Travel Writer Erin Byrne’s work has been published in literary journals, magazines, anthologies, and online publications, including Everywhere magazine, World Hum, Travelers’ Tales Best Travel Writing anthologies, Crab Creek Review, and The Journal of Sartorial Matters. She is the co-editor of the multiple award-winning anthology Vignettes & Postcards: Writings From the Evening Writing Workshop At Shakespeare and Company Bookstore, Paris (Something Other Press/2012). Byrne is also the writer of The Storykeeper, an Accolade Award-winning film about occupied Paris. She hosts Deep Travel workshops and literary salons around the world.
Angelenos, on Friday, November 8, the Travel Writing Workshop with Erin Byrne & The Voyage Vixens will be at Writers Junction, Santa Monica, 7:30-9:30 pm. Byrne, along with Lindsay Taub and Lanee Lee of The Voyage Vixens, will share how to make a career out of travel writing, the challenges and benefits of being a freelancer, and the inside scoop on pitching stories. Learn more here.
Why travel writing?
Seven years ago, I began to travel. Having previously traveled the world through books, I was inspired by historical scenes, characters, and places I had already imagined. The first time I went to the Tower of London, I felt visited by the spirit of Charles d’Orleans, a French noble I had read about who had been imprisoned there for 25 years and created exquisite illuminated manuscripts of his poetry. This inspired my first travel piece, The Fortress of His Mind, which was published on Literary Traveler. I write in-depth essays about the literature, culture, history, and art of places around the world, such as Pablo Neruda’s poem about Machu Picchu in Peru, van Gogh’s letters and his work, Henri Cartier-Bresson’s photographs, and bullfights in Madrid. The statue Winged Victory of Samothrace in the Louvre is the force behind the book I am currently finishing, a collection of my stories about France, Wings From Victory.
In what ways is travel writing different than other types of non-fiction?
All good travel writing, I believe, moves the reader twice: transports him to a place and moves him emotionally. Placing the reader in a spot on this earth in a visceral way is a thrilling challenge to me, as is digging deep enough into my own psyche to evoke universal emotions.
What are three things someone needs to know to break in to travel writing?
A writer should find his niche by experimenting with all types of styles until one finds him, look for publications where his writing fits, and submit unceasingly.
Write honestly about the place and one’s impressions of it. This is easier said than done, and requires much note-taking while there, and a writing process of re-visioning that includes relentless editing, questioning, and pinpointing of focus.
Polish your story into a sparkling gem, burnish it until it glows. Perfection is obtainable, and quite essential for publication.
What was your process for compiling Vignettes & Postcards?
The book evolved out of a workshop I taught in the fall of 2011 at Shakespeare and Company Bookstore in Paris, “Leaping Into the Void”, which was about taking risks in writing. The writers engaged in the re-visioning process mentioned above and wrote astoundingly powerful pieces. Anna Pook, the regular instructor of the Evening Writing Workshop at S and Co, was my co-editor. We went through months of editing, collecting images and quotes, and arranging the stories.
We launched the book in May, 2012 at S and Co. The upstairs rooms were packed, with people lined up all the way to the back of the second room, and crammed onto the stairs. The writers were so proud and read their work with such flair. That summer, a few of the writers came to the states and we launched the book at Book Passage at the Ferry Building in San Francisco.
Advice for people submitting to an anthology?
Go deep for meaning, keep a clear focus, and write until you recognize your own voice. Then make it perfect.
Additional advice for writers?
When you feel like giving up, keep writing. Continue to sharpen the point of your piece and edit accordingly. Read it aloud. If it feels heavy, cut ruthlessly. If it feels awkward, work the words until they roll smoothly. Continue to sharpen your intuition by following it. Keep working on the piece until you know, really know, it is finished. Then, again, make it perfect.
It has been essential to me to find mentors who believe in my writing, who guide and advise me. Be bold and ask someone whose writing you admire to look at a short piece of your writing.
What do you know now that you wish you knew at the beginning of your career?
That I can do this: the writing process is grueling, exacting, and difficult, but also invigorating, challenging and magical. To me it is like being carried along a live wire as part of an electrical current.