational essays based upon things I’d witnessed or experienced in my travels. The story that opened the freelancing door for me was titled The Fox and the Foreigner, a humorous little anecdote about ordering a bowl of kitsune soba in an off-the-beaten-path noodle shop in Kyoto. Since then, my work has expanded to include interviews, film and book reviews, various forms of service journalism, and most recently, international recipes.

In a span of fifteen years, I’ve gone from: “The days were clear and polished, with enormous banks of snow-white cumulus clouds hovering on the horizon’s blue-purple hills.  At day’s end, in the long rays of the October sun, these cloud banks were transformed into glorious kaleidoscopes of color, soon to be subdued and soothed by the onset of twilight, sparked by the twinkle of the evening star.”

To: “In this age of global connectivity, telecommuting is a rapidly-growing option for businesses of all types and sizes. Some companies allow their staff to telecommute on certain days of the week, and work on-site the rest of the time. Others, especially web-based businesses, may operate with a staff comprised mainly of telecommuting employees. Although telecommuting has its pros and cons, it’s certainly worth considering whether it is a good idea for your business. So take a look at your staff and ask yourself how many of them could be working from home.”

And now: “Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté quickly. Add shrimp and sauté until just pink. Add wine and bring to a simmer. Add tomatoes, scallions and herbs and continue simmering for about 5 minutes, until tomatoes are just tender and sauce thickens. Season with salt and pepper. Add lemon juice and gently stir in feta cheese. Serve immediately. Serves 4.”

Regardless of its subject and content, freelance writing pays the bills; and for that, I am endlessly grateful. But lately, I find myself longing to return to my flowing narratives, creative imagery, engaging dialogue, and pithy conclusions. The only cure for that…is to tell a story. And I think I know just the story I want to tell.

CelesteHeiterFZBioCeleste Heiter is the author of Turn Your PC into a Lean Mean Freelancing Machine, the creator of the LoveBites Cookbook Series for Kindle Fire, and the author of Potty Pals , a potty-training book for children. She has also written ten books published by ThingsAsian Press; and spent eight years posting her recipes, food photographs, and film reviews on ChopstickCinema .

Visit her website, and her Amazon Author Page.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is It Really a Vacation If You Work?

My wife and I recently took our summer vacation — a 12-day trip that took us to Massachusetts, where we enjoyed the company of family and lobster; Las Vegas, where I can’t tell you most of what we did, because that stays in Vegas; and San Diego, where we chartered a sailboat and alternated between utter peace and quasi-mayhem in one of the world’s busiest harbors.

Now, here’s the confession: We both had our laptops and iPhones (mine equipped with a mobile hotspot) in tow, and I had my digital recorder and earbud microphone.

It’s a shame to ruin your time off with work, isn’t it? Doesn’t that just defeat the whole principle of getting away and decompressing?

Meh, not really. There have been times where we’ve taken completely unplugged vacations; this time, it wasn’t really an option. My wife is finishing up her master’s degree and had assignments due. I had received a plum writing assignment two days before we left from one of my longest-term and most lucrative clients. (I didn’t even tell her I was going on vacation.) I’d need to do the interviews, though not the actual writing, from the road. At the risk of sounding like a professional athlete, “It is what it is.”

And at the risk of sounding like a politician, make no mistake: We didn’t work the whole time. Indeed, we compartmentalized our work bouts to as short time frames as possible — and were 100% in vacation mode every other waking minute. And that, right there, is the key.

Yes, it required a mind-shift and significant self-discipline to leave a hot craps table to interview a CPA about tedious multistate tax issues and the rapid increase in IRS audits. In an ideal world, I surely wouldn’t check emails from a secluded little harbor where we were the only ones anchored.

But at the risk of sounding like a goon in a mafia movie: It’s just business.

Jake Poinier is the owner of Boomvang Creative Group, a Phoenix-based editorial services firm, and writes an advice column for freelancers at DearDrFreelance.com.

New Travel Writing Market: Overnight Buses Travel Magazine

by Catherine L. Tully

ONB_Issue_1_CoverToday I’d like to share a new travel writing market with you–it looks intriguing!

Overnight Buses Travel Magazine is a new magazine for the iPad currently accepting submissions for the second issue. The first issue is already in the App Store and can be downloaded for free so you can take a peek and see what the writing style is like.

The current pay rate is between $250 and $350 (U.S. Dollars), depending on quality and length. They are looking for longer travel stories, preferably between 1000 to 5000 words, and the main focus is personal essays and travel narratives with the occasional book excerpt thrown in. They don’t publish guides, recommendations or accept queries; authors should send final manuscripts only.

Guidelines can be found on the website at and submissions can be sent directly to (Tom) at submissions (at) overnightbuses.com.

A Writer’s Booklist

Today’s blog post comes courtesy of John Rember, author of MFA in a Box and a long-time professor of creative writing

Over my years of teaching writing, I’ve consistently recommended that MFA students read books that, to me, live at the heart of writing. Not all of my students have liked my recommendations at the time, but I’ve gotten a number of letters from former students saying, in effect, “You know that book I told you I hated?  I read it again, and it’s a great book.”

I have always written back, saying that some books are an acquired taste, being gracious and kind in victory, and asking them if they might now consider reading some other stuff I’ve written.

Here’s a brief annotated booklist that includes none of my books, not even MFA in a Box although you might as well order it as a companion volume to the others. That’s what it was designed to be.

  1. Denial of DeathDenial of Death, by Ernest Becker.  Written with “man” meaning “human,” and using masculine pronouns throughout, this book might appear unreservedly patriarchal and oppressive even if it wasn’t a discussion of the inevitability of death.  But for writers, it’s a useful exploration of the existential dilemma and it offers an essential justification for going through life as an artist.  It’s not easy reading, and it shouldn’t be read all at once, especially in seasons when the days are getting shorter.  Still, I read through it every three years or so, just to see how much I’ve changed, and to see if I can find yet one more passage that will help me be a better and happier writer.  Hint: the happy chapters are at the end.
  2. Borderliners, by Peter Hoeg.  This scary autobiographical novel exposes the truth that much of what we call education is violence by adults against children.  It also contains a profound discussion on the nature of time that will help you when you decide that you’re going to kick your addictions to backstory and flashbacks.
  3. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, by Robert Pirsig.  A book that looks at the troubled relationship between psyche of the individual and the consensus reality of culture. Given the weight of the ideas it discusses, it’s a surprisingly easy read. It’s also a clear demonstration of how ideas that are deadly dull on the pages of philosophy books can be deeply exciting and liberating in a novel.
  4. Oryx and Crake, by Margaret Atwood.  Like her predecessor, H.G. Wells, Atwood disguises the present as science fiction.  She gives us a picture of our world as a place where the pharmaceutical-industrial complex has changed things forever, and not for the better.  Read this book as an antidote, if your writing seems to be stuck back in the 1990s, when all we really had to worry about was pulling equity out of our appreciating houses and whether or not Hilary knew about Monica and whether or not she cared.
  5. Breakfast of ChampionsBreakfast of Champions, by Kurt Vonnegut.  Don’t discount the simplicity of Vonnegut’s prose.  It’s far from simple-minded.  Together with Slaughterhouse Five, BOC shows humanity to be a great and tragic phenomenon, one capable of the sublime, even as it acts on its own worst impulses.  Tragedy doesn’t have to be sad, Vonnegut demonstrates, at least not when it’s this funny.

These five books might not seem like a lot, but if you were to pack them in your bag and read them with a writer’s eyes during a two week beach vacation, you’d bring some serious writing skills back with your sunburn.  You might be staggering a bit under the weight of the ideas they contain, but the blank screen will never look the same to you.

Last call for Travel Stories — Other Opportunities to Publish Creative Nonfiction

by Mike O’Mary

DOT logo large copyDream of Things has issued a last call for submissions of stories for a travel anthology to be published later this year. Stories can be humorous or serious. The deadline is October 15, 2011.For details about the type of story we want, see the Dream of Things workshop page. For more details about the travel anthology, click HERE. You can also read excerpts from Saying Goodbye, our first anthology, by clicking HERE.

I started Dream of Things two years ago to publish anthologies of creative nonfiction that are “short and deep” — somewhere between the Chicken Soup series and Best American Essays. In addition to the travel anthology, Dream of Things is accepting submissions for anthologies on the following topics: Holiday Stories, Coffee Shop Stories, Stories of Forgiveness, Stories About Great Teachers, Advice and Making Waves/Role Models. For more information, click HERE.

Publishing Syndicate copyBe sure to check out publishing opportunities with Publishing Syndicate, too. The owners of Publishing Syndicate are real pros. Dahlynn and Ken McKowen have lengthy resumes when it comes to writing, ghostwriting, editing services and publishing. In fact, Dahlynn was coauthor of several Chicken Soup for the Soul books, and series creators Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen called her “one of their most trusted coauthors.” So Dahlynn knows anthologies. Dahlynn and Ken have launched a new series of personal nonfiction called “Not Your Mother’s Book,” and they are accepting submission on 25 topics! To learn more about the “Not Your Mother’s Book” series and other Publishing Syndicate projects, click HERE.

The Realities of Travel Writing

Omega Music Dayton Ohioby Joe Wallace

I just read a blog post on a blog that shall remain nameless that stated “travel writing is as exciting a career as it is glamorous”. Having recently finished driving cross-country as part of my Vinyl Road Rage blogging trip writing about indie record stores across the USA for Turntabling.net, I feel uniquely qualified to both agree with (slightly) and make fun of this sentiment.

Really, travel writing is NOT sparkly fun. I hate when people try to gloss over the hard work involved with this type of freelancing by saying how glamorous and exciting it can be. It’s every bit as glamorous as you think it is–as long as your idea of glamour is a 16 hour day.

On my cross-country blogging spree, in its third year now, I’d think nothing at all about touring, photographing, and writing notes on six record stores in a day. Only once did I have the pleasure of hitting those six shops in the same city. New York was cool that way, but I spent a lot of highway time getting to the rest. So many little country roads, so little time.

Then there’s the challenge of finding a place to work and post, keeping freelance clients happy while I juggled them and the travel writing. And I think I managed to eat twice a day. I’m sure of it. Snacking in the car doesn’t count as dining, in my book anyway. But I did manage to eat the free hotel breakfast and find decent places to eat somewhere near the breaking point when I just…couldn’t…drive…anymore.

But it WAS exciting, I’ll give you that. There is something about hitting the open road all by yourself, nothing but your self-imposed deadlines and client demands standing in your way. But GLAMOROUS? Well, maybe if you like the smell of your own dirty laundry as it festers away in the back seat.

And we haven’t even come to the part where you review the notes and photographs and try to remember everything that you did.

That, folks, usually comes at the end of the day after your body tells you it’s time to sleep, either behind the wheel or in the hotel bed. Sit there bleary-eyed with Jon Stewart on in the background and just try to recall which places you saw that day and the funny thing that one guy said about his craziest vintage vinyl collector customers. Was that Provo? Or Box Elder? Maybe it was back down near Woman Hollering Creek?

Honestly, the toughest part about doing that type of travel writing–as opposed to the kind where you jet off to foreign lands and such–is having to explain to the family and friends you might have scattered across the route why you can’t really spare the time for a visit. They already think we don’t have jobs, now they see us doing this glamorous and exciting travel stuff and they want us to play with the kiddies and eat barbecue, cuz we’re not THAT busy.

If only.

Joe Wallace writes about and sells rare and obscure vinyl records at Turntabling.net. He also writes for a variety of finance websites and covers military topics as a 13-year Air Force veteran. Contact him: jwallace (at) turntabling (dot) net.