I tend to whip through life too quickly so when I’m asked to think something through, I love the challenge.
Recently my friend Lisa Lubin of LL World Tour invited me to take part in a ‘blog hop’: she asked three bloggers to talk about their writing, and each blogger would invite three others to do the same. I was one of them.
What I loved about this particular exercise was that it dealt with writing as an experience, an undertaking, rather than as a style. I had to think not only about what I wrote, but about how I wrote and why.
I’ve always written. At six I wrote lists (I still do) and at 12 it was songs. I wrote for a newspaper and for radio and then back to Europe (where I had grown up) as speechwriter for IATA, the International Air Transport Association. I wrote brochures and press releases for the World Wildlife Fund, annual reports for my own PR firm and newsletters and reports for the United Nations in Geneva.
Still saddled with itchy feet I finally “chucked it all” as Lisa Lubin would say and bought a one-way ticket to Africa. I went back to my first love, journalism, and was soon writing about development and humanitarian issues. I became a foreign correspondent, a travel writer, and now… I write here, on this page.
But let’s get to the blog hop, in which I answer Lisa’s questions, and ask three other bloggers to answer them too.
1) What am I working on/writing?
Plenty! I update this blog and my solo women’s travel site all the time – that’s a priority. I also have a few large-ish projects in the works. Many of you know about my solo travel book for baby boomers… That was my first book and I enjoyed the experience of writing something of that length. So I’ve started my second book, in which I document my one-year trip across Africa in the mid-1990s.
I’m also working on a few literary non-fiction pieces and, inspired by Frankie Thompson’s book (see below) I’m may try my hand at a bit of short fiction.
2) How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre?
That would be easy to answer if I actually had a ‘genre’ but I don’t. My website is written by the journalist in me, with facts, the occasional interview, and a newsy structure. My long-form pieces are similar – only longer, and a bit more sensual. Add to that my more personal essays, nostalgia pieces and travel and what would you have? I can’t call it journalism so I’ll compromise: I tell stories about people and places, based on my own travels.
I also ignore time when I write. Some of my stories are about experiences earlier in life, written in hindsight and from memory; others are the opposite, near-journals I keep daily as I travel. I also write from a women’s perspective and about themes dear to my heart – development, environment, humanitarian issues and human rights.
3) Why do I write what I do?
I’m an explorer and I’m curious. I ask questions, I try to understand places and the people who live in them, and I’m fascinated by different cultures. I like the idea of openness – the lack of borders, of limitations, the fluidity that could be the world if we weren’t so wrapped up in protecting our little patches.
By writing about places I try to stamp them with my own understanding. I’m a bit of an activist and I don’t like bullies, whether in the schoolyard or on the world scene, which is why you’ll find me occasionally writing about social justice themes.
I also enjoy playing with language, mostly because English is not my native tongue (it is my fourth language, in fact) and like many late learners I batter grammatical rules until they’re rubbery and fainting from the beating. To me, that’s actually fun.
Finally, I write what I write because I have no choice. I don’t set out to write about something specific. I may want to write about Morocco and imagine a road trip. Next thing you know I’m wandering off in my head to the Djemaa el Fna in Marrakesh, painting pictures to share with you.
4) How does my writing process work?
It depends where I am, but there are a few constants. I write in the morning or late at night. Anything in-between is travel time. For some reason I can’t seem to focus on words in daylight. My eyes keep darting to the window and I want to be out there. Twilight, on the other hand, is my creative friend.
I don’t often outline. I tend to start with one sentence, then another, then another, without really knowing where it will all lead. When I finally have a first draft, I set it aside for a day or two; like bread dough I let the story rise. Then I return to it with far more focus and the second draft looks nothing like the first.
I usually ask someone whose opinion I respect to look at a piece before I let it go. I value a strong second pair of eyes to catch mistakes, tell me when I jump around too much, or to punch holes in my story. My few writing mishaps can be blamed on ego, on my thinking a piece was good to go without another opinion. After pressing Publish or Send, I was usually proven wrong.
But enough of me.
First, I’d like to introduce you to my dear friend Lisa, who invited me to take part in this blog hop.
Lisa Lubin is an established travel/food writer, three-time Emmy® -award winning TV producer, and travel industry expert. After more than a decade in broadcast television she took a sabbatical of sorts which turned into nearly three years traveling and working her way around the world. She documents her (mis)adventures on her blog, LLworldtour.com, with photographs, videos, and articles from the road/train/rickshaw/camel. Her writing and photography has been published by American Way Magazine, the Wall Street Journal, the Chicago Tribune, West Jet’s UP, Smithsonian, the Malibu Times, Encyclopedia Britannica, Orbitz, Jetsetter.com, and Huffington Post. Lisa also owns LLmedia, a media and video consulting business. She has spoken about video and journalism at several conferences including the Travel Blog Exchange (TBEX), the World Travel Market in London, the New York Travel Fest, the Women in Travel Summit, and “Visit Russia” in Yaroslavl.
Lisa’s blog is a great read and I encourage you to read about her travels if you haven’t yet.
And now, I’d like you to meet the three writers I’ve asked to join me in this blog hop. Their styles are quite different from one another but their words resonate with me.
Frankie Thompson is a freelance writer, blogger and author from London, UK. Her blog As the Bird Flies documents both her travels and her journey becoming an independent author. As Frances M. Thompson she writes contemporary fiction inspired by the places she’s visited and her first collection Shy Feet: Short Stories Inspired by Travel was published in August 2013. Her second book, a collection of fiction about London, will be published in August 2014 and you can read a preview story, Night Bus, for free. Nomadic for two years, Frankie currently lives in Amsterdam where she rides her rusty bike every day and collects vintage dresses.
Jessie Voigts is a mom who loves sharing the world with her daughter. She has a PhD in International Education, and is constantly looking for ways to increase intercultural understanding, especially with kids (it’s never too young to start!). She has lived and worked in Japan and London, and traveled around the world. Jessie is the publisher of Wandering Educators, a travel library for people curious about the world. She directs the Youth Travel Blogging Mentorship Program and is passionate about Scotland and Ireland. She’s published six books about travel and intercultural learning, with more on the way. You can usually find her family by water – anywhere in the world.
Amanda Kendle is a travel blogger and social media consultant who has lived in Japan, Slovakia and Germany, but calls Australia home. She has travelled widely and counts crossing Russia on the Trans-Siberian, spending Christmas in Finnish Lapland and backpacking around Tunisia among her favorite travel experiences. She believes the world would be a better place if everyone travelled as much as they could and encourages this at her blog NotABallerina.com. She also teaches courses in travel writing, blogging and social media in the University of Western Australia’s community arm.
If you love travel writing, these writers will be a great addition to your reading list.