A Chat with Pamdiana Jones

There’s no doubt about it, travel and adventure can often lead to humorous moments that remain in the memory long after the intrepid traveler is home, safe and sound. Such is the case with author Pamdiana Jones (pseudonym) in her new book, When In Roam. In addition to the memories are the lessons, the people, and the places that resonate, and sometimes even change our lives irrevocably.

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Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q         By your own admission, you were a naïve traveler back in the ‘90s. Looking back on your experiences of that trip, given the chance, what advice would you give yourself back then?  

A         Yes, pretty naive. I didn’t watch or read news, I didn’t understand world politics, religions, sciences, history, cultures… It took me awhile to find my confidence in my own instincts. I really felt in-tune with it later in the trip, but wish I’d known that earlier on. I might have gone deeper into Africa and really spent time with the tribes, if I’d known I wasn’t really headed home!


Q         What stands out in your mind as your most memorable event during your adventure?

A         On a “life” level, it would be my father’s death, but on an adventure level getting chased by a herd of elephants in the wild animal park. You don’t forget something like that! Plus that very full day in Sumatra where I picked jungle plants for Malaria prevention tea, had leeches on me, rode an elephant through the jungle and woke up to thousands of bugs in my room. I’ve never had a day quite like that since!


Q         What did you learn about yourself through that experience that you still relate to today?

A         I just trust that life will be ok. I now listen immediately to my instinct and can read a situation, or a person, quite quickly from learning the subtle signs. Most people in the world are good people. 


Q         What did you learn about the people and cultures you encountered that surprised you?

A         When I left Los Angeles, I was a bit bored of people asking me lame questions, like what I ate, did I get a haircut, did I see the latest movie? I wanted to speak about much deeper, more worldly things, like politics, religion, cultures, why we are the way we are, how we got from cavemen to now, etc… On my travels I noticed that everywhere I went, as I made new friends, they’d all ask what I ate, and if I got a haircut, the same types of questions, yet now I could appreciate them as the very act of caring. When asked what I ate for lunch showed I was truly feeling love from all different cultures. I learned we are all the same, no matter where we go. We all just love our families, like to laugh, move to music, want food in our belly, and a good night’s sleep!


Q         You use a lot of self-deprecating humor in your book. What was your goal in utilizing that narrative approach?

A         I’m not sure it was really a thought out goal, it’s just the way I always am! I still talk like that, even though the trip was 25 years ago.


Q         What, if anything, would you change about that solo travel experience?

A         At this point I would like to change nothing, because the trip as a whole was life-changing. I might have wanted to share it with someone, but then I would have been talking with them the entire time instead of making new friends. I’d love to say I wish I had more money to travel more comfortably, but then I would have stayed in a fancy hotel, and I wouldn’t have taken that local’s home to stay in and would’ve missed out on knowing these incredible locals. I wish I didn’t just have to eat so much plain rice, but it made me appreciate when I had a proper meal. I will say it took me five years to eat rice again after the trip!

Q         What advice would you give to today’s solo female travelers?

A         It is so very different now, with Uber, and Tinder, and WhatsApp, and phones in general. I was unable to contact my family or friends from home because it was very expensive to call, and I had to just use snail-mail, so when I sent a letter not one person wrote me back, as I was always on the move. It sounds awful, but I would tell them to put the phone away, get off social media—you don’t need the perfect Instagram picture—really feel the culture, the new scents, the new sights, the new foods, and the people. You might never get back to that place again. 


Q         What has been your biggest challenge in getting this book published?

A         I guess lack of knowledge about what I was even doing. I have young twins and we moved twice, so it took me five years to write the book. It was finished in three years, but then I spent a year getting burned financially from two different editors with stellar resumes. The last year I had to learn to edit and format myself, as I navigated the self publishing route on my own, without a mentor. It is kind of fitting though, as the book is about finding your own confidence alone in the world. Now I’m doing the same in the world of publishing!

Q         What advice would you give new writers, either on writing or publishing?

A         I read early on that you can’t edit an empty page, and that has really stuck with me. I took huge three, four, and five month breaks without picking it up, out of nervousness that not one person could like what I’d written. I worried that every person on the planet has a story to tell, so why me? But then I just thought it might be fun for my kids to see my adventures one day (not until they’re 30!) and it motivated me to keep going. I saw the movie and read the book Eat, Pray, Love, and while it was cute and heartwarming, I thought there might be a few more girls like me—a bit more wild and free. So I wrote the book that I had wanted to read, but couldn’t find anywhere.


Q         How and why did you come up with your pen name, Pamdiana Jones?

A         When I was writing my letters home, at times I felt like Indiana Jones, and I cracked a joke that I’m now Pamdiana Jones, and my family loved the reference. My mom fell at a museum in the 1970’s and who caught her? Harrison Ford! Now my own son’s middle name is also Harrison.


Q         What’s next for you, Pam?

A         Because of the very warm reception as a newly published author, I’m already three countries into the second travel memoir, where I go through the South Pacific and bits of Europe with friends. In the future I can write travel memoir three, traveling with my husband and twins. They’ve already been overseas a few times, but I’d not thought about it until we flew to Grandma’s home on a 90 minute flight. They couldn’t believe that was even a real flight, as they were used to 22 hours and 15 hours and more!

During lockdown I’ve written two children’s books, where my twins get sucked into a portal to meet Santa on Christmas Eve in book one. In book two they dissolve into their own shadows and meet historical people on July 4th. I’m still looking for an illustrator, but I’m hoping to get them out soon!

You can find and connect with Pamela here:

Facebook-Instagram-Pinterest: @PamdianaJones

So You Think You Know Canada, Eh?

Canada Cover

Who could have known that hockey isn’t Canada’s national sport, that Canadian passports contain hidden messages or that it was a Canadian who invented peanut butter? Well, if you had read Marianne Jennings’ delightful book, So You Think You Know Canada, Eh?, you’d easily score in any game of Canadian trivia. Marianne chats with us this month about how the book came about, what she does for fun and what she liked to read when she was growing up.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: You define yourself as a “self-proclaimed adventure craver and adventure addict.” Was this passion for globetrotting instilled in childhood or did it come along later?

A: I’ve always loved learning about different places, different cultures, and different people around the world. I grew up in a very small farming community where most people never even left the state. I would read National Geographic magazines and books from the “Choose Your Own Adventure” series and dream about these places I wanted to see when I grew up.

My family would take road trips, but I didn’t get to travel internationally until after college. Except for one road trip with my grandparents where we saw Wyoming, North and South Dakota, and then up into Ontario, Canada. It was the first time I’d ever been out of the U.S., and I found it fascinating. I loved everything about it – the people, their slight accent, the friendly painted fire hydrants, and the breathtaking scenery.

Q: You have also parlayed that passion into a 9-5 job. Tell us about it.

A: A few years back I was able to get a job managing Utah.com, which is a travel and tourism website for all things Utah. Utah is an outdoor-lovers playground. For a long time, I took for granted where I lived and didn’t realize that Utah was a bucket list location for people all around the world. It’s been so fun to be able to see more of the great state of Utah and to help others plan their dream trips here.

Q: Your shoes have logged a lot of miles and your passport has collected a lot of stamps. Is there one place in particular you’d like to go back to and, if possible, spend more time?

A: New Zealand

Q: Top three places on your bucket list (and why)?

A: Antarctica – It’s remote, rugged, and screams adventure. I’ve even looked into working there for a season.

Scotland – Castles, bagpipes, kilts, and ceilidhs. Plus, they have some amazing long walks (or hikes as we call them) that I’ve wanted to do.

Alaska – Once upon a time I wanted to be a bush pilot in Alaska. Again, the rugged, remote, and untouched nature screamed adventure. I have a feeling if I ever go there, I may never come home.

Q: So how is it that someone who lives in Utah chose Canada as the subject of a fun fact book?

A: I get asked this question a lot. I am not Canadian, but have lived with Canadians, have friends who are Canadian, and have been to Canada several times. Canada was the very first place I visited outside of the U.S. and I have loved it ever since. Canada is our neighbor to the north and most Americans know a Canadian, have visited Canada, and are familiar with a few of their fun quirks. It just seemed like a fun place to start and something a lot of people would enjoy.

Q: I love the title, especially the “eh?” at the end of it. How did you come up with it and, for that matter, why do Canadians’ say “eh?”

A: I did a lot of keyword research to come up with a fun title and put up several options on Facebook to have people vote. A Canadian friend commented and said why don’t you just call it, “So You Think You Know Canada, Eh?” and that ended up being the winning title by popular vote and personally my favorite.

Canadians say eh for several reasons and it means a few different things. One example is when it’s similar to how Americans would end a sentence with “huh,” “right?” or “isn’t it?” So if you said “It’s a nice day today, eh?” it would mean the same as “It’s a nice day today, isn’t it?” Sometimes it’s used as an alternative for “excuse me?” “please say that again” or “what?.” Several languages have words that are used in the very same way, “Eh” just happens to be a popular Canadian stereotype that most people are familiar with.

Q: During the course of the book’s development, what was the most surprising thing you learned?

A: There were several surprising and fun things I learned, but I didn’t realize that A.A. Milne’s famous Winnie-the-Pooh character was named after a real black bear female cub who was originally from Canada. Her owner named her Winnipeg after his hometown. He was a soldier and was transferred to Europe and took Winnipeg with him. Knowing he couldn’t travel around Europe with her, he made arrangements to keep her in the London Zoo where she was nicknamed Winnie for short. She was a crowd favorite and A.A. Milne’s son, Robin, was a huge fan.

Q: Was this also your favorite thing or was your favorite thing something else entirely?

A: My favorite thing I learned is that Santa Claus is officially a Canadian citizen, has his very own special postal code (H0H 0H0 which spells Ho Ho Ho) and answers every letter that is sent in whatever language it is sent in. Some years this means, close to 200 different languages.

Q: What might we have found on your bookshelf when you were a kid? A teen? Now?

A: As a kid you would find “The Boxcar Children” series, “The Indian in the Cupboard” series, several “Choose Your Own Adventure” books, and a few encyclopedias I borrowed from my grandparents (yes, I was that kid.) My all-time favorite book as a kid was “The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle.”

As a teenager I read autobiographies by Lucille Ball, Mary Tyler Moore, Doris Day, Barbra Streisand and Reba McEntire.

Today, you’d find a random mix of nonfiction like how-to books (how to sail, how to rock climb, and how to write a book), international cookbooks, travel guides and memoirs, more autobiographies, and fiction from Veronica Roth, J.K. Rowling, and Dan Brown.

Q: What’s your favorite quote (and why)?

A: My favorite quote is by Lucille Ball who said, “The more things you do, the more you can do.” I love to learn and try new things and this is the quote that has guided my life since I was a teenager. Life really is one big adventure and it’s true, the more things you do, the more you can do.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: Adventure travel is my favorite kind of travel, but I think most people would be surprised to learn that every single trip has scared me in some way or another. But I firmly believe that being scared isn’t an excuse not to do something and the experiences I have on each trip are very much worth it.

Q: Top three tips for traveling on a budget?

A: Travel on shoulder or off-seasons to get cheaper rates on flights, accommodations, and tours. Stay in guesthouses or Airbnb type places to get cheaper rates, but also get local information on things to see, do, and places to eat that are often off the beaten path and cheaper than the touristy places. Try and only eat out once a day and get supplies from groceries stores to take with you as you’re out and about. Visiting grocery stores in other countries is often its own little adventure.

Q: What’s the most memorable souvenir you’ve ever bought?

A: A Claddagh ring I got in Ireland 8 years ago, that I have worn every day since.

Q: And what’s the one that made you say, “What was I thinking?”

A: A traditional Icelandic wool sweater that is incredible warm, but really itchy so I rarely wear it.

Q: When you’re not writing and traveling, what do you like to do?

A: Hiking, gardening, reading, learning new things like knitting, and catching up with friends I’ve met on my travels over WhatsApp and Zoom.

Q: The world is currently in an unsettled state of lockdown which is changing the way we work and the way we interact with one another. As soon as the storm has lifted, where’s the first place you want to go?

A: I had a trip planned to the UK that was cancelled. I plan on visiting several of my friends I’ve met from recent travels. I almost have more friends in the UK than I do here in the U.S. 

Q: Any new projects/books on your plate?

A: A companion Canadian quiz book to compliment the original, So You Think You Know Canada, Eh? A few other So You Think You Know fact books are in the works and are scheduled to be released this year under my Knowledge Nugget Book series. 

Q: Where can readers learn more about you?

A: Find me writing life lessons learned on some of my crazy travel adventures on medium.com, travel tips and experiences on adventurecravers.com and all my book info at knowledgenuggetbooks.com

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I’d say if you’ve ever wanted to learn to do something, then do it. Find someone to teach you, find a book, watch a video, or just try it out. Life’s too short not to try and experience everything you can while we’re here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Places and Times

 

ATurfa cover art

“Poetry,” wrote Robert Frost, “is what gets lost in translation.” For a lot of today’s adolescents – and no shortage of adults as well – the chance to go beneath the surface and explore a poem’s meaning is so often dismissed because, frankly, other forms of expression seem like much less work. A case in point is my nephew Eugene who balked throughout his public education that there weren’t any or enough words that rhymed with the actual words he wanted to use (i.e., pterodactyl). As an adult, the closest he allows himself to get to poetry is the greeting card aisle…and even then gravitates only to short verses with obvious rhythmic patterns. Oh, Eugene! The expressive word-pictures, philosophies and insightful turns of phrase you’re missing out on!

For the rest of us, poet Arthur Turfa’s Places and Times is a cozy invitation to step – as if through the frame of a gallery painting – into the reflective moods, passions and travel experiences that have shaped this globetrekker’s vibrant life.

Interviewer: Christina Hamlett

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Q: “At home in the world” is a phrase that could easily be your personal motto. How have you been able to put that mindset in active practice in your years of traveling the globe?

A: One way is to learn something about my destination. It could be some of the language, or it might be someplace I want to see there. Having seen tourists act like tourists or tour stereotypical Ugly American, I try to connect somehow with people and places.

Q: Is there a favorite place that calls to you – either as a destination to return to or one that’s on your wish list of places you’ve yet to visit?

A: Oh yes! Berlin. I have been there primarily as a tourist, but also as a student. When there was still a Wall, I lived for a summer with German friends. My great-grandfather was a cadet at the academy in nearby Potsdam, and that plays some role I suppose. When I am there, I am rejuvenated.

Q: People who love to travel are often bitten by the wanderlust bug at an early age. Was this the case for you and, if so, how did it subsequently influence your writing style and your view of globetrekking?

A: My parents like to travel, but they stayed in the US and Canada. I liked to travel. So far I’ve bene to 41 states, Europe seven times, Asia once, Mexico once, and Canada six. The way I remember best is writing I remember a place, persons, or an event that is either historical or personal. Most of my travel to Europe was to learn German, and I immersed myself in the language, literature, and culture.

Q: Tell us a little bit about your exposure to languages other than your first one.

A: In my father’s hometown near Pittsburgh, I heard about ten Old Country languages regularly, as well as accented English. Three of my grandparents were born in Europe; my paternal grandparents still spoke Hungarian daily. Those experiences form the basis of my second book Accents. My mother taught me some French; her mother was a Walloon. The Germans in the family were all speaking English, but I learned that also. Languages came easily to me.

Q: You’ve had a number of interesting careers during your life – pastor, educator, and soldier. What have those diverse pursuits taught you about the creative, business, and discipline aspects of being a successful author?

A:  All of them have given me tons of experience, I’ll say that! The careers have taught me how to set a schedule, to make good use of time, and to keep on track. Creativity is needed in all of them, and there are some carry-overs. For example, I have used pastoral skills in the classroom, I have taught as a pastor (even in sermons), and found military skills contribute confidence and a “let’s-get-the-job-done” attitude.

Q: You’re also a moderator on Google+. What does that involve and how does it sync with your writing activities?

A: Lately it has taken me away from them except for prompts and occasional pieces. Sometimes the personalities can get in the way of poetry. But some of those pieces become part of something larger. Peppered Poets is a guild for people who want critique and to wrestle with poetry. Words on Fire is another smaller group with amazing talent. POETS is the largest but very diverse. These groups bring me into contact with different styles of poetry. I also have found some very food friends from all over the world of whom I can ask anything.

Q: Let’s talk about your passion for poetry. When was this first ignited?

A:  Of course I was exposed to poetry in school. I learned what I had to, and tolerated what I was given. However, I liked hitman. In my senior year in high school, my English teacher saw something in me. He allowed me to spend most classes in the library, reading anything I wanted to. I wrote reports and found myself loving literature. Auden’s poetry really grabbed mem, and still does. Sadly, a teacher could not do that today, unless there was Project Based Learning.

Q: What were your early poems like and how do they compare to the poetry you’re penning now?

A: The first things I wrote were lyrics for songs, heavily-influenced by what I was listening to at the time. As far as early poems, they were nature or history-based. I actually found a few undergraduate poems recently, and they were not terrible. They are on a Google+ Collection of mins. The ones I remember best though, I cannot find.

There are some similarities with current poems in terms of content and structure. But I have learned to love sonnets. Getting older has improved them, I assure you!

Q: Tell us about Places and Times and how its development came about.

A:  I had a break of about 20 years from writing poetry. During that time I wrote sermons, lesson plans, had civilian and military education happening. In my free time, I was not interesting in writing anything. A friend, Carol Worthington Levy, sent us a print from a trip she and her husband took to Italy, and that sparked something. Maybe my mind was turning to poetry again. I started writing. After my deployment to Germany I finished the dissertation, and wrote more. Cautiously, I posted a few things. Joanna Kurowska told me my poetry was good enough to publish. While I had a piece or two in a journal already, she encouraged me to produce a book-length manuscript. During the period between the years 2007-2011 I wrote a lot of poetry, mainly as a break from everything else I was doing. My life has calmed down a bit, and I had the time. She told me to contact her publisher. And Carol’s artwork graces the cover of my book.

Q: How would you describe your style as a poet?

A: People say I am a painterly type of poet. I create a scene and/or tell a story. Structure helps that a great deal. I do not like short lines, unless I am writing in a certain form. In the process of creating the scene, telling the story, I let the emotions come out subtly. I love sounds and words. Like a good painting, a reader might need to step back from one of my poems or re-read a section to appreciate it.

Q: Has anyone ever said to you, “Poetry? Why? There’s no money in it.” What’s your response to that?

A: Not exactly, but some think it is frivolous or pretentious. I will work something into a poem about them or their attitude.

Q: I feel fortunate to have grown up at a time when reading and writing poetry were part of the English curriculum. Sadly, though, the exposure so many young people get to this form of creative expression is either through nursery rhymes (which suggest a poem isn’t a poem unless it’s a la-dee-da rhythm) or epic tomes like Beowulf (which are cumbersome and impossible for most to understand). As an educator, what do you feel can/should be done to make the study of poetry more fun and approachable and, accordingly, something students might voluntarily seek out as enjoyable reads when they’re adults?

A: Students need to be exposed to the classics; there is no question about that. But there are creative ways to do that. There is a lot of good contemporary poetry out there, but some parents object to language and theme (but they watch/read/listen to worse). Students need to try their hand at writing something of their own.

That being said, most English Departments debate over what and how much to read. Some song lyrics would be good to stimulate interest.

Q: Who are some of the poets and writers whose work you especially admire and/or draw from for inspiration?

A: Among the better-known ones are Auden, Eliot, Whitman, Hopkins, Rilke, Goethe, Plath, Bukowski. Among those from my Google+ communities my mentor, Joanna Kurowska, Denise Baxter Yoder, Jose Coelho and Martha Magenta,  Locally, Ed Madden and  Ray McManus,

Q: What sorts of things do you pick up on that eventually appear in your writing?

A: Really all kinds of things. These range from a glimpse as I drive or have more time to linger outdoors, a piece of music, people I know, situations involving them and/or myself. I also pick up some themes from other writers.

Q: What other types of writing do you do?

A: I do have a YA draft in process. Additionally I still do sermons, an article for a professional publication. The dissertation took some time but was interesting. And lesson plans!

Q: What’s next on your plate?

A: Right now I am editing a manuscript for a second book of poetry, tentatively entitled Accents. I am also submitting to journals, both print and on-line.

Q: What would readers be the most surprised to learn about you?

A: That I am an avid baseball fan, especially of the Pittsburgh Pirates.

Q: Where can readers learn more about your work?

A: https://www.facebook.com/Arthur-Turfa-Poems-of-Times-and-Places-Reflected-293732337470677/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4616169.Arthur_Turfa

http://www.amazon.com/Arthur-Turfa/e/B00YJ9LNOA/ref=sr_ntt_srch_lnk_1?qid=1468187274&sr=8-1

https://plus.google.com/u/0/collections

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A:  Thanks for the perceptive questions and the opportunity to answer them!

 

 

 

Chance Encounters

Chance Encounters

So many of us dream of travelling, writing, and sharing our amazing experiences, but Colorado-based journalist, editor, and producer Janna Graber has done more than just dream. In addition to writing for publications such as Redbook, Reader’s Digest, The Chicago Tribune, etc., in the interests of travel and gaining invaluable life experiences, she’s gone dog-sledding, saddled up for excitement and riding at some of Colorado’s dude ranches, and even toured my ownOntario Wine Country to sample our finest wines in the Niagara Valley! But for Janna, it’s more than just the travel that drives her; it’s the personal connections she makes with people all over the globe that resonate most deeply with her. Now, she’s written a book, Chance Encounters: Travel Tales From Around the World (World Traveler Press, 2014) that focuses on experiences and personal connections she and other globe trotters have enjoyed. To learn a little more about this fascinating woman, her newest book, and what inspires her, read on.

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Interviewed by Debbie A. McClure

Q: Tell us, Janna, how did you get the idea for the book?

A: In my travels, I often crossed paths with extraordinary people — people who lived in situations different from my own, but who touched me in some way. Some of those encounters enriched my journey, inspired me or even changed my way of thinking. I knew other travelers experienced this as well, so I decided to create a book that would celebrate these unique and incredible travel encounters.

Q: How many authors were featured in the book?

ANineteen top international travel writers were featured in the book.

Q: How were pieces selected?

A: We received hundreds of submissions from writers around the globe and selected 23 final stories. I looked for well-written pieces that followed the writer’s internal journey, as well as his/her external experience. Each story in the book provides a you-are-there feeling, allowing the armchair traveler to experience a unique part of the world from the writer’s perspective. The stories are all very different from each other, which makes reading the book so enjoyable. 

Q: What are some of your own stories that were included?

A: “My Friend, the Enemy” was actually the story that inspired the idea for the book. In 1987 while on a short student trip to East Germany, I met a young East German student who reached out in friendship, even though it was dangerous for him to do so. After I left, we had to write in secret through this grandma. It’s been 25 years now since the Berlin Wall fell, and we have been close friends ever since — simply because we crossed paths long ago.

Another story of mine, “The Parisian Angel” tells how a young French woman helped me after I had been robbed in Paris. She reached out to me when I needed it most, and helped to restore my faith in Paris.

Q: Tell us about some of the other tales in the book.

A: Christina Hamlett writes of a treasured encounter in Hawaii that she has never forgotten. Kimberley Lovato’s tale of an elevator ride with a courageous woman in Paris packs deep emotions into a matter of minutes, from recollections of childhood memories to profound realizations of life.

Nithin Coca’s conversation with a taxi driver in Dubai leaves an impression that he won’t forget, and during a hike with a young monk in Bhutan, Shilpa Gupta learns a lesson not about Buddhism, but about herself.

Cece Romanyshyn is moved by the strength of three young Kenyan sisters who are faced with a heart-wrenching local custom, and Rob Woodburn marvels at the resourcefulness of two young men from Malawi in their quest for a decent pair of shoes.

These are just a few examples. The book is packed with incredible tales of chance travel encounters that touched or changed someone’s life.

Q: Travel writing isn’t something most people just jump into. What is your background?

A: I began my journalism career covering women’s news for Chicago Tribune, Redbook, McCall’s and other publications. When the Columbine tragedy happened in my own backyard, it was very difficult for me to write about. These were my neighbors, and I couldn’t help but feel their sorrow. After that, I decided to turn my energies to covering positive stories of travel and the strength of the human spirit.

After 9/11, travel writing changed. I was told that Americans weren’t interested in international travel. But I knew that wasn’t true. In 2003, I started GoWorldTravel.com, an online magazine devoted entirely to world travel. We work with travel writers around the world covering stories in more than 90 countries. I’ve been covering travel ever since.

Q: When you travel, you do much more than visit resorts and tourist attractions; you learn about the native cultures and people of the places you visit. What is the most interesting fact you discovered about a place, people, or thing on your travels?

A: What I’ve learned is that people are more alike than they are different. Yes, I may have a different home or lifestyle than a mom living in Shanghai, but deep down we are still mothers who hope for the best in our children. I always find so much in common with those I meet on my travels – and that provides a genuine connection that cultural differences can’t erase.

Q: Most of us choose to travel the paved roads, but you go off-road all the time. Can you share with us your most funny, or difficult, travel situation?

A: I love small towns and rural and rugged landscape. Some of my favorite travel experiences have been snorkeling with belugas near the Arctic Circle in the 800-person town of Churchill, Minnesota, and going on safari in the Outback on an Aboriginal Reserve at the northern tip of Australia. The people who live in these kinds of rugged environments fascinate me, and I enjoy being around them.

Q: What inspires you to write and travel, Janna?

A: I’m always curious and eager to learn about new places, people, and cultures. Travel allows me to step out of my comfort zone, broaden my view, and experience new things.

Q: Although travel writing looks exciting and glamorous, I’m sure many, many times it isn’t. What advice would you give to writers who would like to learn more about or get involved in travel writing?

A: Ten years ago, it was possible to make a passable living with travel writing, but the media world has changed. Fewer print publications cover travel, and online writing just doesn’t pay as much. Nowadays, travel writing is a good second career. You have to pursue it for the passion, not the money. It helps to have another source of income while you do that.

Q: How do you choose the places to visit and write about?

A: Since I went to university in Vienna, I feel at home in Europe. European destinations continuously draw me. I’m also in love with Australia, so travel there whenever I can. Generally though, I simply look for opportunities to travel and experience new things. I’m open to almost any place where travel is safe.

Q: Is there someplace you haven’t been to yet that you are determined to go to? If so, why?

A: I’d like to go on safari in Tanzania and Botswana; Mongolia is also on my wish list. I’ve never been to any of these places, but have read other writers who have inspired me to put them on my Bucket List. 

Q: What book projects are you working on next?

A: My next book in the series, called “Adventures of a Lifetime: Travel Tales from Around the World”, is also now available. Like the name says, the book includes 24 incredible travel stories from some 20 top travel writers.

My own story in the book is called “Filling in the Holes”. It’s about searching for family roots in Latvia that were tragically lost during war. It was an incredible adventure. Latvia is an undiscovered treasure.

In mid-2015 I’ll start work on an anthology devoted solely to women’s travel stories. I’m really looking forward to that one.

Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us today, Janna. I, and I’m sure many of our readers, are looking forward to reading Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World, and your future works as well.

LINKS

Amazon link to Chance Encounters: Travel Tales from Around the World
http://www.amazon.com/Chance-Encounters-Travel-Tales-Around/dp/0990878600/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=1420764694&sr=8-1

Amazon link to Adventures of a Lifetime: Travel Tales from Around the Worldhttp://www.amazon.com/Adventures-Lifetime-Travel-Around-Traveler-ebook/dp/B00R5NJZQA/ref=dp_kinw_strp_exp_8_1

World Traveler Press: www.worldtravelerpress.com

Go World Travel Magazine: www.goworldtravel.com

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Go.World.Travel

Twitter: https://twitter.com/GoWorldMagazine

Website: http://jannagraber.com/

 

 

 

 

 

A Conversation with Anthony St. Clair

anthonyheadshot

It was Marcel Proust who once said, “The Real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes but in having new eyes.” It’s a fact of life that nonwriters could travel to the most exotic corners of the world and still be puzzled about where inspiration comes from. On the flip side, real writers can walk to the neighborhood market on any given day and come home eager to jot down a conversation overheard in the cookie aisle or an amusing exchange witnessed in the parking lot. Author Anthony St. Clair not only has a lot of globetrotting in his background but also possesses the wordsmith-worthy trait of always keeping his eyes open and forever pondering creative possibilities.

Interview: Christy Campbell

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From 1998-­2000 you lived and traveled abroad in Scotland and Ireland, and since then you’ve traveled extensively. How have your world travels influenced your life and writing?

Indie world travel changed my life. When I was 20 I lived abroad in Edinburgh, Scotland, as part of a student exchange during my senior year of college. It was my first time staying in hostels, the dorm-style cheap accommodation favored by backpackers; I’d never even heard of hostels before. It was also my first time seeing people who traveled the world, sometimes after high school or college, sometimes for vacation, sometimes as a lifestyle.

It completely changed the course of my life. I spent the next year between Scotland and Ireland before moving from Edinburgh to Eugene, Oregon. Since then I have also gone to places like India, Thailand, Tibet, and Australia. My wife and I went to Canada for our honeymoon, and in 2013 we took our son, then 15 months old, to Japan. We gave him a passport for his first birthday.

When it came time to figure out the stories I needed to tell, things began taking shape when I knew the stories would revolve around travel. But when I understood that travel was just a means to an end, that’s when my fiction really started coming together.

At heart, my writing is about inspiring people to live the world. If in some small way my stories help anyone find the courage and grit to do what excites them, but that they haven’t done yet, then every word I write is worthwhile.

You’ve released two novellas so far in your Rucksack Universe series. What’s next?

Forever the Road, the first novel-length work in the Rucksack Universe series, comes out later this year. Right now the manuscript is with my copy editor, and my designer is working on the cover.

This book is a tale of travel, destiny, and beer. Three travelers in India battle their hearts and their destinies as an awakened evil prepares to destroy all life. Set in the fictional city of Agamuskara—which means “smiling fire” in Hindi—the book tells us more of the story of Jay the traveler, Faddah Rucksack (the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage), and the mysterious more-than-a-bartender Jade Agamuskara Bluegold.

Forever the Road takes our world to a pivotal moment of destruction or renewal. Yet at its heart, the story is about connection: our longing to connect with others, and what happens when we don’t.

In one form or another, I’ve been working on this story since 2003. One day on my way to the office, I had an idea that made me pull over and write it down (I couldn’t care less that it made me late to work). I am so excited to share Forever the Road with readers. It sets the tone for many tales to come.

What makes Rucksack Universe different from other fantasy series?

I call the Rucksack Universe “travel fantasy.” Travel fantasy revolves around indie travel—not the book-a-cruise kind, but the kind where you backpack Asia for a year, live in another country, ride the same buses the locals do, or have been so many places you have to get more pages added to your passport. There’s often a large backpack involved, and dorm-style rooms in hostels where you can meet people from all over the world. There’s street food, friends you haven’t met yet, and a world where you treasure everything you experience, if only because you know there is so much more in the world than you can ever, ever know.

These stories are all about people who don’t have roots, gave up their roots, or had to go somewhere else to put down roots. These folks aren’t tethered to where they came from but seek fuller lives elsewhere. They’re vagabonds, globetrotters. The world is home and home is the road.

While the Rucksack Universe has fantastical elements, it is also very much a similar version of our world, changed by a catastrophic event known as The Blast. The world has gods, powerful forces, not-exactly-human figures, and, of course, destiny-slinging bartenders. The fantastical is interwoven with the ordinary, yet the extranormal elements also happen on an unseen level, unknown and unobserved by most people. The characters and the reader get to scratch back the skin shrouding these things, and go on an adventure with the hidden world happening unnoticed all around.

You also write a lot about craft beer and homebrew, and the beers in your stories almost seem like characters in their own right. Why is beer important in your stories?

As the old saying goes, “write what you know”! As a homebrewer and craft beer writer, beer is a passion—all the easier in a state like Oregon, where Eugene alone has 11 breweries. But what really makes beer so important in my stories is that if beer didn’t exist, travelers would have to invent it.

Everywhere I’ve traveled so far, there’s nothing like a cold one (or warm one, depending on the country) to bring people together. Beer is important in my stories because it’s a common beverage in many societies, and especially among backpackers. Pretty much every country has some sort of beer culture. From my own past, many of my favorite times involve a malty beverage or two or, well, it gets a bit blurry after that. I’m a cheap date.

The main beer in the Rucksack Universe is Galway Pradesh Stout, or GPS. It has nothing whatsoever in common with Guinness. (No, really. Ahem.) GPS is the most popular, most widely drunk beer in the world, even in hot countries like India. It’s a common element throughout the stories too. One of my plans—and I recently did a test batch—is to develop a homebrew recipe for GPS that I can make available to fellow homebrewers.

There’s clearly a lot of “long game” in the series. Is there an ultimate goal or conclusion?

Yes. No. Head bob. There’s a common saying that it’s the journey and not the destination that matters, but my stories hold them as equally important. Every story supports far-ranging plot lines, in part because I want people to come back to the early tales and shout, “That son of a ————, he was already working this!”

I see some similarities with the story and character development in Doctor Who, where there’s short-term stuff and lots of big things that get built up to, sometimes over multiple seasons. It’ll be the same with all the Rucksack Universe stories. At the same time, like Terry Pratchett’s Discworld, each book stands on its own enough to where a reader can come to the series from any book and be right at home.

Home Sweet Road in particular sniffs at some of the long game afoot. Forever the Road will tell us more, especially when it comes to Faddah Rucksack, who we first met in The Martini of Destiny. He’s the world’s only Himalayan-Irish sage. Ultimately—for now, at least—his ongoing story is at the heart of everything happening in the Rucksack Universe.

Your stories embrace a sense of both interplay and conflict between decision and destiny. Do you think we make our own choices in life or are we governed by fate?

I believe that decision and destiny are intertwined. There as aspects of us that we have no control over, such as where we are born, who our parents are, etc. There are aspects of our personalities and bodies that are hard-wired. Sometimes things happen to us that we have no control over.

However, we always have the option to do what we can with what we’ve got, and that’s where decision comes in. We can choose what we do and see where that takes us. As we progress on a path, we can make new decisions. Eventually, you can look back and be amazed at the path you’ve taken, and how you never could have foreseen what you’ve done and where you’ve gone. But all that happens only if you take the first step.

Your latest novella, Home Sweet Road, is set in Clifden, Ireland. What about the plot and setting are based on your own travels in Ireland?

I lived in Ireland for a few months back in 2000, and I spent some fine days in Clifden. The hostel where I stayed was located a wee bit away from the city center. My first full day in the city, the proprietor drew me a map about “the eighth wonder of the world, Clifden.”

Years later, when I realized I had a story that needed to be set in Ireland, I drew hard on my time there, from the hostel to the Irish breakfasts to the pubs. I love the speech there too, from the bright patterns and flowing rhythms, to wonderful words like “feck” and “eejit.” Particularly in Aisling, the Awen of Ireland, I hope that love of language comes through.

There are other parts of Ireland that work in too. The Salt & Crane pub name is both a nod to Clifden being close to the sea, and to The Crane Bar in Galway, where I spent many an evening enjoying Guinness, good company, and the Irish music sessions.

Rucksack Universe stories so far have been set in Hong Kong and Ireland, and the first novel in the series is set in India. How do you write convincingly about these different locales?

Some of it is experiential. I’ve been to Hong Kong, Ireland, and India. Walking those streets with the folks who live and work there gives me a lot to draw on. I can write about India in part because I know how the cities smell, how the food tastes, and how you wouldn’t think it possible to pack so many different vibrant colors in one place. Same with Ireland; I know the feel of mist on my face, how a peat fire feels and smells, and what natural companions a pint of stout and a music session make.

Another part is research. I’ll read about places to answer questions or round out holes in my knowledge. I’ll look through Google Earth and study images. Each of my stories has its own board on Pinterest, where I’ll pin images that evoke or expand an aspect of the story.

My cover designer might also add that my writing style is visually rich and evocative. She says it actually makes her job easier—there’s so much imagery and sensory detail in the story, it helps her do different, more original things with the covers.

What drove your decision to be an indie author?

Until 2011, I held a “Real Job” as a web editor with a sales company. It was decent, honest work, but I had nowhere to go, and after 7 years there felt my career had stagnated. My wife and I spent a long time discussing my options, and more and more it was clear I needed to make a go of being a full-time writer. The year 2011 was still a time where the industry was pivoting. I spent about 6 months researching the publishing industry, what was going on, what was changing, how things might look once the future became the present.

Ultimately, I decided to go the indie route. It would let me move to market more quickly. I retained control over my work. Being indie gave me the opportunity—not the guarantee, but the opportunity—to make more money, and I didn’t have to hand over my rights for a pittance. Yet if the right publisher and the right deal came along later, I still had options. Starting out, I much preferred getting work to market than trying to get work to an agent and publisher, and then spend another couple of years getting to market.

Not every author wants to be indie, and that’s okay. I love being an author today, because we have more viable options that ever. For my skills and goals, being an indie author is a good match. I’m running my own business, and it’s in my blood—there are entrepreneurs and businesspeople throughout my family, right down to my wife, so if anything, indie is a natural fit.

How has parenthood impacted your writing and traveling?

This is where cultural cliches would have me talk about how it’s so hard to get anything done because I’m a parent, and how we never go anywhere anymore. But writing is an integral part of my life, and it is the center of my career. Travel is a passion for both me and my wife.

I’m going to defer to my grandma on this one. She was widowed and raised two daughters mostly on her own. I once asked her if that kept her from doing things she wanted to do. “No,” she told me. “My children were a reason to do things I wanted to do.”

That sealed it for me. Grandma never saw the girls as an impediment to life. She saw them as a reason to live all the fuller, and to share her interests with her kids. Both as a person and a parent, she figured out how to do the things she cared about, so her girls could see how important it was to make time for what matters to their lives. And that’s what my wife and I do with our child and our careers.

We talked hard about the impact starting a family would have on our careers, especially since 2011 not only is when we became parents, it’s also when I left my job, after years of planning. We figured out how to balance career and parenting, though in many ways that’s easier for us because we are both self-employed.

Over 2 years in to our parenting journey, we’ve made it work. As I said earlier, in 2013, when our son was 15 months old, we went to Japan for 3 weeks. My wife was going to a convention, and I was taking notes for future Rucksack Universe stories. It was an amazing trip, and it taught us much about how we work together as a family. Our son loved it, and I can’t wait until he’s older to tell him stories of when he was eating octopus in Osaka.

As for writing, Virginia Woolf nailed this years ago when she talked about having a room of one’s own with a lock. It’s true. There is lots of work I can do with my son around, such as some client work, or administrative tasks and such, and I want him to see his mom and dad engaged in work they care about. Heck, half the time I was red-pen editing the Forever the Road manuscript, my son was laughing and hanging on my arm.

With writing my stories, I have a home office that locks. My wife and I take turns with who’s watching our son. I watch him while she’s at her studio teaching violin, and she watches him while I work. Since he was born in 2011, I’ve published two books, have a third on the way, and am planning more.

If your philosophy of life were printed on a tee-shirt, what would it say?

If it’s meant to be, make it be.

Where an we learn more about you and the Rucksack Universe?

My website is http://www.anthonystclair.com. I’ve blogged since 2004, and write regularly there about the Rucksack Universe [http://www.anthonystclair.com/rucksack-universe].

I also write about craft beer [http://www.anthonystclair.com/craft-beer-writing] and provide online copywriting and marketing help for various organizations [http://www.anthonystclair.com/copywriting].

Readers can discover more about my books at https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20643039-home-sweet-road

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19107543-the-martini-of-destiny

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/7104178.Anthony_St_Clair

I’ll be announcing the release date of Forever the Road soon, and folks can keep tabs on that and other things through my free email list [http://www.anthonystclair.com/blog/subscribe].