Writer's Digest

TRANSFORMATION, Not Thread Count

Imagine you receive a dispatch from a faraway land. The writer has done a deep dive into the place and engaged with the people there. Her language is vivid and she works hard to evoke her experience. For most readers, such a missive would be a welcome gift.

Now think about getting more than 1,300 such dispatches. That’s how many travel essays editor Lavinia Spaulding considered for The Best Women’s Travel Writing, Volume 12 (BWTW), due out this fall.

Deep into reading those submissions, Spaulding told me, “My eyes are about to self-eject from my head. I’ve been to so many countries this week, it’s hard to explain the rate at which my head is spinning.” She’ll choose around 30 essays for inclusion in the anthology.

This is Spaulding’s sixth stint as editor for BWTW, published by Travelers’ Tales, a press founded in 1993 to produce collections that “would be like sitting in a café filled with fellow travelers swapping tales about the place you’re headed next.” In her role as editor of BWTW, Spaulding has looked at close to 4,000 travel essays (earlier editions drew far fewer submissions).

As you might imagine, she has a thing or two to say about what makes for an irresistible story and what writers should avoid if they want an editor to keep reading. Spaulding is also a travel writer in, a guide for traveling mindfully and keeping a travel journal. It’s no surprise, then, that she’s a fount of ideas about travel essays and how to kick-start a journaling practice.

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