Writing Opportunities on the Road
by Susan Miles

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You don't need to be a travel writer to get a lot of writing mileage from your summer vacation this year. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, are looking for your first sale or your 50th, here are a few tips to keep in mind as you pack your bags for a well earned break this year.

Check out marketing opportunities. Browsing the magazine stand or the local bookstore at your holiday destination will reveal some new marketing opportunities. You will uncover regional newspapers and magazines you won't find in guideline databases or directories. Besides the usual souvenirs of T-shirts and books, my suitcase also includes a handful of regional newspapers and magazines that I can submit articles and essays to when I return home.

Writing competitions. On a recent trip to Hawaii, while browsing the state's newspapers over my morning coffee, I came across a number of writing competitions. I was pleasantly surprised to see that these competitions were open to all writers (not restricted to local residents), did not require an entry fee and offered prizes of substantial value. I had missed the deadline for two competitions; however there was sufficient contact information to allow me to follow up with the organizers on my return home and plan for next year. The information on one competition caught my eye as it included the winning entries, providing a good chance to read and learn what makes an award winning entry. I have also found writing and photography competitions in in-flight magazines, regional magazines, and local tourist guides.

Ideas for future articles/essays. My vacation can often inspire me with an idea for an article. It might be an interesting piece of local history, a passing comment from a fellow traveler, or a quirky observation. These ideas may not yield an entire piece but be useful as item in an article on a related theme. For example, I don't think I can write an entire article about the Hawaiian Christmas tree I saw, decorated with tropical fish and seashells rather than tinsel and baubles. But it may be an interesting example for a piece on different ways we celebrate Christmas throughout the world.

Travel articles for the non-travel writer. Not all travel articles are glossy, photo-packed features of exotic locations. They can be hints on how to pack, save money, or simply navigate the airport without losing your luggage or your mind! The best way to build a file of these ideas is from your own personal experience and observations. I learned and confirmed how to make a successful insurance claim when I lost a camera on one trip and a pair of sunglasses on another. I knew this hint would make a great travel article when I found myself repeating this tip to experienced travelers and even tour providers who were unaware of this simple yet effective approach.

Meet fellow writers. I confess, I don't actually know many writers. Because I live in a small city in Japan, it's not surprising that my local community center doesn't have a writers group for me to join. But my vacations sometimes give me the opportunity to meet and talk with other writers. Strolling into a bookstore (to check out those regional newspapers and magazines), I often find announcements on the notice board for presentations by a local writer. Even at popular tourist attractions, I have come across writers conducting book signings who love to talk about their writing experience with a fellow sufferer!

Develop fiction characters and settings. I need all the help I can get when it comes to writing fiction. I struggle to find new ways to make my characters act in realistic and interesting fashions that will engage my readers. What better way to get ideas for my characters than a bit of good old fashioned people watching while I am on vacation? Either at the airport, sitting at an outside cafe or just by the hotel pool, I have picked up interesting lines of dialogue, mannerisms and character descriptions to incorporate into my fiction writing.

For example, as I looked out from my hotel balcony one evening during a beach vacation, I noticed the rocky shorefront with a short jetty -- the perfect setting for the couple in my latest love story to "stumble" into each other.

But I'm not going on a vacation this year! You can still make use of these ideas, particularly the first three, if you are planning on having visitors from out of state or overseas during the summer. Your guests will love you if you suggest a simple, inexpensive gift that you would appreciate. Simply ask your friends to bring you one or two of their local publications for you to glean marketing opportunities or competitions from.

So where did I write this article? Waiting for a flight at Inchon International airport in Seoul, mid-air on a flight between Maui and The Big Island of Hawaii, and the foyer of the Outrigger Reef hotel, Oahu!

Find Out More...

Bylines from Near and Far - Myrna Oakley

Do's and Don'ts of Travel Writing - Jennifer Stewart

Travel that Pays - Kayleen Reusser

The Untraveled Travel Writer - Isabel Viana

Copyright © 2003 Susan Miles
This article may not be reprinted without the author's written permission.

Susan Miles is a Communication Specialist from Melbourne, Australia. Susan specializes in travel, sports, lifestyle, and writing articles for publications in Canada, the US, and Australia. Her recent articles on Japan and South Korea have appeared in The Toronto Star, St Petersburg Times (Florida), GoNomad.com, and Transitions Abroad.


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