Friday, July 13, 2012


This is a cross-post from my Beacon Blog for Writers. I know many readers also follow that blog, so my apologies. For the rest, I hope you find this info useful to your travel writing....

I began interviewing for my writing projects 41 years ago. Transcribing the results then was a pain. So much so, I paid someone to do most of it for me. Now with improved technology it's easier, so I'm still interviewing for my books and articles. I enjoy it immensely and recommend emerging writers do the same. I've discovered that everyone knows more than I do about the place they live or the topic I'm writing about, and who else I should interview.

© Photos by Pharos 2012
The most difficult interview I conducted was last May. The subject was willing but the conditions we faced made it nearly impossible. We were in a jet boat on the Harrison River in a gale. The noise of the outboard and the banging of the aluminum hull on the waves were loud and intrusive. Never one to give up, I persevered with my digital recorder, nearly shoving it up my guide's nose. On my return to land, I was astounded that my tiny Olympus recorder did a fine job with his commentary. My smartphone not so much, though occasionally I do use it or my iPad in quieter surroundings.
(You can see my video of the trip listed to the right - click on "Cruising History" under Travel Vids.)

My Olympus recorder weighs only two and a half ounces, a miracle of modern technology, so I carry it most places I go. It's especially handy when I can't lug a day pack--like on a camel or while river rafting. Price: about $50.00. I also use mine to record my immediate impressions of places and events so I don't forget the feelings in the moment. At home, I can upload the audio files straight to my desktop computer using its docking station and software. Nothing short of magic!

Seek out the locals and experts on your destinations, on your travels, or anywhere, and talk to them. Your writing will have more authority and immediacy, as well as perhaps an interesting person to provide a scene, a story's throughline, or a soundtrack for an article's video.

PS: I've learned that Olympus, the corporation, has some difficulty supplying these recorders and London Drugs no longer carries that make. But both Best Buy and have a huge selection at many price points.

How much interviewing do you do as a travel writer?
How do you do it?
And, what for?

August 15, 2012: I've just learned about the Sony 3-in-1 Flash Voice Recorder that's available in Canada and the US. It's regularly priced at CAD$110.00, but it's on sale at Staples for $53.00. It weighs just over two ounces (59 gms) and has a built in USB jack, mic and headphone jacks, and is compatible with both Windows and Macs. What really attracts me is that this recorder is optimized by Nuance to work with Dragon Naturally Speaking software so you can convert voice to text seamlessly. I haven't tried it, but it definitely is worth checking out if you're in the market.
August 18, 2012: I liked this recorder so much, I just bought it as a birthday present for myself!! My old Olympus is now on sale for $20.00 ...
August 23, 2012: Now sold!