ASTW Announces 2018 Convention Key Dates, Hotel & Airline Partners

The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) announces key dates and event partners for the 2018 Convention, ahead of registrations opening next week. Sponsored by Tourism Authority of Thailand, the convention will be held in Bangkok from 16-19 August at Anantara Riverside Hotels and Avani Riverside with an exclusive flight offer available from Thai Airways International.

Registration and flight bookings open 5 March via astw.org.au. Key dates include:

  • Convention registration: 5 March-15 April
  • Flight bookings: 5 March-30 June
  • Members notified of famils: from 4 May
  • Convention: 16-19 August 

The 2018 Convention consists of a three-day program of events; including speaker sessions and workshops, the annual general meeting, and events culminating in the Awards for Excellence gala dinner.

Award sponsorships and speaking opportunities are available for members and non-members. For sponsor enquiries, please contact secretariat@astw.org.au. For speaking opportunities, please send a pitch to pr@astw.org.au.

Tourism Authority of Thailand’s 2018 messaging “Open to the New Shades of Thailand” showcases the depth of Thailand’s tourism as a land of amazing diversity worth discovering further. A comprehensive pre and post famil program for media and PR members is themed around “Unique Thai Local Experiences” with a selection of 11 itineraries, from hillside villages to national parks and island retreats.

Set on the banks of the grand Chao Phraya River, Anantara Riverside Bangkok Resort is a thriving oasis offering a unique way to experience the City of Angels. Majestic palms swaying in the breeze. Spa treatments hidden within lush tropical gardens. Luxurious suites lit by the twinkle of the city skyline. Delectable meals fusing tastes from around the globe.

At AVANI Riverside Bangkok Hotel, wake up in rooms and suites with arresting views – each and every one looks over the river and the city skyline. Wine and dine sky high and toast to the City of Angels taking in the panoramic views of the city’s skyscape. Treat yourself to a spa day or lounge by the rooftop infinity pool.

During 2018, Thai Airways International celebrates 58 years flying travellers from the heart of Asia across the world and 47 years connecting Australians with the world’s favourite Asian city, Bangkok. THAI now flies 39 times a week from Australia with daily services from Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth and connections through its global hub, Suvarnabhumi Bangkok International Airport, to popular destinations in Thailand and across Asia to India and Europe.

For more information about ASTW or to become a member, visit www.astw.org.au or contact Secretariat, Justine White, on secretariat@astw.org.au.

 

Writing and pitching – what do editors want?

“The story is what creates beautiful writing…not the other way around.” Lisa Cron

Writing and pitching – what do editors want?

By Kerry van der Jagt

What do editors want? –  It may sound simple, but in my opinion, editors want the same thing – a great story. The human brain craves story, in fact, we are wired for story. Read the book by Lisa Cron called Wired for story: The writer’s guide to using brain science to hook readers from the very first sentence. It explains the science behind this, and how story has been necessary for human survival for thousands of years.

Days after the December 26 2004 tsunami, members of the ancient Jarawa tribe living in the Andaman islands emerged unscathed from their forest habitat. Drawing on 60, 000 years of culture, handed down through generations of storytellers, they knew how to react when the “sea monster” came. The take-home lesson is that storytelling is crucial to our evolution, not just for pleasure (that’s the sweetener) but for survival. The key is that the story must be irresistible.

Five steps to creating irresistible stories

1- Research like a pro

It all starts with an idea, something I’m curious about, such as Mexico’s Day of the Dead. I figure if I want to know more, perhaps my readers and editors might be interested as well. I then ask myself three questions. Where is the BEST place to see the festival? Can it be done alone or do I need to go with a tour group? Who offers the BEST tour, which will match my ethics and interests?

2- Do the maths

Your editor needs fresh, timely and dynamic ideas, your PRs appreciate multiple returns on their investment, and you need to make a good living. By applying these three variables I’ve come up with the magic ratio of 1:2. That is, I need one story for every two days I’m on the road (or seven stories for 14 days on the road). I’m not being arrogant or over ambitious, it’s what I need to make the dollars add up over a year of travel writing.

3- Build your babushka

Continuing with my Oaxaca example, once I had my dates locked in I built everything else around it. I asked: Are there any new flights to the US? Yes, United Airlines was set to launch a Sydney to Houston leg. Are there any major events happening in Houston? Yes, the 50-year anniversary of the moon landing. A chat with the PR for Texas gave me Mafa in favour of Austin, San Antonio in favour of Dallas, and Big Bend National Park, because heck, who’s been there? The PR for Amtrak told me about the Sunset Limited train from Los Angeles to Houston, a speed-dating event at the Cape Town AGM added a Tequila twist (the town and the drink), and Trump, with his ludicrous plans for a wall, brought me to numerous border towns.  Eventually, I worked with seven PRs to bring home more than a dozen stories. I could not have done this without their support.

4- Get to the point

When it comes to pitching, if you can’t explain your point in one sentence, you don’t have one. Travelling to Poland and visiting the Auschwitz Memorial is not a story, it’s just a series of events. Answering the question – Why I visited the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp? – provided the angle I was looking for. If you’re struggling to find your focus have a go at writing the standfirst for your story, then use that in your pitch.

5- Make it personal

You may not be the first person to swim with whale sharks at Ningaloo Reef (insert any wild creature in a remote location) yet, just because it’s been written about doesn’t mean you can’t bring something new to the experience. I brought science to my story, spending days in the water with a researcher, others have tied in new accommodation, or focused on other species such as manta rays or whales. The trick is to draw on your strengths and bring something of yourself to the encounter (but there is a Catch 22 – don’t mistake your interests with the interests of your reader).

Three of the most original stories I’ve read lately include a self-drive trip through southern Japan in a tiny “camping car”, a horse riding safari through Patagonia and tackling the Trans-Siberian railway in WINTER (bonus points if you can match these stories to their writers).

Whatever you choose, know your editor wants you to mine your experience for gold. Nothing less.

 I’ll finish with a quote by Lisa Cron – “The more meaning you have to convey, the more beautiful the writing becomes.”

My mottos are:

Write the story that only I can write.

Make the editor’s job easy (source/provide images, ensure accuracy, meet deadlines).

Ask myself – Does this story serve the reader?

Keep up to date with travel trends.

Be generous – pass on trips you can’t do, share and brainstorm ideas with others.

Be grateful. A bad day in the travel industry is still a better day than many others are having.

And finally, recognise that editors want their writers to succeed. Yes, they really do.

* This is a summary of my contribution to the panel talk at the 2018 Bangkok AGM 

Kerry van der Jagt is a multi award-winning freelance travel writer and photographer based in Sydney. Specialising in nature-based, adventure and indigenous travel, Kerry’s work focuses on promoting tourism that encourages others to explore the planet in a sustainable and responsible way.

Travel Memoir Writing

Have you got a book in you?  With the exciting lives ASTW members lead, the answer is quite likely ‘yes’ but writing a book requires a whole different approach to that which we use for blogs or articles.

Here I share the lessons learned while developing my own memoir, and the long and winding process from concept through to publishing.

Travel Memoir Writing

By Laura Waters

Start with a story

We all know the value of an engaging story but nowhere is it more critical than in a book. It’s not enough to have a random bunch of interesting/quirky/funny moments; there needs to be a strong narrative arc that links it all together and makes the reader care about the protagonist.

Lisa Cron (author of ‘Wired For Story’) describes a story as: how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result. It’s about how the plot affects the protagonist.

This might strike you as more relevant to a novel but it applies just as strongly to memoir. Here’s an example:

Plot:  A woman walks from one end of New Zealand to the other and has a whole bunch of challenges, tears and laughter along the way.

Story:  A woman suffering from anxiety (and various other issues!) walks in the wilds for five months, during which time she learns to overcome her fears, loses her identity, reconnects with nature and emerges a new woman.

It’s all about developing a character that people will care about and ensure they keep turning the pages to find out what happens next, and it requires revealing the inner journey as well as the outer one.

 “Storytelling trumps beautiful writing every time” – Lisa Cron

Developing a structure

It can be overwhelming to know where to begin when writing a book.  I found it useful to create an excel spreadsheet to plot the key events that I’d need to cover to tell the story. Then I divvied those events up into chapters and set an allocated word count to cover each one.  Seeing the whole story like this allowed me to get a clear picture of what I was trying to achieve and how it would all pan out.

Writing

Only include the events that are critical to your narrative arc. You may have some favourite moments that you’d really like to include but if they don’t lead anywhere on the journey of your protagonist then they’re just a distraction.

  • Build strong characters and only introduce them if they add value to the story or help paint a picture or set the mood of a scene.
  • Use foreshadowing to build intrigue
  • Use backstory and flashbacks to fill in the gaps and paint a deeper picture.
  • Leave out the parts that readers tend to skip. Go light on the scenery, setting, weather, etc. Because stories are about people, the things that happen to them and how they react to them.
  • You’ll get many more excellent tips from Wired For Story.

Editing

It’s really important to get a professional book editor to review your drafts. I had a best-selling author friend read one of my early drafts. He thought it was good to go and probably only needed a “light copy edit”, but once he’d referred me to his excellent editor I discovered that all I had was a “very good base to work from”! Needless to say, I was a little devastated to hear that I wasn’t in fact finished but in the following two edits I did with her, the manuscript developed into a far richer and more engaging tale. The moral of the story is: work someone who really understands book editing.

A good editor is like a sports coach. They’ll tell you what you need to do but they won’t do it for you. You’ll retain your style and voice while developing your story to be the best it can be.

Self-publishing or traditional

There are pro’s and con’s to each. Self publish and you can get your book out there tomorrow, have full creative control and reap 100% of the profits. You’ll also have to fund all the editing yourself, get a cover design, do all your own marketing, distribution, sales, etc.

Traditional publishing will only give you a fraction of the profits, you will have varying degrees of control over the final product (I have full say on the contents of my book – some publishers aren’t so generous – but the publisher gets to choose cover and title), and it’s a far longer process to publication – generally around a year.

There are many tales of best-selling authors who started out self-publishing their books only to have the rights purchased by traditional publishers once the success of the book had been demonstrated (Fifty Shades of Grey anyone?), so don’t discard this option if you have trouble finding a traditional publisher.

Having said that, there is still a little stigma around self-publishing and it appears easier to get mainstream publicity and support if you have a traditionally published book.

The traditional publishing process

  • Polish your manuscript as brightly as you can before approaching publishers. Apparently, most don’t have the time or money to invest in developing your idea into something publishable, so make sure it’s sparkling so that when you do get their attention you can seal the deal.
  • Find a publisher: It’s hard to get your manuscript in front of the right people so watch for literary speed-dating events where you get to sit face to face with publishers and agents to pitch your idea. This is how I secured my deal.
  • It will generally take a year from signing to release date. During that time the following steps take place:
    • Structural edit: to make sure the bones of the story are there and the general timeline and contents are all solid.
    • Copy edit: This is where an editor will go over your manuscript line by line and make minor amendments, fix grammar, point out any remaining gaps in your story that need explaining, or challenge any bits they think aren’t quite right. You will then be required to review and make changes as required.
    • Pages will then be typeset into book format
    • Proofreading takes place to make sure everything is squared away
    • Cover artwork is done, photos selected, etc
    • The manuscript will generally go to the printer around 6-8 weeks prior to the release date.
    • Distribution to sales outlets
    • The release of your book!
    • Fame, fortune, etc…

The process is lengthy but it’s hugely rewarding.

Good luck!

Laura’s book “Bewildered – leaving everything behind for 3,000km in the wild” is due for release 27 Aug, through Affirm Press.

Laura Waters is a freelance travel writer, author and speaker. A 3000km hike from one end of New Zealand in 2014 inspired her to quit her corporate job to pursue a long-held passion for writing and adventure.

Abercrombie and Kent support ASTW with sponsorship for 2019 convention awards

THE Australian Society of Travel Writers (astw.org.au) is pleased to announce that travel company Abercrombie and Kent has once come on board as platinum level sponsor for the Photographer of the Year category in the Awards for Excellence, to be announced at the 2019 ASTW Convention in Cairns this October.

The Photographer of the Year is awarded to the member with the best portfolio of five published travel images for the judging period. It is one of the most highly coveted awards of the awards presented at the ASTW’s Awards for Excellence, won by renowned photographer Dan Avila in 2018 and 2017

Helen Hayes, President of the ASTW, said that the ongoing support of such prestigious travel companies is a testament to the credibility of the awards, the success of the Association and the development of the industry as a whole.

“The continued support of such high calibre tourism operators as Abercrombie & Kent is a vital support not only to the ASTW and the awards process, but also to the continued development of travel journalism and travel photography, and the encouragement it gives to a continued drive for excellence,” she said.

The 2019 Awards for Excellence are an annual celebration of outstanding travel writing, photography, and tourism communication, and will be presented at a Gala Dinner, hosted by Tourism Tropical North Queensland. There are 21 categories, open to either writers, digital influencers or public relations members.  New this year is an award for the Best Travel Book – reintroduced after a hiatus of several years.

For more information about sponsoring awards, lunches or events; or for membership enquiries, please visit our website for more information or contact secretariat Justine White on secretariat@astw.org.au

About the ASTW

The ASTW is a 300-strong group of travel writers, editors, radio and television broadcasters and producers, bloggers, guide book authors and photographers (as well as travel industry public relations and marketing professionals) whose work appears regularly in major newspapers, magazines, airwaves and websites across Australia and the world.

All ASTW members must satisfy strict criteria to join and are obligated to substantiate their membership annually by providing details of their published output or industry participation. They must also adhere to a Code of Ethics. By ensuring that only bona fide applicants are admitted, the ASTW maintains its integrity and the professionalism of the travel industry.

Tourism Australia and Tourism New Zealand support ASTW with sponsorship for 2019 convention awards

THE Australian Society of Travel Writers (astw.org.au) is pleased to announce that Tourism Australia and Tourism New Zealand have come on board as sponsors for key writing awards, to be announced at the 2019 ASTW Convention held in Cairns in October.

Helen Hayes, President of the ASTW said that the support of such prestigious tourism authorities is a massive boost for the Society and awards process.

“The support of two of the world’s leading tourism authorities is testament to the credibility of the ASTW Awards for Excellence, and to the high calibre of our members,” she said.

Tourism Australia is sponsoring two categories – Best Australian Story Over 1000 Words and Best Australian Story Under 1000 Words. Tourism New Zealand is sponsoring the Best Food Travel Story.

The 2019 Awards for Excellence are an annual celebration of outstanding travel writing, photography, and tourism communication, and will be presented at the annual ASTW Convention in Cairns, hosted by Tourism Tropical North Queensland. There are 21 categories, open to either writers, digital influencers or public relations members.  New this year is an award for the Best Travel Book – reintroduced after a hiatus of several years.

For more information about sponsoring awards, lunches or events; or for membership enquiries, please visit our website for more information or contact secretariat Justine White on secretariat@astw.org.au

About the ASTW

The ASTW is a 300-strong group of travel writers, editors, radio and television broadcasters and producers, bloggers, guide book authors and photographers (as well as travel industry public relations and marketing professionals) whose work appears regularly in major newspapers, magazines, airwaves and websites across Australia and the world.

All ASTW members must satisfy strict criteria to join and are obligated to substantiate their membership annually by providing details of their published output or industry participation. They must also adhere to a Code of Ethics. By ensuring that only bona fide applicants are admitted, the ASTW maintains its integrity and the professionalism of the travel industry.

Business Basics

ASTW are pleased to partner with Visit USA for a third consecutive year

The Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) is pleased to announce that Visit USA Australia (Inc) (Visit USA) have come on board as the sponsor for this year’s coveted Travel Writer of the Year award, announced at the 2019 ASTW Convention. Visit USA previously sponsored the 2017 and 2018 award, which were both won by Catherine Marshall.

Visit USA is a voluntary body that promotes travel to the United States of America. It is funded by individual members from the Australian Travel Trade as well as from associate members in the USA. The Board Members of the organisation work vigorously to promote the US as a desirable destination of choice.

President of the Visit USA organisation Australia, Lucy Rowe said that Visit USA is thrilled to sponsor the ASTW’s Travel Writer of the Year award for the third consecutive year.

She added, “We always enjoy our fantastic partnership with the ASTW on this hotly contested initiative to promote and reward the high level of travel journalism we have in Australia. We look forward to seeing who will take out the award this year”.

The Travel Writer of the Year is awarded to the writer member with the best portfolio of three published travel stories for the judging period. It is the most coveted of the 20 awards presented at the ASTW’s Travel Journalism Awards for Excellence, an annual celebration of outstanding travel writing, photography, and tourism communications.

Established in 1992, this is a closely contested competition among peers, focusing on the very best published work of the year. Recognition of talent, a coveted trophy and prizes are the rewards for the winners.

The 2019 awards will be presented at the annual ASTW Convention in Cairns in October with major sponsor Tourism Tropical North Queensland.

For more information about sponsoring awards, lunches or events; attending events as a member’s guest or for membership enquiries, please view our website for more information or contact secretariat Justine White on secretariat@astw.org.au

About the ASTW

The ASTW is a 300-strong group of travel writers, editors, radio and television broadcasters, bloggers, guide book authors and photographers (as well as travel industry public relations and marketing professionals) whose work appears regularly in major newspapers, magazines, airwaves and websites across Australia and the world.

All ASTW members must satisfy strict criteria to join and are obligated to substantiate their membership annually by providing details of their published output or industry participation. They must also adhere to a Code of Ethics. By ensuring that only bona fide applicants are admitted, the ASTW maintains its integrity and the professionalism of the travel industry.

ASTW and HKTB’s Inaugural Rising Star Winner Announced

Justin Meneguzzi has been named the inaugural winner of the Australian Society of Travel Writers (ASTW) and Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) Rising Star Award for his article Blood and Sand in get lost magazine.

Managing Editor of Fairfax Media’s Traveller.com.au, Craig Platt, who selected the winner from a shortlist of finalists, said “Justin Meneguzzi’s story on Calcio Storico in Florence is everything you want from a narrative travel feature. Despite being about a destination that is already well-explored by tourists, it is an evocative and fresh look at a part of Florentine culture that few visitors would experience.”

The judging panel also included HKTB Regional Director – Australia, New Zealand and South Pacific, Andrew Clark; author of the Hong Kong Precincts guidebook and ASTW committee member, Penny Watson; and award-winning freelance journalist and media industry academic, Lee Mylne.

Justin wins a hosted four-night famil to Hong Kong, sponsored by HKTB, with his subsequent story published on Traveller.com.au and considered for print. He also receives an annual Rising Star membership to the ASTW.

The award and prize will be presented at the Melbourne ASTW Christmas lunch on the 6 December, 2018 by ASTW President, Helen Hayes, and HKTB’s Public Relations and Media Manager, Natalie Brown.

Justin said, “I’m so thrilled to accept the Rising Star Award from the Australian Society of Travel Writers. I love being dropped into a new destination and exploring local haunts and hideaways with my trusty camera, learning from the locals and seeing a place through their eyes.

“I also believe travel can be a force for good, and that the stories we share play such an important role in breaking down barriers, which the world needs now more than ever. These are the stories I hope to share in 2019 and I can’t wait to work with the Hong Kong Tourism Board and the team at Traveller.com.au.

Justin quit his job as a litigation lawyer in 2016 to pursue a career as a freelance travel journalist and photographer. He currently heads up the Global Content Team at Intrepid Group, working as part of the Creative team to deliver inspiring and informative travel content to travellers around the world.

The collaboration between HKTB and the ASTW is aimed at encouraging a new era of travel writers in Australia. This year’s award was open to writers and digital influencers who had their first paid travel story published in the past two years.

For more information on the ASTW, visit www.astw.org.au or for information about Hong Kong, visit www.discoverhongkong.com/au.

Rising Star Winner Announced

Congratulations Justin Meneguzzi, the ASTW’s inaugural “Rising Star” winner!

Justin wins a famil thanks to our award partner, Hong Kong Tourism Board, and the chance to have his HK story published on Traveller.com.au.

Special thanks to our judges, Hong Kong Tourism Board and Traveller.com.au.

Read Justin’s winning article Blood and Sand