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Tag Archives: New York

Writing a Guidebook: How Do You Decide What Attractions to Add?

Text & Photos: Julie Schwietert Collazo
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“How do you decide what attractions to add?” a hotel owner asked me during my site visit to his new property this weekend.

The Graham & Co., a hotel in Phoenicia, NY that was not in the 5th edition of the guidebook.

The Graham & Co., a hotel in Phoenicia, NY that was not in the 5th edition of the guidebook.

It’s a question lots of hoteliers, restaurant owners and chefs, and attraction managers want answered because they’re not really sure how guidebooks come together. In the back of most guidebooks, readers and industry stakeholders are invited to send an email to the publisher if they want to offer a recommendation for a place they consider “missing” from the book or if they want to make a correction about one of the listings. Even for those of us who work on guidebooks, it’s not really clear where those emails go once they’re received. It seems they sit in low-priority inbox folders and never make it into the hands of writers. In fact, I’ve even made suggestions to co-authors via an editor and they didn’t receive them, so sending that email with your recommendation or request is likely to end up in the great big maw of the Internet. (And yes, guidebook editors, don’t get your hackles up. We know you’re all insanely busy, working on multiple books simultaneously).

Since I’m the sole author of Moon New York State’s 6th edition, I have a lot of leeway to make decisions about places to cut and places to add. Here are a few of my answers to the hotelier’s question– How do you decide what to add?:

1. I read many other sources.
I’m a voracious reader- always have been. Though I read lots of travel publications (magazines and blogs chief among them) I’ll read almost anything with print on it, and I find that intel and ideas often come from unexpected places. If something piques my interest, I tend to chase it down for a closer look. That was the case for the hotel I was visiting- I’d read about it elsewhere and since it wasn’t in the 5th edition of the guidebook, I decided to stop by and take a peek to see if it would be worth including in the 6th edition.

2. I listen to other writers and travelers.
Writers and travelers have a particular sense of place and they love to talk about where they’ve been, what they’ve seen, and what excites them. I like to listen to them and see what lights them up- what are they most passionate about sharing? Is an experience they’ve had or a place they’ve been worth sharing with others? If so, I’ll track it down and make my own evaluation.

3. I go off the beaten path- literally.
Wrong turns, deserted-looking roads, odd signs… these tend to be the travel writer’s siren song and I’m largely powerless when they call. Some of the best discoveries are in podunk towns (which are great places to find quirky museums, for example) with no traffic lights.

Go off the beaten path and you might just find a surprise... or Surprise.

Go off the beaten path and you might just find a surprise… or Surprise.

4. I talk to industry stakeholders and locals.
These folks know the lay of their land better than I ever could, as I’m zipping through at lightning speed. It’s not my preferred way of travel, but when you’re working on a 450-page book on a three-month deadline, you’ve got to overcome your desire to explore every nook and cranny of a place and let other people’s suggestions help guide you.

What questions do YOU have about how a guidebook comes together? Feel free to ask in the comments.

“New York Literary Tea”

Text & Photo: Julie Schwietert Collazo

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I swear, I’m not intentionally reading 1930s-eras essays about the literary life in New York in order to glorify some era I didn’t experience, but between Fitzgerald’s earnings and this Jerry Felsheim entry, “New York Literary Tea,” part of the never-fully-realized America Eats project (and included in Mark Kurlansky’s The Food of a Younger Land), it’s hard not to feel that Depression-era New York was where it was at for writers.

Though Felsheim actually makes fun of the “institution” of literary tea in the piece (at which, by the way, no tea was served), what he isn’t making fun of–and what is lacking in the publishing world today, in many respects–is the impulse for industry members to get together and talk shop, even when it’s gossipy shop. These days, the higher up you are on the publishing ladder, the less you want to socialize in the manner of the literary tea… at least as Felsheim describes it:

Literary "tea"

Literary “tea”

“… Since the publishing world is concentrated in New York, literary teas reach their apex in that city. Their sponsors are usually connected with the business, a publisher trying to put over a new author; an editor celebrating the start of a magazine; or again, just a head hunter parading another celebrity. In Manhattan, literary teas are given upon the slightest provocation….

“…Literary teas are constantly in a state of flux. The uninitiated gravitates toward the author, the author toward the editor or publisher, the publisher toward the reviewer, and the reviewer, in desperation, toward another drink. Since the general rule of conduct is to seek out those who can do one the most good, magazine editors and big-name reviewers enjoy much popularity….

“… Ephemeral as all this may be, however, the modern literary tea has its points. It enables its devotees to renew old friendships and make new ones; it gives the publisher an opportunity to tip off the trade as to which writer he is going to push; it allows the ambitious young author to make contacts with editors; and it gives a great many people entertainment, not to mention free drinks, in the hours before dinner.”

Ways of Seeing Writing Workshop in NYC on 1/12

My next “Ways of Seeing” workshop, offered through MatadorU, will be held in New York City on January 12 from 12:30-4:30 PM.

Here’s the description:

This four-hour workshop will help students develop their skills of observation and description. Workshop participants will be immersed in three distinct settings and will be given specific prompts for observing the people and settings around them. After sharing their observations, students will receive feedback about how they can both deepen and expand their ways of seeing, and will learn specific techniques for using these observations in their writing.

There are still a couple more spots available in the workshop, so register soon!

Details about registration can be found here.

Food & Travel Writing Workshop in NYC on 1/21

Ring in the new year by developing some new writing skills!

My next food and travel writing workshop, offered through MatadorU, will be held in New York City on January 21 (a Saturday, by popular request) from 12:30-4:30 PM.

Here’s the description:

Food is a central part of most travel experiences. In this four-hour workshop, participants will learn how to pay more attention to what they eat while they’re traveling, as well as how to write about food in a compelling, memorable way.

There are still a couple more spots available in the workshop, so register soon!

Details about registration can be found here.

Food & Travel Writing Workshop offered in NYC on 11/18

My next food and travel writing workshop, offered through MatadorU, will be held in New York City on November 18 from 12:30-4:30 PM.

Here’s the description:

Food is a central part of most travel experiences. In this four-hour workshop, participants will learn how to pay more attention to what they eat while they’re traveling, as well as how to write about food in a compelling, memorable way.

 

There are still a couple more spots available in the workshop, so register soon!

Details about registration can be found here.

 

Bad-ass Eudora Welty: “I congo on.”

[read this in Issue 72 of Oxford American, which, in turn excerpted the letter from a book of correspondence to be published in May]

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Eudora Welty, New York City, to the Editors, The New Yorker, March 15, 1933

Gentlemen,

I suppose you’d be more interested in even a sleight-o’-hand trick than you’d be in an application for a position with your magazine, but as usual you can’t have the thing you want most.

I am 23 years old, six weeks on the loose in N.Y. However, I was a New Yorker for a whole year in 1930-31 while attending advertising classes in Columbia’s School of Business. Actually I am a southerner, from Mississippi, the nation’s most backward state. Ramifications include Walter H. Page, who, unluckily for me, is no longer connected with Doubleday-Page, which is no longer Doubleday-Page, even. I have a B.A. (’29) from the University of Wisconsin, where I majored in English without a care in the world. For the last eighteen months I was languishing in my own office in a radio station in Jackson, Miss., writing continuities, dramas, mule feed advertisements, santa claus talks, and life insurance playlets; now I have given that up.

As to what I might do for you– I have seen an untoward amount of picture galleries and 15c movies lately, and could review them with my old prosperous detachment, I think; in fact, I recently coined a general word for Matisse’s pictures after seeing his latest at the Marie Harriman: concubineapple. That shows you how my mind works–quick, and away from the point. I read simply voraciously, and can drum up an opinion afterwards.

Since I have bought an India print, and a large number of phonograph records from a Mr. Nussbaum who picks them up, and a Cezanne Bathers one inch long (that shows you’ve I read e. e. cummings I hope), I am anxious to have an apartment, not to mention a small portable phonograph. How I would like to work for you! A little paragraph each morning–a little paragraph each night, if you can’t hire me from daylight to dark, although I would work like a slave. I can also draw like Mr. Thurber, in case he goes off the deep end. I have studied flower painting.

There is no telling where I may apply if you turn me down; I realize this will not please you, but consider my other alternative: the U of N.C. offers for $12.00 to let me dance in Vachel Lindsay’s Congo. I congo on. I rest my case, repeating that I am a hard worker.


4 Places to Write in Peace in NYC

TBEX ’10 is coming up in June, which means travel writers from around the world will be looking for a place to plug in their laptop and get some work done.

Here are 4 of my favorite places where you can write in peace in New York City.

1. New York Public Library’s Schwartzman Building:

This is the principal branch of the library–the one with the lions out front– and it has all kinds of spaces where you can write in peace.

The main reading room is famously impressive, with enormously high ceilings, long communal tables, brassy reading lamps, and gleaming polished floors.

Main Reading Room

You should take a walk through this room, but you  might find the Periodicals Room, located on the entry level, less crowded. If you need to plug in, you can use the third floor’s room designated especially for Internet and computer use. Though there’s WiFi throughout the building, outlets are few and far between unless you use this room.

Open: Daily. Check current schedule for hours.

Location: 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Closest trains are the 7 (Fifth Avenue stop) and B, V, F, and D (42nd St/Fifth Avenue/Bryant Park stop).  It’s also a more or less equidistant walk from Times Square and Grand Central.

2. Bryant Park:

If it’s sunny, pack up and head out to Bryant Park, which is directly behind the library. The entire park is WiFi enabled and you’ll find adequate space to spread out and work and one of the dozens of cafe tables in the park. Kiosks that sell coffee, pastries and sandwiches anchor the northwest end of the park, and if you’re feeling childlike, there’s a carousel on the south side of the park.

Open: Daily.

Location: 42nd Street and Fifth Avenue, Manhattan. Closest trains are the 7 (Fifth Avenue stop) and B, V, F, and D (42nd St/Fifth Avenue/Bryant Park stop).

3. Poets House:

Poets House has always been a refuge for its loyalists, but has become a destination now that it has moved to a glass-fronted space facing the Hudson River.

Poets House

It would be hard not to get writing done here, surrounded by shelves of books and journals, comfortable seats, and clean, welcoming writing spaces. It’s a quiet space, with the books and the tempting Hudson River Park the only possible distractions.

Open: Tuesday–Friday, 11:00am–7:00pm; Saturday, 11:00am–6:00pm

Location: 10 River Terrace, Battery Park City, Lower Manhattan. 1, 2, 3, A or C trains to Chambers Street Station. Walk west (that’s toward the river) along Chambers and take a left at River Terrace.

4. Scandinavia House:

Few people know about all of NYC’s cultural “houses,” one of which is  Scandinavia House. There’s no WiFi in the library at Scandinavia House, but you’re writing, not tweeting, right?

Go hungry: Scandinavia House has a cafe on site.

Open: Wednesday, Thursday, & Saturday, 12-5 pm

Location: 58 Park Avenue. 4, 5, 6, 7, or S to 42nd Street/Grand Central Station, then walk 4 blocks south.

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I’ll periodically offer other ideas about what to see and do while you’re in New York. If you have specific questions, please leave them in the comments or email me at writingjulie[at]gmail[dot]com.

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All Photos by Francisco Collazo.

If you want to imitate anyone, let it be Gabby Sidibe

Francisco just published a piece on our blog, Collazo Projects, about the writer Sapphire and her novel, Push, which has been adapted for film and is currently on the festival circuit (to be released to theaters in November under the title “Precious”).

If you haven’t read Push, I won’t spoil it for you, but it deals with heavy issues like sexual violence, poverty, family abuse, teen pregnancy, and adolescent identity… and that’s just for starters.

Anyhow, earlier this week, I read a short article in New York Magazine about Gabby Sidibe, the actress who plays the protagonist, Precious, in the film. Sidibe is a “new talent” whose performance in “Precious” has left reviewers astonished that such a big girl can also be such a fine actress. I loved, loved, loved that Sidibe took them on–and a few other folks–in the article. Some of my favorite lines:

“One woman in the retinue, meeting [Sidibe] for the first time, gushes, ‘You look totally opposite to your character.’

‘Thanks,’ says Sidibe dutifully. ‘I’m actually … not her.’”

“They [reviewers/the press] try to paint the picture that I was this downtrodden, ugly girl who was unpopular in school and in life, and then I got this role and now I’m awesome,” says the actress. “But the truth is that I’ve been awesome, and then I got this role.”

“I learned to love myself, because I sleep with myself every night and I wake up with myself every morning, and if I don’t like myself, there’s no reason to even live the life. I love the way I look. I’m fine with it. And if my body changes, I’ll be fine with that.”
“I know I’m not a piece of shit or some random fat girl. I’m Gabourey Sidibe.”

“I’m not a regular girl. I just got off a plane from France. You need to check yourself.”

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