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Knowledge Base .: Meet The Author .: Travel Guides .: Professional Travel Writer CeliaSue Hecht Interviewed

Professional Travel Writer CeliaSue Hecht Interviewed

Today, Norm Goldman, Editor of Bookpleasures.com and Sketchandtravel.com is pleased to have as our guest, CeliaSue Hecht. 

CeliaSue is a professional travel writer, editor and publicist and is listed in Bacon’s Media Directory. She is also the co-author of five romantic travel guides.

Good day CeliaSue and thank you for participating in our interview.

Norm:

Could you tell our readers something about your personal and professional background and how you became interested in travel writing? When did your passion for writing begin? What kept you going?

CeliaSue:

Thank you, Norm. I grew up in the suburbs of New York City (Bayside, Queens). My father traveled as part of his business (he bought and sold machinery at auctions in and around NYC). Also every summer we traveled to various places around NYC… upstate, Catskill Mountains, Adirondacks, Montreal, Niagara Falls, Chicago, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. And, my father lived in California before WWII so I grew up with a passion to travel. I daydreamed of faraway places where I would find adventure, fun, learn about different cultures, and meet interesting people.

As far as writing goes, I often wrote poetry, short stories, acted out plays and loved to read. Writing has always been my favorite form of self-expression. Putting these two loves together seemed very natural for me. What keeps me going: there are ALWAYS new places to visit and people to meet. I am an extremely curious person.

One of my favorite books as a kid was Nancy Drew. Although I have no desire to become a real sleuth, mysteries to solve intrigue me. I traveled around the world for three years and find people and places an endless source of fascination. I thrive on new experiences,  maybe it’s the Sagitarius in me. I have driven cross-country many times, taken the train, bus, and all forms of transportation and often travel on the weekend. I find driving meditative and travel rejuvenating. Writing grounds me and makes me feel happy. I learn something new every time I write.

Norm:

Could you tell our readers something about your company, Celestial Communications?

CeliaSue:

In 1980,  in Los Angeles, I started my own typing service, called Typing Unlimited, typing scripts, resumes, term papers, editing several books, and transcribing tapes. At one point, I transcribed Barbara Walters' interviews. This venture evolved into an on-campus typing service in Boca Raton, Florida, while I went to college. And after I graduated, I added writing and editing services and called myself Your Write Hand.

In the late 1990’s, after having been a successful PR manager for several firms, my firm now provides public relations services, and came up with the moniker and tagline the PR Matchmaker who spins words into bottom-line profits. As I evolve professionally, I continue to expand the services I offer. I hardly ever type resumes, scripts or term papers anymore.

Mostly, I specialize in assisting authors and wannabe authors, small business owners especially travel professionals such as spa, destination and bed and breakfast owners, with their marketing materials, publicity and promotion, as well as writing and editing needs.

Norm:

I can see from viewing your web site that you have traveled extensively and you have co-authored several romantic travel guides. If you had to choose the six most romantic and unique romantic getaways in the world that you have visited, which ones would you choose and why?

CeliaSue:

I think that romance is in the heart and soul of the people involved. And the six most romantic and unique getaways I would pick are:

***Vancouver, Canada:  Many people visit Vancouver as a gateway to go on an Alaskan cruise, enjoy harbor cruises or to travel the old-fashioned way, grooving along with the swaying and clicking of a train as it rolls along the tracks (train and cruise travel are two of the most relaxing and romantic forms of travel as far as I am concerned). Add in the majestic scenery, fabulous tourist destinations (botanical gardens, museums, ethnic communities and nearby islands) and voila, now, you know that you're in paradise.

***Paris:  Everyone loves Paris in the springtime, walks along the Seine, visits to the Louvre, Eiffel Tower, and Arc de Triomphe, dining outdoors at cafes, visiting nearby towns with castles and/or the lovely wine country in the Loire Valley… what a magical setting for romantic rendezvous!

***Niagara Falls: how can anyone resist visiting the Honeymoon Capital of the World?

Niagara Falls is a gorgeous and breathtaking sight. You can even view the Falls by boat or helicopter. The City of Niagara Falls receives 14 million people visitors every year. The Native American meaning of the name Niagara: Thunder of Waters. Niagara-on-the-Lake, twenty miles from the Falls, is a picturesque village with quaint b&bs.

***Carmel and/or Bodega Bay, California, ok, yes, you caught me, I am partial to northern California and find it difficult to pick one place! Carmel and Bodega Bay are both lovely small towns, where privacy, horseback riding and surfing on the beach and sampling delicious foods of the gods (seafood and chocolate) matter and are favorite pastimes of the locals and visitors. Some people may recall that Bodega Bay was the location for the Alfred Hitchcock movie The Birds but this sweet village is neither scary nor only for the birds and deers.

*** Sanibel/Captiva Islands, Florida, Magnificent sunsets, and stunning seashell beaches combine to create a truly enchanting location…. these two islands offer the perfect getaway of the most romantic kind.

Sanibel and Captiva Islands feature white sandy beaches that stretch to forever. Feel the crunch of a shell beneath your feet? Sanibel and Captiva Islands offer some of the best shelling spots in Florida, if not the United States. They also have the distinct reputation of being an idyllic home away from home for the rich and famous. Captiva Island is a petite piece of real estate narrowly tucked between the Gulf of Mexico and the Intracoastal Waterway and is 14-miles long...

and

***Athens, Greece: I visited Greece three times, and want to go back again. Charmed by the movie, My Big Fat Greek Wedding? I will let you in on a European secret, get married, go on your honeymoon or experience Athens, Greece, and its nearby islands for an inexpensive romantic getaway. Islands include Crete, Mykonos, Santorini, and Rhodes. Besides, Athens is the cradle of democracy and birthplace of Western Civilization, who could ask for anything more?

Norm:

As a follow up, which six wedding destination venues would you choose and why?

 

CeliaSue:

***The Martine Inn in Pacific Grove, California. This 1890's Mediterranean-style mansion bed and breakfast hotel, which has been in the Martine family for years, has a lovely courtyard, antique cars in the garage, and library with fireplace. Numerous rooms offer views and sounds of the spectacular rustic beach including playful otters and seals. Besides, the thorough attention to detail, the cuisine and service is impeccable. From the breakfast and afternoon tea and silver service to the individual rooms that cater to each wedding party, couples looking for old-fashioned elegance and ambiance should consider the Martine Inn for their blessed day. (http://www.martineinn.com)… Address:

255 Oceanview Boulevard, Pacific Grove, California 93950
Phone: 800 - 852 - 5588 Email: don@martineinn.com.

***Solvang, California: This Hans Christian Andersen village come to life, about one hour north of Santa Barbara (which is an hour north of Los Angeles), is a favorite of mine. And the Storybook Inn is a most romantic venue. This European style villa offers nine guest rooms, each one decorated and named according to various Hans Christian Andersen stories. A lavish room for newlyweds is the Swan's Nest, which features a Queen Bed with feather comforter, private bathroom with double Jacuzzi tub, and fireplace. And the breakfasts are divine. Address:

409 First Street
, Solvang, Ca, 93463, phone: 1.800.786.7925 Email: info@solvangstorybook.com

***At the Sandpiper Inn in Carmel, California, you are steps away from long, leisurely strolls along a spectacular beach… Between the award winning gardens. 17 rooms with private baths, healthy breakfasts, and afternoon tea and sherry, you can’t go wrong choosing this venue. Several rooms have views of Pebble Beach, where the millionaires live and play. Address:

2408 Bay View Avenue, Carmel
by the Sea, California 93923, Co-Innkeepers - Bill Lee & Maria Di Pretoro Phone: 1-800-590-6433 email: sandpiperinn@yahoo.com www.sandpiper-inn.com

***The romantic and historic Casa Cody Inn is the oldest operating hotel in Palm Springs. It was founded in the 1920's by Hollywood pioneer, Harriet Cody, cousin of the legendary Buffalo Bill. There are some cabins and most of the rooms circle the pool. I found each room charming, uniquely decorated, and was treated like a queen. Address:

175 South Cahuilla Road, Palm Springs, CA 92262
Phone: 760-320-9346 Email:Info@CasaCodyPalmSprings.com

***Millennium Hotel, 200 S. 4th Street, St. Louis, MO

(314) 241-9500, lucky couples looking to splurge on a wedding, will not be disappointed when they reserve the top floor of this impressive hotel. The rotating view of the skyline that includes the Gateway Arch (climb to the top, if a height phobic chicken like me can do it, anyone can!) is like being on a merry-go-round in the sky. The fabulous Sunday buffet is replete with every kind of omelet, pancake, waffle, and dessert your wildest dreams could imagine. Plus, St. Louis is a fun place to explore. Laclede's Landing down near the riverfront offers old brick buildings and the most wonderful seafood and barbecue that I have ever eaten.

Just in case, the Millennium Hotel is booked, try the Roberts Mayfair Hotel. Each room is furnished as a cozy apartment. This is the only African American owned hotel in St. Louis and offers scrumptious meals and ambiance. The location, across the street from the convention center, is also quite convenient.

Did you know that the song Frankie and Johnny was first penned and crooned in St. Louis? Contact Angela daSilva at dasilva@midwest.net or (314) 753-0457 and ask for a reenactment and a fascinating black American history tour of the region, Contact: Lori Simms, at: lori.simms@ded.mo.gov for info. Couples will definitely enjoy their ‘meet me in St. Louis.’ Visit: http://www.VisitMO.com Contact Donna Andrews and Mary Hendron at the St. Louis Convention Center at 314.992.0654.

*** I left my heart in Twentynine Palms, California, where I worked as a Newspaper Reporter/Photographer in the late 1990’s. The beautiful Roughley Manor, Address:

74744 Joe Davis Road
, Twentynine Palms, California 92277 Innkeepers Jan and Gary Peters are two of the sweetest people I have ever met. When I first arrived in 29 Palms and needed a place to live, it was Jan Peters who introduced me to my landlord, Dawnie Benton, who is now the mayor of the town. Weddings are conducted both outside and indoors. The Manor's Main House is three stories tall with two suites, each with its own private bath and sitting room. There are fireplaces in each of the suites. Jan hosts an old-fashioned tea amongst the trees and rose garden every year. For larger wedding parties, there is a Best Western hotel in town that offers 100+ rooms.

Norm:

As a traveler and fact/story-gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?

CeliaSue:

Sometimes, not understanding the local language and customs, or where and how to obtain the resources I need. In England, I expected to know the language but was amazed that I had a hard time, between the slang and the accents. As a woman, in some countries and cultures, has also been a challenge. For instance, in Bangladesh and India. I found time and time again that women are not treated equally. I knew that in my head but the first experience I had of going to a play at night by myself in Bangladesh and being ‘protected’ from the 99% male audience by the auditorium’s gatekeepers was quite a learning experience. I took it for granted that I could go to restaurants, movies, shopping by myself. The freedoms I have known are definitely not afforded women there.

One time, a friend and I were eating at a café and noticed a woman, face covered by a veil and eyes staring out at us from behind a wall. She looked intrigued by us casually sitting there in public talking and laughing. Also, I gave talks at a few venues in India. One day at an after school church gathering, at some point, I noticed that all of the girls got up and left. I was told later that girls and women are not allowed outside after dark and rarely travel or go anywhere by themselves. I was often admonished to play it safe and not travel alone.

Norm:

What advice would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?

CeliaSue:

There does not seem to be a lot of good how-to books on the subject. Get to know local travel writers and talk to them, read their books, go to conferences, join writer’s groups, including online. Become a member of the North American Travel Journalists Association. Visit travel bookstores and read travel guides. Subscribe to travel newsletters, ezines, magazines and other publications. Invest in Travel Writing Workshops. Find a niche to write about, something unique that distinguishes you. Travel and write about your experiences and make a list of ideas for articles. Next, select a few magazines (not just travel publications), and submit your well-written, polished queries. Do Not send any editor your What I Did on My Family Vacation pieces although it could be valuable to begin writing a travel diary to jot down thoughts. Cull the best ones and develop them into stories with a beginning, middle and end.

Two Travel writing books for travel writers: Don George's Lonely Planet Guide To Travel Writing and Michael Shapiro's A Sense of Place.   Travelwriters.com. and Travelers' Tales are two good website resources.

Submit fun anecdotes to travel books such as Jennifer Leo’s series (Sand in My Bra, The Thong Also Rises, Whose Panties Are These). Start writing about weekend getaways locally, interview local travel experts including tour destination owners, and write short pieces for Internet travel sites. Check out: http://www.writtenroad.com/. Jen Leo offers many tips for travel writers on her website including: “I have subscriptions to all of the top travel magazines -- Town & Country Travel, Budget Travel, Travel & Leisure, Conde Nast Traveler, and National Geographic Traveler -- to name a few. And, besides studying style and tone, keeping updated on the hottest destinations, and reading insightful articles, I also receive those magazines to keep updated on the comings and goings of the travel editors.”

As you get published, build up your portfolio. Travel writers who want to become authors should write a column, write for national publications, and develop a following. I would say those are good basic strategies for any writer, travel or otherwise.

Norm:

As there does not seem to be any authoritative standards that exist for guidebook authors or publishers, how do you know that a guidebook is up to par? How do you check out the authorial competence?

CeliaSue:

Some publishers and authors/writers have credibility and history in the industry, publishers such as Fodors, Fromm, Lonely Planet, etc. However, basically, I read what I like and leave the rest.

Norm:

In the last year or so have you seen any changes in the way publishers publish and/or distribute books? Are there any emerging trends developing?

CeliaSue:

Authors must have platforms, a readymade audience who will buy the books. Authors must prove this in order to get published. Between the facts that most books do not earn royalties, printing costs have skyrocketed, and stiff competition (it is particularly irritating to writers that people who do not write one word call themselves authors, they hire ghosts), publishers are publishing less books with lower runs.

Chances are, unless you are JK Rowling or a celebrity, you are not going to get a big advance. Many travel guidebooks are written for $5-10,000 or much less. Popular series that have proven themselves continue to expand.

Norm:

How have you used the Internet to boost your career?

CeliaSue:

I don’t know what we did before the Internet! People find my website and / or google me and email or call. I love to do research and the Internet is a great way to contact people to interview, meet potential clients, set up trips, and obtain discounts and travel deals on air travel, hotels, etc. at sites such as expedia, Travelocity, travelworm, etc. I have just launched a blog at: http://sweetsafaris.wordpress.com/ where I will provide travel tips and some romantic and chocolate tour info.

Norm:

I understand you are currently working on a new travel series involving chocolate. Could you elaborate?

CeliaSue:

I adore chocolate, who doesn’t? One day, a couple of years ago, I was watching the Food Network or the Travel Network and they did a show about chocolate. I found out that there are many chocolatiers, tours and factories in the San Francisco Bay area. That’s how it started. I’ve since gathered much research, information and sampled some incredible chocolates and am writing several travel guides that will offer the readers fun places to visit and sample chocolate, spas where they wrap you in chocolate, places that offer chocolate to live for and crazy combinations of chocolate, such as beer and chocolate tastings, etc.

Norm:

Is there anything else you wish to add that we have not covered?

CeliaSue Hecht, owner of Celestial Communications… when you are looking for down-to-earth, realistic and practical collaterals with over the moon/stars magical results… we spin words into bottomline profits!

Published Writer/Editor and PR Advisor/Coach
(listed in Bacon's Media Directory)
1-702-225-8206
Email: prmatchmaker@yahoo.com

Web site:
http://www.websites-now.net/bookmagic

Blogs: http://sweetsafaris.wordpress.com/
http://celiasuehecht.wordpress.com/

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