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Life As a Writer

Monday, August 26, 2019

Reserve Your Spot at Travel Writing Retreat in Simsbury, Connecticut on October 5th

For the past decade, I have been asked to speak once a semester about my life as a travel writer at an Emerson College magazine writing course. I always bring a thick of folder of more than 200 rejection letters. It includes my favorite rejection from Mad Magazine, simply a box checked next to the line, “It just didn’t tickle our funny bone.” Universities do a wonderful job of teaching the craft of writing, but rarely touch on the psychological aspects of rejection and the necessary business skills to market your wares. Close to half my time, especially in those early years, was spent peddling my writing to editors (and screenplays to production companies). Almost every day, I would return from my mailbox with a stack of rejection letters. It was an incredible struggle, the reason why many of the creative people I met in those early years in New York are no longer writing professionally. 
Dealing with rejection and building a strong support group to help attain your creative aspirations is just one of the topics I will discuss on October 5th in Simsbury, Connecticut at an all-day Travel Writing Retreat at the Storyteller’s Cottage. I will be joined by some of the finest travel writers in the business, including Kim Knox Beckius, Bob Curley, Karen Berger, and Mike Urban. If you like to write and love to travel, then this will be the best $125 you’ve ever spent. I guarantee you’ll learn everything you want to know about the travel writing profession. Hope to see you there! 
I'm off to see friends in Saratoga and the Berkshires, then leave for Peru on September 5th, back the week of September 16th. Enjoy the rest of the summer! 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/26/19 at 06:00 AM
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Wednesday, September 26, 2018

1793 Blogs and Counting

I've been blogging since 2009, which adds up to quite a lot of content over the years. A good friend recently told me to emphasize the Advanced Search function on the blog page. Simply type in the locale you want to visit and up pops the blogs I've written about that destination. For example, I typed in "Mississippi" in the Advanced Search line and again on the second page Keyword line and 19 blogs I wrote on the state appeared. This includes one of my favorite stops, "Staying at the Shack Up Inn in Clarksdale, Mississippi" on March 28, 2011. Before you go on your next trip with ActiveTravels, be sure to use the blog as an added resource. Much of the content, like the Shack Up Inn, is still topical. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/26/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, September 07, 2018

My Life as Travel Writer is Woven into the Landscape of Maine

Heading back to Maine last week with the family, it's hard not to think of all the stories I crafted on the adventures in this state. The vast wilderness of the interior and rambling ocean shoreline has provided the inspiration for at least 100 stories and many chapters of travel guidebooks. Paddling on Long Pond and listening to loons in Maine's North Woods, it was hard not to think of the time I paddled with the Conovers on the Allagash River or Kevin Slater on the West Branch of the Penobscot, still one of my favorite stories for Sierra Magazine. Slipping into the waters of Boothbay Harbor, I was reminded of the time I wrote a piece for Men's Journal on inn-to-inn sea kayaking along the Sheepscot River with Jeff Cooper, a flawless paddler and the so-called Director of Fun. Maine has been my playground for the past quarter century, and if last week's roster of activities is any indication, bagging a peak, paddling a lonely waterway, and sea kayaking along the rugged coast, I know it will spur my sense of adventure the next 25 years. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 09/07/18 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, March 17, 2017

Time to Enter Lowell Thomas Travel Awards Competition

Since its inception in 1984, the Society of American Travel Writers Foundation has handed out more than 2,100 awards and over $420,000 in recognition of outstanding travel journalism. Named the Lowell Thomas Travel Awards Competition after the renowned travel scribe, it has become the premier competition in North America in the field of travel journalism. Every year, the awards and prize money is handed out for outstanding print, online and multimedia works, travel photography, and audio and video broadcast. I’m proud to be on the board of the competition, now open until April 1st. Please send your best work and walk away with cash and the chance to call yourself an award-winning travel writer. 


Posted by Steve Jermanok on 03/17/17 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, December 09, 2016

Marie Pechet, In Memoriam

My conversations with Marie Pechet usually started with a line like this: “I have chemotherapy in a couple hours and you won’t hear from me in the next 3 days.” We had met two years ago when a mutual friend introduced us. She was interested in traveling to an off-the-beaten-track locale, much like her beloved Cape Santa Maria on Long Island in the Bahamas. She would never discuss her health with me.  But I looked online and read one of her stories where she had been battling colorectal cancer since 2008, shortly after her second child was born. Eight mind-numbing years of battling a stage 4 cancer and her incredible spirit shone through those phone calls and literally hundreds of emails I’m now reliving. She wanted an eco-friendly hotel that respected her diet of vegetables, beans, lemon and lime, olive oil, avocado, and nuts. Her older son, now 13, was also allergic to nuts, fish, lentils, and pumpkins. We found a place on Costa Rica’s Osa Peninsula, Aguila de Osa, where the owner is known to go overboard to make every wish come true. She loved that property and would often talk about returning, even though her husband, Tiron, loathed the long boat ride to reach it (see the photograph). 

We would book other trips to Dominican Republic, Florida, Tanque Verde dude ranch outside of Tucson, even Bloomington, Indiana, after learning that our daughter goes to Indiana University. She would comment on my daily travel blog, wish us well on our travels, send other clients our way, and write lengthy reviews of all trips where she would be brutally honest about the good and the bad. In truth, she was the client Lisa and I dreamed about when we first started this business 5 years ago. She was battling cancer for close to a decade, undergoing brutal chemotherapy sessions while raising two boys, and had far more zest for life than most people I know. Her cancer would simply not allow her to take life for granted. On Wednesday morning, she finally succumbed to that dreadful illness. We had just spoken several weeks ago, discussing the details of her family’s return to Tanque Verde over the holidays. Death was the farthest thing from my thoughts especially when talking to this enthusiastic woman so full of life. I hope Tiron and the boys do return to Tanque Verde, a land of craggy peaks and long horizons, where I know Marie will take her rightful place in the clouds watching over everyone she touched. In only two short years, she had an immediate impact on our lives and will leave a large void.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 12/09/16 at 06:00 AM
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Tuesday, August 09, 2016

A Perfect Example of Worthless Travel Writing

Good travel writing inspires. You rip the article out of the newspaper or magazine and start planning for that dream trip. In some rare instances, a great writer will pan a destination or type of travel, like David Foster Wallace critiquing his luxury cruise for Harpers Magazine. Then there are the articles that are just plain laughable and not because they intend to be funny. On Saturday, the Boston Globe published a real dud simply titled “Road Trip Time.” It’s such a wonderful example of uninspired dribble that I can’t wait to bring it to students this semester at Emerson College when I talk about the art of travel writing. Here are 3 examples on why this piece should have never been seen by the public:
There is no angle to this story—It seems as if the writer is just cruising, taking a hike here, stopping for a lobster roll or a microbrew there. But there’s very little description of any of these experiences, leaving us with a list of random places. In great road trip stories, the writer should introduce the reader to a scenic route, preferably one that most readers don’t know, which unfortunately is not the case with the Kancamagus Highway. He had more than ample chance to discuss the majestic peninsulas that dangle down from Route 1 in Maine that leave us at Popham Beach and the Pemaquid Point Lighthouse, but instead chose arbitrary destinations. 
He assumes the reader knows nothing about these destinations—The Boston Globe chose to print this road trip story on the White Mountains, the Berkshires, and the Maine coast. That’s very risky because 99.9% of the readership knows these locales exceptionally well. So don’t start your White Mountains entry by stating, “Two and a half hours north of Boston is the unassuming hamlet of North Conway, N.H., the gateway to the White Mountains.” We’re from Boston, not Tuscaloosa. We know where the White Mountains are and we also know that North Conway is not an “unassuming hamlet” but a commercialized home to more outlet stores than any other spot in the state. Nearby Jackson and its serene village green might fit that bill. 
End a road trip story on a highlight—Lubec? Really? You chose to include the Maine coast, one of the classic road trips in America, and you ended the trip not in Acadia National Park, not in Camden, but Lubec. I happen to like Lubec and its historic sardine canneries, but if you’re creating a realistic itinerary for readers of the Boston Globe, the trip ends in Bar Harbor. If you want to add another 2 hours to that drive, then you might as well keep going to the far more charming town of St. Andrews by-the-Sea in New Brunswick. 
I spent a quarter-century writing about New England so it’s far easier for me to spot inexperience from a mile away. But the readers of the Globe are not stupid and they deserve genuine travel expertise, especially when you publish a story on New England. 

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 08/09/16 at 06:00 AM
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Friday, October 30, 2015

Successful Writers Learn to Deal with Rejection

Every year for the past decade, I have been invited to speak at a magazine writing course at Emerson College on my life as a travel writer. One of my favorite props to bring to that class is a folder filled with at least 200 rejection letters that I pass around. I especially like the one rejection from Mad Magazine that simply checks off a box: “Didn’t tickle our funny bone.” When I first started as a freelance journalist back in the early 90s, you would send a query letter with a self-addressed stamp envelope. If the publication liked your idea, they would more than likely call you to do the assignment. If they didn’t like the pitch, they would send back a rejection letter. I’m not sure what masochistic strain of my personality persuaded me to collect these rejection letters, but I cherish them now. Many editors were encouraging, writing comments like “please send us other ideas.” One editor would simply write “Nope” on my pitch letters and send it back. 
The reason I’m reminded of this now is that the latest Man Booker prize winner, Marlon James, admitted in an interview that his first novel was rejected 78 times. 78 times!! We live in an age of helicopter parents and over-coddled college students, ones that are used to getting their way. That simply doesn’t happen in the writing world. You will face rejection often and even after getting the assignment, you could deal with a litany of problems, worst of all an editor who doesn’t know how to edit. If it’s your desire to be a writer, have patience, give yourself enough time to make dreams a reality, and persevere through the muck. Better yet, laugh off the rejection. The word “Nope” became a running gag between my wife and me for years. “Do you want to go food shopping?” “Nope.” “Time to shovel the driveway.” “Nope.” I love that Marlon James was rejected 78 times and I can’t wait to read his latest novel, “A Brief History of Seven Killings.” My record number of rejections is 38 for an assignment to write about the freighter cruise ship, Aranui, which still delivers food to the residents of the Marquesas Islands. More than 1500 published clips and some 90 countries later, I’m often asked what’s my favorite place in the world. The Marquesas Islands, I reply.

Posted by Steve Jermanok on 10/30/15 at 06:00 AM
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about us
photo of Steve Jermanok
Longtime Boston Globe travel writer, Steve Jermanok, dishes out his favorite travel locales and provides topical travel information that comes across his desk. is an Austin-Lehman Adventure's Top 125 Best Travel Blog Semi-Finalist

Adventure Travel Trade Association