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Do you really want to write for the Times?

One of the questions we ask students early in the U’s curriculum is: Where would you like to see yourself published?

I’m going to put two blanks here and see if you can fill them in:

___________ ____________ *


_______  _________ ________ ____________. **

Did you get them right?


There are few, if any, writers who don’t want to see their name in print, preferably on the pages of a publication with a multiple digit circulation rate, death-throes-of-the-publishing-industry cries be damned.

But I’m curious whether some people like the idea of being in these two publications for the name recognition or whether, having carefully studied the style and voice of these two (very different) platforms, they honestly think their writing and these publications are a good fit.


I read the Times travel section every Sunday and wonder if its pieces have always been so trite, dependent on cliches. Clearly, there’s still an audience for the kind of travel writing that’s characterized by words and phrases like “paradise,” “oasis,” and “hidden gem,”  but the question is: Are you the kind of writer who wants to use those tired, too easy descriptions?

If the answer is no, it’s time to get true to your own voice and style and to start reading publications that feature the kind of writing you’d be proud to be publish your words alongside.

Matador’s senior editor, David Miller, offers some recommendations about some of those kinds of publications in this article: “11 Magazines, Journals, and Blogs Every Travel Writer Should Know About.”

*=National Geographic

**= The New York Times

9 responses »

  1. Always love a good fill in the blank!

    Nice post, Julie. Let’s redefine writers’ dream publications.

  2. I got them right but I may have cheated a little. The title sort of gave it away. But great questions to ask! Of course why anyone really wants to write for anyone other than themselves has to do partially with exposure and money, and I’m assuming those publications throw a little of that at authors. Not saying it’s right, but we all know it’s true!

  3. Solid points in this post but I don’t agree with every sentiment.

    One of the points we’ve been trying to teach the students is that there are various types of travel writing and by readily being able to switch between styles – from straight up nonfiction narratives to destination pieces – your options aren’t limited and you can write for a variety of resources.

    Eileen has a good point. It’s about exposure, building your portfolio, and paying some bills to some extent. It helps build momentum before you unleash your personal travel memoir unto the world.

    The same statements can be applied to writing guidebooks for powerhouses like Frommers, Lonely Planet, and Fodors which are usually littered with those cliche terms sometimes.

  4. Lola-

    True. My overarching point, though, is to question whether people are actually reading these publications and considering whether there’s an actual goodness of fit or whether it’s purely to say “I’ve been published in the Times.” There’s nothing wrong with wanting to be in the Times or with exercising a range of styles to be able to fulfill different assignments and fit into different publications. But I think it’s always important to have a grasp of what kind of voice defines the publication… and I’m not sure that people do when they default to NG and the Times as their dream publications.

  5. Yeah, it’s just like cliches in writing. The idea of “I’ve got to get published in ______” has become so ingrained that we think/say it without analyzing whether that’s really the best market for our writing. It’s good to step back and deconstruct the assumption.

  6. I see and understand your point. Not all writers truly know what they want and why. It’s imperative that they understand the publication’s voice.

    I’m also giving benefit of doubt that some may either subscribe to or at some point had subscribed to at least one of NatGeo’s magazines or read the New York Times daily.

    If most writers choose NG & Times, maybe that’s what they truly want.

    We’re definitely on the same page. Just adding some healthy debate 😉

  7. Not that I can speak from experience (yet) but I would think it’s necessary to publish some things you might not normally be entirely happy with, just to build the portfolio and earn some bucks. Yes, this could be called “selling out” and compromising your creative abilities, but I would think it hard to make a living otherwise, especially when just starting out.

    I occasionally read the Travel sections of newspapers but to me they seem to be mainly advertisements as the trips are usually subsidised (hence, biased). Same goes for a lot of the glossy travel mags (I have learned, however, that Nat’l Georgraphic Traveler does not accept any subsidised trips). There’s obviously a market for it, and it looks like that is the market that pays well. So what can you do?

    By default, it’s easy to pick out the Times and NG as your dream publications, but it should be more important to have your dream publication one you personally relate to and would be proud to be published in.

  8. Pingback: Writing: It’s All About Reading « Cuaderno Inedito

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