Wednesday, June 3, 2015

No Travel Logs, Please

Kathryn Page Camp

In March, I attended IWC’s Paper Fields workshop and took two sessions on travel writing from Kenneth Tressler. One of the points he made was that travel magazines don’t want travel logs.
Consider these two opening paragraphs.
Our trip to Utah began on September 2, 2014 with a flight into McCarran International Airport at Las Vegas, Nevada.
As I stood in the middle of the Sevier Desert, I drowned in the bleakness and isolation of the parched terrain. How could 8,000 Japanese Americans live crammed together in this one square mile of desolate landscape without losing their sanity? Yet, somehow, they did just that.
Both openings are true, but I’d rather read—and write—the second one. Good travel writing is creative non-fiction and should tell a story. Yes, give pertinent information about the trip, including your favorite places to eat and stay along the route. But don’t bore your audience. Write the story you would want to read if it were written by someone else.
Good travel writing also proves the cliché that a picture is worth a thousand words. Consider this picture, which I took through the windshield while driving along U.S. 89 in Utah. (No, I wasn’t behind the wheel.)
I could have said that the blue sky accentuated the red rock formations striated with tans and browns. Or I could have used many more words in an attempt to describe the landscape. But the picture says it better than I ever could.
Travel magazines want photos to go along with the story. So if you want to sell an article about your trip, take along a good camera. For use on the Internet, a cell phone might do. But if you want to submit a feature article to a print magazine, you need a camera with high resolution and interchangeable lenses.
As you vacation this summer, go ahead and take the logbook along. It’s good for notes that aid your memory.
But it makes a terrible travel article.
Kathryn Page Camp is a licensed attorney and full-time writer. Her most recent book, Writers in Wonderland: Keeping Your Words Legal (KP/PK Publishing 2013), is a Kirkus’ Indie Books of the Month Selection. Kathryn is also the author of In God We Trust: How the Supreme Court’s First Amendment Decisions Affect Organized Religion (FaithWalk Publishing 2006) and numerous articles. You can learn more about Kathryn at

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