Wednesday, 8 February 2006

Reasons for travel writing and publishing

Interesting comments on the motives of travel writers and publishers, from two articles which were brought to my attention by messages on the same day last week to the Travel Guidebook Writers e-mail list administered by author, Webmaster, teacher, and consultant Tom Brosnahan as one of his many resources for guidebook writers:

The most dangerous thing a writer can do sometimes is to describe what he sees in front of his face, for the very ideals and assumptions that many of us live by are dependent upon maintaining a comfortable distance from the evidence…. The Internet now makes facts [sic] so effortless to obtain that there is the illusion of knowledge where none actually exists…. [T]he public is increasingly removed from the intangible essences and minutiae of distant places that explain the present, and thus forewarn of the future…. Journalism desperately needs a return to terrain, to the kind of firsthand, solitary discovery of local knowledge best associated with old-fashioned travel writing. (Robert D. Kaplan, Cultivating Loneliness , Columbia Journalism Review, January 2006)

“Bill Dalton was a writer who became a publisher, Tony Wheeler was an MBA who briefly became a writer,” says Bill Newlin, publisher of Avalon Travel, Moon’s current owner and himself a onetime travel writer. (Suzanne Mantell, Travel’s Long, Strange Odyssey , Publishers Weekly, 30 January 2006)

Kaplan’s exegesis on the importance of travel writing as journalism, and as a tool to understand both the present and the future, is well worth reading in its entirety.

Exchanging notes, as I do, with other travel writers, I consider myself lucky to have Bill Newlin as my publisher (and lucky to have a day job at so that my livelihood doesn’t depend on the royalties from my books). Above all, I’m grateful to Bill for his respect and active encouragement for the individual voices and perspectives of the diverse family of Moonies and other Avalon Travel Publishing authors.

It’s difficult to be simultaneously a writer (especially a peripatetic travel writer) and a publisher. But even though writing and publishing require very different skills, most major travel publishers and guidebook series (Moon, Lonely Planet, Frommers, Bradt, Insight, etc.) originated with single titles self-published by their authors. That’s testimony, I think, to the independent-mindedness of travel writers, at the grassroots, and our deep-seated desire to bring our readers as close as possible to a direct, unmediated experience, of the places we write about — first through our writing, perhaps, but hopefully also through their own travels to places we’ve never been.

As always, “Bon voyage!”

Link | Posted by Edward on Wednesday, 8 February 2006, 08:19 ( 8:19 AM)
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