Lavinia Spalding, overall inspiring writer and editor of Best Women’s Travel Writing Vol 8, sent an email out to her contributors. After I read it, I wanted to share. The seven tips by writer Laura Fraser summarized most of what I learned about travel writing in courses, conferences, and books.
Personally, I know these tips are tried and true. Laura taught a “Getting Published” writing class at the Writer’s Grotto that I took last year. It was out of that class that I refined “Coloring Within The Lines” about my time volunteering with Mother Teresa Charities, which was selected by the Bay Area Travel Writer’s as a part of the Stories From Around The Globe anthology. Laura’s help and editorial eye made sure that my story was focused and impactful.
I saw Lavinia’s email a few days ago and thought Laura’s travel writing tips would be very helpful to the travelers who want to tell stories from their Big Trips in a meaningful and publishable way. These tips are posted with permission.
Laura Fraser–a NYT-bestselling author, Italophile, contributor to Best Women’s Travel Writing, and writing teacher–is holding an intimate workshop in Italy this May 4-11 to hone your travel writing, personal essays, and memoirs, and have some amazing culinary adventures.
I asked Laura if she would share some of her travel writing tips, since she has reported from Rwanda, Samoa, Mexico, Italy, Chile, Australia, and other far-flung places, many of which she wrote about in her memoir All Over the Map.
Laura’s Travel Writing Tips
I always travel with a camera and take a lot of photos. Sometimes they get published, but more often they give me details I might forget, like a visual journal.
Speaking of journals, I always keep one. One of my biggest pleasures while traveling is to sit in a café and write in my journal.
Be curious and friendly. Some of my best stories have come from meeting locals and chatting with them. I’ve ended up on a 5-day camel safari in the Sinai, learning how to make the best risotto in Italy, and visiting Sardinia’s Alcatraz all by just asking locals about their lives.
Always remember that you’re looking for a story, not just describing a place. Stories usually come from the people you meet there, whether local shopkeepers, chefs, ethnomusicologists, historians, or scientists.
Remember that when you pitch and write a travel piece, it can’t just be a destination. The question is always, what about Patagonia? (How is the Torres del Paine National Park recovering after the fire). What about Florence? (What if we looked at it through the eyes of George Eliot and her book Romola). What about Cuba? (What’s it like to take a salsa dance tour?).
Pack light. I always take only a carry-on. I mainly pack black, unless it’s the tropics, with accessories (scarves!) to liven things up. Bring comfortable shoes and some little black flats for dress-up. If I’m traveling to Third World countries I usually take clothes I would otherwise give to the Goodwill and leave them there when I’m done with them, shedding them along the way.
Write your story as soon as you get home, while it’s fresh. You may not sell it then, but get it down.
Be mindful of your safety while you’re having adventures. Don’t drink too much with people you don’t know. Always know your way home and have some extra cash in your pocket to take care of yourself. Be careful where you walk alone.
Here’s some information about her Italian Writing Affair workshop May 4-11:
Come to Umbria for a writing workshop–and a taste of la bella vita–with NYT-bestselling author and Italophile Laura Fraser and culinary expert Kris Rudolph. Spend a week writing and exploring farm-to-table cuisine, staying in a 17th-century stone villa amidst rolling hills on an organic farm. Eat, explore, and write to your heart’s content. Excursions include dining at the best regional trattorias, exploring local villages and the farmers’ market, visiting a winery, going truffle hunting, and spending a day in the town of Assisi. The writing workshop is intimate (maximum ten), for all levels, with a focus on writing from experience (personal essays, memoir, travel, family history).
or e-mail Laura for more information or to register at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo credit: Photo by Walt Stoneburner on Flickr