Blackwells in Oxford are offering some interesting talks on various subjects – and which are all free!
I went to one last week about travel writing or, to be precise, how to be a travel writer . The speaker was promoting his book which was a howto on that very subject: how to write about travel and, possibly, make some money while you’re at it. All good practical stuff on how to write a travel blog, how to write a newspaper travel feature, how to write a travel book. It was inevitable that, having written a book about women travellers and explorers ( The Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt) I should be disappointed though not surprised to find female travel writers, including Ireland’s own, Dervla Murphy, were rarely mentioned in the discourse and this in Oxford, Gertrude Bell’s own university town. Sara Wheeler appeared briefly in a photo shown at the beginning of the talk but that was it. What we did hear were the entertaining anecdotes and quotes about Redmond O Hanlon, Paul Theroux, Colin Thubron, Rory MacClean and many more – all of them excellent travel writers.
But where oh where were the dictinctive female voices of travel writers like Ella Maillart, Alexandra David Neel, Christina Dodwell, Ann Davison, Mary Kingsley, Hester Stanhope and the sublime Jane Digby.
When my book Blessings of a Good Thick Skirt was published in 1986, it filled a gap for there was hardly anything then published neither about women travellers and explorers nor by them. Now, 33 years on, the ratio of male to female travel writers is pretty much the same as it was then.
Perhaps this is a sign of changing times with fewer women setting off on a quest in their mid years. If this is so then that is as it is. Meanwhile, we can feast on a treasure trove of travel writing from those who have gone before and who are still travelling, giving us travel writing which will energise and inspire. Pick up that book and get going.
The Travel Writer’s Way by Jonathan Lorie is published by Bradt.