ASU writing professor’s advice to would-be travel authors: Get going

For devotees of wanderlust, feasting the senses on new scenery, sounds and people is the pinnacle of excitement. Writing about these adventures adds a new dimension to the experience. It not only stokes the fires of memory, but can also be the catalyst for a discovering new hobby or career.

 Paul Morris, director of the Arizona Commission on the Arts and an adjunct faculty member at Arizona State University, offered his audience at Changing Hands Bookstore some suggestions on how they can parlay their travel memoirs into lucrative magazine articles and even books.

For incipient as well as seasoned travelers, Morris provided first-hand insight and guidelines on how to creatively capture the essence of a trip, whether it’s a sojourn to Flagstaff or a world cruise. Some nuggets of advice included information on the dynamics of tackling a travel article.

“If you want information on a particular town,” said Morris, “the best thing is to contact the (local) convention and visitors bureau. Sometimes they have information that hasn’t been updated in the travel guides.”

Morris also elaborated on the following various genres of travel writing available to novices and experts alike:

Service articles--These are usually 500 words and include thoughts on such topics as traveling alone, courtesy abroad or getting directions. They are tips on how to make your trip easier.

Destination pieces--These are usually written about one city and are typically used by newspapers. “Things to do in San Diego would be a good example,” said Morris.

Topical pieces--These involve current news events, such as a new hotel, tunnel or something newsworthy about to happen.

Round-up stories--These are usually three, four or five related topics.  The story collects different ideas and puts them together.

The wild story--This is one that makes you say “Wow!” according to Morris. An example was visiting a cemetery in Paris where many famous people, such as Oscar Wilde, Jim Morrison and Victor Hugo, are buried.

Another example of a story can be a memoir, which captures moments of your trips. 

“These are moments of your own voice that are called ‘scenes,’” says Morris.

“When you are writing literary memoirs, you should be thinking of times from your travels when things happened. Think about things that establish a sense of place, such as food and drink, clothing, dancing, and housing.

“These are just starting points for your article. A journal can also be used as a scrapbook--a place to collect physical and sensory details such as ticket stubs, money, or a bus ticket.”

Once you’ve figured out the theme of your article, the next step is successfully marketing it. Morris recommends becoming familiar with the magazine market by utilizing the Writer’s Guide, (published yearly). It can be found at any library and also be purchased at bookstores.

To assist you on your quest to getting published, Morris advocates using a clipping file.

“These are starting points for stories,” he says.

“If I see a news story about something I think I can turn into a longer article, I’ll clip it and that will be the first step in my research about that topic”.

If you are interested in learning more in-depth techniques of travel writing, consider signing up for one of Morris’ classes. He teaches Creative Non-Fiction in the fall and Travel Writing, Memoir Writing and Food Writing in the spring, all at Arizona State University.

Jillian Robinson, director of program development at KAET, says it was Morris who launched her love affair with travel writing when she took his Travel Writing class three years ago.

“He was passionate about the genre,” she says.

“After reading my first story, a journey in D.H. Lawrence’s footsteps through Italy, he convinced me to write a book about it.

“Morris has championed, inspired and mentored me during this project ever since. I now see every journey through a new lens. My five senses have been sharpened and each moment on the road becomes rich, more exciting, more intense, and promises the chance of expanding my life.”