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Travel Writing from the British Perspective: Interview with Gilly Pickup

Filed in Blog by on February 25, 2013
Travel writer Gilly Pickup on the Celebrity Eclipse, the first cruise ship to have a lawn.

Travel writer Gilly Pickup on the Celebrity Eclipse, the first cruise ship to have a lawn.

Based in London, internationally published Gilly Pickup writes on cruising and destination travel. She also covers wellbeing, health, lifestyle, pets, general interest, food, wine, paranormal, and all things Scottish.

Gilly’s first book, The A-Z of Curious London commissioned and published by The History Press, is being released in the UK and overseas on July 1, 2013. Her second book, Haunted London, is due for release in December 2013.

Here is what Gilly had to say about the field of travel writing across the pond:

TWOL: What is your favorite thing about being a travel writer?

GP: Writing is my favourite thing – travelling comes second! I do appreciate though the chance to visit different countries and see and do things that I probably would never have done otherwise.

I am invited on numerous press trips every year. Last year these included invitations to Mauritius, Portugal, Shanghai, Colorado, Croatia, Greece and several throughout the UK.

Obviously, I can’t accept all of the invitations I receive because I would never be at home and also because it would be impossible to secure suitable commissions for all of them.

TWOL: What is one thing that others should know about the field of travel writing?

Speaking as a UK-based writer, I don’t know what the US situation is, it is becoming harder to obtain paid-for travel commissions, so writers need to look carefully at the commercial issues if they are to rely on the income.

Many staff writers are given trips as ‘perks’ of the job, so freelancers have to be ever more inventive and try to offer something special.

When a freelance writer gets commissioned to write a feature, the golden rules are:

A) Keep to the brief

B) Always file copy promptly. If there is a specific deadline, then never turn work in after that date. Personally, I always aim to file copy ahead of time.

C) Never moan about making amendments/changes or complain about aspects of the brief, even if you think you know better!

TWOL: What is the hardest thing about being a travel writer?

Coming up with original ideas to pitch to editors! Almost everywhere and everything has already been written about, so it’s all about finding new angles. Although many press trip invitations have a theme, for instance, archaeology, cookery or painting, or focus on new hotel or spa openings, a writer still has to be pretty slick to get out there with a ‘wow factor’ pitch.

Besides that, on group press trips, which most of them are, everyone is taken around together to see the same sights, same things, so in essence it means everyone could go home with practically identical notes. Travel writing is probably one of the hardest areas to get published in, because there are so many people with the (wrong) idea that it’s all about getting free holidays! It’s certainly one of the most misunderstood.

TWOL: What are your two favorite destinations?

It’s hard – impossible really – to narrow it down to just two so I’ll just say Scotland, it’s where I come from! I enjoy cruises too and do a lot of cruise writing for national newspapers. I have sailed with many different cruise lines. Cunard is one of my favourites but I also have a soft spot for ‘Hebridean Princess’. Oozing class, this small ship with a ‘country house’ interior mainly sails around the Scottish islands. Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth 11 chose this ship to sail round Scotland for her 80th birthday celebrations. She has good taste 🙂

TWOL: Anything else?

GP: I’ve travelled to around 60 plus countries, among others at the top of my ‘must see’ list are Dubai and Japan.

TWOL: Can you please share some of your work with us?

GP: Most of my work is for print media, not online, but here are a few articles.

Queen Mary 2: A Class Act
TravelBite.co.uk

Sights, Sounds, and Tastes of Bilbao
The Sunday Sun

24 Hours in Royal Edinburgh
Go World Travel Magazine

For more information, see www.gillypickup.co.uk