Good travel writing begins with good reporting containing hard information, Mim Swartz told NFPW members attending the workshop on travel writing.
And, said Janna Graber, "you will not make much money in travel writing, but you will have a lot of fun."
Swartz, former travel writer for The Denver Post, Graber, owner of travel website www.goworldtravel.com, and Los Angeles Times travel editor Catharine Hamm gave attendees an in-depth look at the world of travel writing.
Three of the main points they made are that the Internet and current events change travel stories, the author should read all sorts of travel articles, and, as with any submissions, the writer must know each market.
Because of the Internet, no story is exclusive any more. Publications put stories immediately on the Internet, which reaches younger audiences who are not residents of the area and who prefer news and information, not narrative journalism.
The Internet provides a convergence of good quality digital photos, audio and video. The writer should produce two stories, one for print and another shorter story with more photos for the Web.
"You have to enhance the package you present," Hamm said. For example, for an online story on the Delta blues, the LA Times website added a music clip.
Current events such as Sept. 11, 2001, also change travel writing. After that date, most publications did not want international travel stories because people did not want to travel.
However, Graber said, her website focused on world travel as long as the destination was safe.
"We decided to publish exclusively on the Web to reach our market: travel junkies with money who will go to Botswana, Iceland, the Antarctica." The Dalai Lama will give the website an interview when he is in Denver, she added.
General stories often meet the trash can, panelists said. Stories need sharp angles, packed with consumer tips. Stories about travel with children, African American interests and other targeted topics will get a better response. Stories also need quotations from live people. The challenge is to get fresh information.
In answer to questions from the audience, the three panelists gave the following information:
"The economics of travel writing do not make sense," Hamm said. "Nobody pays your travel costs. However, you can also sell photos for the piece and rewrite it for re-sale. That's the only way to make it pay," she said.— Sally Harris, Virginia Press Women