As a reader and editor, I’ve always had slightly more of a leaning towards travel literature than fact-focused guidebooks. Of course, both genres do have different jobs to fulfil; travel books’ rich, subjective descriptions inspire us to visit far-flung places and then, once you’ve visited and with every subsequent book you read, writers’ differing responses to the destination merge with and enrich your own experiences. Guidebooks also inspire me, but in a practical way, firmly rooted in reality: what is the most scenic overland journey I can take to get there? Can I eat, sleep and play like a local king, but on a shoe-string?

Because I’m focused on writing features and editing books that sit in the more reflective and personal spectrum of travel writing, rather than the journalistic, I’ll be heading to a local reading group. Colin Thubron’s Shadow of the Silk Road is the travel book up for discussion next week, in the setting of a traditionally English local pub. Any UK based readers in Cambridgeshire could come along too (Coalheavers’ Arms, Peterborough on Wednesday 29th October, at 8pm)!

Reading this book has reinforced my writing-bone during a really busy time of plugging away at proposals, sending speculative emails to editors and preparing for the World Travel Market (10th 13th November, London). I’m guessing that Colin was once just like me, a traveller who couldn’t stop travelling and wanting to re-tell stories of the places he’d just visited and the stories of the people he’d met along the way.

If there’s not a travel book reading group in your area, why not start one for yourself? I’m thinking of doing just that. And if you’re serious about kick-starting your writing career, visit mediabistro for details of a Travel Writing Bootcamp with Cindy Price. Classes start 5th November.

I’m looking forward to finishing the book, meeting the group and sharing sections from the book (like the sentence below) that popped out at me … and most importantly, getting on with more writing!

From Shadow of the Silk Road:

‘Nothing ahead of me, I sense will be homogeneous, constant. To follow a road is to follow diversity: a flow of interlocked voices…’

Quote © Colin Thubron

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