Cleo Paskal interview at

Today I’ll give a sneak preview of my April interview with Canada’s National Post travel columnist, Cleo Paskal.

As a writer, Cleo has contributed to everyone from The Economist to the (better paying) Weekly World News. Along the way she has hosted BBC radio travel shows, appeared in several anthologies, wrote an Emmy-winning TV series, taught at universities in the U.K., Canada and New Zealand, and won ten major travel writing awards (including the Grand Prize from the North American Travel Journalist’s Association). She claims that the secret to her success is that her TV is broken and she is allergic to alcohol.

“There are a lot of different ways to be a travel writer,” she tells me. “You can make a great living churning out front-of-the-book and back-of-the-book hotel reviews. Don’t scorn. After researching the latest ‘It’ place, those people are then free to wander off on private adventures. And they’ve actually provided a useful service to the readers (assuming they aren’t puff pieces). Or, you can live out of a fanny pack and try to get into Granta. Another perfectly fine model.

“Obviously, good advice for one would be snake venom for the other. Regardless, here is a random list:

  • Register your own domain name, and to set up a website. Great democratizers, websites.
  • Treat it like a business. There are start-up costs (which could mean eating Kraft Dinner for a few months while you intern and make contacts). Make rough short, medium and long-term plans (is your goal Conde Nast Traveler or Granta?). Reread those plans regularly to see if they still make sense.
  • Know that a lot of time is spent neither traveling nor writing (planning trips, tracking down sources, fact checking, etc.).
  • Meet deadlines.
  • Spell check.
  • Don’t call the editors a million times to see what they thought of your work of genius.
  • Don’t take rejection personally – rejections often have nothing to do with the writer or story idea. It could be that the editor just ran something similar, that they are over-stocked, that they are having a bad hair day.
  • Find a comfortable niche. It is a huge industry. Figure out what you like then become an expert in it (I have dibs on the world’s smallest countries).
  • Set realistic goals. If you send one cold pitch a week, you’re doing ok. Find another writer and set up regular pitch sessions in which you go over magazines, brainstorm ideas and then actually send them in.
  • Join relevant writers groups. At least at first. It will give you and idea of the parameters of the industry. Whether you choose to respect those parameters is another thing…
  • Short sentences speed up the pace.
  • Try to remember that you are always telling a story.

Cleo’s full interview can be found here.

Posted by | Comments Off on Cleo Paskal interview at  | March 30, 2005
Category: Travel News

Comments are closed.