Category Archives: Interviews

Interview With…Travel Writer Joshua Berman

Joshua Berman, Travel Writer
Joshua Berman, Travel Writer

Today on Freelance-Zone we have a great interview to share with you. Travel writer Joshua Berman was kind enough to answer some questions about “the life” for us here.   – Catherine

1. What is your background in writing and travel?

I’ve always written and I’ve always traveled. After graduating from college (1995), I took a series of seasonal jobs that paid me to travel: trip leader, Forest Service, firefighter, international volunteer.

My breakthrough came when the Peace Corps assigned me to a beautiful tropical nation where tourism was in the process of being born. There were no guidebooks. So I wrote MOON NICARAGUA with Randy Wood. From there, I was asked to take over MOON BELIZE, then Randy and I wrote the first edition of LIVING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA (all Avalon Travel Publishing). Guidebooks have been my bread and butter ever since, while I’ve been able to spin out a few magazine and newspaper pieces as well.

2. What are the biggest mistakes writers make when they attempt to do a travel piece?

The biggest mistakes are NOT painting a picture or telling a story with some kind of narrative arc, even in relatively short service pieces. The quickest way to turn off a reader is to write a laundry list of the places you went. Travel writing should transport the reader to a new place and challenge them to think about new issues or meet new people, NOT simply explain what happened when the writer was there.

3. Can you share any savvy travel tips with readers?

To make sure you don’t tempt thieves, do not travel with a fancy, expensive-looking backpack with neon straps and a million pockets. Instead, go to your local thrift shop or army-navy store and buy a beat-up, top-loading, used pack—the uglier and more beat-up, the better.

4. In your opinion, what are the components of good travel writing?

Use as many sensory details as possible: smells, sounds, sights, tastes, and textures. Don’t get hung up on listing your itinerary. I don’t care where you went, that’s a background detail. I want to meet new people through your writing and imagine what it feels like to be there, talking to these people and learning their stories.

5. What are the necessities for a travel writer in terms of gear?

Short stack of Moleskine notebooks (or equivalent in sturdiness and size). A lightweight laptop which is either insured or not so expensive that you’ll be upset when it gets ruined by salt-water, rain, sand, ants, or beer. A still camera that shoots video and a digital voice recorder are also essential for the backpack journalist, as is some kind of file storage backup plan (online, mini-hard drive, flash cards).

Joshua Berman is an award-winning guidebook author, specializing in Nicaragua, Belize, and volunteering abroad. His travel articles have appeared in National Geographic Traveler, Budget Travel, The Boston Globe, Yoga Journal, Outside Traveler, 5280, Worldview, and Transitions Abroad. New editions of his two Nicaragua titles are hitting bookstores this September, 2010: MOON NICARAGUA and LIVING ABROAD IN NICARAGUA (both Avalon Travel Publishing). Joshua lives in Colorado with his family, where he is also a part-time Spanish teacher.

Interested in purchasing one of his travel books? Order an autographed copy here.

Interview With Stacey C. Tobin

Stacey C. Tobin
Stacey C. Tobin

Today we have an interview with writer Stacey C. Tobin to share with FZ readers….enjoy!      


1. Can you tell readers a bit about the road you took to become a writer?

I was always into science – biology specifically – but I ended up going to a liberal arts college in Atlanta, Oglethorpe University, where I was bitten with the writing bug. At the time, I wasn’t even aware that there was a way to combine science and writing, and since I loved research, I continued to make my way through a master’s degree and then a PhD in molecular physiology. When I was nearing graduation, I knew that academia wasn’t for me, and I started looking into ways to use my writing skills but still stay connected to the science world. My first job out of graduate school was as a staff medical writer at a continuing medical education agency, and I continued to do some side jobs as a freelance writer and editor for academic and clinical researchers.

2. What are you doing now in the field?

Right now, I have two careers. I work part time at a healthcare advertising and communications agency, mostly doing the larger medical education projects that are more content-heavy or technical. The other half of my day is dedicated to my freelance business, which provides writing and editing support services for researchers – helping them with abstracts, posters, manuscripts, and grant applications. Many of my clients are non-native English speakers, and they often know the science but struggle with how to communicate it.

3. What is the best advice you can give to other writers? Continue reading Interview With Stacey C. Tobin

Interview With…Tim Leffel, Travel Writer And Editor

Today we are lucky enough to have with us Tim Leffel, an experienced travel writer and editor. Tim has just put out a new book that may be of interest to Freelance-Zone readers who want to know more about travel writing, and he also offers some good advice here…enjoy!     – Catherine 
Tim Leffel
Tim Leffel

1. Can you tell readers about your writing journey and how you came to be involved with travel writing?

I worked at RCA Records for seven years in marketing and did a lot of writing there as a part of my job. When my now-wife and I started preparing to go backpacking around the world long-term, the obvious money-making paths for me seemed to be teaching English and travel writing. So I did both. The stories I got published were just a trickle at first, but over time I got more assignments and eventually I was able to dispatch stories and hotel reviews from five different continents. I worked part-time for many, many years before I made the leap to this being a full-time job. For me, things really started to take off when I put out a book that sold well and started a blog to go with it. 

2. You have a new book coming out soon…would you share a bit about that with Freelance-Zone readers? 

It’s hitting the virtual shelves now, so you can get it at the usual online shops, at, and soon at the Apple iBookstore. It’s called Travel Writing 2.0: Earning money from your travels in the new media landscape. This is the first guide I know of to address how to actually earn money at this in this time of transition between print and digital media. Besides my own hard-won advice, the book has lots of nuggets from 52 other travel writers and a group of editors and publishers.

3. In your opinion, what are the biggest mistakes writers make when it comes to travel writing?

Trying to publish broad stories about places instead of spending time finding unique angles that have not been covered before. Sure, you read plenty of ho-hum destination stories in magazines that follow a similar script, but what editors really want from new freelancers are unique angles, especially ones that can fit onto a page or less in the print world. The same concept applies to blogging as well: if what you’re writing is not noticeably different from everything else out there, why do readers need you? We’re already drowning in average prose from average writers.

The other big mistake is not having the long-term vision and persistence required to succeed at what is a very competitive field. It can take years to get established as a travel writer, whether on the old print path or a new digital one, so choose opportunities based on what it will do for you long-term, not how big that single check may or may not be.

4. Would you share a career highlight with us?

I can’t pick one because the highlights are two-fold. First, I’ve taken some mind-blowing, amazing trips that either paid for themselves from articles sold or were covered by someone else paying the expenses and to me that’s the real payoff of this job. Writing assignments have taken me to the Galapagos, Peru, Panama, Iceland, Botswana, Hungary, Nepal—and plenty more places. Winning a Grand Prize from the North American Travel Journalists Association was nice. Selling Italian rights to The World’s Cheapest Destinations was pretty cool. But probably the greatest highlight was being able to reach the point where I could pay the bills and support my family as a writer/editor/blogger. I’m proud that I’ve accomplished this mostly because of websites and blogs I’ve created myself from scratch, not from pleading with rotating gatekeepers over and over.

5. What is the best piece of writing advice you have ever received?

One of my high school English teachers told me not to use 20 words when 10 will say it just as well—or better. What’s made me a good writer, more than anything I think, is being good at brutal self-editing.

leffel_monkey200BIO: Tim Leffel is a full-time freelance writer and the author of several books, including the new Travel Writing 2.0 and The World’s Cheapest Destinations, now in its third edition. He is the editor of the narrative webzine Perceptive Travel, the CheapestDestinations Blog, and the Practical Travel Gear Blog.

Join Writing Organizations, Submit Often, and Never Give Up: An Interview with Judy Lockhart DiGregorio

by Erin Dalpini

Judy Lockhart DiGregorio has a knack for telling funny stories. When she realized that she could share her talent on paper, her career as an author began to take shape. Tenacity, creativity, and a special touch for lightness led her to numerous credits, awards, speaking gigs, and two books. Freelance-Zone caught up with the published author, humor columnist, actress, and speaker to find out more about her background and what led her to success as freelancer today.


Judy Lockhart DiGregorio
Judy Lockhart DiGregorio

Judy Lockhart DiGregorio: I started writing stories and light verse in elementary school. . I always loved working with words and won my first writing contest in the eighth grade when the El Paso Times named me first place winner in an essay contest where we wrote about our feelings about being an American (or something like that). They took a photo of me and put it in the paper, and I was famous for one day. I always did well at essay writing in school. In college I majored in English and did quite a bit of writing on literary topics that didn’t really interest me. In hindsight, I should have majored in journalism but didn’t think about it at the time.

FZ: What are you doing now in the field?

JD: I am a monthly humor columnist for a local publication. Continue reading Join Writing Organizations, Submit Often, and Never Give Up: An Interview with Judy Lockhart DiGregorio

5 Questions With Rachel Madorsky



Rachel Madorsky
Rachel Madorsky

Take a closer look at the lives of fellow writers in our new series “5 Questions With…”

Today Rachel Madorsky shares some insights with us:

1. Can you tell readers a bit about your background and how you became a writer?

The first half of my working life I taught engineering courses to senior-level students in the college. I have written a lot in my professional career. However, my first book was written under the influence of medical doctors and clients asking to share my experiences, observations, and tips. Now I am the author of several books, including “Symphony of Your Karma,”“Create Your Own Destiny,” and others as well.
2. What are you doing now in the field?

I began writing another book after I finished my new book “Maestro,” which will be in the print in 2011.  Also, I continue to write articles for several websites.

3. What is the best advice you can give to other writers?

Please, write, if you have the desire, and follow your own instincts in sharing your expertise, observations, and passion, despite all the obstacles in your life. Also, be involved in writing and critique groups. And, last and most important, try to find a good editor before you will submit your project to the publisher, and never be discouraged in times of hardship.
4. What does your workspace look like?

My workplace is one of the coolest rooms in my house where I spend time in front of the computer screen with my lovely dog next to my chair. However, new ideas come and are really written in my mind while I’m walking my dog in the park.
5. Can you share a special moment from your writing career?

A long time ago I decided to take a break from writing and, maybe, discontinue it. At that time I chose a book to read. There was nothing special about that book. However, this book encouraged me to prolong my writing. The book was about friendship between an agent and his friend, a future famous author. Years later I picked-up from the bookshelf in a library my own book. Each page had marks next to the important message in my book. It was an amazing moment in my life – I realized that I have to continue sharing my ideas and life experiences for people searching for answers. 

Bio: Rachel Madorsky, award-winning internationally published author, is one of those rarely gifted people with immense extrasensory abilities.

After completing her medical studies in Belarus, she worked as a children’s health care nurse. Ever on the quest to broaden her intellectual horizons, Rachel then went on to pursue her Master’s Degree in Electrical Engineering from Kiev State University of Technologies and Design in the Ukraine and shortly thereafter undertook Graduate Studies at Grodno Technological College in Belarus. For many years, she was responsible for the graduate student projects and led her students to create fresh and innovative award-winning inventions and ideas.

The turning point in Rachel’s life came when an associate of hers was diagnosed with a terminal illness. At that point, Rachel’s interest in this person’s fate inspired her to begin unleashing her natural healing, and she decided thereafter to devote her life to research and doing what she was truly called to do – help people heal and evolve and understand how they can direct their own destinies.

Urged by physicians and associates to share her experience, case histories, and research, she authored several books, including Symphony of Your Karma, Create Your Own Destiny, Karma of Your Destiny, Your Choice, and Energy and Health of Man. Rachel’s books offer profound insights into the power of natural and spiritual healing and are filled with inspiring stories of people who have benefitted by discovering these mysteries of life. Rachel’s next book “Maestro” continues to reveal secrets of the human life is coming out of the press in 2011.

More information on  

5 Questions With Jodie Jacobs

Today I’d like to introduce a new series we’ll be starting at From here on out we are going to be featuring various writers throughout the year. We’ll be asking them five questions about the writing life and sharing their insights here with you.

One of the questions is inspired by an article I read some time ago in Writer’s Digest–it was a piece on writers and what their desks looked like. I found it fascinating to look at the work space of other people in the field and see what they were doing….

So today we’ll be kicking off this series with writer Jodie Jacobs. Enjoy–and be sure to check back for more soon.          -Catherine

jodie 0011. Can you tell readers a bit about the road you took to become a writer?

My dad was in advertising which I liked because it combined art and writing – my two major interests. So I applied and, to my astonishment, was accepted by Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism. I went into its advertising sequence but I have heard that today the sequence is no longer an option. My mom wanted me to have an education degree so I added an education major. Because of that my first journalism job was as Education Editor for a chain of suburban papers. I never did end up in an advertising job.

2. What are you doing now in the field?

After years of covering hard news, city and school meetings and features on money, home and family, I started doing places to go and things to do for the Tribune. When I found out how much fun it was I turned to travel writing which is what I do now. Most of my writing is online. Because I also studied at the Art Institute of Chicago and other art schools, I’ve added an online art column to tell people about good exhibits to see.

3. What is the best advice you can give to other writers?

Don’t look at just traditional print journalism for work. Explore all the avenues open to writers. Network online and at gatherings. Join organizations that can help your career. Put your profile up on such sites as Linkedin, Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) and Media Bistro. In addition, look for professional groups in your field either writing in general or a specific area such as business, family or travel.  

4. What does your workspace look like?

I’m lucky I have had a dedicated space at home for an office for several years. I have two huge business size file cabinets plus a horizontal furniture piece that has two long file drawers. I also have a full four-piece business desk setup for my computers, camera equipment, desk top files, tapes, shredder and more stuff. That doesn’t mean I’m really organized and everything is neat. I write on scraps of paper tho I do have pads on the desk and I haven’t kept up with the filing.

my office 003

 5. Can you share a special moment from your writing career?

Again, I’m lucky. I’ve had several special moments. Probably the one I look back to with the most disbelief is my interview time at the White House during the Clinton Administration. I was doing a feature on Clinton’s secretary (gate keeper) for the Chicago Tribune because she was from the Chicago area. Our interviews took place in the White House near the Oval Office. I did pinch myself to see if I was dreaming as I walked up the path. Clinton’s secretary was a wonderful interview. She was a caring, honorable person.


Jodie Jacobs is a 25-year veteran of Chicago print media. She has covered everything from breaking news and business stories to senior and singles issues. Jodie has also written about education, home improvement, health, family, art, restaurants, museums, theater and places to go. Currently, she is covering art and travel, mostly for online sites such, Demand Studios, her own blog at travelsmartwithjodie and USA Today Travel Tips. She also does travel stories for the Chicago Tribune where she has written for every section since 1990 except sports (but did stories on the Chicago Bears and Chicago Bulls as features.) Jodie’s articles have also appeared in North Shore Magazine (was a Sun Times Publication), Crain’s Chicago Business, Footlights, Chicago Women/North Shore and LA Times. Before writing for the Chicago Tribune, she wrote for the News Sun and a suburban weekly chain. Jodie graduated from Northwestern University in Evanston, IL where she majored in journalism and education.  

She can be reached at   jjtravelsmart(at)gmail(dot)com