I just got back from a press lunch hosted by the France Tourism office. My brain is still whirling on a sugar high from the yummy crème brûlée and other culinary delights they served while regaling us with stories of Normandy, Paris and far-off places like the French island of Martinique.
Press luncheons are always a highlight for me. Many destinations plan an annual national press tour where they do a race across the country, meeting with the country’s top travel writers. Fortunately, I live in Denver, which is known to have a strong contingent of travel writers. Many destinations plan a stop here on their national press tours, and I’m invited.
Press lunches are extremely helpful for the travel writer, as they provide new ideas and story angles. They also help to build relationships with the PR staff at each destination, something that is important to a travel writer’s success.
And for me, press luncheons are a chance to spend time with my colleagues — other travel writers.
If you’ve ever spent time with a group of travel writers, you know that they are storytellers at heart. We take turns sharing story after story of our travels. It’s not boring because we all share the same love. We can spend hours entertaining each other. Today I heard stories of travel in Africa, the woes of air travel in Italy, and of course, of amazing travels in France.
As I was chatting with several other writers, the topic turned to our recent work. When I mentioned that I teach travel writing workshops, my colleagues were encouraging. They liked the idea of helping new writers get into the genre, as well as helping established travel writers update their skills with classes on digital publishing and social media.
We chatted about how travel writing has changed, and about the new opportunities that online publishing presents. Then one of my colleagues said something that I completely agree with: “Please tell new travel writers that those ‘Get Paid to Travel’ ads are misleading. You can’t just decide to become a travel writer and expect that you will get paid to travel and write about it the next day.”
This is very true. Like every profession, you have to put in your dues and grow through experience. This was evident when I asked our group of writers how they had gotten into the business. My friend, Joy, told of her early travel writing efforts, when she sent out query after query, only to be rejected. But eventually, her queries got better, and she got a few article clips under her belt. Before she knew it, she was going on press trips and writing about travel.
Other writers told of moving from one form of writing to another, struggling to break into travel writing, but finally understanding the quirks of this genre. Others started their own blog, and gradually built up enough audience to start making a splash.
The point is that we all worked hard to get where we are, but that hard work paid off. Here we were, enjoying a yummy lunch with the French, already dreaming of the stories we’d write.
It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re learning something new, but don’t give up. Your hard work will pay off too.
Travel Writing and Photography Workshop in Santa Fe
Dec 11-14, 2014
11-Day Travel Writing Workshop & Tour in Vietnam
Feb 6 -16, 2015