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Today:

*** How to Write About a “Discovered” Spot
*** Practical Writing Prompt of the Week: Packaging the Holidays — Festivity-Related Article Ideas
*** Reader Feedback: Success Story Contest: Win a Trip to Florida this Winter

Dear Reader,

Last night, on a friend’s recommendation, my fiancé and I had dinner at Ray’s the Steaks — a great little restaurant here in Arlington, VA.

Our food was amazing… the prices were reasonable ($19-$30 for a steak entree)… and it was sort of hard to find (tucked away in a little strip mall a few blocks away from the main attractions in Clarendon).

In my book, that makes a great recipe for a travel article. So I took some notes:

“Reminds me of an old dirty truck stop – dark, maroonish- brown booths; wood table tops with dark, worn scratches; no pictures on the plain white walls; no uniforms for the waitresses; steak “juices” on our paper menus, corners torn; wine list presented on a beat-up clipboard; holes in the old, dirty floor.”

What the place lacks in atmosphere, it more than makes up for in the food though. Both of our steaks were the best we’ve had in the States (second only to the beef we enjoyed in Buenos Aires). And the sides that came with the meal — mashed potatoes and creamed spinach — were perfect.

When I got home (a little tired from the wine — also reasonably priced) I decided to do a little research to find out if anyone had reviewed the place online.  Sure enough, if you type in “Ray’s the Steaks” at Google.com, you’ll see that it was voted “Best Steaks” in washingtonpost.com’s Best Bets 2006 Readers’ Choice contest.

I also found that since the review was posted on the Washington Post website (and therefore easily accessible and, presumably, widely read) the place could no longer be considered “a find.” At several blog sites I read complaints about the wait to get in. One guy said he’d stood in line for over two hours (I’m glad I went on a week night).

So, with my dream of writing about this “undiscovered gem” in tatters, I called our resident travel-writing guru, Jennifer Stevens, to complain.

“You can still write about it,” she said, cheering me greatly. “You just have to find an audience who won’t know about the Washington Post recommendation, readers for whom the place will still be undiscovered. In fact, some readers would find it a selling point to know that the place earned such high marks among locals.

“Take my paper here in Colorado Springs, for instance. If you were to write up a ‘Three Days in Washington’ article for the readers here and recommend Ray’s the Steaks, they’d probably be happy to learn of an excellent-value, off-the-beaten-path gem. And you could certainly say, ‘The Washington Post’s readers gave it their highest marks in 2006, so expect a wait on weekends, but you’ll find it worth your while.’ or something like that.

“Finding an audience that doesn’t yet know about the place — that’s the key.”

Anyway, I thought that was great advice. And I simply pass it along here in hopes you can learn from it as well.  Audience is always important, of course. And tomorrow Jen is going to talk about how audience can influence your income.

She’s found a couple of niche markets where you can sell travel articles for higher-than-average paychecks and where you don’t need specialized training to do it.

Look for her article in your in-box tomorrow.

Before I leave you to your weekend, I just wanted to remind you that our December Photo Contest is underway. In case you missed the announcement of our theme, it’s “The True Meaning of the Season.” And it’s not too late to enter. You’ll find details on our website, here: www.thephotographerslife.com.  Several folks have already submitted photos for consideration. Here are a few of my favorites.

I look forward to seeing more entries as the holidays draw near. So keep your eyes open in the next few weeks for once-a-year opportunities to capture images that tell a holiday story.

And speaking of holiday stories… scroll down below for today’s Practical Writing Prompt. You’ll find there some useful ideas about how to create festive, seasonal, salable article ideas.

Have a great weekend,

— Lori
Lori Appling
Director, Great Escape Publishing

[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]

PRACTICAL WRITING PROMPT OF THE WEEK

Don’t know what to write about this holiday season? Try one of these ideas…

1) Are there houses around town that are known for their ostentatious holiday displays? Grab your camera and take some human interest pictures for your local paper. Add a little bit of background info on each spot (or brief comments by curious passersby) and Voila! – you have a holiday photo-essay.

2) How about a round-up of colorful churches from around the world? This would be a great piece for both travel publications and religious magazines.

3) Not the religious type? How about a story on how atheists are surviving the season?

4) Or how about a round-up of how other cultures are celebrating the holidays?

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