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Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Sketchandtravel.com & Bookpleasures.com is pleased to have as our guest, travel writer and author, Chelle Koster Walton.

 

 

Chelle is an expert on Florida, particularly the West Coast of Florida, and she has contributed articles to the Miami Herald, National Geographic Traveler, Caribbean Travel & Life, FamilyFun, Fodor's Healthy Escapes, Fodor's Gold Guides: Florida and Bahamas. She is also the Travel Editor for Times of the Islands and Food Reviewer for Naples Illustrated




 

Chelle has also authored:

 

 

 

 

Good day Chelle and thank you for agreeing to participate in our interview.

 

Norm:

 

When did your passion for travel writing begin? What has kept you going?

 

Chelle:

 

 I did my first travel writing in about fourth grade. My family were avid road-trippers and my mother encouraged me to keep a journal  something to keep me quiet and from fighting with my three siblings in the back seat of the Ford.

 

As a career, I began about 20 years ago to support my travel habit. Now it's in my blood. I can't take a family vacation without jotting notes and picking up brochures. I love the way travel writing gets me to know/discover the guts of a destination, the soul of its people.

 

 

Norm:

 

 

Why did you choose Florida as your area of expertise?

 

Chelle:

 

I actually began writing about the Caribbean. Florida was a natural, because that's where I moved 25 years ago and there's a great demand for copy. Once I did my first guidebook, I became an expert and now the assignment offers pretty much flow in unsolicited.

 

Norm:

 

If you had to name 5 of the most unique romantic and/or wedding destinations in Florida, which ones would you choose and why?

 







Chelle:

 

I'm an island junkie, so I'm prejudiced that way.

 

         Sanibel Island is still my favourite island/destination and exceedingly romantic with its natural, lightly developed beaches and relative non-commercialism. Sunsets, sea, sand, all that.

 

         Palm Island, up the coast in Charlotte County, is still a secret and secluded because it's accessible only by boat. It's a resort that occupies a long island with a state park at the other end. Very Robinson Crusoe.

 

         Little Palm Island in the Keys is another accessible only by boat and it's custom-made for romance with these great Bali-style huts, outdoor showers, mosquito-netted four-posters, and tiny key deer that roam the grounds.

 

         Amelia Island near Jacksonville, almost to Georgia, has long stretches of beach, isolated resorts, and charming B&Bs in its Victorian seaport town Fernandina Beach. Great restaurants, a historic fort, kayaking, lots to do.

 

         I adore the Panhandle, and the Seaside area with its carefully developed new-urban style resort communities is gorgeous great white dunes and emerald seas.

 

 

 

Norm:

 

In the last year or so have you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books and publish articles? Are there any emerging trends developing?

 

Chelle:

 

I'm bad that way. I write my book, hand it to my publisher, and stay out of it. I don't like the sales end of things so I stick my head in a hole where that's concerned. One emerging trend that has benefited me is the use of actual first-hand, by-lined travel writing by specialty publishes, i.e., publishers who do magazines, guides, and Web sites for tourism organizations. Instead of fluff brochurese, they want actual experiential, critical, arm-chair travel pieces. Refreshing.

 

 

Norm:

 

Who are your favorite authors, and why do they inspire you?

 

Chelle:

 

Anne Morrow Lindbergh: Her Gift From the Sea (written, I found out years after I'd first read it and when I moved here, on Captiva Island just to my north) makes me stretch my travel writing to a new level.

 

Barbara Kingsolver: Again, when I'm reading her, my narrative naturally improves.

 

Carl Hiassen: I love his sense of humour and righteousness. I'd read him even if he weren't a Florida writer.

 

John Steinbeck: Travels with Charley is the ultimate travel book.

 

Norm:

 

As there does not seem to be any authoritative standards that exist for guidebook authors or publishers, how do you know that a guidebook is up to par? How do you check out the authorial competence?

 

Chelle:

 

As co-founder of GuideBookWriters.Com and a member of SATW, I know most of the best guidebook authors out there. Our Web site was designed so that only competent and up-to-date authors are listed. We carefully vetted applicants who are truly experts in their field. I rarely use a Fodor's or Frommer's whose author I don't know, for instance, because I know what they pay. Low pay doesn't always mean shoddy reporting (after all, I do write for Fodor's), but it fosters such. Certain titles such as Lonely Planet and Moon typically equate to quality, but even they are succumbing to economic pressures.

 

 

Norm:

 

Do you recommend other travel writers find a niche or specialty? What have been the rewards for you?

 

Chelle:

 

You have to find a niche. It not only focuses you, it defines you to publishers. The niche can be geographic, as mine is, or topic. I know one writer who specializes, for instance, in volcano travel and eclipse trips. My niche in Florida and the Caribbean allows me a wide latitude in topics from family travel, food, and culture (my favourites) to adventure, romance, environmental, historic, etc. Picking a subject niche, like the volcano guy, lets you travel more roundly, but since I have a son, for now I enjoy traveling close to home and with my family when possible.

 

Norm:

 

What challenges or obstacles did you encounter while writing your guidebooks? How did you overcome these challenges?

 

Chelle:

 

The biggest challenge is the mere tedium of detail work fact checking. I often hire an assistant to help with that.

 

Norm:

 

How have you used the Internet to boost your writing career?

 

Chelle:

 

It.s an irreplaceable research tool, don't know how I did without it in the early years. I have a small, modest Web site, mostly so when editors or trip providers want clips and background, I can send them there.

 

Norm:

 

Is there anything else you care to add to our interview?


 






Chelle

 

Yeah, buy my books! :>)

 

Thanks once again Chelle and good luck with all of your future endeavours.

 

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