July 2017 Featured Member: Laurel-Ann Dooley
Thursday, July 13, 2017 12:00 AM

Laurel-Ann DooleyLaurel-Ann Dooley a freelance travel writer and journalist, a nonfiction author, and a children's book author.

What got you into travel writing?

When I was a child in Montreal, my mother always took me with her to the butcher shop. On the wall behind the deli case, there was a picture of a beautiful, dark-eyed woman wearing red dress with gold thread woven through it and a jewel on her forehead. I asked my mother about it, and she told me it was a calendar with pictures of India, which was a country far from where we lived. I knew at that moment that I would go there someday.  That thought was the birth of my love of travel. Being a journalist, travel writing was a given for me.

What's the most challenging part of travel writing for you?

Getting a story written right after a trip. I always think I will remember everything, but, even with notes and pictures, details slip away. Trust me on this one.

What one thing [equipment or a personal item] can't you go without on the road?

My iPhone. It's not the best for any one thing, but covers all bases. If you forget your notebook or camera, your phone's got your back.

If you're going to an upscale restaurant, you can't bring a giant backpack. Even small pads or cameras can be too big. A mobile always fits.

And if you're adventuring, say, rock-climbing, you don't want a bunch of bags turning you into an elephant. You slow down the group, straps slide off your shoulders, and you're constantly distracted adjusting them. As a writer, I can rely on photographers to deliver the pixels and quality photos, and I still can capture some scenes on my phone.

What was your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?

Swimming with pigs in the Exumas. When I heard about them, I became obsessed with the idea of paddling around with pigs, so much so that as an anniversary gift, my husband set up a trip to the Bahamas so I could visit the pigs. Sadly, since that time, overfeeding by tourists and a decreased water supply has threatened their survival.

What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel writer?

New writers can feel caught in a conundrum: you need published stories to get an assignment, but can't get an assignment without published stories.

As a newbie, you need to start small. Try local publications or start-up sites. These outlets often don't ask for recent work, and what you write for them produces a published piece for the next round.

You need to spend time on your pitch. Do research and include information that shows you know your subject. Include quotes. Come up with an attention-grabbing headline. And before you do anything, make sure your idea would be interesting to readers, not just you. You might think your last vacation was amazing but, to others, it might be a big "who cares". Remember, you are writing an article, not a personal journal.

Visit Laurel-Ann's website at www.laurelanndooley.com.

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