Monday, June 26, 2006

How To Follow Up

As I've mentioned in previous posts, waiting for a reply on a query can be hard. So what do you do when you've waited the allotted time and still no answer? You follow up. Email works great for following up even if you sent your original query via snail mail. But always check the writer's guidelines for instructions because some editors like only email or only snail mail, so it's best to stick to their particular format.

When following up, I like to make my letter short, sweet and to the point. And include the original query for easy reference (just in case they didn't get your letter). Here's an example of what you can say in a follow up query.

Dear {Editor's Name},

I am writing to follow up on a query that I submitted via email on June 26, 2006 for an article titled "Rome on $40 a Day." In case you didn't receive my query, I've pasted a copy below. Can you tell me when you might make a decision on the idea? I look forward to your response.


Waiting Writer

This is just a little example. Feel free to reorganize it to suit your needs. The point is, don't stress about it. And if you still don't get a response after a follow up (or two at most), move on.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Travel Quote:

"He that would travel for the entertainment of others, should remember that the great object of remark is human life. Every nation has something peculiar in its manufactures, its works of genius, its medicines, its agriculture, its customs, and its policy. He only is a useful traveller, who brings home something by which his country might be benefitted; who procures some supply of want, or some mitigation of evil, which may enable his readers to compare their condition with that of others, to improve it whenever it is worse, and whenever it is better to enjoy it.

~ Samuel Johnson: Idler #97 (February 23, 1760)

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Writer's Resource: Writer's Market

Looking for writer's guidelines for just about any publication on the market? Check out Writer's Market. You can pick up a copy of Writer's Market which is updated yearly and costs about $30. There is also an online version that requires a subscription (which you may cancel at any time.) I prefer the book edition -- I find it more comprehensive. But for travel writers it isn't very practical to lug around that huge book! The online version allows you to access the database from any computer, all over the world!

Monday, June 19, 2006

Job Board: Journalism Jobs

I don't know about you, but I start my day searching numerous freelance job boards. And one of them is Journalism Jobs. They offer a variety of journalism jobs, from newspapers to magazines, radio to television, PR to media relations. It's great if you're looking for a full-time job, but, sometimes freelance writing jobs are featured. Check the website daily for an updated list of jobs.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Writers Tool: Journals

What writer would ever think about taking a trip without a journal? I certainly wouldn't. On past trips though, I made the mistake of only writing about my feelings and thoughts about the country or city that I was in. I skipped the little details like the names of restaurants and hotels. Granted this was before I became serious about travel writing. But had I written those details down, I could be selling articles from those trips today!! So learn from my mistake -- write everything, and I mean everything, down. Here's a short list of some ideas to get you started:

*~*The names of airports, train stations and other modes of transportation (these can be easily located online, but keeping notes will save you time later)

*~*The names of all of the hotels with addresses and a price/amenities list (I still don't remember the name of that cheap hotel I stayed at in Paris??)

*~*The names of all the restaurants you eat at (menu and pricing if available). A little note on restaurants: A lot of restaurants have little brochure type cards that you can take

*~*The names and contact information of the people you meet along the way (if appropriate, get a photograph with them. It will help you have a clear picture when you write about them!)

The names and address of all museums and other cultural organizations that you attend

This is just a short list. Be sure to also write about your feelings -- those have come in handy for me when I've written articles.

Looking for a nice journal? Click here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Writer's Resource: is a great online resource for any kind of freelance writer. The great thing about these types of websites is that the rules of freelancing writing don't change, no matter what subject you choose to write about. Travel writing is just a branch of writing. You still have to write a query and submit the finished article the same way as a fashion writer or health writer. has articles and newsletters that you can subscribe to. For instance, I read the Food Writing newsletter because I am interested in writing travel related food articles. The site also has writing news, writing events, resources and commentary. The Morning Coffee section, published every Tuesday, list available freelance jobs.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Suggestions: Traveler's Pen

As Traveler's Pen enters its second month of existence, Denene and I would like to thank everyone for their continued support and encouragement. We hope to continue to provide you with tips, strategies, and insight to advance your career and turn Traveler's Pen into a top travel writer's resource.

And, that's where you come in. We need your help. What more can we do? See anything missing? Let us know. Like to see your favorite travel writer interviewed? Tell us. We're also looking to interview beginning travel writers for our "Why Didn't They Tell Me" column and writers to contribute to our new "First Success" column.

Please leave us a comment for suggestions or would like to contribute to our columns.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Writer's Tool: Great Ideas

As writers we thrive off of ideas. But as beginners we may wonder what actually makes an idea great. Here's some tips to remember when crafting ideas for possible articles.

I've read on writer's sites, in writer's magazines and writer's forums that a destination in itself isn't an idea. How many writers have written about Rome, Paris, India, Hawaii, New York or South Africa? Far too many to count. So if you write a query to an editor stating that you're taking your summer vacation to San Francisco and fail to offer a "hook" the editor will think "Who cares?" Don't let your query end up in the slush pile (the rejection stack) because you didn't have a clear and interesting story idea.

So what's an good idea? Let's head back to San Francisco for a moment. Did you eat in a ultra trendy restaurant that served something interesting? Or did you encounter something unique like a boutique or other off the wall shop. These types of stories might sell to a food or fashion magazine. Don't just focus on travel magazines and websites for possible markets.

Good stories are everywhere. The key is learning to determine which ones are great!

Friday, June 09, 2006

Welcome Written Road Readers

As many of you know, I also write for Written Road. Finally, after two months of work, I was introduced today, which has yield a numerous hits on my personal website and Traveler's Pen. I just wanted to take the time to welcome everyone coming from Written Road and tell you a little bit about Traveler's Pen.

Somewhere, you read a travel article you loved, or one you felt you could write better. Heard a story or had an idea that needed to be published. Or, read a book by one of your favorite travel writers. All leading you to one conclusion: you want to be a travel writer.

There are many questions and frustrations associated with becoming a travel writer. How do I begin? What are the components of a great query letter? How do I make a name for myself? Which publications are open to new/beginning writers? Do I have what it takes to make it? As I travel writer, I've asked those same questions. However, those questions are not easily answered. I looked for support within the travel writing community, but grew frustrated when I found that nothing catered to beginners. We wanted to create a community where all travel writers --- especially beginners --- could feel welcome, ask questions, vent their frustrations, and communicate with others in their same predicament, without being made to feel inferior, untalented or unwanted.

My co-founder, Denene, and I are both on the beginning side of our travel writing careers. We understand how it feels to receive rejections, watch queries go unnoticed, and try to succeed in a career many attempt, but most fail. Traveler's Pen will be a much needed umbrella in an unexpected down pour of rain, a place to get answers to the simple questions, share in other travel writers successes and rejections, and more importantly, a place to grow their ambitions into a career.

Traveler's Pen will offer readers an inside look at the start of noted travel writers, market leads that cater to new writers, an open forum to discuss travel writing, interviews with other new travel writers, a first success column, Q&A's, writer's resources, and much more.

Take a few minutes to read back posts, join our Yahoo! Discussion Forum, and leave a comment. We would also love to know who else -- besides us -- is reading this blog. Thank you for reading Traveler's Pen and we hope to hear from you.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Writer's Resource: The Renegade Writer

Can you believe there's a book out there that tells freelance writers to break all the "rules"? Some writers wouldn't dream of sending simultaneous submissions or letting their queries go over one page in length. How refreshing it was for me to find The Renegade Writer: A Totally Unconventional Guide to Freelance Writing Success by Linda Formichelli and Diana Burrell. It is my all-time favorite book about freelancing because they are very successful freelance writers (their credits include Writer's Digest and Psychology Today among others) and they give other writer's the assurance that you don't have to stress over the minute details.

I would recommend that every writer have this book on their shelves. I try to balance their renegade advice with the more standard views in the writing world. But it is well worth the money!

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Writing Resources: Writer's Digest 101 Best Websites for Writers 2006

Every year, Writer's Digest compiles a list of the 101 best writer's websites. These websites specialize in all genres of writing --- fiction, nonfiction, travel writing, erotica, poetry, and many others. If you're looking for writing tips, jobs, interviews, advice, or a discussion forum, check out the websites on their list.

Here are a few to get you started:


Absolute Write


Writer's on the Rise

Guide to Grammar & Writing

Read the full list here.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Writing Coach: Get Support

Writing is a solitary pursuit. Only you can put the words on the page. But that doesn't mean that you have to be isolated one hundred percent of the time. I'm going to offer a little writing coaching to hopefully convince you how important it is to have a support system in place to help see your goals to fruition.

Having a writing community gives you the opportunity to bounce ideas around, get your work critiqued and encourage you when you feel like giving up or when you've just received your nth rejection slip. Support is also good to have when things are going great; when you've sold your first or tenth article, when you finish your book, or whatever your particular goal might be.

There are many communities listed online that offer support. I met Terah online in a Yahoo Groups forum and our communication has kept me inspired along the way. You can start by joining the Traveler's Pen forum. To meet people in person, visit and check out the different writing groups. puts people with similar interests in touch with each other all over the world.

If you need more support and encouragement with editing and submitting your work or dealing with writer's block, Google 'writing coach', and see what you find. There are trained coaches out there that can support you in starting or sustaining your writing career.

Remember, writers don't live on an island (well some lucky ones do). Get support in place and get the encouragement you need to get published!

Monday, June 05, 2006

My Beginning: David Farley

This month's interview features David Farley, author of Travelers' Tales Prague and the Czech Republic. Farley's work has appeared in Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, Playboy, and the Chicago Tribune.

Name: David Farley

Favorite travel writer and why: I don’t really have a favorite “travel” writer, but some of the writers who have inspired me are Joan Didion, David Sedaris, Susan Orlean, Francine Prose, and Bill Bryson.

Favorite travel book and why: This isn’t a very popular thing to say for a travel writer, but I find that a lot travel books—especially the kind that have titles like Two months in Tuscany, A Summer in Sicily, etc.—have a hard time keeping my attention. I read a lot of nonfiction, but it’s not limited to travel. I also read a lot of magazines like The New Yorker.

How did you get started in travel writing: Thomas Swick, who edits the excellent travel section of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, tells budding travel writers that the best way to become a travel writer is to go live abroad. Which is what I’ve done. A few times, actually. I’ve lived in Prague and Rome and have really gotten a lot of great writing material.

Name and publication of first published piece: The very first story was something about being an expatriate in Prague for a website called, but the first print story—the first story I actually got paid for—was “Eloping, Italian Style,” about my wedding in Rome, in the Chicago Tribune.

# of published pieces your first year: I actually can’t remember. I wasn’t only writing “travel” stories my first year as a freelance writer. But I do remember that I didn’t eat a lot that year.

How long did it take to publish your first piece? For both pieces I mentioned above—the stories on being an expat in Prague and getting married in Rome—it didn’t actually take too long. Maybe a few months. But I worked on those stories—particularly the one for the Chicago Tribune—quite a long time before I sent it in for consideration.

What is your best/worse rejection? Not surprisingly, my most memorable rejections are the bad ones. I once sent my story about attending a pig killing the Czech hinterlands (which is in my book, Travelers’ Tales Prague and the Czech Republic) to a large newspaper travel section and the editor responded with this: “There is no way in the world that we could publish this—the PETA people, among others, would be down on us like a ton of bricks.” The fact is, raising a pig and then killing it for food, one could argue, is more morally sound than how most of us get our meat, by factory farming.

Most recently, I received a rejection from an editor at one of the big travel magazines that said something like “We like our stories to be newsy and have an angle, and from what I can see, your story proposal has neither.” Ouch!

When was the exact moment you wanted to become a travel writer? I have no idea.

When did you feel you were a travel writer? Also, I have no idea. Maybe when I started getting paid to do it.

Why travel writing? I love to research—both before a trip and while I’m there—how historical events have shaped the present state of a place and how larger forces that are out of the ordinary person’s control (economic factors, for instance) dictate life. My stories are always filled with a lot of exposition and back story, explaining how the past has affected the present.
But also, like many people who are lured to travel writing, I was at first attracted by the romantic notion of being sent somewhere to write. But I’ve intentionally tried to move away from that—I think a lot of people who gravitate to this genre have really fetishized the idea of getting things for free (either comped or being sent somewhere by the publication) and I think that puts one’s focus more on what you’re getting for free and not on the actual writing.

Your thoughts on non-paying markets: I think if that’s what you have to do to get some clips, then do it.

What do you feel is the state of travel writing, dead or alive? Framing it within the dichotomy of “dead or alive” seems a bit extreme. Commercial travel writing, especially in newspaper travel sections, has been challenged by budget cuts, which means most travel editors are buying less and less from freelance writers. Literary travel writing (i.e. books) has always been challenged by the large sector of the American population who lack a desire to travel. Travel books sell a lot better in places like England and Australia because those cultures have a much stronger (and longer) tradition of travel.

Finish this sentence: Why didn't someone tell me....that drive and tenacity are, in many ways, just as important as writing ability.

Advice for other beginning travel writers: My personal philosophy of travel writing is to entertain and educate. If someone can put down one of my articles having laughed a little and learned a little about the place, I feel I’ve succeeded. So, my advice to budding travel writers is just that: keep your writing interesting in both entertainment and enlightenment. Also, when you’re not writing, it’s most important to keep reading.

Learn more about Farley at

Friday, June 02, 2006

Good Query Etiquette

In continuing with my previous post about developing patience as a writer, I thought I'd elaborate on that with a more practical piece of advice.

Sending queries is a process. It takes a certain amount of time and effort to put together a great query that is attention-grabbing and prompts an editor to accept your idea. You may be wondering,
how should I submit my query - via email or snail mail? How long should I wait before following up? How many times should I follow up before I give up?

Once you've written a query that your ready to submit, be sure to check the publications writer's guidelines. Most of the queries I've submitted have been via email. Some publications still prefer snail mail so be sure to check it out first. You don't want a strike against your query upon arrival!

When it comes to following up on your queries, again, check the writer's guidelines. Reference books like Writer's Market often indicate the estimated response time or check the publication's website. If it states 4-6 weeks for a response, wait it out before following up. Again, this is where patience kicks in. I know it's frustrating to pour your heart into a great idea and then have to wait a month or more for an answer - but that is the reality most of the time.

So you've waited the allotted time frame and still no word from the editor. It's time to follow up. I like to follow-up the same way I sent the original query. So if I sent an email query I'll shoot the editor a short message asking about the status of my proposal and copy and paste the original letter at the bottom of my message. This way if the editor doesn't have your original letter, they have easy reference. I've often gotten pretty good responses on follow-ups. So always follow up - you may miss out on an assignment if you don't!!

If you don't get a response to your query after one or two follow-ups, move on. Always be researching other markets for your ideas. Remember patience is the writer's greatest trait and queries are a test of that quality every step of the way.

Happy Writing!