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?
Colleen: In another lifetime I was a log-broker. I was the only female – in the very machismo – world of forestry here on the West Coast of British Columbia. I had no aspirations of writing though I’ve always been an avid reader. Somehow I never connected the thought that I could do that too.
My husband and I retired in our late 30s and started to do a lot of traveling. I’ve always kept a journal and soon I discovered that I liked to polish the more memorable moments. I loved how writing gave me the chance to relive the memory in a way that was much more tangible and deep than just flipping through photos. I had to really tease out what it was that made each particular memory stand out. Was it the people, smells, cultural differences or the colours? Most often, it was all of those things, but it was a way to determine too, how travel was changing me. Writing helped me to discover how the magic was working.
Maralyn: What type of writing do you focus on, food, wine or travel or all three?
Colleen: I write mostly about travel, though it seems no story is complete without a detailed description of what I ate:) I love food, love trying new flavors. I don’t think I’ve really been somewhere until I’ve scoped out where the locals are eating and tried it for myself.
After my husband started studying with the Wine & Spirit Education Trust, I found my appreciation of wine growing along with each level he completes.
Maralyn: What can you share with others as to important tips or suggestions for other writers on writing and finding outlets for articles?
Colleen: I pursue magazine racks like a kid looking for candy. I also go online searching for new magazine launches and checking submission guidelines of magazines that intrigue me. I always call to make sure I have the current editor’s correct name and email address, as websites are sometimes less than current with their information.
Maralyn: How often do you blog?
I aim for a posting Monday through Friday and sometimes Saturday. I do a complete technological ‘fast’ on Sundays. The only reading I do on Sundays is from a book or magazine. No housework allowed either!
Maralyn: What has been the most effective means of gaining traffic/followers?
Colleen: I’m still working on that…
Maralyn: If you also write articles, do you query for assignments before you write or after the article is done?
Colleen: I do a little of both. It really depends on what I’m doing. If I’m on a press trip, I’m usually not sure of what I’ll discover and so don’t have any idea of who I’d pitch it to.
I’m not big on articles that just focus on the destination. I figure there are guidebooks for that kind of thing. I don’t like doing top-ten service style pieces either. Instead, I’m always looking for something to happen, some event or interaction because I want the piece to have a narrative arc. I am looking for a ‘story’ that happens to take place within the context of the destination.
However, if I’m doing something like a specific destination cycling trip for instance, I will pitch it ahead of time and secure the assignment.
Maralyn: Do you go to food, wine or travel writers or blog conferences?
Colleen: I like going to travel writing conferences and writing conferences in general. I don’t go enough. I quite love them…
Maralyn: What do you feel you gain the most from blogging?
Colleen: I love the ability to hit the ‘Publish” button without the endless waiting and lengthy process that is involved in the traditional publishing world. I like writing about things that strike me as interesting or unusual without waiting six months for someone to tell me they think so too.
Maralyn: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Colleen: The solitary confinement required to get any real writing done. In my dream world, I would go to a really cool communal office/bookstore/coffeeshop/retreat where there would always be someone available to talk about writing and craft or to just whine to and a lovely little pod-like office off to one side that would allow me time to retreat and write too.
Maralyn: Do you use social networking to promote your blog? If so, which ones work best for you?
Colleen: I sometimes add a posting to Facebook and with LinkedIn but I haven’t been as diligent as I should be about either.
Maralyn: Have you considered writing a book? If so, could you tell us about the subject and any titles you may have already?
Colleen: I have contributed to five different anthologies, four travel (three U.S. and one Cdn) and one anthology about cycling (U.K.).
I did write a book about early retirement, but it’s stuffed away in a drawer somewhere. It was a good exercise.
I’m currently working on a memoir. It’s the hardest writing I’ve done so far because every day I look at it and wonder what the heck I’m doing. I’m just not sure how to proceed.
Maralyn: Where can readers learn more about you?
Colleen gave us great insight into who she is and her spirit of writing. She seems to have a gift to capture the essence of the moment and situation. Thank you Colleen for sharing and enjoy your journey to learning more about wine. It seems the more you learn, the more there is to learn.
Authors, journalists, publishers, and bloggers (food, wine & travel for the bloggers), if you would like to be interviewed, please send an email to MDHill@noralyn.com. This go up in order of receipt so some make take a while.