Saturday, July 12, 2008

WORD: Notes on Travel Writing

by Gabrielle Linnell

Travel writing is a new friend of mine. As I mentioned before, I think I read The Best Women's Travel Writing 2007 three or four times this week. As I read and reread, certain themes and aspects of these excellent stories revealed themselves as principles.

Connect me. Every author connected her travels to Bali or Mali or Morocco with a personal, emotional change or experience. No story was simply, "I went to China and this is what I did," but "I went to China and realized my mom is incredible," or "I went to Ecuador and found out I needed to change my life."

Describe me. The descriptions are fantastic. Each story describes the world the traveller experienced with deft language, never getting heavy or boring. Key ingredient to a successful travel story!

Speak to me. Voice is so important. If you don't like the voice of the travel writer, you hate the essay, but somebody else will love it. However, if the travel essay has a weak or nonexistent voice... nobody will love it, ever. It's crucial to have a definitive voice when travel writing.

Change me. There are many different kinds of travel writing. In this anthology, there were stories written by volunteers, honeymooners, young students, senior citizens, cynics, optimists: every travel writer has a different story to tell. Don't discount your travel experience as "not worth writing about" because you were studying, or backpacking, etc.

Take me. All the essays emphasized the necessity of travel, and each writer respects the country that they wrote about. They may criticize an aspect of the foreign culture, but never degrade it.

Respect for someone else's home, however, is a principle for everyday life.

Gabrielle Linnell has been published more than thirty times in magazines such as Cobblestone, FACES, New Moon, ByLine and others. Her list of desired travel destinations is around 26 and growing.

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