Posts Tagged ‘travel writing’

On Creating a Goal, and Other Tips for Travel Writers

 

Hiking in the Cotswolds (Photo ©2016 Allyson Latta)

Hiking in the Cotswolds (Photo ©2016 Allyson Latta)

 

In “10 Tips for Writing Travel Articles,” Dan Linstead, travel editor of Wanderlust travel magazine, offers some of the best advice I’ve seen. Many of my creative writing students want to write travel memoirs but have trouble finding the “story” in their trip, or identifying and pursuing a goal that the reader will want to see them achieve. Here’s Linstead on creating a goal:

“Some trips have a physical objective (reaching the top of Kilimanjaro, crossing Costa Rica, seeing a tiger) that gives your article direction and purpose. The reader (hopefully) sticks with you because they want to know if you’ll achieve your goal.

“But many trips don’t have an obvious goal; they are more about discovering a place, unpicking its history or meeting its people. In this case, create a personal goal to give your reader a sense of where you’re taking them. Sentences like ‘I wanted to discover…’ or ‘I was keen to understand…’ give readers an idea of what’s to come, instead of you simply plunging them into the unknown.”

 

 

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Wednesday, January 11th, 2017

“Be Creative Yet Real”: The Malahat Review 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize

 

 

Polish up your best creative nonfiction story!

The Malahat Review, one of Canada’s premier literary magazines, runs an annual creative nonfiction contest to honour former editor Constance Rooke (1942−2008). The competition runs until August 1, 2015, and accepts submissions from Canada, the United States, and overseas.

The prize of CDN$1000 goes to one winner, who will also be published and interviewed by The Malahat Review.

The Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize is awarded to “the best work submitted to the magazine’s annual contest for a genre that embraces, but is not limited to, the personal essay, memoir, narrative nonfiction, social commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, and biography, all enhanced by such elements as description, dramatic scenes, dialogue, and characterization.”

For further contest details, click 2015 Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Prize.

Read about the 2014 winner, Rebecca Foust of Kentfield, California, here.

Wednesday, May 13th, 2015

Travelling to Write: Reflections aboard a Cargo Ship, an essay by Sandra Shaw Homer

 

 

In the roomy bottom drawer of my desk are three generations of travel journals, my grandmother’s, my mother’s, and mine.

My grandmother’s are strictly reportorial: “Spent entire day in my room with diarrhea. Missed tour of Santa Maria Novella.” My mother’s style is livelier and more descriptive: “Went to Les Halles at 3 AM and had some onion soup, along with a couple of glasses of brandy, and then irresistibly bought an entire crate of the most beautiful peaches.”

For years my mother kept the ship’s logs as she and my father knocked around in small yachts. These make pretty dry reading — position, wind, currents — but every once a while something interesting happens, the anchor dragging in the middle of the night, the dinghy painter separating mysteriously from its cleat, and these call forth my mother’s seemingly endless talent for limericks, small bright “literary” moments of sheer entertainment.

Banana boat off Honduras (photo: Sandra Shaw Homer)

Banana boat off Honduras (photo: Sandra Shaw Homer)

My own journal style has tended to follow my mother’s style and I have found that describing things adds immeasurably to the pleasure of travel. I never wrote specifically for entertainment, however, until I took a forty-nine-day freighter voyage around the South Pacific.

“But what are you going to do all day?” my friends asked.

“Write about it, of course. You want to be on the mailing list?”

And as I sailed along I set about writing my first full-length travel manuscript, Letters from the Pacific: Forty-Nine Days on a Cargo Ship.

The original idea had been simply to describe what was happening and send it back to friends and family in installments whenever I got to an Internet café in port. But very early in the voyage it became clear that I was taking this trip for a lot of reasons that had nothing to do with adventure, and I started working on a parallel journal, my feelings opening up in the presence of all that wide, wild, empty ocean.

I began to discover the power of memoir — and the fact that travel, removing yourself bodily from your daily life for extended periods of time, offers a wonderful opportunity for reflection and truth-telling.

It also offers the perfect chance to practise one’s writing.

Description:

Cruising along the north coast of Honduras at 257˚, west by south, at 11.5 knots, winds so light that the sea looks wrinkled like the skin of a pachyderm. A torpid haze hangs over us, deadening the light, turning the nearby Bay Islands into amorphous humps rising out of oblivion.

Characterization:

The Captain’s Dinner Diatribe tonight wound up with, “Media, politics, all just a circus.” He took a forkful of salad and then looked at us both intently over the rims of his glasses. “Like the Romans — give them bread, give them circus. Keep the people happy.”

“But, Captain, you’re so cynical!” I protested.

“And the world is not cynic? What about Iraq and the so-called weapons of mass destruction? Three days after invasion they are saying, no weapons of mass destruction. That is not cynic?”

I countered, “The western powers were supporting Saddam Hussein for years. I would call that invasion hypocritical.”

“And what means hypocrite?” Rodolfo and I were obviously expected to wait for the answer. “Hypocrite, Greek, it means actor.” And he lifts his hands from the table, palms up, in that international gesture, What more to say?

Humour:

The morning after my first night in the room, I reported to the Signora the foul emanations of sewer gases from the bathroom. Unable to sleep, I had sniffed around until I identified the shower drain, no doubt squeezed into the old building without a trap. I threw a towel over it and went back to bed. The Signora told me that “these smells always occur in the bad weather,” and then she suggested that next time I use a wet towel. I recognized in her insouciance about the plumbing something wonderfully familiar, and it felt just like home.

Reflection:

It’s incredible to me to be passing Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia in my transit to Malta, these places having been nothing more for me than bad news in the daily paper. Now the shadow of the coast, sometimes visible, sometimes not, haunts me, because I know I’ll never go there and its mysteries will remain forever locked in the realms of fantasy and horror. Incredible also are the stars; we are somewhere around the thirty-ninth parallel, not that far south of where I grew up and lived half of my adult life. Could it be that this is the same nighttime sky?

At the Bow of the HS Schubert, North AtlanticTravelling is a little like losing your identity; everything familiar that defines who you are is gone and you open up more fully to your surroundings, emptying yourself of the quotidian so as to fill yourself with the new and strange. In such open-hearted states experience becomes more intense, and this lends great power to the pen. Somewhere I read a quotation that I wish I could ascribe: “Great stories happen to the people who can tell them.”

Someone asked me recently where I ever acquired the dream of freighter travel, and I couldn’t pinpoint it. I love the ocean, certainly — many happy times spent on small boats, and the romantic idea that must be hidden away in some nook in our culture, of climbing on board a freighter and writing a book, destinations be damned. And I had always loved tales of ships and the sea. If you have read any of that rich literature (Conrad, Melville, Dana), you know that there’s plenty to describe out there in the middle of nowhere:  people, conversations, subtleties of relationships in close quarters, movements of the ship, weather, and the ever-changing sea and sky.

One freighter voyage was not enough, as it turned out, and my latest voyage took me to Europe. While the first had not been at all about destinations (more like jumping off a cliff), the second one was; there were a few people I wanted to see and things I felt I had to do before a looming major surgery that might have made any future such trip impossible. Facing my increasing physical disability made this trip a great deal more poignant, and I determined that it would be an active search for the joie de vivre.

So this time I was writing with a special purpose, and that was to focus on all the things that gave me joy: the vivid colours of a fishing boat in Malta, the first taste of a seafood ravioli on the Italian coast, the silky perfection of a Michelangelo sculpture, sharing a day in a remote Alpine village with the family of a dear friend, holding my sister’s hand in Paris as we both felt the tones of an 18th-century cello pierce our hearts … There was all this and so much more, and I realized that writing about it helped me to find what I was looking for.

♦     ♦     ♦

The daughter and granddaughter of unsung travellers and sailors, SANDRA SHAW HOMER has been writing travel journals all her life, but only recently aboard cargo ships. Her Letters from the Pacific: 49 Days on a Cargo Ship is now a Kindle Book. For more than 20 years she has made her home in Costa Rica, where she has taught languages and worked as an interpreter/translator and environmental activist. Between 1997 and 2000 she wrote a regular column, “Local Color,” for the English-language weekly The Tico Times. She became a Costa Rican citizen in 2002.

Wednesday, December 4th, 2013

Sailing the “Spice Necklace”: interview with Caribbean travel and food writer Ann Vanderhoof

 

From Ann Vanderhoof’s An Embarrassment of Mangoes:

“ʻWould you like some mangoes?’ a woman’s voice sings out from across the road, as we stand and admire a tree that’s positively dripping ripe fruit.

Steve and I are in the middle of a game we play whenever we go for a walk lately: Let’s pretend we can buy a piece of property in Grenada; what would we choose? We have fallen in love with this island at 12 degrees north of the equator since arriving here a few weeks ago….

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Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012

Writing on Tico Time: Memories of a Costa Rica Retreat

by Allyson Latta

Sunset at Playa Herradura

I’m sitting at Juanita’s, a rustic beach-front restaurant, sipping a foamy piña colada as the departing sun drifts shades of pink over the Pacific. We arrived early to watch the sunset and for just one drink, and it was quiet then, but with the Latin-rhythmed Costa Rican music pumping from the speakers and the aroma of garlic-sizzled sea bass wafting out to the street, other patrons have been enticed and the place is filling up. Several tables draped in bold orange clothes are pushed together for our group, and looking down the line at the smiling faces of exuberantly chatting writers, I think, not for the first time, how remarkable it is that we’ve found our way to this place.

Many of us met only a week ago. And when these women and men first stepped down from the airport shuttle in front of Namaste Gardens — a small yoga retreat in Playa Herradura on Costa Rica’s Central Pacific coast — they were all slightly rumpled and sheened, visibly tired from travel, unsure of what to expect, and a tad shy with me and one another. One whispered to me as I showed her to her room, “I don’t want to be here,” which startled me, until I realized what she meant. She was worried about fitting in, about whether she belonged here with “real” writers.

But as a writing instructor of mine once said, and I took this to heart, “If you are writing, you’re a writer.” And everyone who’d come to Namaste Gardens Writing & Yoga Retreat was here to write. They were also here to experience a bit of Costa Rica: the rich sunsets, lively music, beaches and cuisine.

Oh yes, and “Tico time,” an extremely relaxed view of clocks and schedules subscribed to by Ticos (informal for Costa Ricans) that, depending on the circumstances, can delight travellers or drive them crazy. Trust me: delighting in it is the best way to go.

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Tuesday, April 10th, 2012

“Self” Matters: Thoughts on Immersion Writing

Guest post by Robin Hemley

“Immersion writing engages the writer in the here and now in a journalistic sense, shaping and creating a story happening in the present while unabashedly lugging along all that baggage that makes up the writer’s personality: his or her memories, culture, and opinions.” — from A Field Guide for Immersion Writing: Memoir, Journalism, and Travel

I’ve published several different types of nonfiction over my career: travel writing, investigative journalism, and a memoir about the life of my sister Nola, a diagnosed schizophrenic. But in 2006, I had the idea to write a more active kind of memoir, with a storyline that hinged not only on the past but also on the present.

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Saturday, March 24th, 2012