February 15, 2017

Second Thoughts: February Edition

by Meredith Bethune
food & travel writer
February 2017

Last month I scratched Israel off my "places I want to visit" list and spent a full week there. I only just scratched the surface even though it's a tiny country about the size of New Jersey,

I traveled alone while in Jerusalem, spending much of that time getting lost in the Old City. All the old Bible stories are very familiar to me (thanks, Catholic school!). Yet the Church of the Holy Sepulchre and the Via Dolorosa were a little underwhelming, perhaps because all those nuns had just built it up too much in mind. But the rest of the Old City was everything I had hoped for and more. I found the Western Wall and Dome of the Rock most moving of all. It just feels like that spot is the center of the universe when you're there. 

I also spent some time in Amsterdam and Brussels this month. I don't post all my photos to Facebook, so it's best to follow my travels on Instagram or Twitter
What I'm writing:
Photos from Israel:

What I'm reading:

Soldiers seek out Afghan food in Seattle
The woman at the center of the Emmett Till case
Weddings are a serious undertaking in Bangladesh  
Apparently it's hard to get African food in Cape Town
Why have I never had a set-up in New Orleans?!
There's new research about the runaway slave who defied George Washington
The most progressive museum in Europe is here in Belgium
Where to eat food from the seven "banned countries" in Los Angeles and Seattle
Check out Poland's electro scene
Using the Buddha to sell stuff
The man who knits sweaters with travel scenes
I used to love Daria back in high school
Why men won't do jobs traditionally performed by women
Texas has the highest maternal mortality rate in the developed world
A fellow travel writer's experience traveling on a Nigerian passport
Hotel thermostats really are rigged! 
There's no recipe for growing up
Maybe don't listen to self-help gurus
Getting a book contract didn't fix Cheryl Strayed's money problems
Annoying food trends continue in 2017
More restaurants are hiring line managers and soothers

What I'm recommending:

I'm not the only one riddled with anxiety whenever I log into Facebook these days, right?

I could just block Facebook completely of course, but I belong to several writers groups on there. They're really helpful for connecting to the outside world, especially since I have no coworkers. Plus, I've moved so much and enjoy using it to check in with old friends.

So I've installed Kill News Feed in my browser. Now I don't see the news feed at all, but I can still access the few things I like about Facebook. Ok, I still see my newsfeed occasionally when scrolling through Facebook on my phone, but it doesn't seem as overwhelming now. 
Amsterdam photos:

Getting real about writing:

How do you get editors to assign you articles?

Answer: Over 87% of the articles I published in 2016 were actually the result of my own original ideas that I pitched to editors. Many new writers hope editors will assign them stories, but original ideas are the freelancer's true currency. I'd say that generating good ideas is even more important than writing skills. 

It took me awhile to realize how valuable ideas are. Right now I have a spreadsheet with with over 50 different possible topics, and it's always growing. I'll never have the time to develop, pitch, and write them all, but at least the well will never run dry. 
Links for writers:

Reasons to write for trade magazines
Tracking your pitches pays off
Using AI to write better pitch emails
Resources for finding travel publications
Thanks so much to everyone who answered my survey! I've updated this month's newsletter to reflect your suggestions.
Hit "reply" to respond. Or, maybe even pass it on to a friend. 
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