Sandy Hill resident part of panel discussion on travel writing

June Coxon

Sandy Hill resident Susan Korah was one of four panelists speaking at a Media Club of Ottawa meeting last fall. The freelance journalist joined three other freelancers to discuss The Pros and Cons of Travel Writing. Their informative, frank and sometimes humorous discussions provoked a number of questions.

Korah told the audience that because her father was a diplomat she caught the travel bug early. Her travels exposed her to different experiences, which led to her lifelong career in journalism. A relative newcomer to travel writing, this aspect of her career began three years ago as an out-growth of her regular writing. “Travel writing takes up about 20 percent of my writing,” she said.

Panelists Susan Hallett, Peter Johansen, Susan Korah and Laura Byrne Paquet.

With more than 20 years’ experience as  a journalist, Korah writes about a wide range of topics, from national and international topics to travel and culture. Her first big travel writing break was an article she wrote about Turkish cuisine for Taste and Travel magazine. Since then she has visited and written about such places as Luxembourg, Taiwan, and the Czech Republic for a variety of publications and on her own blog.

The panelists interspersed some of their personal experiences to illustrate their messages along with their tips for travel writers. To underline the necessity for always checking facts, Susan Hallett told a cautionary tale about a prominent journalist who, while being interviewed on television, kept repeating inaccurate information.

Peter Johansen, a retired Carleton University journalism professor turned freelance writer, noted that “Travel writing is no different than any other kind of writing, but it can allow for a more creative approach.” He said that both the story of an individual and the destination are important, but they are separate articles.

Laura Byrne Paquet, who has written for more than 80 publications and websites, advised would-be travel writers to “base your travel writing on your interests.” She added, “If you can tell a good story and write, you can do it in print or on line. The mechanics are one thing but the craft of writing is transferable. You can write about anything. Start with your own specialty, things you love to do.”

Susan Hallett summed up the discussion best by suggesting new travel writers should “specialize in something – perhaps food, or organic gardening. See travel as fun, not as work.”

The panel discussion kicked off the fall session for the Media Club of Ottawa which gathers monthly at Ottawa City Hall to hear media specialists discuss their particular type of media. The club was founded as the Ottawa Women’s Press Club in 1916. It affiliated four years later with the Canadian Women’s Press Club and became its Ottawa branch. The CWPC in turn had been founded in 1904 by 16 Canadian women journalists on a CPR train after covering the St. Louis World Fair for their respective publications. In the 1980s the name was changed to the Media Club of Canada and at the same time the club opened up membership to men.