Monday, September 27, 2010

One trip, several publishable works. A tale of travel writing prolifery.

As I peruse my yearly budget and see where the bulk of my money has gone this year, I can't help but notice a giant chunk of it went to visiting New Zealand. I don't hold a grudge against the country, certainly its location in the effing middle of nowhere is a)not its fault and b) part of the grand appeal. Also, since I live in a really cheap apartment and my idea of a night on the town often includes a giant sandwich, like this one for about $5 US (#NG), my giant chunk might not be your giant chunk. Certainly, I recommend New Zealand as a travel destination. It's incredibly clean, beautiful, organized, and it's in the southern hemisphere so it's opposite landia, weather wise for most of you. Don't curse the winter, run away from it!

red hot pokers, otago peninsula
Red Hot Pokers, Otago Peninsula, New Zealand's South Island

When I tell people that part of what I do for a living is write about travel, they imagine that I'm some kind of expert travel writing ninja, with various magazines knocking down my door sending me hither and yon. These are the people that don't know me. The people that do know me listen to me excitedly talk about how there's an article here or there with my name on it, and consequently, enough money in my Paypal account to go out for a couple more $5 sandwiches, putty knife optional. I am open to the door knocking-on (but not so much knocking down), and imagine that at some point, as my trajectory improves, that will happen. For now I translate and edit a lot, and do a bunch of other stuff for a bunch of online outlets from the comfort of my sunny apartment and possibly wearing kelly green crocs.

But I wanted to show some of you what has come so far out of my trip to New Zealand, because it's the first time I've gone on a big trip since starting travel writing, at least with the goal of selling stories.


Before the trip I was writing for a couple of different outlets, and ended up accidentally doing some research on volcanoes for NZ, which turned into a story on something different, volcanoes in the Americas. I also started researching a generalized story on winetasting in lesser-known spots, and ended up learning a bit about NZ's wine industry, though in the end the story turned into winetasting in South America.

A story that I wrote that actually published info I'd found about New Zealand came next with this one on glaciers in the southern hemisphere (on MatadorNetwork), and certainly that got my New Zealand wheels spinning a bit.


While I was away, one of the editors at Matador wrote a little piece on my trip, which pictures a cyclist who could be me, but is not, amid many, many sheep, which was a frequent occurence on the actual trip.


When I came back I was inspired by the glowworms to write a piece on glowing organisms for Bootsnall, and then pitched a story to MatadorSports on riding a penny farthing, which turned into this high-riding piece (haha, so funny!).

A couple of months later I had my first ever "they-contact-you (me)" experience, when
Pam from Nerdseyeview asked me to write a story on the great pedability of New Zealand for AvidTrips. And then I pitched my first ever photo essay to MatadorTrips, and like magic, up went a photo essay on pedaling around the South Island of New Zealand.

And while the NZ trip certainly took a big bite out of 2010's financials, it was also really good writing fodder. And if I can keep traveling to my dream destinations and writing about and taking pictures of them, I feel like I've won the life lottery. But a little door-knocking wouldn't be bad. AFAR, WEND, other four-letter hipster magazines I might be missing, are you listening?

(and the answer is, of course they're not, as a freelancer you have to make your own work, so pardon me while I wind up and pitch). Got any of your own tales?


Lani said...

My last freelance job had me writing someone else's job application... morally questionable? but hey, it's a paycheck. She better have gotten the job, it was a damn good application! But going places and writing about what you love, kudos to you, that's the dream.

Eileen said...

Hey Lani, thanks for commenting, when do you touch down in Chile? Also this shows the more "glam" part of freelancing. I'm also slowly, slowly editing hundreds of pages of a doctoral dissertation on a topic I know nothing about. I should actually say I knew nothing about. I'm about a year and a half in, and getting smarter all the time. I promise it's not all glaciers and glowworms over here!

Cate said...

NZ is incredibly expensive, every time I go back there the prices have increased: fuel, postage, food, and tourist stuff. I had a spat at one of the postal assistants who gave me a rate for a package to the US. Tip to anyone travelling there - don't send anything home via NZ post.

But to be fair it is good to see NZ gave you some writing, perhaps AFAR will be interested if you can do something different about a heavily marketed country. Like NZs love for gumboots (galoshes), or their dislike for shoes or anything on their feet for that matter.
Did you do any pedalling around Mavora Lakes (sorry haven't clicked on your links).

Heather said...

Not entirely the same, but you talking about NZ reminds me of how I ended up in China. After being very intrigued by the 2008 Olympics, a few weeks later a grant opportunity for language educators popped up and I thought, why not China? From there the EFL bug bit me and here I am a year later, in Chile. My friends joke that it's a "Ch" thing! Chicago, China, Chile...
Looking forward to meeting you!

Marie said...

All angles covered. It's like an ethnography! You're really doing so well, and I admire your drive. I'm wondering if there is a connection between cycling and writing, like some sort of momentum thing. Whatever it is, I love reading about New Zealand from your perspective.

Katie Coyne said...

Thanks for this post. Am just starting out in travel writing and it's interesting to see how other people work. Sounds like you're doing really well!

Eileen said...

Hi Katie,

Thanks for commenting. I don't know about doing really well, it's all a matter of perspective. I work a bunch of jobs, some of them travel-writing related, some of them not (translation and interpretation make up a pretty sizeable part of my life at times). I have, at times, an unhealthy amount of irons in the fire, and am often putting new ones in, and even looking for more.

Hope you find your way, and let me know if I can do anything! I'll add you to my reads (loo with a view, who knew?)