Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Traveling like a local. It's never been more important.

If you’re the type that reads blogs by writers abroad, then you know that travel is awesome. And you probably also know that when Writer Abroad says travel, she doesn’t mean Cruise Ship. She means real-deal-get-on-a-public-bus-where-you-don’t-speak-the-language-and-just-go-for-it travel.

This kind of travel has never been more important. As countries go nationalistic in a world that’s ever more globalized, understanding people who differ from us can mean the difference between war and peace.

That’s why Writer Abroad has written her latest travel book, which is all about traveling like a local in the country she knows best–Switzerland. And she encourages other writers abroad out there to write their own versions of this book about the countries closest to their hearts.

Available next month, 99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local is one part travel book, one part culture guide, and total bucket list enjoyment. It allows you to say adieu to Lucerne and allegra to the place the Swiss voted most beautiful. It encourages you to cut the Swiss army knife from your shopping list and replace it with a rubber messenger bag. And it gives you the inspiration you need to stop following umbrella-toting tour guides (or books that act like them) and start following 320,000 well-dressed Swiss cows instead.

Whether you’re a vacationer rethinking your version of touring, an expatriate who wants to get to know your adopted country on a deeper level, or even if you’re Swiss—99.9 Ways to Travel Switzerland Like a Local is for anyone who believes that the best travel stories come from a desire not just to take a snapshot of a place from a train window, but to stop, smile, and disembark for a while in order to bring the meaning of that blurry photo into sharper focus.

To promote her new book, Writer Abroad will make special appearances in Switzerland in May. She’d love to see you at one of the following:

The Zurich Writers Workshop, May 14, 2:30 p.m. (Writer Abroad will join other authors to discuss how to build a writing career.)

The American International Club of Zurich TGIF, May 19, 6:30 p.m. (Writer Abroad will discuss American life after Switzerland (scary!), the benefits of traveling like a local, and host a quiz—with a book prize—to see who already travels Swisser than the Swiss.)

Global Book Fair, May 20, 10 a.m.-2 p.m. (Writer Abroad will read a story to children and discuss some off-the-beaten-path family activities in Switzerland.)


Monday, March 27, 2017

7th Annual Writing Workshop in Zurich

Back in 2008-9, Writer Abroad lamented the lack of writing events in Zurich. So in 2010, she joined up with two other Zurich-based American writers, bravely invited a couple of famous authors to teach in Zurich over a weekend, crossed their fingers that other aspiring writers would attend the weekend, and then they held the first Zurich Writers Workshop. It felt great: Instead of lamenting the lack of something, they were creating something. 

Now, eight years later, thanks to a Canadian and Swiss writer, who have also joined the planning committee, the Zurich Writers Workshop is still going strong.

In fact, it's time for workshop number 7. Yes, the 7th Zurich Writers Workshop will take place May 12-14, 2017 in Zurich, Switzerland this spring. And you're invited.

This year's workshop is divided into two sections: 

Screen Shot 2017-02-02 at 21.51.46
The featured authors' latest books.
Fiction Boot Camp with Susan Jane Gilman and 
Poetry and Prose with Jill Alexander Essbaum

Each section also includes the Sunday Panel: Career Paths in Writing. There is also the opportunity to register for the Sunday Panel only. 

The entire workshop is conducted in English. To register, click here.

More information:
–Eventbrite website for Registration
–Follow Zurich Writers Workshop on Facebook

Details:
May 12-14, 2017

Venue:
Volkshaus Zurich
Stauffacherstrasse 60
8004 Z├╝rich




Thursday, February 9, 2017

Writers, Money, and Careers, oh my.

Writer Abroad is reading the most amazing book. It talks candidly about writing and money. Yes, money.

Money? Stop the press. Aim the camera. Point it at something completely taboo: A writer talking about money. Actually, 33 writers talking about money.

What?

Writers never talk about money. And if they do, it’s usually in the vein of, Well, should I write for free? I mean, I’ll get exposure.

Stop with the exposure thing already. Stop.

Admittedly, Writer Abroad is only on page 29, but she’s in love with Manjula Martin’s new book, Scratch: Writers, Money, and the Art of Making a Living. Here’s the best line so far:

“People wonder when you’re allowed to call yourself a writer. I think maybe the answer is when you recognize that it (writing) is work.”

Wow, imagine that. Writing is work. And guess what? The writers who successfully write full time realize this. After all, do lawyers work for free? Do plumbers fix your water heater for free? Why do writers think they should be any different?

If you want to make writing a career here’s the hard truth: you have to talk about money. And you have to turn writing into work no matter how much you love it. And you have to also learn to say no. No to no pay. No to low pay. And no to bad contracts. Even if they mean publication. Especially if they mean publication.

Writer Abroad always turns down offers if they include no pay, low pay, or bad rights-grabbing contracts for work she knows she could use later. Working writers must do this. Why? Because they need time to write things for the publications and companies that actually respect the work they do. If writers write for people who don’t respect them, writers lose. There’s only so much time in a day.

In Scratch, there’s a great interview with Cheryl Strayed about how she had written a bestseller and still couldn’t pay the rent. These are things writers need to hear. Thank you, thank you, Manjula Martin, for this anthology.

Sometimes we need to stop talking about high art and start talking about how to live the life we want to live in order to create the things we want to create—even if, in the end, these things result in high art.

That’s why Writer Abroad is pleased to be on a panel entitled Career Paths in Writing at the next Zurich Writers Workshop, which will be held in May in Zurich, Switzerland. While on the panel, she hopes to expand on why writers need to think of writing as a business first and an art second. But for those who can’t attend—and even those who can—Scratch is the new must-read book for writers.

Friday, January 20, 2017

Travel Writing: The Best Escape for Writers in the U.S.

Happy New Year, Writers Abroad. Be glad, today, that you are abroad.

But for those in the U.S. like Writer Abroad is now, there is nothing like a strange new American presidency to make all Americans feel a little more foreign in our own country.

If there’s any consolation prize, the recent (and sure to be upcoming) American strangeness makes Writer Abroad feel less like a foreigner in her own country than she did after moving back two years ago from Switzerland.

When over half your country also seems confounded by its bizarre direction, it makes the last stages of repatriation a little easier somehow. Together, we are all foreigners in America these days. (This phenomenon is also making Writer Abroad’s upcoming book project, American Life: 30 Things I Wish I’d Known, an even more interesting thing to write than she ever expected.)

Luckily, Writer Abroad often escapes into Switzerland, even from the United States. (Funny how that happens when you are writing a travel book about Switzerland.) Writing this travel book over the last three years has been a wonderful escape. After the book is published this spring, Writer Abroad will lose her daily excuse to escape into another world because she will be 100% focused on her book about American life. But she’s sure to find another excuse.

Speaking of escaping, here’s a piece she wrote this week for CNN Business Traveller about traveling in Davos, Switzerland. It was timed to run with the World Economic Forum, but really, Davos is a much better place to go when that conference is over. In fact, during the Forum, many places in Davos shut down for security reasons.

And for those of you who would like to escape to Switzerland to do a little writing this year, the Zurich Writers Workshop will be held May 12-14, 2017 in Zurich. Hmm…since Writer Abroad is both planning and attending this workshop, she actually will escape the U.S. for a little while once again. Care to join her?

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Threaten to sue a newspaper and you threaten democracy. Here's why.

Donald Trump’s lawyers just threatened the New York Times.

As someone who has written for that paper and others as a freelancer, Writer Abroad has a problem with that.

As she’s previously written, it’s harder and harder to find real journalism these days.  And there’s a reason for that.

It’s because thanks to cuts, most newspapers have a very limited staff. They don’t have time to do investigative pieces—or the money to do them. Instead, they rely on freelancers to do, often times, a majority of their writing work. And guess what? Freelancers are more often than not, given horrible contracts.

Writer Abroad knows. She’s gotten lots of them. Fought them all. And won a few clauses here and there.

Now. Forget the terrible pay that most freelance journalists receive and think about the terrible contract instead. The contract that says, in a nutshell, “The freelancer is responsible for any legal fees arising from their reporting.”

Now think about Donald Trump.

If you were a journalist with a crappy newspaper contract, would you investigate him? Really, really investigate him?

Now think about democracy.

Can it really be upheld under these circumstances?

Our papers used to be the way we could read about issues without spin. The way we could investigate those who want to run for the highest—and even the lowest offices. We should know who is going to represent us and that’s why journalism is a big part of democracy. But if journalists are too legally and financially threatened to do their jobs, then we don’t have journalism. And then we don’t have democracy.

It didn’t seem like it could get worse. Trashing religions, trashing immigrants, trashing women, the list goes on and on in this year’s election. But when you threaten a newspaper, you are threatening a democracy that’s already fragile. That’s already mostly silenced thanks to a small elitist (and biased) group of media owners.

That’s why the threatening of a newspaper is the scariest thing that’s happened so far this election.

So if you do anything, writers, vote. While you still can.

That is all.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

When Articles Get "Internet Headlines"

Writer Abroad has had enough of the Internet lately. After going offline almost totally for a week and feeling much more at peace than she had for a long time, she realized that the Internet has been creating a lot of unnecessary angst in her life.

Sure, all the horrible events going on in the news lately are not helping. These things are not the Internet’s fault. But the Internet makes things horribly worse. Writer Abroad knows this inherently. It’s why she never reads the comments people make to her own articles. Because some of the articles she’s written have been given “Internet headlines” that purposely invoke strong emotions—whether the piece warrants them or not.

And that’s really the issue she has with the Internet. Today, any topic is dramatized. Drama creates sales. Creates likes. Creates sharing. Bias is in. Balanced, fair reporting, in most cases, is out. Today, with limited attention spans and unlimited information flying at us, it’s all about attention-grabbing, snack-able headlines. And not about much else.

How many times have you actually read an article and then read the comments? Most of the comments don’t even have anything to do with the article—they are just reactions to the emotional headline. And when headlines don’t match the article—or at least, the article’s tone, that’s a problem. As a culture, we’ve never had so much information, yet we’ve also never taken in so little of what we have.

Do you agree?

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

When a journalist becomes a content marketer

Writer Abroad just finished reading Dan Lyons’ book, Disrupted: My Misadventure in the Start-up Bubble. The book was about Lyon’s journey going from Newsweek journalist to HubSpot content marketer.

Writer Abroad couldn’t help but sympathize. With Dan. With all journalists (and content marketers). And with the entire country, which is losing its journalists right and left.

But a journalist losing his job matters far beyond that individual. Because when journalists lose, all of us lose. If there’s anyone we don’t want being laid off or being treated badly, it’s our journalists. Because their treatment and success is tied strongly to the success of democracy.

So if presidential nominees can say they are banning entire publications like the Washington Post from covering their campaign, our country is in big trouble. Huge trouble.

No watchdogs. No democracy.

It’s bad enough already. Corporate-owned media dominates. Independent voices that get heard are few. Luckily there are some good ones, like Amy Goodman of Democracy Now!, which she founded in 1996 with the motto of “going where the silence is.”

Speaking at Lit Fest in Chicago on June 11, Amy Goodman discussed how the corporate media doesn’t cover the views of the majority. Instead, they are a tool to silence the majority. She cited Super Tuesday 3. On this day, instead of showing Bernie Sanders' speech in Phoenix, Arizona, which was more highly attended than any other candidates’ speech in the country that night, Fox News showed Donald Trump’s empty podium for 20 minutes instead.

“Media can be the greatest force for peace on earth. Or its greatest enemy,” said Goodman to her Chicago audience.

Writer Abroad thinks it’s pretty clear which version of the media the United States has right now.



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