Meeting the authors

I've just returned from Keswick, where the literature festival "Words by the Water" is in full swing at the moment.

For the Words by the Water magazine and website "Write On!" I interviewed authors Kapka Kassabova and Vesna Maric a while ago about their memoirs "Street without a name" and "Bluebird" respectively. Today, both of them talked about "Different cultures, different teenage years" at the Theatre by the Lake and I was in the audience!
It was a pretty close call, though, as I've been travelling all day today. I left Ainsdale at 10.50 this morning and only got to Carlisle at 2.10pm. The train to Penrith left Carlisle at 3.30, so I had just enough time to go home, drop off my luggage, change handbags and head back out. The talk started at 5pm and I only got to Keswick at 5.10, so I had to run across town (as I wasn't told I could have gotten off at the first stop, which would have been closer, I got off the bus at the actual bus stand) to get to the Theatre. Luckily I'd been to Keswick before and knew where I was going. A nice lady let me slip into the theatre and sit in the back.

After the talk, both Vesna and Kapka signed their books and I introduced myself to both. I had arranged to meet Kapka after the talk (Vesna later apologized that she completely forgot to answer my email) and hung around till all the others had their autographs. Kapka sat down with me for a cup of tea at the theatre, and patiently answered all my questions about being a travel writer.
Kapka Kassabova first made a name for herself in New Zealand, when she was working for Metro magazine. When she moved back to Scotland, she had to start all over again, because she was only known as a poet over here. Most of her travel pieces are by her own initiative. She pitches them, but even though she also writes non-travel pieces for the papers, that is no guarantee her travel stories will be published. Kapka told me that just last week, when she was in Quito on an assignment, she tried to pitch a story about Quito to the editor and it was rejected. Her advice was to keep trying and find angles to the story. Paris has been written about a million times - find something new! Kapka's, Vesna's and my big advantage is that we're fluent speakers of foreign languages... none of our native languages is English and we've all been taught in at least one other foreign language. Kapka's advice is to advertise this fact as much as possible!

At Words by the Water, I let both of them sign a copy of the articles I wrote about them for "Write On!". I met Rafael Estefania, the photographer who provided the photo for Vesna Maric (top left pic on the page). Until I showed him the magazine, he didn't know about it as it was not much advertised at the event. He took a photo of the magazine and the article and was glad we credited him. "The paper never really credits me" he said. I gave him a copy of the magazine and he read it and showed the article to Vesna as well, who was very pleased with it! It's great getting feedback like that from the person you wrote about!


After I talked to Kapka, Vesna invited me along to the pub with her friends. They just accepted me and we talked about this and that. I never really talked about writing for Lonely Planet with Vesna, as there was just too much going on at the pub and she was catching up with old schoolmates and teachers. However, I am more than welcome to call and email Kapka and Vesna with any questions and keep in touch! I love making contacts like this, especially since they were the first travel writers I got to meet while doing my degree. At university, we are never encouraged to do any travel writing - even though that's what our degree will be in. So it's great to talk to people working in that field about what is actually required. And I found out: NCTJ exams, Shorthand etc. is overrated!!! None of them has any NCTJ qualification and they're successful! I will definitely keep in touch with them! Who knows? Maybe we'll work together on a travel guide at some point?!

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