My article on Fujian’s tulou was just published on CNN Travel.
I wrote this article…idunno, I think over a year ago, so it’s weird to get officially published. Patience seems to be the byword in this industry – luckily I was paid a long time ago!
Unfortunately the article itself seems to have been heavily altered – which happens – but according to the comments below the article, a pretty big factual error was made. It was quickly corrected, which I appreciate, but there’s a part of me that rails at a system where the editorial process may change a writer’s words, yet the writer is still culpable for any error by the reader.
At this point I can either get mad, which does nothing but irritate people, or just accept it and understand that this is the nature of the industry. It happens.
The other thing I didn’t like about the article was the general alterations in my writing style – I don’t particularly like it, but I’m wondering if that just reflects a newspaper style that focuses more on fact dominated sentences rather than the more descriptive slant I take in most of my other work.
If that’s what they want, I need to work on being able to adapt my writing – I managed to change my writing style to fit a men’s magazine I recently worked with, but this particular style might take some getting used to.
Either way, it’s a great addition to the ol’ portfolio.
I’m currently actively pitching CNN stories for Latin America – until recently they’ve been focused on Asia, but now they are starting to beef up other regions.
My story on Mongolia got published in Esquire (Malaysia). This is great and all, and it is a milestone for me in that it’s the first officially published article I have for a major brand since my article in CNN has yet to be published (even though my profile is on their site).
I checked my emails, and found I got my first letter of interest from Esquire in May 2012. Since then it’s been a series of problems because their travel column was filled up and they were doing a lot of things in-house.
Early on in my career I would have just given up after a few emails, thinking that they were just blowing me off.
What this experience has taught me is that tenacity is incredibly useful in this profession. I sent about a million emails and had quite a few setbacks, but I finally got in. I’m glad for this experience because I know I’ll be completely content sending another million emails to another big name publication over the course of a year if it gets me a big payoff.
As you can see, I’m currently updating the site.
I’ve switched from a black background to a white one, with a really big and bold black font. I got the idea from the Forbes website – I find their site very readable and professional.
I might have been further influenced by recently finishing Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, by Robin Sloan, which tends to obsess about iconic fonts. There’s just something that makes certain websites seem official and presentable and readable. I wanted the same for my site.
I also changed up the galleries – you’ll see pics on my home page instead of my list of magazine covers, and my photography galleries will be displayed as thumbnails.
In addition, I’ve starting going through all the broken links – many of the blog sidebar links, like my interviews, book reviews, and article reviews weren’t linking properly – most of them should be now and I’ve added more book reviews. I’ve added a blog roll of other writers talking about similar topics, and I’ll begin adding a new “beginners” section and an area purely for software and other resources.
Hope you like the new look!
Just got back from 8 days of exploring the Galapagos Islands. This was an amazing adventure, and reminded me of my time in Mongolia in that it’s, for me, an iconic place that I never thought I’d get to visit.
Only this time, I had better guides.
The expedition had two – both were certified naturalists with the national parks and both provided a wealth of ecological information as we snorkeled, hiked, and sailed our way through the islands. Having someone on hand to describe everything from geology to biology in specific was amazing. And having guides who were experienced in the field was invaluable – at one point we were walking along and our guide glanced over and, with his naked eye, pointed out a small eared owl some 50 yards away. The owl was camouflaged and many of us couldn’t find it even with binoculars.
Our itinerary took us to several islands where we got to see many of the area’s iconic animals: blue footed boobies, seals, sea lions, giant tortoises, flightless cormorants, and frigate birds. It also showed me some surprising sides of the islands, including a sizable town (I didn’t know people actually lived in the Galapagos), coffee plantations, and a place where you could camp in treehouses amidst turtle migrations.
The trip turned out to be photographically intensive – I had to adapt to take pictures of wildlife in less than optimal lighting conditions as the sun rose quickly in the day and our excursions often took place when lighting was harsh. One fellow passenger had an amazing camera. I’m not usually all about upgrading frivolously – I think too many photographers do so just to get a shiny new toy – but after playing around with the guy’s camera…..it might be time for an upgrade!
I took over 3,000 pictures, so I’m currently going through them, and will have a gallery up shortly.
Lydia Schrandt came up with this protocol, based on the 30-30-30 brainstorming exercise.
I learned about the 30-30-30 exercise in my Media Bistro course. Basically:
- Grab 30 magazines
- Take 30 minutes
- come up with 30 story ideas
I actually have not done this yet, but instead have started Lydia’s modified version which consists of:
- Brainstorm 30 story ideas (unedited)
- Choose the top 5-10 most compelling
- Think of 5-10 different people who might be able to help in the research of each idea
- Find the contact info for those people
- Contact them with dates your available and your specific interest in them
So far, I’ve done the brainstorming, I’ve chosen several of the best ideas, and I’m in the process of contacting them and meeting people.
I’ve been meaning to come up with a standard protocol to follow, especially before visiting a place so I immediately have access to those in the know instead of just relying on happenstance to get my stories. People like Anthony Bourdain and Andrew Zimmern have teams that do a lot of background research and footwork, and this is something I’m lacking.
This is a protocol I’ll probably add to. I’d like to be able to do have a database of articles that have already been written, and perhaps a list of publications that would be likely to publish each piece. And there will probably be go-to resources that will emerge from actually enacting this protocol. For example, bloggers are always a good resource, as are tourism boards, fixers, and networking meetings.
I’ve recently moved to Medellin, Colombia.
There’s a growing trend in several cities of rentable office space. Espacio in Medellin is such a place geared towards freelancers and entrepreneurs. It offers a desk, high speed internet, free coffee, phone booths, design classes, networking, and a conference room.
I chose to try this for the next few months because in writing at home the line between work and free time gets blurred. My mind never actually switches off from work mode, which results in me being tired all the time and just generally inefficient.
So far the decision has proved beneficial in many ways. For one, I feel that there’s more of a push for me to work harder at the office. Secondly, the owners put on networking events, and are very good about making people meet each other. The one meeting I’ve been to was very enjoyable, and I got to meet a lot of people that I otherwise would not have had the opportunity to meet. This is invaluable as an expat in a new city and as a writer seeking connections to get access to interesting stories in the region. It’s also inspiring to be sitting amidst a community of young entrepreneurs, discussing ideas and building companies in an array of fields.
I’ve been scheduling meetings with guides and tour operators, and it’s quite handy to have a base to meetup – they come to the office and I schedule time in the conference room.
I’ve started hiking fairly regularly in my town in Ecuador. It’s surrounded by mountains and it’s quite easy to get to the hiking trails.
I normally hate hiking. I find it incredibly painful, especially when doing it once in a blue moon. In Asia, trails were either littered, over crowded, or if going with a guide, paced horribly.
But when I go on my own, it’s a good way to work up to longer and more demanding treks. I can choose when I need a break, and the views here in Ecaudor are breathtaking. As a native Houstonian, hiking at 6,000 ft. is difficult, but I’m already making progress.
Working up to hiking is also incredibly useful for the job, as the best views, and therefore the best pics, are often found on high.
Here’s a pic I took a few days ago, on the mountain that’s conveniently located only a 2 or 3 minute walk away from where I live.