An important lesson in travel writing: just go for it
I’ve had a little quote by George Eliot sticky-noted to my computer for the past couple of years that says, “It’s never too late to be what you might have been.” As I close in on my last years of teaching, a career I’ve loved, I feel compelled to embrace “what I might have been”, which is a writer, and I’m excited by the prospect. I love travel, I love writing, and never had I considered I could possibly combine these two passions until the opportunity to take the 2014 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop sort of fell into my lap. Not to be over-dramatic, but that little three-day trip to San Diego changed the course of my life. I’ve always considered myself a writer. And as an elementary school teacher, I’ve taught children to write for the past 25 years. For several years now, writing for me had started to evolve from a pleasant dalliance (a piece published in a literary magazine here and there, a blog written during a teaching stint in England), to an intentional goal — starting with this workshop. And from the first moments of the workshop, beginning with Lori Allen’s and Jennifer Stevens’ enthusiastic introductions, I knew my writing was going to have purpose and direction like never before. I would become a freelance writer. The three days were absolutely crammed with essential information and eye-openers. What first struck me about the workshop was how incredibly organized it was. Every session in the extensive syllabus click-click-clicked. The second thing that struck me was how rich each and every session was. I couldn’t help but think, were these people nuts?! These were diverse writers, editors, publishers, photographers giving away their trade secrets! They were friendly, knowledgeable, accessible professionals who didn’t hold back. It was a lot to take in, but I absorbed every single bit of it with relish…and I had the feeling that everyone else in that audience did as well. A spirit of collaboration and camaraderie permeated the workshop. The recurring mantra was YOU CAN DO THIS, and there are a plethora of avenues you can take to get to the place where you ARE doing this. When I got back to Colorado, I started “seeing stories” everywhere. I interviewed the proprietors of an artisan shop in a small mountain mining town nearby where they manufacture handmade brooms using antique equipment and age-old methods. I wrote up a story. I pitched it to several publications and the editor of one of them — a beautiful glossy regional magazine — emailed me and asked if he could call me about it. We talked. He gave me some advice for reworking it. And a few weeks later, he emailed to say that they would like to publish my story, and that it was slated to run in their September/October issue. Just like that. I was stunned and wicked excited! I also learned an important lesson in travel writing: just go for it! In March I am going to England, a very special place to me, but I will go with new eyes, a new sense of purpose…and a fresh notebook.