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Archive for December, 2010

Origin Stories

As I’ve mentioned here before, I’m a sucker for a great essay about how the author “got his start” as a writer.

Jeffrey Tayler told his origin story (to borrow a phrase from the world of comics) earlier this year on World Hum — Inspiration, Travel Writing and L’Esprit Frondeur — and one of my all-time favorite essays is Ian Frazier’s variation on the theme: Out of Ohio, which is behind an online paywall but is also available in The Best American Travel Writing 2006, as well as in Frazier’s essay collection, Gone to New York.

I know there are lots more. Anyone who’s been to the Book Passage writing conference has probably heard Tim Cahill talk about Rolling Stone’s founding of Outside Magazine — Cahill, being the only staffer at Rolling Stone who actually liked to go outside, became a key player there by default. And I seem to remember reading something by Jan Morris, once, about winding up at Everest Base Camp covering the Hillary expedition thanks to a similar default situation: Morris, a rookie newspaper writer, was the only reporter in the newsroom young and fit enough to make the trip.

Anyone else know of any travel writing “origin stories”? I’d love to see a link — or some clue about where to track them down in print — if so.

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My Year of (Rarely) Writing

Over at Nerd’s Eye View, my friend Pam recently wrote a post about the best of her year in writing. After listing her favorite posts of 2010, month by month, she invited her loyal readers to share the keepers from their own blogs or print writing efforts — which was right about the time I realized that I didn’t actually write a whole lot this year.

Sure, I kept up my regular output of short blog posts at World Hum (true fact from the World Hum back end: I’ve logged nearly 1400 entries since I started writing for the site in September 2007) and I posted the odd update here, and I wrote a couple of service-y destination pieces for new-to-me online outlets, but relative to past years that’s a pretty paltry output. (Another true fact: I’d estimate that in 2009 my paid writing efforts cracked the 100,000-word mark.)

Even beyond the reduced volume, it’s clear that I really didn’t do much of the sort of writing I love best this year — ie first-person narrative. There are five 2010 features with my name on them in the World Hum archives: two interviews (one with Stephanie Elizondo Griest, editor of The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010, and one with Susan Van Allen, author of 100 Places in Italy Every Woman Should Go), two World Hum Travel Movie Club collaborations with Eli Ellison (our conversation about Eat, Pray, Love and our round-up of the best travel-themed Elvis movies), and one list, the 2009 edition of my always arbitrary and thoroughly biased Travel Movie Awards.

All of those were a lot of fun to do, as were the collaborative group feature efforts that I helped out with — like the 100 Most Celebrated Travel Books list, or our first Travel Statshot, or our monthly Great Travel Twitter Tweets lists. I’m also really proud of the stories by other writers that I edited this year, most of which I linked to here over the course of the year.

Still, taking this inventory after reading Pam’s post has led me to a rather obvious New Year’s promise to myself: In 2011, I resolve to write more. Not only that, but to carve out some time to write the things I most want to write. And unlike an assortment of resolutions I’ve made and broken in the past (often involving reading the classics, learning new languages, or going to the gym more often) this is one that I plan on sticking to.

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A Few Good Films

When I decided to move to Whitehorse last fall, I made a few (just a few) conscious sacrifices — among them, I knew that I was giving up access to a wide selection of movies on the big screen. This may not seem like a big deal in the era of NetFlix and illegal downloads, but for me it was an important item on the pro/con list. I’ve been a serious movie-goer ever since my allowance got big enough to cover my admission*, and I knew going in that Whitehorse’s two small theaters deal almost exclusively in kids’ movies and bad action/horror flicks, respectively. But I decided I could live with seeing my preferred films on DVD a few months late, and off I went.

So with all that in mind, a year later I was surprised to find that I’ve actually seen a handful of the movies in this list from the Atlantic: 13 Movies to See Before the Oscars. I caught “127 Hours” in New York City in November, but the other three — “The Social Network,” “Winter’s Bone” and “The Kids Are Alright” (all listed as additional worthy films below the main slideshow) — all screened right here in Whitehorse**.

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News and Waves

Some fairly big news on my end: Things are shifting around a bit at World Hum, and while I’ll be staying in my role as Senior Editor there, it’s no longer a full-time position. So, with my new-found free time, I’m going to be taking on new projects and doing more freelance writing than I have been over the last year or so. Updates coming on this front in the next few weeks!

In other news, I got back yesterday from an OVB-sponsored press trip to Hawaii. It was a surfing-themed tour of Oahu, and it was a really wonderful, well-organized event, a great introduction (it being my first time there) to the islands. I took a couple of surfing lessons, I shmoozed with the pros at the annual Surfer Poll awards, and I generally got thoroughly seduced by surf culture. I’ll aim to post a few more photos soon – meantime, there’s one I shot at Pipeline down at the bottom of this post.

What else?

If you happen to be in Whitehorse, I’m doing a reading next week – I’ll be a featured writer at Brave New Words on Monday, Dec. 13th. It’s from 7-9pm at Baked.

And lastly, here are a few more of the stories I’ve worked on at World Hum in the last while:

    • My Own Mexican Revolution – My friend Sarah Menkedick’s reflection on her struggles with machismo in Mexico, a really thoughtful read.
      Bare at the Baths: I’ve followed Conor Friedersdorf’s political writing for some time, so it was fun to publish this lighter travel piece from him.
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