Milestone: Published as a Book Contributor

 

A while ago…actually, a LONG time ago I got commissioned to contribute entries to ABC-CLIO’s They Do What?: A Cultural Encyclopedia of Weird and Exotic Customs from around the World edited by Javier Galván.  And it’s finally out!

The book has been sent to my parents and though digital copies are on the way I haven’t gotten a chance to see the final product.

This is an interesting departure for me and one I enjoyed. I like getting more in depth into culture and history in a more academic manner, something I don’t necessary do in my normal magazine writing. And it’s the first book I’ve contributed to, so I’m quite eager to get home and paw through the physical copy the next time I visit my parents.

You can purchase or check out more information about the book on the ABC-CLIO website, Barnes and Noble, or on Amazon where there’s also a bit of a preview of the Kindle edition.

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Back from the World Cup

I’m back from my travels. And though World Cup travel is over, the final is yet to take place. I’m rather hoping that Brazil and Argentina face off – my neighborhood has a large population of Argentinians, so that scenario would be especially interesting in my corner of Brazil.

The trip went surprisingly well. I heard so much about how crazy it would be and I was surprised how pretty much all went well. Traffic, crowds – they were all completely fine – even the infamously crowded and dangerous São Paulo was nothing compared to Houston traffic….or China during a national holiday! Even getting up to Christ the Redeemer in Rio took about 20 minutes because we booked tickets online.

There’s a lot I’m still processing from the trip – story ideas, pictures, thoughts…but right now I’m just generally decompressing. As I said to a friend on Skype, it’s my “couch day” – so I’ll just post a few iPhone pics from the trip.

Enjoy!


San Telmo, Buenos Aires

Paca da Liberdade, Curitiba

Feijao, Farofa, and Brazilian BBQ at a random gas stop on the way to Paraty

Paraty

The waters off Ilha Grande

Ilha Grande

Old Town, Paraty

Concepcao de Jacare

View of Sugarloaf Mountain from Christ the Redeemer

Paraty

Check out more photos on my Instagram account.

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A Green and Yellow Tee – 2014 World Cup Tour

Last week walking around my neighborhood was disappointing.

Things were quiet in Canasvieiras (my neighborhood in Florianopolis in Southern Brazil) – and that’s expected – it’s winter here, and the roads are filled with guesthouses and long term rentals for Uruguayans and Argentinians who vacation here in the summer. But what was disappointing was the lack of a buzz – a vibrancy expected of the World Cup being held in this country of all countries.

There are reasons for this. Talking to Brazilians, they tell me of the frustration that the people have, an anger caused by government corruption, billions spent on stadiums, some of which, like the newly built Arena Amazonia in Manaus, will probably never really be used again.

As a great Reddit thread on the subject mentioned, it’s not that there isn’t some good coming out of it. Badly needed infrastructure issues, ignored for many years in some of the host cities are being taken care of (though there are some hilarious exceptions). Unfortunately at times this has been done without regard for the social impact – stories abound of preemptive police raids in favelas and the forcible relocation of citizens.

The opening game started on Thursday, and as I looked out through my balcony, I saw two schoolchildren, dressed in uniforms, walking with their father along my deserted street, waving Brazilian flags.

Something was finally happening.

I’m not much of a soccer fan and though I tend to zone out while seeing matches, I understand some of the inner tension involved. Last Week Tonight with John Oliver recently did a comedic, but well worded rant about this. As a soccer fan himself, John Oliver explains his own struggle with the issues – on one hand FIFA and the Brazilian government have done some shady things. On the other hand…It’s the World Cup!

What hooks me is the feeling of coming together, what Emile Durkheim called collective effervescence –  an amplifying emotional unification through a shared experience. And effervescence is the right word. It’s a bubbling vibrancy that swells around you irrespective of language or national ties…or in my case, a lack of soccer knowledge.


Later on Thursday, the flags became more apparent. A few honks from cars. A few more flags. Could that be a vuvuzela? As I walked to my local watering hole rows of stores were closing. One barber shop had given up all pretense of keeping to business hours; they were drinking beers and barbecuing out in the street. The only shops that seemed open were the ones selling Brazilian soccer t-shirts – the green and yellow that everyone was wearing.

The nervousness implicit is that Brazil wouldn’t get excited. That’s when you know that All is Not Right – when a passionate country is blank faced, robbed of joy while hosting what they love most. It’s not that the issues aren’t valid – its the fear that those issues, the actions of the government and of FIFA, might have broken a people’s spirit in a fundamental way. That is a thing of sorrow.

But at Brazil’s first goal by Namar fireworks thundered in the street and the suddenly crowded bar screamed in delight. And relief set in. Because there was a tension, even in a soccer heathen like myself, that Brazil might not get excited. And “Brazilians,” according to Anthony Bourdain in his newest Salvadore da Bahia episode of Parts Unknown “get excited about everything!”

Yes there are issues. But it’s also soccer in Brazil.

I’m still confused about the offsides rule. I don’t quite get how soccer players can dramatically fall to the ground clutching the wrong body part from a brush from an opponent. But on Thursday it felt like the country – or at least the part of the country in my small neighborhood – finally let out the part of themselves that still cleaves to delight. And there – amongst locals and a few expats that I picked out –  we were a part of that moment together.

Will it continue? I think it will.

I’m heading to Buenos Aires tomorrow, then Iguazu Falls, Curitiba, São Paulo, Paraty, Ilha Grande, and Rio. In packing I always wonder about the trip – this one will most likely be crazy, crowded, and loud, and the rumors of the country being unprepared do worry me a bit. But it also just might be as inclusive and friendly as I imagine, a party like only Brazilians know how to throw.

I don’t know how it will go – but I have one last addition to my packing. Like a lot of people in my neighborhood on Thursday, I too picked up a green and yellow shirt…

Brazilian flag photo by Eduardo Amorim

Posted in Travel, Uncategorized Tagged , |

Milestone: Published in Conde Nast Traveller Middle East

Not only is this a milestone because it’s the Conde Nast Traveller brand, but it’s also my first publication in a new region – the Middle East. I was originally tasked with doing a caption for a photo, but it turned out they used one of my pics. So it’s also my first full spread photograph used in a magazine. It was a pleasure working with them and I definitely hope to work with them in the future!

Posted in Clients, progress, Published Tagged , , , |

Photo Sourcing

 

Photo sourcing, photo curating…call it what you will, but I’ve just started doing this for the first time for a series of articles online. I’ve always offered to do this -but usually I thought it would involve just asking tourism bureaus or restaurants, etc and hoping they would get back to me in time with their professional photographs.

I also thought it would involve contacting photographers. The previous times I’ve done this have been catastrophic. In one case the photographer wanted to discuss payment and then just slacked off in replying. This was frustrating because I was offering him publication in an international magazine, when up until then he’d only been published locally. Another time I contacted and put the editor in touch with 4 different photographers. Unfortunately they needed the photography within the next two days, and the one photographer they wanted to go with didn’t check his email.

Photo sourcing pictures online is an avenue I just never thought of. What I do is search through photography databases like Flickr and make sure the pics are shared for public and commercial purposes.   And some of the pics are truly fantastic – it’s a real pleasure to do and I find myself really enjoying it.

In one case I couldn’t find any good photographs so I used my own, back linking to this website.

“Is this ….legal? Moral? Right?” I kept asking.

It just felt a bit….incestuous. But I write articles all the time and have links back to my website. I must not be used to this new world that’s opening up.

And it gets even more interesting. There are plenty of Facebook shared listicles that are simply a list of pics. So the author comes up with an idea….say – Coolest Rivers in the World…and then just….takes pictures from other sources and captions them.

This makes sense – of course a picture is more visceral and shareable than even a listicle. And some of these websites generate immense amounts of traffic – I saw one that had over 100 MILLION clicks a month. All from curated and sourced content. Of course the key is the timing and the clickability of the list. But it’s crazy that there’s no unique content on these – it’s all in the gathering.

I’m still trying to figure out what this could mean. How about working for a place that just does curated content? Email sent, awaiting the reply and rates. What about incorporating this in pitching? A lot of Asian magazines have rejected pitches from me because I don’t have the pics. But what if I just curated it – including links to pictures as a part of my link? That would certainly open up stories where I’ve gone to the place, but didn’t have good pics. Of course this would only work for magazines that accept curated content – but I know of many outlets that do this. And what does this mean for my own photography? I know this grants a lot of photographers great exposure – should I open up my own pics for use?

I’m still mulling it all over, but one thing is certain – photo sourcing adds a whole new dynamic to this travel writing game…

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Writing Travel #1 – A Conversation on Travel Writing Workflow

I’ve been having great conversations recently – in person and online with colleagues about the nitty gritty of travel writing. So I just decided to try recording them. Here’s the first in what will hopefully be a series of conversations about the industry – this one is with Lydia Schrandt and it’s (mostly) about workflow… Though there are some rather long tangents. Enjoy!

Posted in Productivity and Workflow Tagged , , |

Blog Update: Sidebar

I recently noticed that links in my blog side bar (Interviews, Experimental, Articles, Book Reviews, & Terms) had dead links from when I migrated everything to the new layout. I just went through and updated them.

Articles that I’ve analyzed and my experimental terms are probably the best thing I’ve got when it comes to concrete writing development. Those started in an attempt to ratchet up my skills – it’s one thing to know that an article you read is good, it is an entirely different thing to know exactly why, and then do it yourself.

I’ve personally felt I’ve improved by writing those particular posts, so check them out, and let me know what you think.

Posted in Blog Maintenence Tagged |

Florianópolis, Brazil

Path through the nature reserve to Moçambique Beach

About 3 months ago I moved to Florianópolis, Santa Catarina, Brazil. The island city is, for its population, really spread out. I live in a small village about 45 minutes by car away from the central part of the city.

So far, it’s a beach lover’s paradise. With 42 beaches, its conditions are perfect for surfing, sailing, kayaking, paddle boarding, and kite surfing, depending on what beach you’re on. I’ve only made it to about 5 beaches, but they have been gorgeous. I’m really quite surprised that more people don’t know about it on an international level.

Joaquina Beach

At a regional level it is pretty well known. During holidays like Easter and Carnival, the place gets flooded with Brazilians, Argentinians, and Uruguayans. And like Xiamen it attracts stars – allegedly a few Victoria’s Secret models have beach houses here.

But when the busy season is over, there’s a peacefulness that settles over everything – especially in my village, Rio Vermilho. It’s next to a natural reserve, so it’s not exactly party central. Walking about during the day you’re likely to run into a few kids playing on dusty streets, a few dogs, or a lost surfer looking for the beach rather than fashionistas. But the sunsets are amazing.

Rio Vermilho

It is quite challenging, socially speaking. I’ve managed thus far to muddle through with rusty Spanish or English. The language, along with the transportation, has curbed meeting people like I did in Medellin – Centro is too far away (but they do have Couchsurfing meetings) and Lagoa de Conceição (a beautiful urban lagoon beach) has restaurants, bars, and clubs, but it requires a long and very hilly drive.

This is the first place I’ve lived abroad where the city transport wasn’t all that was needed. Bucheon, Xiamen, Medellin, and Buenos Aires had great public transport, and Baños was easily walkable. The first month of learning to ride a scooter here was fun, but pretty scary at times (the beach dunes sometimes blows onto the streets, which gets slippery). And driving around in a car in another country feels really weird.

 

Lagoa de Conceição

Today I’m moving to the Canasvieiras neighborhood on the northern part of the island. It’s close to two beaches – one of which has what I imagine is a very European feel. It’s apparently home to a lot of Argentinians – which will no doubt allow me to continue not learning Portuguese.

I’ll miss this quiet village, but I’m excited to see what the new one is like!

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Milestone: Guest Column in NatGeoTrav India

Way back in 2011 or so, I mentioned Daisann McLane, a columnist for Nat Geo Traveler U.S. What I admired about her column, Real Travel, was how she combined her many travels along a central theme. Her writing was truly inspirational, and I admired them so much that I analyzed one of her articles in the very first “article discussion” I did. They aren’t necessarily about one place, but a merging of experiences to describe travel as a whole.

Columns allow you to do this – to take a more philosophical and cohesive approach. And I’m pleased to have just published my own, very first guest column for National Geographic Traveller India. I had a lot of fun writing it, and though I’m no Daisann McLane, I’m hoping to do more of this type of writing in the future.

You can check out my article HERE.

And definitely check out her blog HERE or in a copy of National Geographic Traveler.

EDIT: Just saw that her blog mentioned that after almost 100 issues, she said goodbye to the column as of the Aug/Sept 2013 issue (I’m obviously behind in my reading)- BUT she’ll be writing and posting more at her new site. Looking forward to it!

Posted in progress, Published, Types of Jobs Tagged , , , |

Article Discussion Series: “The Heart of Old Seoul” by Manny Howard

In the last post I talked about updating once a week, but I couldn’t resist with this one.

I haven’t done one of these in a long time, but “The Heart of Old Seoul” by Manny Howard in the May 2014 issue of Conde Nast Traveler (U.S.) was such a great article. It is the article I wanted to write, and I was amazed at how well he managed to find the underbelly of a culture I spent a year in (and he also explored the old district of Itaewon – known as the foreigner area – I’ve been there plenty of times and had no idea there was an old district there!) And this analysis really is the heart of how to improve. In previous articles I discuss a lot of writing techniques – Here I want to focus more on how he got the information.

I find that getting the info – quotes, sources, and whatnot are what really make some of these better articles stand out.

 

  1. The first thing that stands out to me is how he gets insider information. At the beginning of the article, he’s meeting Charlie Cho, a media director. He met Charlie by asking a New York chef Hooni Kim, for contacts within the city. He also has a “well-traveled photographer with Korea at the top of his next-trip list” and meets several experts – a master distiller, a maker of soy sauce, a chef, and a soban “guardian” (a soban is a hand crafted table that was the center of the Korean household). Later, a faux pas is NOT translated by an interpreter – so he’s got one of those too. And he quotes from these sources throughout the article.
  2. He includes background – He talks about the word on everyone’s lips – Bitcoin and a Korean TV show and a reference to blackoutkorea.com – a website documenting people passed out from binge drinking.
  3. He includes stats – specifically about soju in Korea: “Soju is the world’s best-selling distilled spirit, and the top two brands alone move upwards of 80 million cases a year. (The top two brands of vodka don’t sell half that much.)”
  4. He mentions the poetic names of the dishes.

Of course there are other things, but these really highlight my personal weaknesses. My initial assumption is to brush it off and to think that I could get the same info if I had the backing of a magazine that gave me an expense account to hire a translator and the opening of doors for contacts that a formal commission gives.

Whether or not this is the case is irrelevant – I want to be able to do it now. So how can I do this?

The first key weakness I have is that I don’t get many sources. I’m not thinking like a journalist. He had a lot of contacts, and I’m guessing he had more than he wrote about. Talk to everyone, make connections, even before you’re at the place.

Secondly, he found out what was trending. Whether he did this by researching trending internet posts or just by talking to people, it sets the stage, juxtaposing a traditional heritage with what is presently popular. Find what’s popular now.

Third, he found out stats. I’ve noticed a lot of quality articles do this, and I’m at a loss for how. Is there a website with soju stats? Did he call up a rep? I’m at a total loss as to how to do this, especially in a foreign country where you do not speak the language – but, I haven’t fully exhausted purely internet options. (Upon doing a quick internet search on the world’s most selling liquor a number of articles from CNN and The Guardian come up confirming it.  I was wondering where he got the actual statistic of the top two brands selling over 80 million cases, but it comes up in the CNN article, which in turn got the info from the Millionaire’s Club, an organization that collects data on spirits.) Do more research!

Lastly, the poetic names of dishes – I have been at many tables where names were thrown out and it happened way too fast for me to remember. It could have been that he looked it up at a the restaurant’s home page, or asked his friend. But he could’ve also just had a pen and pad at hand and wrote it all down. Write down everything.

Well, there you have it – there are clearly very concrete things I can do to improve that have nothing to do with a magazine’s backing. And until I do them, I can’t moan about it – focusing on delivering the best quality of article with what I have is the goal.

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