New Zealand is full of beautiful sites and interesting people. Just recently I met Shaun Jefferson, a photographer, and today I’m sharing some thoughts by Sarah Bennett. She is not only a traveler and adventurer but also runs a publishing house and collaborates with Lonely Planet. She is an expert in New Zealand best trails, bike routes and camping sites. Exclusively for you she shared some of her best kept secrets on how to become a good travel writer.
Ladies and gentlemen: meet Sarah Bennett!
1. What do you find the most important characteristics of a good travel writer?
I think to become a good travel writer you must first be a good traveller –curious about the world, always seeking out new places and discovering their stories, and connecting with people along the way. In fact, one of the skills I use most in my work as a travel writer is the ability to talk with strangers – both the locals and fellow travellers. That’s where you get the good oil.
2. What is your idea for collecting fascinating stories and telling them in attractive way?
As a general rule, I write the stories I want to read. This means they usually focus on outdoor adventures, which have proven a rich vein for action, fun, and the occasional mishap for colour and interest. In terms of style, I like to keep things informal and humorous, within the bounds of proper grammar and other editorial principles of course!
3. How do you plan work on a guidebook or article?
Guidebook writing and feature writing are very distinct genres requiring very different approaches. Guidebook writing requires an enormous amount of pre-research and on-the-road legwork, so I’ve honed sharp organisational skills that keep me on track. It’s very intense. Feature writing, on the other hand, is more organic. I generally start with an adventure, which invariably morphs into a yarn as it unfolds. There’s always a story somewhere – sometimes it lands in your lap; at other times you need to tease it out.
4. How long did you work on your writing skills and on the general workshop? What was most helpful in mastering them?
My skills have evolved slowly and organically over 20 years or so. I believe the key to becoming a better writer is to read more and write more. The trick is squeezing that in between living, the doing, the being. I treasure my career, but it’s only part of my life’s work.
5. Year after year New Zealand in general and Auckland in particular are among top 10 best places to live. Would you agree with it? And if so, what is so special about it?
I’m never surprised to see New Zealand feature on a list of top places – to live, work, or travel. New Zealand’s isolation, short human history, fascinating geology and unique plant and animal life make truly unique, and it’s so easy to get out and appreciate it. And I think in this crazy era we live in, the natural world is a powerful force in refocusing our sights on what really matters. So that’s it, in a nutshell – it’s New Zealand’s natural world. It’s special. It’s magic.
6. What is the best and the worst about Kiwis? Is it the way they drive?
The best thing about New Zealanders is their kindness and consideration for others. When it comes to the matter of driving, we do face some challenges. Our roads are often narrow, winding, and lack significant hard shoulder. They’re a trap for both local and visitor alike, and sadly, the faster they go, the bigger the mess.
7. How do you travel around New Zealand?
Lee and I travel in a home-converted Hiace campervan, with our bicycles on the back. We’re also regular travellers on Air New Zealand – which is pretty fab for a national airline – and the interisland ferry, my favourite journey of all.
8. Describe your perfect weekend in New Zealand.
My perfect weekend in New Zealand would see Lee and me parked up in our little campervan in a holiday park or conservation campground. We would bike one day and hike the next, in between enjoying local food and drink – preferably fresh fish and chips washed down with craft beer. The days would be warm, and the skies clear at night for stargazing. There would definitely be swimming, in a pristine lake or limpid river pool, if not at the beach.
Sarah Bennett is a travel writer, editor and publisher. Together with Lee Slater they run a publishing house. They are based in Wellington, New Zealand. There is no better place to discover more about New Zealand than through eyes of the locals. Visit their website and see how many useful books are there! Click www.bennettandslater.co.nz