Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Travel Writing

by Rochelle Jewel Shapiro 

December 2014

Watch for her insights every month on Authorlink

“…instead of a publication having a paid stable of writers, they do use freelancers, which open opportunities.”

It’s different than you think, Michael Luengo, tells us in his article The Trials and Triumphs of Travel Writing (ASJA Monthly, 2014.). You imagine that a writer is paid to go just where you’d love to travel, which may be anywhere. But since so many paying markets have dried up, you’d probably be writing free-lance. The cost of travel could very well be far more than you’d ever get paid if you sell the piece. On the flip side, instead of a publication having a paid stable of writers, they do use freelancers, which open opportunities.

Editor in chief of Traveler Magazine, National Geographic Travel, Keith Bellows, advises free lancers can break into these magazines by writing for smaller, themed sections of the magazines. But Monica Drake, The New York Times Travel Editor, says that they use more NYTcorrespondents and writers who have a few books behind them. She advises doing a brief trend story to break in.

The general advice, which is true for every magazine you submit to, is to read the magazine first—lots of issues before you submit. Each one has its own style. The editors can tell at a glance when you haven’t read it and won’t bother to tell you why you’ve been rejected.

“…don’t pitch on about places, pitch stories.”

Bellows stressed that he’s not so much interested in travel writers as writers with good travel stories. He likes quest stories where people go out in search of something. Do you have the key to a castle in Ireland that was supposedly owned by an ancestor? Do you come upon an ancient map implying that a treasure is buried somewhere that you go off in search of? So don’t pitch on about places, pitch stories. You need an arc, dialogue, and narrative. Sound familiar?

I went to Europe forty-five years ago using Arthur Frommer’s Europe on Five Dollars a Day, and only spent more when I bought gifts to bring back for family members. But the guides weren’t just about prices. It listed all the historical sites, with the most salient and charming stories about them. Pauline Frommer advises that you should read as much as you can about the area—politics, culinary and art history, pop culture…. Then you have to get published as much as you can before they would consider you.

Anne Lise Sorenson says that the key to her successful travel-writing career is diversity. If you go to her website, you’ll see how many different things she does—podcasts, teaching, editing, etc.

“If you can’t get to exotic places, nose around your own area for stories.”

If you can’t get to exotic places, nose around your own area for stories. Whenever I drive down Queens Boulevard in New York City, I see a little old house still standing amid all the shopping centers and other business, one elderly woman’s holdout against the boot heel of progress. That story, her story, the house’s story, who owns it now, would interest me. I live in Great Neck, Long Island, where the Marx brothers lived for awhile. They would get on the railroad and drive the conductors crazy with their pranks. Great Neck is also part of Fitzgerald’s East Egg, but those tracks have already been followed by many other writers. What in your own area excites your curiosity? Maybe it will for a magazine editor as well.

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro

Rochelle Jewel Shapiro’s first novel, Miriam The Medium (Simon & Schuster), was nominated for the Harold U. Ribelow Award. Her novel, Kaylee’s Ghost (Amazon and Nook), is an Indie Finalist. She’s published essays in NYT (Lives), and Newsweek and in many anthologies. Her poetry, short stories, and essays have appeared in The Coe Review, Compass Rose, The Griffin, Inkwell Magazine, The Iowa Review, Los Angeles Review, The MacGuffin, Memoir And, Moment, Negative Capability, Pennsylvania English, The Carolina Review, and more. She won the Brandon Memorial Literary Award from Negative Capability. Shapiro is a professional psychic who currently teaches writing at UCLA Extension.