Daring to write

Writing a travel memoir has been a dream of mine for years.

Ever since I realized my love for travel, writing about it seemed like the perfect project, a chance to use my journalistic skills, write creatively and see the world, all at once.

So even before leaving my job as a reporter with the Houston Chronicle to travel in Africa last year, I began collecting and reading memoirs by women traveling solo. I skimmed guides to literary agents, highlighting anyone who represented travel stories. And I perused through books that offered instruction on writing a book proposal.

And yet, as I freelanced my way through West Africa, Cameroon and Madagascar, all the while sharing travel tales on my blog, Inkslinging in Africa, I still wasn’t sure I’d get a book out of it. After all, to write a book, I needed a good story.

It wasn’t until one of my last nights of that trip, while resting in a hostel in Madagascar’s capital, that I realized this could work. Reflecting on my adventure, I started a list in my notebook — the sixth notebook I had filled in six months — of all the characters I had met along the way.

The list kept getting longer and longer: Ony, a Malagasy orphanage employee; Jean, an AIDS-inflicted teenager in Burkina Faso; Catherine, one of four wives in a polygamous Cameroonian family; Cedric, my German travel companion. With each character, I realized, came a mini story. And a lot of interesting mini stories, woven together with a theme, makes a book.

So, just three days before flying home to the States, I decided I would do it. I would write a book! Instead of searching for a journalism job — a venture that could turn futile in this economy anyhow — I set up a home office, surrounded myself with notebooks and blog posts from my trip, and started putting words to paper.

Now comes the hard part.

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