interview by Prime Sarmiento
At a time when everyone and her pet monkey can travel and launch a travel blog, I find it fascinating that there are people who are committed in writing a travel memoir. After all, if you can just blog about all the places that you've been too, why bother writing a long narrative which will take up so much of your time and energy (I should know, I've been trying to write one – the operative word there is "trying").
"This is my story of doing something I'd long dreamed of doing. It came with its ups and downs, but the ups made it worth it!," she said, adding , "telling our stories gives other women the courage to travel."
Q: You are busy writing your memoir about your travels in Africa, why is it important for you to get this story written and published?
A: This story is more about a personal goal — learning how to write a narrative — rather than the need to share a certain message with the world. I wrote the book to deepen my writing skills, and now I'd love to get it published to come full circle on that goal.
But I do think there's a lot to learn through my story, both about Africa and about following through on a dream. This is my story of doing something I'd long dreamed of doing. It came with its ups and downs, but the ups made it worth it!
Q: Is there a specific message that you want to impart to solo female travelers via this book?
A: My message is two-fold. One, that you *can* take your big trip on your own, and that it might even be more enjoyable that way. I love traveling solo because it pushes me outside my comfort zone, which is where I think we learn the most. I also tend to meet more people and experience deeper reflection when I travel alone.
Second though, is a kind of ironic message: That it's OK to lean on others. I was so adamant when I set out on this backpacking trip to go on my own, but I really learned the value of asking for help sometimes. And that's a lesson that applies not only to travel, but to life.
Q: Can you give us an idea of your writing process – like how do you fit memoir writing in your busy schedule? Do you have an editor or a writing coach who help you when you get stuck? Do you have a writing group?
A: I wrote this memoir full time for 15 months; I wasn't working a day job. My biggest problem wasn't fitting it in, but taking time away from it. Once I get knee-deep in a project, I just want to go, go, go! I found it difficult to take even weekends off. But even when you're excited about a project, taking time away can be beneficial. I always have to remind myself it's a marathon, not a sprint.
I love working with editors, and yes, I also occasionally work with critique groups. When I got stuck, I typically worked on a different section, then returned later to the "stuck" part with a new frame of mind. And at a certain point, I found I couldn't move forward any more without an editor or agent; they then helped me take the book to the next level.
Q: What is the most difficult thing that you encountered while writing your memoir and how did you deal with it?
A: I had trouble transitioning from my journalistic style — my background is as a reporter — to memoir. It took a long while for me to find my memoir voice, the kind that sounds like you're talking to a friend, rather than how I write a lead for a news story.
Know what really helped me with this? Blogging. I have a certain voice when I blog, it's casual and I don't labor over the words. And that voice works super well for memoir. Figuring this out was a big ah-ha moment for me.
Q: What are your three favorite travel memoirs written by women and why do you like them?
A: I love Mary Morris' writing — Nothing to Declare is her most popular book, but I also enjoyed the newer The River Queen. I like the details she includes in her writing, and the angle from which she sees the world around her when she travels.
First Comes Love, Then Comes Malaria — This book by Eve Brown-Waite cracked me up! I always respect humor because it's not easy for me to infuse that into my writing.
I'll leave the third spot open because I have a handful of memoirs written by women waiting for me on my bookshelf! Several new ones recently came out that I can't wait to read, including Torre DeRoche's Swept.
Q: Why is it important for women travelers to write a memoir?
A: We need more travel writing from a woman's perspective! So much of the travel writing available is by men, yet women see the world in a different light. We're also treated differently while traveling, which means we experience the world differently. Telling our stories gives other women the courage to travel.
Alexis Grant is a journalist, a blog and social media strategist and a budding entrepreneur. She is an alumna of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and Colby College and a two-time fellow of The Hambidge Center.
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