As those who have been interviewed know, some of you I have met and know, and others are new acquaintances from online communities. Christina Rebuffet-Broadus is a new connection that I’m delighted to interview.
Maralyn: Please introduce yourself: provide some background, i.e.where are you from, how did you start writing, is there anything specifically interesting about you? If you had another career first, how/why did you switch to writing?
Christina: Here’s the fun part: I’m from Pascagoula, Mississippi, which the French find hilarious to try to pronounce. I’ve lived in Grenoble, in the French Alps since 2004 and started writing around 2008.
One night, I dreamed one of my ex-boyfriends published a book. I hadn’t spoken to him for a few years, but I called him and asked about the project. He confirmed that he was indeed working on a book and had a publisher for it.
I thought, “If he can do it, so can I.” I had always loved reading and writing as a kid—I kept travelogues of family vacations and travels as a student, but (fortunately) nobody ever read any of it. Now, people do, and I don’t use phrases like “super duper fun” in my descriptions anymore.
Something interesting about me? Maybe the fact that if I had one wish, I would want to speak all the languages in the world. That’s been my wish since I was a kid, trying to teach myself Cherokee (we vacationed in the Smokies a lot).
Maralyn: What type of writing do you focus on, food, wine or travel or all three?
Christina: So much has been done on French wine, and since I have a hard time telling a Bordeaux from a Burgundy (before reading the label, of course), I generally leave that topic to the experts. Travel and food, however, is another story. I specialize in travel through France and all the good things to eat along the way. My big thing is regional specialties, terroir as the French call it. It’s the idea that Champagne can only come out of the Champagne region, because the others don’t have the same climate, the same soil, so the products won’t be the same. France has an extremely varied landscape, and the food reflects this. My job is to combine food and traveling to help visitors taste France, not just see it.
Maralyn: What can you share with others as to important tips or suggestions for other writers on writing and finding outlets for articles?
Christina: Don’t be afraid. A lot of beginning writers tell themselves no one will like what they do or that it isn’t good enough. Part of that is true. You won’t land your first clip in the New York Times or win the Nobel Prize for literature after a year. Keep at it. Take a writing class or two. Network with other writers (and editors) to create a support group. Writing can be a lonely job and it helps to have friends, even Facebook ones. No, especially Facebook ones.
Maralyn: How did you get started writing and blogging?
Christina: After learning that mere mortals could write and publish too, I went to that information gold mine called the Internet. I googled “travel writers” or something like that and found the site travelwriters.com, a community of, you guessed it, travel writers. I joined, read the BBS religiously, and learned about pitching, structure, and the mechanics of writing and getting paid for it.
The print vs. Web argument came up often—which was more dignified, would the Web ever take over print, etc. For me, both are viable, just not the same. They’re like two kids and it’s not because the new one comes along that you abandon the first. Now I do Web and print. The styles are quite different, but that’s part of a writer’s job—adapting to the outlet and the readers. Variety is the spice of writing!
Maralyn: Did you have something specific that inspired you to write in this genre?
Christina: France attracted me from early on. I started taking French in high school and decided about that time that I would live in France. Now I do and I want to share the country with others. France is so much more than Paris, baguettes, and wine (although that stuff is great too). It’s a very complex country with complex people that are changing very quickly. I try to better understand the people and the places each day. It’s a lifelong process and I hope to take readers along with me and better yet, inspire them to come see France for themselves. There is so, so much to discover!
Maralyn: How often do you blog?
Christina: Between the different sites I write for, I would say pretty much every day. It sounds like a lot, but the topics differ and that helps. I blog about Grenoble for the site www.NileGuide.com, where I am their local expert for Grenoble. For www.OnTheSnow.com, I write about skiing in the French Alps. For www.Examiner.com, I’m in charge of French Culture and Travel, which lets me write about people and places outside the Alps. I’m also working on building a France culinary travel Web site to help people plan a trip where they can savor the flavors of France. Getting that off the ground is my big project at the moment.
Maralyn: What has been the most effective means of gaining traffic/followers?
Christina: Two things: networking and regularity (not the fiber-induced kind!). It helps to know others in the business, even if they do not write on your topic. Socially and professionally, a good network is key. Also, you have to post regularly. People who come back to your site once a week want to see a fresh read. Let your posts get stale and they’ll stop checking back. Also, I would say be a giver. Give readers things that will help or interest them. Don’t make it all about you.
Maralyn: If you also write articles, do you query for assignments before you write or after the article is done?
Christina: I always query after doing research, but before writing. You can’t write an article “generally.” Your writing must be geared to certain readers, a certain publication style, and what the editor wants. It’s hard to write with all that in mind if you don’t know whom you are writing for.
Maralyn: Do you go to food, wine or travel writers or blog conferences?
Christina: Unfortunately, there aren’t many in my area, otherwise, I would definitely go. With two other writer/bloggers in Grenoble, we have created a writer’s group, which for right now is as close to a conference as I can get.
Maralyn: What do you feel you gain the most from blogging?
Christina: For me, a better understanding and appreciation of my adopted country and region. Going from the Mississippi Gulf Coast to the French Alps is a big change. Writing about skiing helps me appreciate sub-freezing temperatures and snow drifts. Also, it allows the chance to connect with other writers as peers. There are a lot of great writers and bloggers out there, on both a professional and personal level.
Maralyn: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Christina: Querying articles. There is so much competition out there and editors are stretched beyond their limits with budget cuts, job loss threats, and falling readership. Querying takes a lot of time—you have to identify potential markets, read through a magazine’s past issues, craft an excellent query, track down the right person to contact, and hope that your pitch doesn’t land in their spam box or that they will actually have the time to read it. They say a 3% success rate means you’re doing very well. That means 97% of your energy just dies off somewhere. That can be very tiring and time-consuming.
Maralyn: What is your approach to research?
Christina: I majored in history and then in American civilization, both of which required a lot of research and writing. My approach is probably very academic in that respect. I often start by searching a database for other articles on my topic. I can see what has already been written, get names of people to interview, and leads to other sources. I’m quite shy, but I like interviewing people for articles. Often, I get new ideas or angles from interviews, so that’s important too. Always do some research before interviewing, though, it makes the experience that much richer.
Maralyn: Have you learned any inside tips along the way you could recommend to writers/bloggers starting out?
Christina: Know what’s already on the Web and try to connect with the people who have already established themselves. They’ll have tons of advice. Also, read other people’s blogs and leave comments. Belonging to a community is the best way to engage the conversation and build up followers for your (future) blog or articles. It’s always more fun to read a friend’s work.
Maralyn: Do you use social networking to promote your blog? If so, which ones work best for you?
Christina: I do, because I don’t think you can avoid it. I mostly use Twitter and Facebook. Facebook is better for getting people involved, since they can leave messages and “like” your posts. Twitter is better as a resource, for me and for my followers. I try to be careful to post things that can be especially useful or helpful. With Facebook, you can have a little more fun.
Maralyn: Have you considered writing a book? If so, could you tell us about the subject and any titles you may have already?
Christina: I don’t know of any article writer/blogger who hasn’t considered writing a book! I’ve got a mess of ideas in my head: the cheese roads of the French Alps, a book of three-course-meal recipes based on each region of France, the I-moved-to-France-here’s-my-witty-story book, and a culinary travel guide to France, but I think that one is best attacked one region at a time.
Maralyn: Where can readers learn more about you?
Christina: The best place to learn more about me is my portfolio: http://christina-rebuffetbroadus.com.
For musings and tips on Grenoble, my Nile Guide Local Flavor Blog is the best place: http://www.nileguide.com/destination/blog/grenoble-france/
After that, my articles on Examiner.com offer a good look at French culture, news, and places to visit all over France: http://www.examiner.com/x-6500-French-Culture-and-Travel-Examiner?showbio
Maralyn: One comment I received on one of these posts was, “What do I get out of these?” I’d like to address that with this interview. It is true Success With Writing gets more traffic which I appreciate. We all want higher rankings. An added bonus for me is what I learn from other writers. There has not been one interview, where I’ve not learned or picked up a tip of value. In addition, I feel I’m making friends with more writers.
For those who would like to be interviewed, please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let me know if you want an author/writer, or blogger/writer set of questions. For those who mostly blog, my preference is to food, wine, travel or writing. However, I’m open to thinking outside the box.
I hope you enjoyed this interview as much as I did.