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Thursday, February 16, 2006

BEING A TRAVEL WRITER HAS SOME PERKS

The road to the City of Emerald is paved with yellow bricks."
Lyman Frank Baum 1856- 1919 "The Wonderful Wizard of Oz"

Being a travel writer definitely has some perks. If you read my travel blog at
http://travelthroughhistory.blogspot.com you will read some preliminary entries to the trip I am going on to Malaysia in just a couple of weeks. I won this trip as a door-prize at a gala last Spring held by the B.C. Association of Travel Writers, of which I am a member of. It's an all-expense paid trip to this tropical paradise, five star hotels and city tours: 3 days in Kuala Lumpur at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, then 3 days on the island of Langkawi at the Langkawi Lagoon Resort. We paid for an additional 4 days at this resort and then were given an extra day in K.L. on our return. The trip was for two except for the air fare. As my sister was unable to come with me, one of my long-time friends is coming along. Both of us are thrilled beyond words at this stroke of luck. Of course, it's a kind of 'assignment' for me as I will be expected to write some stories about Malaysia. I'm looking forward to that too!

Because I'm a member of the BCATW I get a few perks thrown in, such as invitations to media shows and receptions. Last weekend it was a special reception and art exhibit presented by Tourism New Zealand. We met at the Spirit Wrestler Gallery to view an amazing display of Maori and Northwest Coastal Native art. Later we went to a wine reception at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel (rather posh) and then a reception buffet- banquet which was attended by many First Nations people as well as the visiting Maori artists. It was fascinating watching the procession of elders and the greeting ceremonies. Then a delicious banquet was served of various foods, produce from New Zealand (except for the donated fresh salmon of our Pacific Coast) all prepared by the N.Z. chef. Quite an extravagent event. We even got to meet the N.Z. High Commissioner and his wife, lovely people, so gracious. I've always wanted to visit N.Z. so this just whet my appetite.

I've been busy teaching my night school classes lately and this week I also was invited to teach a travel writing class at one of the colleges where my friend teaches journalism. That was another bonus, as it pays really well and is an inspiring experience for me too. My writing classes are: Novel Writing, Prompting the Muse (writing from prompts) and Travel Writing. All of them are enjoyable but the Travel Writing is always the most fun. I love hearing about other people's amazing trips and showing them how to write about them in an interesting and entertaining way, whether for articles, blogs, journals, or creative non-fiction stories.

You don't make a lot of money freelancing these days, so I supplement my writer's 'income' by teaching classes, which is most enjoyable. And then of course, comes tax time and I submit a 'self employment' return and as I am a travel writer and must travel to do this, all the expenses I incur are deducted (as well as other writing related expenses). This generally pays for my next trip. And as the Malaysia trip is pretty well 'free' except for spending money, I am hoping that later this year I can afford to go to Chile. And that will not only be a travel writing trip but a sentimental journey to see the places my friend A. always talked about and spend time with his lovely ex who has invited me there.

So, in spite of not making a ton of money for my writing, there are these other 'perks' which make it all worthwhile. (I should add the dozens of pens and other doo-dads I collect whenever I go to a travel media show!) Not to speak of the interseting schmoozing that goes on. Now I'm aiming for more FAM trips in future. I figure I've earned it!

"Setting out on a voyage to Ithaca
you must pray that the way be long,
full of adventures and experiences."
Constantine Peter Cavafy 1863-1933 "Ithaca" 1911 l.11

* * *
TRAVEL READING
This probably doesn't fit in the TBR Challenge, but here goes:
TITLE: "Dinner with Persephone: Travels in Greece"
AUTHOR: Patricia Storace
YEAR PUBLISHED: 1996, Vintage Departures, Vintage Books (Div of Random House NY)
WHY DID YOU GET THIS BOOK? My travel companion was reading it on our trip to Greece last summer and loaned it to me.
DO YOU LIKE THE COVER? The cover has a picture of a succulent pomegrante, Aphrodite's fruit of love. Quite appealing.
DID YOU ENJOY THE BOOK? Yes. The book was not simply a travelogue but written with a great deal of scholarship. It provided a lot of information and anecdotes about Greek life, customs, superstitions, myths and history.
WAS THE AUTHOR NEW TO YOU AND WOULD YOU READ SOMETHING BY THIS AUTHOR AGAIN? Patricia Storace is the author of a book of poems and won a prize for poetry from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She has published essays but this is her first book of prose. I would read her future books.
ARE YOU KEEPING IT OR PASSING IT ON? I must return it to my friend.
ANYTHING ELSE? I enjoyed the book, in particular some of the anecdotes and stories about famous Greeks, in particular the tragic story of Penelope Benaki, daughter of the famous Benaki family whose home is now the Benaki Museum in Athens. She survived a harsh and unhappy life and became Greece's first children's writers, under the name of Penelope Delta.
Sadly, she killed herself with poison when the Germans invaded Greece in the '40's.
Some things I didn't like about the book were that is often went on too long with historical background and not too many exciting 'travel' experiences of the author which slowed the pace. In the final chapters about Ayvalik (Aivali) and Istanbul, Turkey, I disagreed with some of the commentary regarding the Turkish women. I've visited both Ayvalik (once) and Istanbul (several times since 1975) and also other west coast Turkish cities as recently as 2004, and did not frequently find women dressed in 'ugly long overcoasts' and veils. Mostly they were in modern western dress or the colourful pantaloons the village women wear. They are not so cloistered as the author seemed to portray them, though some of her facts are correct. I felt she was observing the more liberal Turkish Muslims from a critical and closed American P.O.V. and she was only there for a brief time so wasn't interacting much with the locals. As for her observations of Greek village life and customs, having lived in a tiny shepherd's village in the mountains of Evvia for part of the five years I spent living in Greece, I agreed with most of her comments. "Dinner with Persephone" is an interesting book, in particular if you have little knowledge of the country and people of Greece. My friend, who was making her first visit to Greece when she read it, found the book very informative.

9 comments:

Sam said...

The trip to Malaysia sounds wonderful - how fun! I know you'ver been talking about it for a while, and now it's soon!!

Gabriele C. said...

Travel writing is something I should learn. I tend to write essays that bore the reader. I never really got back to the Hansa Towns and Brick Cathedrals travel diary on my blog because no one commented. I suppose it was a mistake to start with historical background.

Smaller snippets seem to work better. And pics. *grin*

Wynn Bexton said...

When you write a travel story (whether article or blog or creative non-fiction) you have to draw the reader into the scene. Remember you are writing for the armchair traveler too. So writing with all the five senses is important. The history and other travel details have to be woven into the main story so as not to load it down with too many dates and details. You can see some sample of my travel writing on-line on links from my website at
www.dreamwater.org/ruthaki or sites like www.travel-wise.com and www.magiccarpetjournals.com
Look for stories about Greece or Morocco on those.

WestEnd Writer said...

Hey Wynn

Rock on! I didn't realize you'd won the trip. I'm afraid I'm one of these people who never win contests but apparently you are - would you like to share a lotto ticket??

m

Wynn Bexton said...

Yes, I actually WON the trip (I never win a thing, but, sure I'll share a lottery ticket. You never know!) It was a door prize at a gala put on by the BCATW and sponsored by Malaysian Tourism. Of course it's a kind of 'assignment' so I will certainly be expected to write some lovely stories about Malaysia in return. No problem there! Everything I've read and heard about that country including the Malaysian Airlines have been glowing reports.

Gabriele C. said...

Ah, I see where my problem lies. I don't have a 'main story' when I travel. I'm not used to share my feelings with anyone, and only little about my personal stories (people I meet etc.) so what remains is facts and historical background.

I should invent a character who does the traveling, but I'd still avoid to give it my feelings, lol.

Wynn Bexton said...

Hmmm, maybe I should do a blog on how I got to be a travel journalist. (I've been publishing travel articles since 1982) it all ties in with my historical fiction writing and the fact that to get a major work published I knew I'd have to have some publishing experience. Also, because I had a background in journalism. Anyway...more to come on this subject which is much on my mind these days as I set off 'on assignement' to Malaysia...

Sam said...

I get so frustrated reading travel writing - although I love it - but I just want to GO to those places described! I love to travel, and I don't pack very much, lol.
My hubby is in Argentina right now, and I'm so envious!

Wynn Bexton said...

Now that's the sign of a well-written travel story!