Peter Ferry is an editor, writer and teacher. His travel pieces have appeared in the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. His short fiction has appeared in StoryQuarterly, Fiction, the New Review of Literature and McSweeney’s. His first novel, Travel Writing, which is built around five travel pieces, was published in 2008 by Harcourt. He lives in Evanston, Illinois.
How did you get started traveling?
It was 1968 and I found out I could go to summer school, including airfare, for less money at Oxford than in Athens, Ohio. I’ve been traveling ever since.
How did you get started writing?
My tenth grade teacher asked if she could submit a story I’d written to a national contest. I didn’t win anything, but I’ve been writing ever since.
What do you consider your first “break” as a writer?
I went on a wilderness canoe trip in Canada, kept a journal, wrote a piece and sent it to the Chicago Tribune. It was used as a Sunday cover story and for a few years they published everything that I sent them. When they finally rejected a piece, it was with the note, “this is too good for us.” It became a chapter in my novel Travel Writing.
As a traveler and fact/story gatherer, what is your biggest challenge on the road?
Getting there as often as I’d like to.
What is your biggest challenge in the research and writing process?
Finding just the right person or situation to write about without straining or embellishing or inventing.
What is your biggest challenge from a business standpoint?
Finding publications that want the kind of idiosyncratic character and event-based stuff I like to write.
Have you ever done other work to make ends meet?
I’ve been a textbook writer and editor and a high school English teacher.
What travel authors or books might you recommend and/or have influenced you?
I love Paul Theroux even if he does, too. I’ve read all his travel stuff. I like the first half of all Bill Bryson books. I like Bruce Chatwin’s style even if I don’t always believe what he writes. I’ll read anything that Redmond O’Hanlon or Eric Hansen writes, and I really like this young Rolf Potts guy.
What advice and/or warnings would you give to someone who is considering going into travel writing?
I’m not really successful enough to offer either. I guess I believe in writing for yourself rather than for a specific market, which may be why I’m not very successful.
What is the biggest reward of life as a travel writer?
Travel, of course. I’d rather do it than anything else in the world.