From a Single Cell to a Whole Lot More: Writing About Growth and Destruction

The ethics of exploration, plastic, plastic everywhere, and organic development

Hey everyone,

This week features larger narratives around life-and-death, the ethics of exploration, plastic, plastic everywhere, and the organic development of a climbing community.

There are also two pieces offering advice for pitching stories and, trying something new here, a log of my own pitches to shine some light into the process.

“Art is commensurate with the human spirit.” – Naturalist, John Burroughs

We all have a story to tell, how are you expressing your human spirit?

Opportunities

Travel writing in Croatia

Learn the fundamentals of travel writing for magazines and websites from professionals. Alex Crevar and Molly Harris are contributors to The New York TimesNational Geographic Travel, and Lonely Planet magazine.

$5,000 adventure grant

GearJunkies and NordicTrack are offering one lucky winner 5 grand to pursue a bike, hike/run, climb, or paddle trip.

What I’m Reading (& Watching)

A single cell become a complete organism

From Dutch director Jan van IJken, watch the alpine newt go from a single-celled zygote into the hatched larva.


What’s plastic doing to our bodies?

Plastic was once thought of as a long-lasting, coherent substance that didn’t make much difference to the environment outside of trash pile up. Now we know it continuously breaks down into microscopic pieces, with long-term consequences.

“A growing body of evidence suggests some chemicals commonly found in many plastics are associated with everything from breast and prostate cancer, to underdeveloped genitalia and low sperm count in men, to obesity.”


On facing the unexplored and the ethics of taking another step

Where Not to Travel in 2019, or Ever.

Kate Harris is a fantastic writer, who I only came across this week. I’ve been reading a bunch of her articles (they are all great) and am eager to start her book, Lands of Lost Borders: A Journey on the Silk Road.

“Chau’s escapade… was nothing more than a violation: he was just another person who believed that the world was his to do whatever he wanted in and with.”

Perhaps more headlines should have read: “Remote Community Faces Biological Terror Threat From U.S. Religious Extremist Killed by Local Authorities.”


How Miguel’s Pizza made the Red River Gorge

If you like climbing narratives that are not so much about climbing, this is an insightful peel-back-the-curtain style look at the history of Miguel’s Pizza, and the enigmatic man behind it all.

Miguel said, “Art becomes part of your ego… that got to me.” As Miguel recounted, the epiphany came when he drew a cartoon character lifting up the costume of an artist and getting inside. “You don’t need a costume to be a person; you just need to be yourself,” said Miguel. “I threw that outfit out and became who I am today: a pizza man.”

Photo source: The Walrus

Writing Advice

Advice from Nat Geo Editor at Large Norie Quintos

Norie offers tips on how, when and what to pitch:

“What’s the story? Why now? Where do you see it fitting in the outlet (what section or department)? And, why you? Stay pithy; aim for no more than a page.”

Also, something I’m probably under-appreciating:

“A rule of thumb: the earlier the better. A year ahead is not too early for a magazine feature story, nor a month ahead for a digital piece. And get to know the editorial cycle of your favorite outlets.”


A Freelance Writer’s Life: The Art of the Pitch

To the keen observer, you may recognize the author of this piece from the Opportunities section. Alex Crevar offers up his own tips for pitching from years of practice (and struggle).

“A writer must make an editor’s job easier. Full stop…

A salesman who hopes to earn a client knows who his client is; he knows what his client is looking for; and knows he must make the best pitch possible to sell his widget…

The simple question: why would an editor want to buy my widget over a similar widget being sold by Jane Doe?”

I take comfort in outlook #2. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

The Log: My Freelance Writing Journal

I’ve started keeping a training journal to track my progress towards some big mountain goals I have this year. I like the idea of opening up the process and also using a public forum for some semblance of accountability.

So I’m sharing what I did this past week for pitching stories and writing.

Pitches:

  • Pitched three stories. One feature, one newsy story (see below), and one series of posts that will turn into just a one-off piece (also, see below). This is the first time I’ve pitched a feature story idea.
  • One newsy story accepted for online publication in a climbing magazine. I was hoping to be able to do a longer-form interview, so I need to figure out what this will look like.
  • The one-off piece came about from clarifying how I wanted to write the series with the editor. The timing is off for a series, so the editor decided to simplify and do a self-contained piece that is still timely.
  • Two story ideas were rejected by an outdoor magazine and a climbing magazine (pitched weeks ago). One was about gear reviews which didn’t really fit their typical review model, so that makes sense. I didn’t get feedback on the other story.

Published:

Personal Blog:

What do you think? Is sharing a recap of pitches interesting to you?




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Out There / In Here, vol. 4

Feature photo source: Climbing Magazine

An Italian Sabbatical & On Using What You Have to Tell Stories

Also, how adventure is really a mindset

This week centers around stories from people who decided to write their own adventure story, often by dramatically shifting their life’s path. The characters overcame self-doubts, fear, and other objections to find joy and understanding. Also super helpful tips on the very first things to think about when you start writing.



Opportunities

The Italian Sabbatical

Live like a local in the small village of Grottole. Four people, three months, one authentic rural experience.

Live and Write in Thailand

The Content Castle offers free accommodation + 2 meals/ day in exchange for writing 7,500 words per week (for their marketing clients).




What I’m Reading (& Watching)

Onwards and upwards

An uplifting video on turning 35, and all the beauty that comes with growing with family, friends, and the pursuit of what moves you.


On how to use what you have for a story

AC Shilton shares her story of transition from an endurance athlete to a farmer, and how that changed her perception of her own body.

“After giving up competitive running, cycling, and triathlon, I bought a farm in Tennessee. I didn’t know at the time how challenging—and life-affirming—growing my own food would be.”

How can you use your own struggles and redemption to tell a story?

On transporting human waste down the Colorado River and doing what you love

Sometimes it’s not about the money.

“Last year, according to a nationwide survey of incomes across the U.S., I made less money than a part-time doughnut fryer in Maryland and a hospital clown in New York.”

Fantastic writing and an excellent piece to dissect for storytelling.

How adventure is really a mindset

Tim Moss shares his week-long hitch-hiking adventure on a £100 budget.

“Too often we restrict ourselves, hold back on our dreams or rein in our aspirations with the perceived constraints of the world – time, commitments, lack of expertise or knowledge, money.”

What excuses might you be telling yourself?

Adventure travel predictions for 2019 

When thinking about your places in the travel writing world, it’s helpful to understand the larger context. ATTA shared their list of trends to look for in the coming years:

“The United Nations World Tourism Organization recently reported there were 1.4 billion international tourist arrivals in 2018, a 6 percent increase over 2017, and the organization predicts there will be a 3-4 percent increase in 2019”

“In 2017, the Global Wellness Institute reported only 7 percent of all leisure travel consisted of primarily wellness-focused trips, and adventure travel operators have an opportunity to fill this niche.”




On Writing

Former Guardian science editor, letters editor, arts editor and literary editor Tim Radford shares his tips for writing. Wide ranging insight and immediately practical.

Some highlights:

1. When you sit down to write, there is only one important person in your life. This is someone you will never meet, called a reader.

3. So the first sentence you write will be the most important sentence in your life.

10. So here is a rule. A story will only ever say one big thing.

11. Here is an observation. Don’t even start writing till you have decided what the one big thing is going to be, and then say it to yourself in just one sentence. 




The Arts

Illustration by Pete Lloyd

Say what you will, but Kerouac is one of my favorite authors. These illustrations by Pete Lloyd are fantastic.


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Out There / In Here, vol. 3
Main photo source: airbnb

Travel Writing Scholarship, Climbing Grants, Epic Road Trips. Oh My.

And tips on pitching.

This week features a bunch of opportunities to fuel your next adventure (which make great stories, of course). There’s a fantastic feature on Bernd Heinrich, a leading naturalist, data about the economic might of climbers, and a charming little cartoon. Enjoy!



Opportunities

World Nomad’s 2019 Travel Writing Scholarship

aka a 14-day travel writing trip for “3 aspiring travel writers to go on assignment in Portugal and be mentored by professional travel writer and contributor to The New York Times, Tim Neville.” This looks like an incredible opportunity.

Also, be sure to read “The Art of Travel Writing”, a free travel writing how to by Tim, which I’ve found to be immensely useful.

Photo source: American Alpine Club


AAC’s Live Your Dream Grant

You don’t have to be a professional climber or pursuing a FA to win this climbing grant. All you need is a clear goal and the aim to level up your skills. Grants are awarded from $200-$1,000.

The purpose of this grant is to support and promote unforgettable experiences for climbers—to dream big, to grow, and to inspire others.


The Epic Road

Stay Wild magazine is offering to fund your next road trip. They are offering funds and goods to make your auto-powered jaunt a reality.




What I’m Reading

nature

A return to nature, your nature

Bernd Heinrich is a leading naturalist and one of history’s fastest ultramarathoners. Now 77, he’s settled in the backwoods of Maine with a wood stove and in his natural habitat.

The author writes, “We live in an age that affords little time and space for communing with nature. We’re busy. Our days are fragmented. But Bernd has dug in his heels against this collective drift. He has recognized where he wants to be in old age and settled in, with purpose. “ (emphasis added by newsletter curator)

“A naturalist,” he e-mailed me, “is one who still has the habit of trying to see the connections of how the world works. She does not go by say-so, by faith, or by theory. So we don’t get lost in harebrained dreams or computer programs taken for reality. We all want to be associated with something greater and more beautiful than ourselves, and nature is the ultimate.


Real artists have day jobs.

Because it’s hard to pay your way solely from your art. That’s the game we play. But it doesn’t mean you aren’t an artist, or that you can’t make art because you damn well want to. And who knows, maybe some day you will be able to live solely off your art.

“Real artists have day jobs, and night jobs, and afternoon jobs. Real artists make things other than art, and then they make time to make art because art is screaming to get out from inside them. Screaming, or begging, or gently whispering.”


Climbers are a major economic force

We know the outdoor industry is a contributing economic force to be reckoned. In 2016, the outdoor recreation economy contributed 2 percent ($373.7 billion!) of the entire U.S. Gross Domestic Product.

Climbers are making their impact in hyper-local areas around popular crags that normally wouldn’t get much traffic, like Chattanooga or the Red.

The economic-impact study found that visiting climbers (not including residents, whose spending is considered part of the regular economy) spent $6.96 million in Hamilton County during the 2015/16 fall and winter season…

These numbers put dollars made from climbers on par with revenue from major special events held in Chattanooga, another boon for area tourism. Held in late summer every year, Ironman Chattanooga brings in $10 million, with the race occurring in one weekend and many of the participants staying up to 10 days.




On Pitching Stories




For the Feel Goods




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Out There / In Here, vol. 2

Feature photo source: Outside Magazine

On Breaking into the World of Freelance Writing

Let’s kick it (off)

Hey everyone,

This is a weekly round-up of stories about adventure and reflection, action and meditation, awe and all the rest.

There is a mix of personal story, adventurous narratives, engrossing news, humor pieces, and poetry—all with the aim to inspire action and contemplation.

In the words of Kurt Hahn:

“There exists within everyone a grand passion, an outlandish thirst for adventure, a desire to live boldly and vividly through the journey of life.”

Go find it and live it.




What I’m Reading

“I don’t think you should ever have to tell anybody how good you are at anything.”

A fantastic-artistic video about Ned Feehally, who struggles with the self-promotional aspect of today’s media-driven landscape. He is one of a few climbers who have flashed V14.

Alas that is the world we live in. And to be frank, social prestige isn’t anything new. Of course, the paradox is that here he is as the main feature of the video.

“Under a Sheffield house lies a head high cellar featuring steep plywood and sculpted wooden holds. It is the training venue of Ned Feehally, climber and co-founder of Beastmaker. He is a member of an elite group of climbers to have flashed V14. This is a film about his mindset, motivations and what it takes to be one of the strongest climbers in the world.”




The selfishness of adventure?

“The idea that adventure is a good thing—that is a proposition that needs to be critically examined.

How do we know it’s a good thing?

I think it’s a good thing because it’s dictated my life.

I also recognize what it’s cost me and I don’t mean in just in terms of friends dying, but in aspects of my own character I never fully developed because adventure is ultimately selfish.” – David Roberts

(Emphasis by the newsletter curator)

This is a tension I grapple with. There are activities that you love to do, that make you feel the most alive. Inherently, these may be selfish acts.

The alternative is surely not to not pursue these. We are here to live, after all. I do believe we should all be so lucky to find things that make us sing for joy.

Perhaps the key is in the recognition of the selfishness, and then to actively welcome others into finding their own pursuits (worth being selfish over).




In Bosnia, a father’s grief swells into an antigovernment movement

In stark contrast to adventure writing, Davor Dragicevic is putting his life on the line for the sake of his deceased son. David, 21, was found dead in a creek last March, and the official explanation was that he had been “a drug addict and a thief, and had killed himself or been murdered by a criminal gang.”

Mr. Dragicevic didn’t buy it.

“He started a one-man protest movement that has grown into the largest antigovernment demonstration in Bosnia in decades.”

Davor is a Bosnian waiter in a cafe, not an adventure seeker.




In case you missed it: Pictures of the Super Blood Wolf Moon

“When the central part of the Earth’s shadow, called the umbra, covers the moon, the only light that reaches the lunar surface has been filtered through Earth’s atmosphere, which strips out the blue wavelengths and casts the moon in a red glow.”




On breaking into the world of freelance writing

This interview with Abigail Wise, the Online Editor for Outside Magazine, is jam-packed with advice. I’ve started implementing some of her tips in my own pitches (holler at me Climbing Magazine!).

It’s the freelancer’s job to get to really know the publication, know what we are looking for, and then bring an idea to me. A fresh idea.

The basics can be summarized as such:

What can a freelancer do to stand out from the pack, and to make themselves more useful to you? 

  1. A great pitch email
  2. Show me you read our publication
  3. Explain your story format
  4. Provide photographs




A fun idea: Take a surprise trip

You only learn about the destination 24 hours in advance.

“In their 2018 Travel Trends Report, Ford Motor Company found that 52 percent of U.S. travelers said they enjoy getting lost and spontaneously discovering hidden restaurants and shops to create unique memories when they travel.”

Pack Up and Go organizes everything for you, from accommodation to recommendations of what to do. It’s sort of like a spontaneous trip with bumper lanes. Go figure.

I once had a friend who would get drunk and buy himself plane tickets to random places. If you wanna have a go, Kayak makes it easy to find destinations you can afford. Though, I prefer skiplagged or skyscanner to find really good deals.




What would you do if you knew you would be blind by 40?

Emilia Wint faces just that dilemma. This is her turning point:

“In the fall of 2015 I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa… a degenerative retinal disorder. Imagine a vignette photograph with blurred edges. With RP, the edges of your vision gradually get fuzzier and fuzzier, slowly closing in and getting darker…

I’ve committed to spending my time with extreme intentionality. I structure my life around experiencing as much as I can and doing all the things now which I may not be able to do later.” – Emilia Wint

(Emphasis by the newsletter curator)

What’s the turning point in your life?




Other Bits

Events to get amped for:

  • Feb. 8-10: US National Toboggan Championships. “The tension of competition thickens the air. The smell of wax pierces your nose, as a complete set of Abominable Coneheads saunters by with their sled. It’s February in Camden, Maine, which can only mean one thing: the U.S. National Toboggan Championships, bitches!”
  • The Coolest Climbing Festivals in Europe to Get You Stoked for 2019. Need some inspiration for where to climb this year? I’ve organized a list of fun climbing festivals to help you sort it out.



Quotes:

“Even sweetness can scratch the throat, grandma said, so stir the sugar well.” – Ocean Vuong in “Notebook Fragments



Books I’m reading:

  • The Ascent of Nanda Devi: I believe we so far forgot ourselves as to shake hands on it by H.W. Tilman
  • Kurt Hahn’s Schools & Legacy by Martin Flavin




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Out There / In Here, vol. 1

Header image source: The Project Magazine