Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Link Travel to Your Writing

By Karen Albright Lin

If you travel a lot, you may consider selling what you learn.  On a visit to China I found delightful material for magazine articles.

“The words lock and enchantment are not usually paired.  But look in all the right places as you travel throughout China and you’ll find that the two will become forever linked.”

That is the first paragraph of an article I’ll submit to a travel magazine.  It’s meant to intrigue by juxtaposing two seemingly unrelated things.

Then I introduce China’s misty Yellow Mountain where Emperor Xuanzong concocted an elixir of immortality.  I follow that with the focus of the article: thousands of brass locks hanging from fences – heart-shaped, rectangular, and circular.  Each is etched with customized calligraphy with a message of lifelong love, prosperity, or safe travels.

Next, I add interaction: a limping man who has traveled from the island of Taiwan to hang a lock for good health.  Then I broaden the picture.

“Now that you’ve beheld those clinging symbols atop this World Heritage site, travel through other provinces and keep your eyes open.  Auspicious locks cling in barnacle bunches even beside reverent Buddhist temples and the once-home of Confucius in Shandong Province.”

Here I’ve offered tourists a charming detail to watch for as they travel throughout China.  This might fit in nicely in Go World Travel which pays for articles as well as photos.  I can customize and sell this experience to several noncompeting magazines.

For a teen magazine, I’d focus on Love Locks and a teen couple hugging over the enchanted brass, hanging their dreams of lifelong devotion.  Blue Jean Online was ready to take this one if I was willing to offer online unlimited time rights.

I could approach a family oriented magazine, homing in on parents I saw cupping their baby’s hand around a lock – its Mandarin Sino graph wishing for longevity.

For a gentlemen’s magazine, I might tell of the German man in a rumpled business suit touching his forehead to an impressively large fifteen-dollar specimen boding well for his small business.

Thinking outside the box, I might approach Master Lock and suggest using these clustered brass images in a trade newsletter or, thinking bigger, an ad campaign. 

I also have the outline for a screenplay in which the inciting incident is a broken Love Lock on the “number one mountain under heaven.”

Escaping into another culture is eye-opening.  I especially enjoy capturing the food and the little details I find during my travels.  If you decide to enjoy your trips a second time by writing about them, don’t forget to take photos and offer them to magazines as well.

“Some of the locks have clung so long that their blackened hopes are illegible.  But their promises of luck, lasting love, and success remain in spirit.”

About the Writer:  Karen is an editor, ghostwriter, pitch coach, speaker and award-winning author of novels, cookbooks, and screenplays. She’s written over a dozen solo and collaborative scripts (with Janet Fogg, Christian Lyons and director Erich Toll); each has garnered international, national and regional recognition: Moondance Film Festival, BlueCat, All She Wrote, Lighthouse Writers, Boulder Asian Film Festival, SouthWest Writers Contest, and PPW Contest. Find out more at