Today we're going to explore the motivations behind culinary travel writing, how to punch up your copy, structure it for your market, and sell it. But first we're going to establish that what we're doing is fun!

Media Kitty - Media Kitty
Blogger Ridge - Blogger Bridge
Trav Media - Trav Media
Jon Morrow - Jon Morrow

To be a writer is to be a reader - I don't care what type of writer you want to be Every writer is a reader FIRST - read everything, but start with the good stuff so you know what good writing is. For travel writing - Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, who else? Who do you read? For food writing - Mark Bittman, M.F.K. Fisher, Jim Harrison (! he's in both categories, really) classic cook books by Julia Child and Craig Claiborne, Who else? In general - I enjoy reading John Burroughs, E.B.White, John McPhee, Cormac McCarthy, Annie Proulx and then I just read everything - who else? Individually - why are you here? What do you want from this class? Start with me: I've set a goal to speak at the New York Times Travel Show. To do that I have to have in my CV: a book (I have 4. 3 that my articles are included in and one that I wrote the introduction to.) A history of speaking, preferably at the NY Times Travel Show. Which reminds me of the magazine editor who turned down my pitch because they only work with writers they've worked with before (without irony!) So I accept speaking engagements when they come, whether to a genealogy group, historical society, Life Spring continuing education or local workshops such as this. I last spoke in June at the Catskill Interpretive Center Book Fair and was on a panel on How to get published. Individually - why are you here? What do you want from this class? Ask each one
Why I'm a culinary travel writer - always hungry & likes to travel. But - over the years more people liked my food writing - it was passionate. Start with - for people who listen to NPR

Writing competition - won both Travel & Food - nationally syndicated etc. It began with writing letters to the editor every week. Usually political and scathing - sometimes in a funny way. That led to a column in each weekly paper. One on politics and one on anything I wanted to write about - mostly local events and history. I hold the distinction of having above the fold front page stories in both papers in the same week - and they were different stories. So - we write about what we know about. I know you all eat. Are you travelers? Can you articulate your passions? Engage an audience?

Writer's workshop notes

Who are you writing for? In this case, I wrote a piece I thought had a funny and engaging opening paragraph for general readers. But - after much consideration I threw it away and changed the title. The Tourism office told me that my titles were key to my readers - the tourism folks I was writing for - and the articles would get shared more if the titles weren't "cute", but expressed a statement they endorsed. They also said because they would be reading in a second language they would probably skim it or only read the title and first paragraph. So - do I go for my follower's enjoyment or for my sponsors' happiness? In this case I the sponsors won out. (2 similar articles, one with a cute opening and one without, both in the same venue with the same promotion - one was shared +2000 times and one 53. - I learned. It's all in the numbers.) It is important to have a compelling opening paragraph. There has to be action to capture the reader's attention.

Ibiza - Facts, Myths and History

On my last morning in Ibiza I woke up in a strange bed, naked except for a string bracelet with a small silver symbol with Eivissa on it - which was odd for so many reasons besides the fact that I don't wear jewelry. I remembered going to that glamorous international dance club, Pacha, the night before. It was Flower Power night, a celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Summer of Love in San Francisco in 1967. A crumpled flower in the bed reminded me of wearing a flower in my hair. Other than a bass beat that sent electric vibrations through my body, and a very steep entry fee that did not include any $23 drinks, I have no recollection of what happened after that. Oh - and did I mention I was naked? Ibiza's Heritage and History Overshadow Its Party Image I imagined that a story about my trip to Ibiza would be about the constant party of hedonistic abandon the island's reputation led me to expect. Instead, while that scenario may still play out occasionally in Ibiza, mostly I saw couples in their late twenties, early thirties - often with children - and some older couples and singles of both sexes, enjoying the beaches, museums and fine cuisine in the many local restaurants.

I once had an editor take a straight-forward 500 word piece on dining in Macau. She asked that I pull the action out of one of the middle paragraphs and use it to open the piece. She was right and it was vastly improved - see for yourself:

Besides what I told you - what did you notice about those two pieces? Top

WRITING FOR VISUAL IMPACT - Photography - you need to be able to take good pictures of your food and the scenery. I don't care how good the prose is - the images have to be there to draw the ready in. Some websites need more than others. Here's a stylish example of less is more:
Mussels PEI
Magazine Links: Arzak ARZAK
Macau Macau Web Links: Spain Sevilla
Niagara Park

Food descriptions: When you taste food, much of what you taste relies on the smell - the aroma of the food cooking and on your plate. As you're told to put your nose in the glass of wine to breathe in the bouquet, you should smell your food and be able to describe that smell. Then describe the texture or mouthfeel - the photos will help with your descriptions, but they can't cover taste, texture and smell.

Creative writing - Here's a link to dinner as history: Quebec
Radio: Radio
Ibiza Food
bio, clips and references:
My website


BOOK REVIEW - This has been called THE BEST BOOK REVIEW by the author, the publisher, and several editors - see why:
Despoiling Paradise: A Rotten Person Travels the Caribbean, eh? At first I thought the unlikely title of this hilarious non-guide book went too far. "Rotten Person," indeed! Then, after just a few chapters of Gary Buslik's travel memoir, I realized it didn't go far enough. "A very Rotten Person and his Insufferable Wife (she would say Better Half) Travel the Caribbean" would be a much more suitable title.
Author Gary Buslik does for the Caribbean what he does for marriage, turns it into a funny but cruel joke so razor-wit sharp it draws blood. You're never quite sure if the wounds are homicidal or suicidal, or just whose side you are on as the blows fall. This book is wicked. The alter-egos the author creates are the stereotypical Ugly American and his shop-a-holic wife, Annie, playing off each other in a passive/aggressive duet, breaking every taboo in a good cop/bad cop evisceration of convention.
He's an expensive-cigar-smoking Republican moneyman, and she's a bleeding-heart liberal (he says communist.) I hated them, I liked them, I laughed out loud at their antics, cringing as I did so. I never want to travel with these people, but I want to hear the stories from someone who did. And I hate myself for saying that. The author gives us a gecko-on-the-wall look at this perfectly mismatched pair yin/yanging their way through the steamy airports, bars and hotel rooms of the Caribbean. They are at times arguing, making-up and separating again. Always slightly out-of-tune with their surroundings, they blithely trample everything and everyone in their paths. Hedonistic, self-centered, boorish and no longer the beautiful people they once imagined themselves to be--and these are their good qualities--Gary and Annie bully, banter, and connect in a compulsively readable way.
I have to admit that there were times I threw this book down in disgust, they are just such an awful couple. But each time I retrieved it, picking at it like a scab, reading with guilty pleasure the further exploits and exasperations of such unlikely ambassadors of American culture (or, in their case, lack thereof).
Here's an example of the author's cruel wit as the second-honeymoon couple engage in a vitriolic pool-side t'te-?-t'te:
Annie: "We're going dancing? You're a horrible dancer. I wouldn't even call it dancing. It's like some weird quadriplegic thing. You hate music. Do you have any idea how sick it is to hate music?"
Gary: Not as sick as putting ketchup on hot dogs, I thought. But I kept my mouth shut "True enough," I offered instead. "O.K. Celebrity watching instead."
Annie: "You hate celebrities." She got up and collected her towels. "I'm going to the gift shop to max out our credit card."
Gary: So it was a pretty good bet it was going to be a long, lonely night.

Buslik's observations on marriage made me laugh out loud:
"In any argument in which your spouse has to choose between your welfare and the welfare of a house plant, it's always better to be the plant."
Throughout the book the reader is reminded that Gary is a freelance travel writer. In fact, many of the chapters appeared in a slightly altered form in travel magazines and literary journals. His observations on the plight of a downtrodden scribe and the wily ways of their editors are spot-on scathingly funny. I enjoyed his insights into a profession I've come to know.
Here, he's on a horseracing assignment in Barbados when his "cunningly parsimonious" editor suggested an additional assignment--on cockfighting:
"The article would pay more than twice his usual miserly fee, but I'd have to research it on the same trip as the horseracing piece. So, could I--you know--just pop over to Grenada for a little look-see? To the average sun-lusting planter's punch jockey, this might have seemed like a great gig, except that it was September 1983 and Grenada was in the midst of a vicious political power struggle that had all the earmarks of impending bloodshed. I may have been a hungry writer but I was not stupid. On the other hand, my editor did suggest that if I didn't write the bird article, my horse article would wind up in a glue factory in New Delhi, along with my check. Which is why I soon found myself checking into a guest house in Grenada's picturesque capital."
Non-writers can enjoy this way of life vicariously, envious of the perks but aware of the price a journalist pays to travel freely through the exotic locales of the world. You'll be glad the experience is vicarious if the writer is Gary Buslik on his way into a war zone, or anywhere with his wife, which amounts to much the same thing.