Our interview is with Angela Corrias, travel journalist and photographer. Originally from Sardina, she became a travel bug at 13 and really gains insight into the culture she is covering. I always say food, wine, and travel combine to make a great geography lesson. Angela lives that saying.
Maralyn: Angela, could you please introduce yourself and provide some background for our readers?
Angela: I’m a freelance travel journalist and photographer, I originate from Sardinia, the big island facing Italian west coast, and the first time I crossed the equator I was 13. Since then, I’ve had the travel bug.
I have two Masters’ Degrees, one in Journalism taken in Rome and one in International Relations taken in London.
I’ve always wanted to work as a journalist. Being a freelancer has proved quite tough, but I’ve heavily focused on it and now I’m happy I didn’t give up. I’ve gotten other job offers, still in the communications field, but after trying to work in an office for some time, I understood it wasn’t what I wanted to do, so I started traveling. Living out of a suitcase most of the time is not easy, especially after I stay two years in one place and have to leave everything behind when I change “hometown.” But I haven’t decided where I want to settle down, so I’ll be probably living a nomadic life still for a while.
I have a great passion for history, society and culture, and this makes me want to dig very deep in the traditions of the country hosting me. Within the time of a normal holiday I can manage to see tourist spots and get a superficial idea of the natives, but I believe I can offer my readers more honest reports if I stay longer and absorb the culture I’m discovering.
Maralyn: What type of writing do you focus on, food, wine or travel or all three?
Angela: I focus on travel writing and I like to highlight the most hidden aspects of the place I’m visiting. To do so, I usually like to spend more time than a normal holiday in the country I want to write about and this has made me stop for two years in Ireland, two years in London and now move to Shanghai for at least six months. An important part of societies around the world is their culinary tradition, so it comes without saying that I find myself discovering and writing about typical food, the way they cook it, why that particular dish is common in a country rather than somewhere else. Geography, history, food, festivals, traditions are all intertwined, and the beauty of traveling for me is to discover and connect them.
Maralyn: What can you share with others as to important tips or suggestions for other writers on writing and finding outlets for articles?
Angela: There are many things a freelance writer can do to find potential markets for articles. I have signed up with many different social networks, and although I find them very useful, I think networking is a slow process that can show more benefits in the long term. I find very helpful to follow other writers’ personal websites and blogs and to see what outlets are in their portfolio. I then analyze the different markets and see whether I can pitch them an idea or not. Last but not least, I’ve signed up with a couple of newsletters specifically for jobs in journalism or writing in general. I find Mediabistro quite helpful, especially their “How-to-pitch” section.
Maralyn: How did you get started writing and blogging?
Angela: I’ve always had the passion for writing, and I’ve started working for newspapers, press agencies and magazines in Italy when I was completing my studies in Journalism and also after university. The very first reason why I started my blog was to publish the articles I couldn’t manage to publish elsewhere. However, I’ve started enjoying blogging so much that I publish all small aspects of travel and foreign cultures I manage to come across. Now, along with thinking about pitches and ideas for articles, I enjoy taking photos and digging unusual angles for my own blog that would be difficult to place in most publications.
Maralyn: How often do you blog?
Angela: I try to blog twice or three times a week, although this can be hard when I’m on the road as I don’t always have an Internet connection available. I try to write more posts when I can so that I can ensure some level of regularity, but due to the very nature of my lifestyle, this is not always possible.
Maralyn: What has been the most effective means of gaining traffic/followers?
Angela: The most effective way for gaining followers I think it’s leaving comments on other blogs. I also use many social networks, but I’m not finding them always effective. For example, when I started with StumbleUpon, it drove a good deal of traffic into my blog, but the more I use it the less traffic I gain. Funny way to work, but I’ve spoken with other StumbleUpon users and they confirmed that this is how it works.
Also Twitter, it’s good for chatting, but not really for gaining traffic. Maybe it’s the kind of media that, allowing only 140 characters in every tweet, creates a sort of “fragmentary” style of information and people are little willing to actually click on the link, and only read the small piece of info. In fact, I’ve noticed that even if I tweet the link to one of my posts and my followers re-tweet it, this little affects the amount of traffic.
As for followers, it really depends on what social network they use most, so I can have followers from Facebook, Google, or just subscribers. In order to keep them, it’s important to update the blog often and interact with them when they leave a comment.
Maralyn: If you also write articles, do you query for assignments before you write or after the article is done?
Angela: Usually, if I have a good relationship with the editor, I can tell them where I’m going next and we can talk about some potential topics in advance. In case it’s the first time I contact an editor, I either pitch an idea or submit the article, it also depends on their guidelines. If I pitch an idea, usually I don’t have the article written already, I might have jotted down some notes, but not a full article.
When I get a positive response from the editor, I re-organize my ideas and notes in a proper article.
Maralyn: What do you feel you gain the most from blogging?
Angela: Blogging has made me meet many people, other bloggers or readers, and I particularly find it useful and interesting when my readers leave me a comment or drop me an email to ask me for some opinion, or simply to tell me they have a different opinion from mine, so we can start a constructive debate.
Blogging has been very productive also because through my blog I got in touch with travel editors, and this has ended up in some published articles or future assignments.
Maralyn: What’s the most difficult part of your job?
Angela: What I find difficult in being a freelancer is the financial instability. Some months I can have a lot of work and some months very little, so I can’t really make plans very much ahead. The most difficult part is by all means the beginning, establishing contacts with editors, expanding your networks, building yourself a name/brand. When I started, I had a part-time job, now I’ve been freelancing full time for less than two years and little by little I’m building my portfolio and some fixed collaborations, so that I have some stability every month.
Another difficult aspect is changing country every year/two years. It’s not a holiday, I actually become part of the society, with all duties this entails, such as looking for apartment, daily routines, visa paperwork when required. However, I’m not ready to settle somewhere so I’ve accepted this as part of my job.
Maralyn: What is your approach to research?
Angela: I have a strong academic background, and my second MA is in International Relations, so my very first approach is quite historical and socio-political. With this I don’t necessary mean what governments or the political class do, but rather how people live, what are their traditions, why they have those particular traditions in that specific area. Also culinary traditions usually reveal much of a country’s past. For example in Sardinia, where I come from, we have typical Arab food, Arab names on our villages, similar words in our native language, and this is because we have had a strong Arab presence in the Middle Age. I find it very fascinating so find such connections with the past.
Usually, rather than just going to restaurants or staring at landscapes, I like observing daily life and people, digging up their past, to better understand the present.
Maralyn: Have you learned any inside tips along the way you could recommend to writers/bloggers starting out?
Angela: The tip I feel to give is to write a lot, once a blog is started, it should be updated often, not left forgotten for long, as this way much of the readership will unsubscribe or never come back.
Also, due to the huge number of blogs in the net, I would suggest to find different angles, not necessarily specialize in only one niche, but try to avoid very general topic and prefer instead enriching the posts with some gem or quirky aspect.
Maralyn: Where can readers learn more about you?
Angela: My travel blog is Travel Calling, and can be found at this address http://travelcalling.blogspot.com, while my personal website that I use as portfolio for editors and I update with my latest projects, assignments and published articles, is www.angelacorrias.com. I also tweet about travel, and my account is www.twitter.com/angelacorrias.
What a great interview. I love to see the passion and perseverance Angela displays.
If you would like to be interviewed, please send me an email and let me know if you want the Author questions or the Writer/blogger questions, email@example.com.
Finalist in the Writing and Publishing category of the 2009 Next Generation Indie Book Awards, “$uccess, Your Path to a Successful Book,”