An Exclusive Authorlink Interview with Patricia Schultz
by Ellen Birkett Morris
Patricia Schultz, author of 1,000 Places to See Before You Die (Workman Publishing) and its companion volume focusing on the United States and Canada, is first and foremost a traveler.
She graduated from Georgetown University in 1975 with an undergraduate degree in Linguistics and lived abroad in Madrid, Florence, Nice and Paris for a number of years.
In 1985, she channeled her love of travel by working for various travel guide publishing houses including Birnbaum's, Frommer's, Berlitz and Access.
I understood early on that the competition was fierce and the pay was paltry.
I had an unabating interest and passion in and for travel, and I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could devise a way to make a career out of a lifestyle. I understood early on that the competition was fierce and the pay was paltry. I slowly built a portfolio of articles and pieces that paid me next to nothing, from publications that were small and unknown, but it was something I could show editors who wanted to see something that represented my travels, writing skills and conviction, said Schultz.
She studied various foreign languages, which were “a key tool in opening doors and helping me maximize travel experiences.
“. . . I like to think I had some inherent skill that I honed
over time –
As far as the writing goes, I like to think I had some inherent skill that I honed over time — and let us not discount the importance of practice and perseverance and the attention and patience of a good editor, said Schultz.
She pointed out that most freelance travel writers have a niche or specialty area a particular region, specific city or category of travel such as extreme travel, spa resorts or ski destinations. Early on Schultzs niche was all things Italian. Her evocative writing style and attention to detail drew the interest of Peter Workman, the editor of Workman Publishing.
Peter and I sat down one day in 1995 to discuss the idea of a life list or wish list of all the various magical places and things around the world – a wonderful compilation of things well known and not that would get people out of their comfort zones and off to explore the world's glories!
So was born the idea for 1,000 Places, which has expanded to two books as well as spin-off products such as calendars, a journal, a 13-episode reality TV program shown on Travel Channel, a board game, and a website currently under development.
Schultz works without an agent, but has a lawyer versed in literary law read over all her contracts.
Her goal was to create an intoxicating mixed bag of many different kinds of experiences that would appeal to a broad demographic.
"Everything interests me – the grand and humble, the high brow and low, the world class
Everything interests me – the grand and humble, the high brow and low, the world class and quirky. And I have traveled like both a millionaire, and an adventurer on a shoe-string budget — so I felt I was the perfect writer to do the job, said Schultz.
The result was 974 page tome that spans the globe from Abu Dhabi to Zimbabwe. The book was eight years in the making.
The challenge for me was to do the world justice, and although I was well traveled, I did not pretend to know the world as well as many. So the research was intense and endless, and I needed to research, travel, write and take other assignments at the same time to keep myself afloat, explained Schultz.
Freelance writers learn to be highly creative in this respect early on. My advance was slight, and the project enormous. . .
Freelance writers learn to be highly creative in this respect early on. My advance was slight, and the project enormous (read: expensive). It was exhaustive and exhausting, and the single most difficult thing I have ever undertaken.
With fierce competition for each travel writing assignment, Schultz had long ago learned to be creative.
I learned to take one small assignment about Paris, let's say, and spin it into 4 or 5 different takes on Paris ("Paris After Hours," "Underground Paris," "Paris in 48 Hours," you get the drift) in order to cover my expenses for the trip – don't think that magazines pay for your expenses! As if!, she noted.
I once read early on that to capture the sights, sounds and smells of a location, was to capture its very spirit of place.
Her descriptions are short but lively. The book is a must for arm chair traveler and globe trotter alike. Schultz took the advice of Editor-in-Chief Sally Kovalchick at Workman. She told me time and again Grab the reader in the first sentence. When your word count is so limited, you need to be concise and convince the reader in the first few words that this destination is something out of the ordinary. . . . Schultz continued, I once read early on that to capture the sights, sounds and smells of a location, was to capture its very spirit of place. There is nothing worse than to wade through long and descriptive prose without feeling like you have a handle on the place's soul or appeal. Readers get bored easily.
Schultz worked with a variety of editors before wrapping up the book with Margot Herrera, who also edited 1000 Places To See in the USA and Canada Before You Die.
It must be karma, but we work together extremely well, sharing a similar temperament and work ethic. I have enjoyed an enormous degree of carte-blanche freedom from the publisher, but Margot oversees the scope of the book, its organization and schedule while also dealing with the particulars and details and they were endless. This book project was enormous, and so I am amazed that she was forever calm and collected – a veritable dream to work with, said Schultz.
The books have been tremendously popular. There are over 2.5 million copies in print, not counting 24 translations. The companion title, 1000 Places to See USA & Canada Before You Die, was published by Workman in June 2007 with 500,000 copies in print currently.
Schultz is wrapping up a mammoth 30-city book tour and continues to pursue her first loves travel and travel writing.
I took a three-week break from an extended book tour to visit Bhutan in October, a place I have wanted to visit for the last 15 years. I finally made it. With all the obligations, speaking events, deadlines, and assignments, I don't want to ever stray too far from what I enjoy doing the most, and that is traveling, said Schultz.
Patricia Schultz resides in New York City when she is not traveling the globe. Her work has appeared in Conde Nast Traveler, O Magazine, Departures, Business Week and Harpers Bazaar.
About Regular Contributor
Ellen Birkett Morris
Ellen Birkett Morris is an award-winning writer whose work has appeared in national print and online publications including The New York Times. She also writes for a number of literary, regional, trade, and business publications, and she has contributed to six published nonfiction books in the trade press. Ellen is a regular contributor to Authorlink, assigned to interview various New York Times bestselling authors and first-time novelists.