I recently sat down for an email interview with travel writer Wendy VanHatten. It was part of a blog book tour to celebrate the launch of her book, Travel Writing as a Freelancer.
Linda: You must love traveling. When/how did you first get the idea to turn your passion into an income stream?
Wendy: I started traveling at age 5 and haven’t stopped. When we were young, my parents “required” us to keep notebooks of our travels. When my corporate America job in health care was eliminated, a friend suggested I get back into writing. I looked around and decide to try travel writing. After taking some travel writing courses and workshops I knew it was a good fit. You need to work and work to make money at it and that’s ok. I have branched out into speaking, writing books and ebooks, teaching writing, editing other writers’ works, photography, and now an online travel business. It all fits together!
Linda: How does travel writing compare to other styles of writing?
Wendy: Travel writing is similar yet different. You still need to “sell” something, but some times you are only selling a “picture” in the reader’s mind. You write to entice readers to go to a place. You write to give armchair travelers a complete picture of that place. You write about a place because you love it. That doesn’t mean, however, you can write a “what I did on my vacation” story. People really don’t want to read that! That is the hard part of editing a new writer’s works.
Linda: What are one or two techniques that travel writers use to connect with their readers?
Wendy: I think being able to describe for your reader a vivid picture is one of the hardest, especially for new writers. You need to learn the technique of talking about the most beautiful beach you have ever seen in a way that your reader can SEE it. In other words, you need to learn to “show”…not just “tell” your reader about that beach. Another technique is to develop your own style. I use humor. Depending upon the publication, find a style or a niche that works for you and perfect it. Most of my articles have a piece of humor in them. It may be subtle, but it’s there.
Linda: I prefer to be an armchair traveler (I loved “Under the Tuscan Sun” and “Eat, Pray, Love”). Can you offer an opinion of why travel books are so compelling?
Wendy: I think everyone wants to travel…some in person, some as an armchair traveler. It’s the curiosity in us. I truly have never had anyone tell me they are trying to cut traveling out of their lives. We all want to know what the rest of the world looks like, how other people dress, what they ate for breakfast, or how hot it is in the desert. Usually travel books and articles have wonderful photos. I believe we all love seeing great photos of some far away place or some place we may have been. Isn’t it fun to see a castle in Germany or the top of a ski slope in Colorado and say “I’ve been there”?
I read through a review copy of Wendy’s book and a lot of the content is relevant no matter what kind of writing you’re doing. It includes some gems about success as a freelancer (self-discipline is key, I hear you there, Wendy!), writing query letters and telling a good story.
Plus, there is an incredibly useful explanation of the different kinds of “rights” that you may be asked to sell when you have an article published in a magazine.
As an armchair traveler, I found that I got the same vicarious thrill from reading about travel writing that I do from reading about travel. I wasn’t expecting that!
You can follow along with Wendy’s travels at http://travelsandescapes.blogspot.ca/.