be daring but not defamatory:attack sacred cows

I wrote this column a few years ago when I was creating the travel pages of a now-defunct newpaper (The Christchurch Citizen). I’m reprinting it here as it seems it has advice that some bloggers may find useful!

“While other crafts have to sit around chewing their fingernails waiting for a movie to be put together, writers have one great strength. They can sit down and generate their own employment and determine their own fate to a great extent by the degree of their disciplines, their guts and their talents” Fay Kanin (American union activist. Writer b.1917)

Unfortunately, many times as I sit to compose this weekly column I doubt I have the discipline, guts or talent to do so.

Why does it always have to be on a travel-related topic? (Because it’s on the travel pages Heather) Why can’t I just write about what I think about the world? (Why should anyone be interested it what you think about the state of the world?) Why is it so hard for an opinionated woman like me to think of a topic week after week – month after month?

(Who knows? who cares how hard it is for you?)

Such are my thoughts as I sit at the computer contemplating a blank screen. I am not a disciplined person. I find it difficult to remember to take medication when it’s been prescribed. I just don’t do routine.

‘That’s why you travel so well’ said a friend a few days ago. ‘You actually thrive on the state of flux your life is in when you’re on the road.’

I concurred. Decision making on the spot, living on my intuitions, going with the flow, swimming with the current rather than across it or upstream are the hallmarks of a passionate solo traveller such as I. But does it make a writer? One who needs to be making a living by the sweat of her brow, or pen. Does it give me the guts and talent Fay Kanin talks about?

Recently I listened to three columnist’s talk about what a column is and what a columnist should say. This is my interpretation of their words.

A writer of weekly columns should be disciplined, (ha ha) have something of importance to say, (yeah right) something fresh, (sure) of the moment (really). They should never be pretentious (or precious I wonder?) they should have a strong opinion (not always easy with travel topics) and seek to polarise – you, the reader – occasionally. Of course it needs to be so interesting that you will read it to the end. (I know my mother reads it -that’s her duty – but other readers, please don’t go, stay till the end.)

If its not personal its not a column they tell me. Well that’s a balancing act if ever there is one. How much do I want you to know about me and even more importantly, how much do you really want to know about me? Sure I can be witty and charming and lucid but at other times I can be mean spirited, self centred and occasionally, – very occasionally of course – obtuse.

So be daring they tell me, but not defamatory, be opinionated, get up peoples noses sometimes, attack sacred cows, be the devils advocate. Point out double standards. Write about sex. Be insightful.

But wait, like the advertisements, that’s not all: I should test your ideals, push frontiers, make you think! I need to be provocative and make you react and I should be passionate.

What a darn tall order: even taller within the confines of a travel column, nevertheless I just tried. I had to delete the whole paragraph! It was all the things a column should not be. Forced, pretentious – and “pretension is fatal,” said the chair of the forum.

So what now? Guess I will just keep writing these each week. I will keep sitting in front to the screen awaiting the muses’ arrival with a basket of sexy, provocative, challenging, insightful topics for me to write for you to read – right to the end.

For those who have, I salute you and thank you for your time.

culture shock

This article appeals to me as a travel writer – often my biggest culture shock happens in an english-speaking country!

Culture shock is surreptitious. by Jane Lasky 

It shows up in the most unusual ways at  the most unexpected times. Sometimes you’ll be unable to sleep while other times you’ll need to sleep far too much. You may go from angry to  vulnerable in a nanosecond for no apparent reason and you may even wish  you were anywhere but where you happen to be.

But, if you hang in there, those effects will surely fade.

Consider the case of one expatriate.

Out of work and having trouble finding any in the Los Angeles area,  Heidi decided to look elsewhere. As a television executive, this  transplanted Pennsylvanian had made Hollywood a happy home for nearly a  decade. Still, in order to pursue her chosen profession, she was  willing to relocate.

That she did — about 8,000 miles away in MelbourneAustralia.

When the two-year contract came through, Heidi had to move quickly. She  was given a mere month to get there and find her bearings before  reporting to her new job.  READ THE ARTICLE HERE

mountain biking New Zealand in a national park

Mountain biking starts on Abel Tasman National Park track

Date:  30 April 2009

Abel Tasman National Park’s Gibb’s Hill Track this week becomes the first Nelson national park track that can be mountain biked with mountain bikers able to ride it for 5 months from Friday, 1 May.

Mountain biking is being trialled during the winter visitor season, 1 May to 1 October, over 2 years on the track that runs across the park between Totaranui and Wainui Bay. Monitoring will take place to determine whether or not mountain biking should be allowed to continue on the track beyond the 2-year trial period.

The move follows a change to General Policy for National Parks which now allows mountain biking in national parks on routes specified in national park management plans. Mountain biking provisions were included in a new Abel Tasman National Park Management Plan that came into effect late last year.

DOC Golden Bay Area Manager John Mason said mountain bikers could just ride the 10-km Gibbs Hill Track or make a 23-km round trip by also cycling on roads between Wainui and Totaranui. 

“We hope mountain bikers will enjoy this first riding opportunity in Abel Tasman National Park.

“Mountain biking is only permitted in the off-peak winter season when fewer people are walking the track. Mountain bikers need to adhere to the mountain bikers’ code which includes requirement to show respect and consideration to walkers.

“Monitoring during the trial period will assess mountain biking impacts including environmental effects and any impacts on other people’s use and enjoyment of the track. If the impacts are found to be minimal and acceptable then mountain biking will be allowed to continue on the track.”

The Department is also reminding mountain bikers that biking is not allowed on the Heaphy Track and other Kahurangi National Park tracks.

“Mountain biking is illegal on the Heaphy Track and elsewhere in Kahurangi National Park under park bylaws now in place. People can be prosecuted under the bylaws for mountain biking in the national park.

“Options for mountain biking in Kahurangi National Park are presently being considered in a partial review of the park’s management plan. What mountain biking can take place in the park won’t be established until the review is completed and a new reviewed management plan is in place specifying the mountain bike access allowed.

“The public will have the chance to comment on proposals for mountain biking in the park when a draft reviewed management plan is released for public submissions, expected to be before the middle of this year. Public submissions will be taken into account in preparing a final draft reviewed plan for consideration by the Nelson/Marlborough Conservation Board and then the New Zealand Conservation Authority.”

Additional information

Gibbs Hill Track can be cycled in either direction. It is graded as an intermediate-level mountain biking track. No more than eight riders are allowed in a group. Mountain biking is not allowed on other tracks in the area.

Mountain biking is also now allowed year-round on a short section of another Abel Tasman National Park track. The Moa Park Track can be cycled, between the turnoff on the Rameka Track – which is legal road and currently used for mountain biking – and the Wainui Track turnoff. This section of track links with a mountain bike track being developed in the adjoining Canaan Downs Scenic Reserve, providing a round trip.

The current Kahurangi National Park Management Plan came into effect in 2001. Under the General Policy for National Parks in place at the time, mountain bikes were categorised as vehicles which were prohibited in national parks except on formed roads. MORE INFO 

no more books? please no!

The Long Goodbye? The Book Business and its Woes


Do books still have their power? Over the past twenty years, as we’ve thrown ourselves eagerly into a joy ride on the Information Superhighway, we’ve been learning to read, and been reading, differently; and books aren’t necessarily where we start or end our education. The unprofitable chaos of the book business today indicates, among other things, that slow, almost invisible transformations as well as rapid helter-skelter ones have wrecked old reading habits (bad and good) and created new ones (ditto). In the cacophony of modern American commerce, we hear incoherent squeals of dying life-forms along with the triumphant braying and twittering of new human expression.

People in the book business, like the readers they seek out (a minute fraction of the literate population), hate to think that books might be moribund, and signs of vigorous life in some quarters belie the grim 2009 forecasts. Also, publishers have always mournfully predicted that the end was nigh–they must share either a melancholy temperament or sensitivity to the fragility of culture–so today’s dire predictions aren’t in themselves news. (I’m speaking here not of technical books or textbooks, which are facing their own crises, but of what are called general trade books–literature, politics, history, biography and memoir, science, poetry, art–written for the general public.) When I first got a publishing job almost half a century ago, my elders and betters in the trade regularly worried about The Future of Books, even though manuscripts continued to pour onto our desks.  read the article here

want to be a travel editor? what’s needed?

The future for travel editors?

by Jeremy Head – travelblatherer

Travel WriterI was really struck by a recent job ad on from Frommer’s. The job title is ‘Editorial Manager’ and it’s to manage and implement the upgrading of content for a major travel brand’s website.

I know Frommer’s does a lot of work for BA and for Hilton hotels so I’d imagine it’s probably for one of these two.

Some of the requirements are as follows (the elements I’ve taken out for the sake of space are mainly about softer skills like people management and getting the job done.)

* At least five years’ experience of managing successful online projects where high volume, high quality editorial content has been delivered to specification and deadline
* Meticulous editor, responsible for ensuring quality control at every stage of the production cycle
* Technically savvy, and a whizz with Excel
* At least five years’ experience at a senior editorial level in the travel and hospitality industry
* Broad destination knowledge of EMEA and APAC 
* Acute sensitivity to tone of voice and brand
* Unwavering ability to ensure content connects with customers

read the rest here 

new zealands volcanic raoul island comes online

May 25 2009 

The GeoNet team have just returned from Raoul Island where they installed two tsunami gauges, two seismograph sites, a GPS receiver and various volcano monitoring instruments, including a volcano webcam and remote lake level and temperature sensors.  READ MORE HERE


The view of Green Lake on Raoul Island from Mount Moumoukai. The webcam view of Green Lake on Raoul Island.Part of Blue Lake can be seen at the right of the picture, with the accommodation buildings at top right.

Raoul Island is part of the Kermadec Islands, 750 to 1,000 km north-north-east of New Zealand, and are of volcanic origin. They are uninhabited, except for Raoul Island where a team of Department of Conservation staff carry out weed control work and make meteorological observations. There are also many submarine volcanoes in this chain.

The last eruption on Raoul was on March 17, 2006 at about 8:20 in the morning, when without warning rocks and mud were ejected from the Green Lake area. Equipment on the island at the time showed the eruption continued for around 30 minutes. Satellite images taken after the eruption confirmed that the volcano belched 200 tonnes of sulphur dioxide during the eruption and in the following 5 hours. Tragically, a Department of Conservation employee was killed by this eruption.

The volcano monitoring equipment will improve the safety of personnel on the island as well as building up a long-term history of the characteristics of this volcano. Of most interest will be the webcam on Mount Moumoukai, showing a view towards the north-west encompassing Green and Blue Lakes. Unlike the more well-known New Zealand volcanoes, this will be a new sight for most people.

Raoul Island also adds a vital location into the global network of seismographs and GPS receivers, as well as its tsunami gauges confirming whether or not a tsunami may be en route to the New Zealand mainland. This long-planned mission is now complete and we look forward to the data collected by these instruments contributing a greater undertanding of New Zealand’s natural hazards.

GeoNet continuously monitors New Zealand’s active volcanoes.

Gas sampling from a fumarole on White Island.

Gas sampling from a fumarole on White Island.

GeoNet and Volcanoes

New Zealand’s active volcanoes include Raoul Island (in the Kermadec Islands), the Auckland Volcanic Field, the large caldera volcanoes of Taupo and Okataina, and the active cones of Taranaki/Egmont, Ruapehu, Tongariro-Ngauruhoe and White Island. Particular attention is paid to the frequently active volcanoes (Ruapehu, Tongariro-Ngauruhoe and White Island). Local, regional and central government authorities, plus the aviation and tourism industries, media and the public, need to know if there are any changes to the volcanoes’ behaviour. The overall activity is quantified by setting a Volcanic Alert Level from 0 to 5 for each volcano. Responding agencies in New Zealand are notified whenever the alert level changes, and they use it to determine the type and scope of their responses. Volcanic Alert Bulletins are issued whenever there is a significant change in volcanic activity in New Zealand.

Four areas of science are commonly used in studying the behaviour of a volcano: geology, geophysics, geochemistry and geodesy. Data from all disciplines are collected, analysed and cross-referenced, to help give an understanding of behaviour at the volcanoes and an insight to future eruptions.

The monitoring methods carried by GeoNet include visual observations, seismic monitoring, chemical analysis and ground deformation.

can you write a story in 75 words?

Are you a writer? Or want to be one?

Do you know about this website? How good are you at writing a  short story in one paragraph of seventy-five words.  Here’s a portion from their website


“SUBMIT YOUR PARAGRAPH TODAYThank you for being part of the ‘Paragraph Planet’ community. This site thrives on fresh input from people who embrace its spirit. Your paragraph could be about an object, a moment, be a genuine memory, or an extract from a longer piece of fiction. The choice is yours. What it does have to be isexactly 75 words long including the title. Please read the other guidelines below. If you want to ask any questions or offer feedback, then use the separate  page. For regular contributors who would like to publicise their writing, there is also a free Author Page. (For examples, see the ‘Authors’ page.) ”