I had a moment of cold panic the other day. It was not as dramatic as waking up in a sweat and hyperventilating. It was more a sinking “pff”. Why? The thought had suddenly occurred to me that maybe some of the writing I’d had published would disappear through the figurative “cracks in the pavement” of the ether of stories, articles and features out there. Now, whilst that may not seem the greatest tragedy in the book, for the writer with a sense of pride such an eventuality would certainly be a little tragic.
Every success, however small, in attaining a mouthpiece through which to speak on the subject you are passionate about in a well-regarded publication, is worthy of a small mention because it represents a victory of sorts. The victory of having conceived the idea and had an editor or publisher also thinking “hey, not bad, let’s do it”; the victory of that idea having appealed MORE to said editor or publisher than the thousands of other ideas they sifted through that week or month.
Particularly in the digital age, it’s also very hard as a writer to keep tabs on everything they have written that gets published. With a novel you remember, with a feature in a major magazine or newspaper you remember, but what about when it comes to the article on the novel you did for that writers blog, or the review of that hotel you stayed at?
I am quite regularly utterly amazed to discover, whilst engaged on one of those intermittent Googlings of my name, that something of mine has been published – something I had completely forgotten I had submitted.
This site – incidentally – is, amongst its many functions, a preventative measure against that disappearing-through-the-cracks-in-the-pavement.
Even so, though, recalling all my published work in any one particular month is not so easy any longer.
As a writer, I am concerned with five key areas of the world at the moment – if we assume that by ‘world’ I am talking about world geography: I thought I might take you on a little spin through each and show you what I have been writing about it of late…
This is the place I call home right now, and I’ve very much swapped big city life for rural tranquility by settling, at least for a while, in the Welsh countryside. Ah. Wales. I’ve enthused about it before on here. But I’m keeping a lid on a lot of those experiences – particularly where travel writing is concerned. I’m reserving Wales instead for the domain of my fiction writing, which is going well. I try to get out into the garden at least once, on a good day (and there are more good days than bad) to sit with a glass of wine or a cigar with a backdrop of no fewer than three castles (two of which will feature in the novel-to-be) and finish between 250 and 500 words of prose. But it is still early days. The skirting around the periphery phase of the novel. Soon will come the plunge into the heart: upon which the work rate will increase and the amount of time I spend thinking about Wales will rocket up from “lots” to “absolutely loads”.
I spent a lot of time up in extreme northwest Scotland earlier this year, too – and I recently wrote this piece of the best hikes in the Scottish Highlands.
I don’t think I am blowing my own trumpet too much by saying that I am one of the main contemporary writers in English on the rather ravishingly gorgeous (and yet, so coy) destination of Slovakia. Of course, there is the world’s number one resource of in-English Slovak travel and culture, which I have been building up all this year and which is now in healthy shape. But I have also been writing about Czech and Slovak castles for Travel Super Mag and about the most wondrous places to stay in Bratislava for the Telegraph.
I have typed (and jotted down) an incredible number of words on Scandinavia this year – mostly on Finland and Denmark (with a little on Norway, too and, I am sorry to say, absolutely nothing on Sweden). I have been to Finland twice, for Goodness Sake, which is more times than most people visit in a lifetime. All I can tell you now (because it would be a spoiler to mention specifics before publication time!) is that the result will be chapters in three different books, plus some articles for a clutch of well-known publications… OK, just a little spoiler: here’s my latest feature on Finland, on the spiritual role the sauna plays in the nation’s psyche, for Rough Guides.
I’ll be heading out to the Caribbean for a couple of months later this year but even beforehand, I’ve been writing about it A LOT. Much of this writing has been for Weather2Travel, the site that combines insightful holiday destination information with weather advice, and you can see my latest pieces on Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic and Costa Rica here.
After the publication of Roebuck last December, which of course had the Amazon basin of the 16th century as its main setting, perhaps the primary question people asked me was: “what’s your connection with the Amazon?” The answer is something I hope I’ve answered in the subsequent articles I wrote and interviews I gave (collated under the Writing About Writing section of this site) and in the South America sections of both the Travel Books and Travel Articles sections.
South America has not just been a subject tackled in my fiction writing of late: I was a travel writer on South America before I wrote a novel about the region and my latest piece on this mesmerising part of the world is on the obsession with the potato and its part in the culture of Peru, for Morning Calm magazine (scroll to page 91). I’ve also contributed to the May edition of Wanderlust magazine – talking about my top adventure tips for Peru.
Well now. I think that about covers it…