Sunday, 2 August 2009

Travel Writing Workshop

Saturday at the Indian YMCA in Fitzroy Square at a travel writing workshop with Peter Carty, a freelance travel writer. I went more out of curiosity than an obsessive desire to be a travel writer and Peter revealed the path in a very orderly and knowledgeable fashion. For me the fun part was the challenges he set us. After his words on 'avoiding cliches' he asked us to write a description of a sunset/sunrise or view, scenes which often lead writers to trot out the same tired old phrases. Later, he challenged us to go and find a travel story at lunchtime that would fit on two sides of a blank postcard. Lastly, after we'd dissected a few pitches, we each had to write a pitch and have an 'editorial meeting' in small groups to select the one we wanted to commission. I hadn't been asked to produce writing at short notice and I enjoyed it because I felt that I could do it. It felt good to be equal to a challenge.

One of the things he spoke about was Commissioning Editors only replying to pitches they are interested in. Up until now (and documented on here) I have been taking offence at any non-reply, feeling that even a very busy person had time to write 'Not for me but thanks for your submission.' Peter pointed out that, as a Travel Editor, he would often receive up to 200 emails a day on top of the work he had to do and simply did not have the time to reply to everyone. It was the same when I was a Picture Editor when portfolios became electronic. Most portrait photographers can light and shoot a picture; the ones that stood out had a certain style or good ideas for the shot. I would receive plenty of punts, complete with the photographers website address, but would only get back to the very few whose talent stood out.

I took offence this week at the Travel Editor for Wallpaper, Sara Henrichs. My pitch was about a resort in St Lucia that was architecturally very interesting that had been passed onto her by Jonathan Bell, who is the very polite and friendly Architecture Editor. Her reply to the pitch was 'We won’t have space until Dec issue and I fear it will be too late by then sorry'. I checked with the PR if the Caribbean had a 'season' as such, who confirmed that its pretty much year round sunshine and particularly popular around Christmas. I replied to Sara pointing this out, got no reply so assumed it wasn't for her and asked for feedback if she had 5 or 10 minutes. In reply I got 'Sorry Lee I already told you that we won’t be able to run'. This felt a bit condescending. However, having experienced Peter's workshop yesterday, and given the brevity of the reply, I finally get it. It still feels like a bit of a smack in the face but I've got to learn not to take these rejections personally. As Peter said, with a bit of a wry smile on his face, 'Every rejection is one step more towards success.'

1 comment:

  1. When I grow up I want to be a writer specifically a travel writer and imagine things in many ways.