Manja Sachet co-authored Open Road Publishing’s “Turkey Guide” with her husband, Adam Peck. While living in Turkey, she did business development for a Turkish ISP, and also wrote a handful of freelance articles for English-language publications in Istanbul.
Originally from Eugene, Oregon, Sachet and Peck now live in Seattle. They recently spent time in Turkey with their 6 month old baby, collecting information for the third edition of their book, to be published in the winter of 2001.
How did you get started traveling?
My parents instilled in me a value for travel early on. My mother is German/Czech, and my dad is American. They met in Germany in the early 1960’s when my dad was working and traveling in Europe. By the time they met, my mom had already lived in Paris and London (in addition to growing up in Germany). When I was growing up, we would go to Europe every 2-3 years to visit family. One of those trips included bicycling through Holland and staying in youth hostels when I was 12. When I was ready to go to college, my family made an event of it and drove across the US, taking 2 weeks to see various sights, which I have since done again four or five times, taking different routes each time. These early experiences helped me learn to enjoy the process of traveling as much as the destination itself.
How did you get started writing?
Again, my parents really encouraged me, and I wrote my first stories and made books when I was in the first and second grades. In junior high and high school I had an aunt, a family friend, and several teachers who mentored me, and I took several creative writing courses in college.
What do you consider your big “break” as a travel writer?
Circumstance and luck really pushed me into travel writing. My husband and I had decided to try living in Turkey anyway and through a friend made a connection with a travel publisher who happened to need a Turkey guide.
As a traveler and fact/story-gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?
The most difficult thing for me is deciding when to stop researching, knowing how much is enough to do a responsible, thorough, and interesting job without getting bogged down with too much information (and thereby bogging the reader down). Part of the fun of being a traveler is making (happy) discoveries on your own. If, as a travel writer, your goal is to scour every nook and cranny of a place and tell the reader everything, not only do you rob your reader the joy of discovery, but you also take a tremendous burden upon yourself. Finding a balance is difficult, but important.
What is your biggest challenge in the writing process?
Knowing whether my writing is doing a place justice, and is telling a story that is interesting to readers.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint? Editors? Finanaces? Promotion?
All of the above. I can only speak from my limited experience, but you can’t expect to recoup even expenses from a lot of the small travel publishers. If you’re writing a travel guide from scratch for a whole country, I believe it’s irresponsible to do it without having lived there, learned some of the language, and acquired experience you really only get from being in a place over time. To get adequate compensation out of most publishers for that is probably impossible.
Do you do other work to make ends meet? If so, what kind of work?
Travel writing is really an occasional hobby. I’m not at all interested in being a full-time writer. Although I do spend many hours a day writing — I draft and negotiate contracts for the legal department of a software company.
(And unfortunately people like me make it difficult for the people who do want to be full-time travel writers, because I don’t need for the money from a publisher to be appropriate compensation for time and expenses.)
What travel authors or books might you recommend and/or have influenced you?
I haven’t actually read much travel writing per se, except in print and Internet periodicals. None spring immediately to mind. I primarily read novels.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
I believe the best writing (whether about travel or not) comes out of the writer being genuinely interested in her subject matter. And if it’s travel writing you’re doing, it’s important to have respect and compassion for the people in the place you’re writing about; for better or for worse, people help make the place what it is. I am very disappointed when I come across guidebooks or travel essays that disdain local people and/or customs, but it can be easy to do without realizing it. It’s often simply implicit in the author’s tone, or approach to the subject matter.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
Being able to help someone experience a place you’re excited about, whether the reader actually goes there or simply relies on your writing to transport her.