Spain Travel Narrative

I’m leaving for Spain today! I’ve always wanted to go, so now I’m doin’ it. For a whole month! First I’ll be taking a two week Spanish course in Salamanca at Don Quijote language school. I’ll be living with a host family, which I’ve never done before, and honestly that scares me. Hopefully we’ll get along. Afterward my boyfriend, Mike, will be meeting me in Madrid. We’ll take the train to San Sebastian, then Barcelona, Granada, and Cordoba. Muy Bien.

from About Spain Travel blog

OK, here’s where the challenge comes in. Traveling is one of the things that supports my HeSo. And I’m supposed to be finding ways to get paid to do what I love. The obvious answer is travel narrative. So how do I become the next Bill Bryson, or Elizabeth Gilbert? The truth is I’ve been to some pretty crazy places, and experienced amazing wonders. I took a plane ride around Mt. Everest, I swam in a bio-luminescent bay in Vieques where the water glows neon green when you touch it, I had Shabbot dinner with an 11 person family in Vienna who I met only an hour before. I’ve been to Nicaragua 10 times. My family bribed a guard to get into Catherine the Great’s Palace in Russia. So how the heck do I get paid to tell these stories?

A picture I took at 30,000 ft in the air

Well let’s be realistic. Publishers are not going to be knocking down my door to give me a book deal when I come back from Spain. So what are the baby steps?

I visited a great site called The Travel Writer’s Life. In an article titled, Go Magazine Editor Orion Ray-Jones on the Kinds of Travel Articles that Glue and Editor to the Page, Christina Merchant interviews the editor, Orion Ray-Jones. Here’s what he says about how to get published:

Be original. Bring me topics that will surprise and intrigue me, and develop innovative ways to present them, both in terms of how you report the story and how you structure the language. That first-person travelogue of syrupy, adjective-laden writing about a Tuscan wine tour is too painful to bear. I know there’s wine in Italy, and unless you’re famous, I’m not interested in your diary about tasting it. Surprise me! There are so many bad clichés in travel; avoid them.

An article by Bonnie Caton said that the best way to get published is to write something unique about a small town. In other words, editors are overwhelmed with stories about wine tasting in Tuscany, finding love in Paris, and art in Barcelona, but they don’t get many interesting stories about the Socrates Sculpture garden in Astoria. That’s good to know, but it’s not going to help me right before my trip to Spain.

That got me thinking. Can I write a local story about traveling? I started looking up the American sister cities for the cities I’m visiting in Spain. It turns out Madrid and NYC are sister cities. And so my goal is to write and sell a story about similarities and differences between NYC and Madrid.

Roy Stevenson, gives these steps in his article, How Long Does it Take to Sell your First Travel Story:

1. Collect every bit of information you get, and take a ridiculous amount of photos. You might think you’ll remember everything, but you won’t. Editors love when you supply your own pictures. Make sure you take many different angles. You might take only close ups, but the editor might want the look of wide open vistas.

2. Create a long list of all the travel journals, magazines and websites that you would like to sell to, and send the query letter to all of them. Yes, all of them.

3. Be fearless. The only way to get published is to keep putting yourself out there. No one is going to read stories off of your laptop. Or at least they’re not going to pay you to do so.

So this is going to be my first attempt at making some HeSo money. Wish me luck!

4 comments

  1. For a long time writing a travelogue was one of my dreams. The annual Best American Travel Writing series from Houghton Mifflin carries a nice array of travelogues. The unifying theme of this sample really does reflect the advice given by two of the persons you’ve cited: unique and surprising topics, presented in an innovative way, about places off the beaten path—exotic, dangerous, or even the interestingly mundane.

    Good luck on your trip, and post excerpts of your piece when you put something together.

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    1. Ohh I’ll have to get a copy of that series. Thanks for the suggestion. I can totally see the cover of your travelogue: Lawyer Gone Rogue with a picture of you on a sailboat! Your hair is windswept – of course.

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