Kathryn Flett’s searingly honest piece of travel journalism, By Waterloo Station I Sat Down and Wept, was published in the Observer Life magazine in 1997. I was eight at the time, preoccupied with buying Girl Talk magazine, so this wasn’t exactly on my radar. Thankfully she’s reproduced the whole feature on her blog, which you can read here. Quick, go and read it now, and you’ll see why it’s so legendary.
When Flett got the assignment, it was a straightforward one: review this romantic Belgian hotel package with your husband. However, life got in the way (the small matter of the marriage lying in tatters in the world’s most romantic city). This led to one of the most unflinching features ever to grace the pages of a Sunday magazine supplement. Flett basically wrote a stream of consciousness and, unusually, ‘I didn’t change a single word after I’d written it’. The feature was pure catharsis.
Spoiler alert: if you hadn’t guessed it from the title, here comes the first of my media-related posts on the blog to tackle writing and pitching head-on. In my author bio I had promised to give you some tactics about pitching, but I have actually been a bit busy writing smug posts about where I’ve travelled to in the past, or where I’d like to go next (sorry). Well, now’s the time to start redressing the balance.
Whether you’re looking to guest post on a blog or you’re tackling big-gun newspaper supplement/magazine editors or legendary website creators, the challenges ahead are the same – how do you get them to believe in your idea? Why are you the one person who can write it? What on earth is going to make you stand out in their inbox? Instead of giving you a step-by-step guide, which can feel too prescriptive, I thought I’d turn the whole thing on its head. Let’s get out the wrecking ball and screw up some pitches.
We all know that travel writing is ridiculously competitive (hey, who wouldn’t want to tell the world about their adventures or, indeed, be paid to go on them in the first place?), but something I’ve noticed in the past year or so is how many lifestyle websites don’t even have an outlet for travel at all, despite it being just the thing that their readers would respond to.
Many that do offer holiday inspiration manage to drip-feed it through lengthy advertorials or commercial ventures that mean there’s no room for freelancers or bloggers to get a word in edge-ways The questions I’m left asking – how did this become okay? At what point did readers stop wanting genuine insight and travelogues and start wanting advertorial tied to competitions instead? I’d love to know, really I would.
Calavera (Span. feminine noun) = skull. A travel blog with a love of culture, dark tourism and the unconventional.