‘How did you get into journalism,’ Terry Owen, the former Secretary of the Caravan Writers’ Guild asked me. I was visiting Terry and Alison to collect the crystal glass trophy I had won for the Douglas King Award for written journalism. Terry’s question was a good one that deserved a better answer than the waffle I came up with on the hoof. What I did say is that I have been practising and improving my writing for a long time. The night school class I took in English Literature in the 1980s got my fingers itching and I learnt from others while I worked on an alternative local magazine, Preston Other Paper. Studying for a degree in Geography and Environmental Management and a higher degree in Applied Public Health and keeping my first blog from 2009 helped to hone my writing skills so that in 2011 I was ready to dip my toe in to being paid for writing about life in a campervan. My journey to winning the Douglas King Award has been a long one and I continue to strive to ensure that my travel articles are entertaining, accurate and informative.
I write travel articles because my friends don’t always want to listen to my stories of my travels and the need to share the beautiful places I visit is strong. These travel articles are not aimed at my friends, my audience, the campervan and motorhome owner [or potential owner], is always at the forefront of my mind. In practice this means that my travel articles are not only the story of tours we have completed in our own ‘van, they include practical information about places you can park a long vehicle, where campsites or wild camping spots are and the state of the roads.
As well as improving my craft and remembering my audience I thoroughly research the area I am exploring. Typically, I always learn more snippets of information than I can fit in to one travel article but part of the art of a writer is knowing what fits the story you are telling and what might be fascinating but is a digression and needs to be ditched.
I like to weave a thread through my stories as this helps them to hang together so that they are more than a list of places we visited. This thread might be something personal such as a childhood memory or a visit to an area that has long been on my wish list. For other articles I might concentrate on the weather or the local food. Sometimes the narrative emerges from the research and I might link together literary connections or historical sites.
I am chuffed to bits when people I meet or on social media tell me how much they like a particular travel article I have written but winning an award for my journalism is a different level of recognition that has blown me away. It is such an honour to have my writing appreciated and judged to be award winning by other professionals and I still have an inner glow from having won.
I entered the Douglas King Award for the first time a few years ago and in August this year I thought i would give it another go. Checking through my articles that had been published in the preceding twelve months I chose to submit the article about a tour of Scotland’s beautiful west coast, published in MMM in January 2018 and a piece I was proud of. You can find the article in the list of my MMM articles if you want to have a read.
In September we had just arrived in Spain and I got a call to tell me that I was short-listed for the award; I was over the moon at receiving this recognition for my writing but certainly didn’t expect to hear anything more. So imagine my elation when the following month I heard that the judges had decided that my article was good enough to be declared the winner! The judges thought the piece was a, ‘Beautiful descriptive feature’ which certainly goes to prove that you don’t need perfect weather to write a good travel article, which must be a comfort to many UK based journalists. We were in the lovely Spanish coastal town of Peñíscola when I received this news and so I unfortunately missed the glittering presentation evening. I was both delighted and astounded to win and only Mr BOTRA got to see my blushes.
The Caravan Writers Guild covered the award on their website and MMM published a news story. It was a particularly big night for MMM as the magazine scooped two awards at the October presentation evening with their Road Test Editor also winning the John Wickersham Award for Video.
Both the Caravan Writers’ Guild’s awards are open to non-members and they manage these awards efficiently and courteously with the aim of encouraging excellence within the sector. Membership is available to those who have been writing and published for at least a year, so if you’re a motorhome or caravan journalist writing in print, on a blog or producing a vlog then give joining the Guild a thought and maybe enter a piece yourself in 2019.