It’s not every day that I open my emails to find I’ve been invited to write a guest column for a magazine. Oh sure, I get those you’ve-won-a-million-quid-just-click-here offers, and how-to-earn-big-money-from-travel-writing scams which go straight into the Junk Box. But when I saw an email in my Inbox from Lyn Hughes, Editor-in-Chief of my favourite travel magazine Wanderlust, I have to admit to a flutter of excitement.
‘I was wondering whether you would be interested in doing a one-page column for us… Waddya reckon?’ wrote Lyn.
Nah, not really, I’m a little busy right now.
WADDOO I RECKON? I’m surprised Lyn has any of her hand left after I nearly bit it off in my haste to accept such a fantastic opportunity.
But I kept it quiet. Maybe it was some sort of mistake and someone had hacked into her emails to play a joke on me? And if it really was her, maybe I wouldn’t be able to cut the mustard…
I had a week to write the first piece and a fortnight to write the second. Since Jamie and I had a week to get the boat ready for a big, unscheduled passage across the Indian Ocean, I had to get them both over to Wanderlust toot sweet. In between cleaning the diesel tank, servicing the winches, making below decks safe for a long voyage and provisioning the galley, I rushed them out in an evening. That’s when Phoebe Smith, Wanderlust‘s editor, stepped in to ‘offer some guidance’.
Oh no! I’d failed miserably. For anything that is likely to be published, I usually take a week to write around 500 words. I write, re-write, edit, read aloud, copy to my Kindle and read again, make Jamie read it, then read it aloud again. Until I have reached the point where I hate what I’ve written, but am simply too exhausted to refine it any further. My first drafts must be rubbish.
But Phoebe encouraged me, ‘I know you can do it…’ So, I made a swift edit, bringing both within her maximum word count, and knocked them back over. Then off we sailed, with me worrying all the time that I’d screwed up this opportunity all because of the sailing weather window we had to catch. Damn sailing.
But I needn’t have worried, because today I opened my digital copy of Wanderlust and there’s my first article. Phoebe’s tweaked it very slightly, but it is pretty much as I wrote it.
If you are wondering how I managed to be handed this column on a plate, and would like the same thing to happen to you, then here are some tips:
1. Become a myWanderluster and start posting up ‘experiences’ on the Wanderlust website. The editorial staff read them.
2. Ask and answer myWanderlust forum questions.
3. Send suggestions for magazine articles to Lyn and Phoebe, couched in no-nonsense terms. Ensure your subject bar contains an enticing heading.
4. Suggest ideas for the Wanderlust website and become a contributor. OK, it’s not the printed edition, but it is read by thousands and might become more important than the printed magazine in the future. Also the editorial staff are adorable.
5. Get yourself a strong web presence. I have two websites (you’re on one of them, the other is FollowTheBoat), a writing club, a facebook account and tweet a lot. Don’t forget to link, link, link, to your own pages and to others’, they’ll thank you for it and might even reciprocate.
6. The Itinerant Writers Club is a self-help writing club for those who want to improve their travel writing. The club has been invaluable to me as a writer. There is nothing like solid, kind and insightful peer feedback.
7. Think about improving your photography skills. It’s useful to be able to offer editors your own images. Jamie is the photographer in our partnership.
8. Enter some writing competitions. If you win, you’ll get noticed. If you don’t get anywhere, read the winning entries to pick up tips on what works.
9. Work hard. Improve. Read. But above all, write. Every day. Keep putting your stories out there and maybe someone will notice you.
10. Finally, don’t be a whinger, nobody likes them. Don’t complain all the time, unless you can be funny with it. Promote a positive attitude and always end on an upbeat note.