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Blogging for the Art of It

Writing for the TBEX conference website, Pam Mandel answers the question, “Why blog?”

Blog because you are teaching yourself to write – blogging’s time driven nature creates an excellent framework for homework.  Blog because you are compelled to share your stories – blogging is perfect for that. Blog because you can’t not write – a blog is a good place for you to see your story outside your own head, to see your work made real. The roots version of “Why blog?” is still 100% valid – because you’re having an adventure and you want to document it. Or blog for the same reasons I do, because blogging is your medium and writing is your art.

What about the whole issue of making money from travel blogging?

Don’t focus on making money today or tomorrow or next year, instead, focus on making amazing writing. Dig into the dark places the tourist office doesn’t want you to see. Tell a good story purely for the satisfaction of telling a good story. Experiment, write backwards, unravel history, ask hard questions, tell stories that leave your readers feeling dizzy or angry or exhausted as though they have made the journey with you. Turn away from all the optimizing and strategizing and monetizing and socializing because they do not have to be why you blog.

Pam will be a speaker at the TBEX Conference in Toronto this June.

via TBEX Speaker Post: Ask Me About Art – TBEX USA.

The Best American Travel Writing 2012

BATW 2012

The Best American Travel Writing 2012 is out.

I started writing about travel just a few years shy of the debut, 12 years ago, of this annual series of the best travel stories from American publications. For most of the last dozen years, I have treated myself to the BATW, usually at Christmas time. It’s a professional expense, yes. But the book also gives me insight into the sort of travel writing readers are responding to, which places are being written about, what their angles are, and which publications are still promoting and producing quality travel tales. Browsing the table of contents as well as the “Notable Travel Writing” in the back of the book provides a snapshot of where the best writing is being done and who is doing it.

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Photos: The National Arboretum and Bonsai Museum

Being in Washington, DC, I live so close to national museums for everything. Lately, I have been trying to make an effort to visit more of these museums, which is why I found myself at the U.S. National Arboretum on a warm afternoon last week. I was particularly interested in checking out the National Bonsai and Penjing Museum, which I wrote about for Gadling. I took a ton of photos while I was there, several of which I posted in a gallery on Gadling. Here are some of those photos as well as a few more that didn’t make the cut.

*All photos taken with the Sony Cyber Shot DSC-WX9 camera (provided courtesy of Sony) or the iPhone 4.

Twitterland Is Full of Goodness

Over the weekend, I was in New York City where I finally got to meet up with fellow travel writers and talk shop at a “tweet-up.” For the uninitiated, a tweet-up is a meet-up whereby Twitter is involved as the coordination tool. Indeed, almost all of the travelers I met with I had gotten to know via Twitter – through conversations and links to their writing and/or blogs. The tweet-up was the first time I met any of them and it was a fantastic experience, confirming my belief that social media is an awesome networking as well as friend-making tool. So, to continue the love fest that was the travel blogger tweet-up, I thought the only logical thing to do would be to say hello (via link juice) to my new friends:

Laurie de Prete of Scene by Laurie (@scenebylaurie). Being an NYC expert, Laurie picked the bar – Destinations on Avenue A – and tweeted up a few of her contacts in order to make it a fun happy hour. Thanks, Laurie!

Annemarie Dooling of multiple endeavors, including Frill Seeker Diary. I actually met @travelinganna in line at the TBEX conference in June. But we didn’t have a whole lot of time to chat. I’m glad we finally got to.

Readers may known Tom Johansmeyer (@tjohansmeyer) from this blog. I actually came to know the Gadling writer from his tweet on #twethics, which I quoted in my article On Freelance Writers and Junkets way back in October 2009. Among all those I met last week, I’ve probably “known” Tom the longest thanks to my RT of his tweet. Isn’t it cool how Twitter works? By the way, Tom’s personal blog is Enter the Mind of a Migrant Blogger.

I don’t remember how I came to know Jeannie (@whereisjeannie) of Somewhere There is Jeannie, but she has been a great buddy on Twitter. Equal parts sweet and sarcastic – we got along well in real life, too.

I met Craig Zabransky of Stay Adventurous (@stayadventurous) briefly at TBEX – he had the vuvuzela. Nice guy and fun blog.

I hadn’t heard of Adventurer Insider (@adventureinside)before this tweet-up, but Eric (I didn’t get your last name – yet) set me right. His site looks especially promising for gear reviews and adventure travel how-tos.

I had seen @travelogged around Twitter for a while, but had never really checked out the site behind the handle. Liz Borod Wright, editor of Travelogged.com, turned out to be a sweetheart and her site is gorgeous, full of travel tips from all over the globe.

If I’m not mistaken, Abby Tegnelia (@abbytegnelia) of The Jungle Princess and now Editor-in-Chief of Vegas Magazine was in town visiting like me. She was sitting about as far away from me in our group circle, so we didn’t get to strike up a conversation. But, girl, your shoes were fierce! Also, I want to go to Vegas – help me get there soon! 🙂

Finally, on the way out, I met Gregory Andres, known on Twitter as @culverlake. He arrived late, I left early, but we realized in our introduction that we had indeed met over Twitter – he had re-tweeted me the week before after a #TNI conversation. Since our end-of-night encounter, I’ve checked out the Culver Lake Posterous and it’s great – many drool-worthy posts about NYC food trucks. Yum! I can’t wait to continue our conversation.

Ah…but that’s not all! While I met up with the above fine folks on Thursday night, I met up with two other lovely travel bloggers the following day:

Spencer Spellman (@spencerspellman) lived up to the hype: sweet, charming, southern. I had heard that Spencer was at TBEX but didn’t meet him there, but he and I have had numerous funny conversations on Twitter over the summer. Spencer’s personal blog is The Traveling Philosopher, but you’re just as likely to find him blowing up on Tumblr.

And, speaking of Tumblr, that’s where I first came across the rants and musings of Alisha Miranda (@makeshiftalisha) on her This is Alisha Tumblr. She often refers to herself as the Ambassador of Awesomeness, and I couldn’t agree more. This chick is in her early 20s and already seems to have a lot of things figured out, such as drinking me under the table. I know she’ll go far in whatever she does.

Kids – it was great! Let’s do this tweet-up thing again real soon. And let’s invite even more folks to join us!

Blogging Conferences You Should Know About

I started blogging back in 2003 (on Blogger) and on this blog in 2004. But it was only recently that I realized a whole world of blogging conferences had sprung up, promising to help bloggers up their game, find sponsors, and more.

I’ve learned about these conferences almost exclusively on Twitter, where I see hashtags for #blogher, #bwe10, or #trvlblog10. And it always seems that I learn about the conferences only when they are happening, not prior to. So, I never have a chance to attend.

I know I can’t be the only one in the dark about the myriad blogger meet-ups. So, I thought I’d profile a few here. Check the conferences’ websites for more information on hashtags, because Twitter will most definitely be the place you’ll find the most up-to-date news on them. And, by all means, if you know of others that I have not listed, add them in a comment below!

General Blogging

Blog World Expo – This is a general bloggers conference and touts itself as the “first and only industry-wide conference, tradeshow and media event for all new media.” Blog World Expo has different tracks for different blog topics, such as travel and food. While I am serious about blogging, I have to admit I am a bit intimidated by Blog World’s scope – visit their website and check out all the big name sponsors and pictures of the masses of people! In 2010, Blog World is meeting in Las Vegas from October 14-16. Follow them on Twitter @blogworld or #bwe10.

BlogHer – BlogHer also offers a general-track blogging conference for all the people – almost exclusively women – who are affiliated with BlogHer, a vast blogging network. It seems like everyone and her mother is a member of BlogHer – except for me, as I can never figure out how to get affiliated with and/or invited to BlogHer’s network. Nevertheless, BlogHer has proven to be an effective and exciting  yearly event, judging from the Twitter love that it gets. In fact, the #blogher hashtag was one of the first ones I ever noticed for a live-tweeting event. BlogHer ’11 will be in San Diego August 5-6, 2011. There’s also a separate BlogHer Food Conference happening October 8-9, 2010, in San Francisco. (Food bloggers: read on, as I’ve listed a couple more food blogging conferences near the end of this post.) Follow @blogher on Twitter.

Travel Blogging

Travel Blog Exchange Conference – Ah, TBEX. This travel bloggers conference is dear to my heart because I actually attended the 2010 edition of TBEX in New York City. TBEX ’11 is taking place in Vancouver from June 11-12, 2011, and it’s sure to be as fun and informative as this year’s. I’m sure it will also be more packed. There also appear to be break-out chapters popping up in places like NYC and Copenhagen. For more TBEX info, follow @tbex11 or the #tbex.

Travel Bloggers Show – I just missed the Travel Bloggers Show, taking place in Orlando from September 11-14, 2010, in conjunction with the The Trade Show.  While TBEX seemed more casual, the Travel Bloggers Show appears to be a more serious, industry-minded affair, with more travel industry and PR participants than travel bloggers. At any rate, their panels look much the same as TBEX – “writing a niche blog,” “working with PR,” etc. I’m unsure when the next Travel Bloggers Show will take place, but you can follow them on Twitter for details: @trvlbloggershow.

Book Passage Travel, Food, and Photography Conference – To be fair, this is more of a conference for old (print) media than it is for bloggers. But I saw a lot of traffic on Twitter coming from it when it was going on this past August in California, so I wanted to include it. Of course, many of the people who attend the Book Passage conference are bloggers – that’s just the way the industry is heading – but this is the event to go to if you’re serious about your content and not just about monetization and the like. Who knows? The things you could learn here could help catapult you to writing for other online outlets. More about Book Passage @bookpassage.

If I’m going to mention Book Passage, I should also mention ASJA and SATW. The American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Society of American Travel Writers both have writing conferences worth inquiring about. And, they are also on Twitter: @asjahq and @satw. You must be a dues-paying member of these organizations to attend their conferences. (Disclosure: I am a member of ASJA and a former member of SATW. I let my SATW membership lapse and it’s too much of a pain to try to reclaim it unfortunately.)

Food Blogging

International Food Blogger Conference – The IFBC conference for 2010 just ended a few weeks ago in Seattle, and it looks like it was a fine, sophisticated time. Presented by the website Foodista.com, there were panels on recipe writing as well as making food posts SEO-able. One nice thing that the conference website did was set up a blogroll of all the IFBC attendees – a nice incentive to attend, no? As this conference just ended, I haven’t seen when the 2011 event will happen. But check the website or follow them on Twitter @ifbc or #ifbc.

FoodBuzz – FoodBuzz is a network much like BlogHer (see above) in that it has created a huge network through the use of affiliate badges and link love. And, also like BlogHer, all the people involved in FoodBuzz want a place where they can gather in real life to share tips on food, blogging, and social media integration. FoodBuzz’s 2010 conference, the FoodBuzz Festival, is taking place in San Francisco November 5-7, 2010. And I bet it will be both fun and tasty. Follow FoodBuzz on Twitter @foodbuzz or #foodbuzz.