The thought of writing a book seems esoteric. Many people I’ve encountered tell me they’re going to write a book someday. (Which I think is a fabulous idea!) The actual process, however, is often unglamorous and tedious. Writing, editing, rewriting, and did I mention rewriting. But writing is only the first step. If you’re following the traditional route; then comes finding an agent, selling the manuscript to a publisher, and marketing it. Your book could deserve a spot on the New York Times short list; but, if no one’s ever heard of it, that’s a problem.
Fifteen years ago I decided that a fitting commemoration to a special friend of mine was to write, then dedicate, a travel book in his honor. Tom was an artist and photographer that loved to connect with people in far-flung places. Yet rather than scurry off to other countries, I spent five years exploring my native country of America trying to understand what people meant when they used the phrase, “Out west.”
West of what?, I wondered…
For me, a girl who grew up in a small colonial New England town; exotic came in the form of branding steers on a Montana ranch, browsing Swedish literature in central Kansas, and attempting to follow a “normal” pace conversation in Spanglish. My passport may only have a half-dozen stamps to date, but I appreciate the depths of my own country. Nearly three years after putting pen to paper, my manuscript will be complete this fall. And one final trip will tie up that journey, leaving free rein for the next.
Personally, the writing process has been as invigorating an adventure as stapling up my horse after he’d been attacked by a bear. For the last three years I’ve networked at an amazing Travel Writing Conference in San Francisco. Spent a weekend in Denver getting direction from National Geographic Photography professionals. And also—twice–attended an intensive month long Creative Writing Workshop in Paris, France. Now a new stage opens up, marketing. This past weekend, a self-promotion strategy came up in conversation–in recent news–that had gone serious wrong.
Read the paragraph below and let me know what you think…
A West Virginia man set out to hitchhike across America and write a photographic memoir about “Kindness in America”. The freelance photographer/traveler took a bus to eastern Montana and began thumbing rides towards the west coast. Not one hundred and fifty miles into his journey he apparently became the victim of a random drive-by shooting along the side of Hwy 2. A kind samaritan stopped to aid him and call 911. The following day an arrest was made but the suspect denied any involvement in the shooting.
Now here’s the twist, several days later while in the hospital, Ray Dolin, confessed that he shot himself to promote his book!
A foray into a story collection such as “The Kindness of Strangers” with a preface by The Dalai Lama could have clued him in that one doesn’t need to self-inflict pain to get attention. So did Dolin get the attention and headlines he wanted? Absolutely! His stunt was written up in a slew of papers as he’s recovering from his bullet wound at a hospital in Miles City, Montana pending charges. Though I’d venture to guess he did himself no favors by blowing a hole in his shoulder.
Have you ever written a book about travel? If so, please share your findings or tips in the comments below…
Or, if you’re toying with the idea of writing a travel book, here are a few links to spring things into action:
Book Passage Travel Writers & Photography Conference, San Fransisco: great for networking
TBEX: Travel Blog Exchange-recently in Colorado, USA-next stop September, Costa Brava, Spain
Matador U: new media school for travelers
Paris American Academy: July summer writing workshop-Paris, France
Gotham Writers’ Workshop: online classes
Angela Ritchie’s Ace Camps: Travel Writing for Modern Audiences
And, read books by your favorite travel authors, and go find a way to meet them!