Branding Guyana: The Rise and Fall of Travel Writing

Posted in Clips, Travel, Travel Writers, Writing on August 28, 2014 by frankbures

Guyana Cover copyFrom Nowhere Magazine:

It was winter in Minnesota, and I was leaving the ice and snow behind. Everyone on our plane was giddy about this. In front of me, several women in sweatpants were heading south for weeklong cruises. They sang Beach Boys songs at the top of their lungs: “ARUBA, JAMAICA, OOOH I WANNA TAKE YA!!!” 

But I wasn’t going to Kokomo. I was flying to Guyana, a small, poor country on the northeast coast of South America. As I settled into my seat, the woman next to me turned to chat.

“So,” she said, “have you cruised before?” She was middle-aged, with a family of five in tow.

“No.” I said. “You?”

“We have,” she said. “We love it, and it’s super cheap! Hang on…” She turned to the window and snapped a picture of a baggage car. “Gotta put the vacation on Facebook! So what do you do?”

“I’m a writer,” I said.

“That’s neat. What do you write?”

“Some travel writing…and other things.”

“Oh, cool!” she gushed. “We love House Hunters International!”

10411991_10152666085686796_8321901077672506435_nI reached for the SkyMall. The engines roared and the white world fell away. Soon my seatmate and almost everyone else on the plane would get off in Florida to be whisked away for weeks of pampered drifting on the Caribbean. I would continue south. Guyana is a place, unlike Aruba or Jamaica, not on anyone’s list of dream destinations. A few months earlier, I’d gotten an email asking if I wanted to visit. The note was from a company contracting development work from USAID. One of its projects was to rebrand the tiny, corrupt nation and promote ecotourism. I knew the catch.

Read the rest here.

The Life and Death of Malls: From Victor Gruen to Karmel Square

Posted in America, Art, Clips, Culture on August 25, 2014 by frankbures

moa_mainFrom Thirty Two:

Sometime around 1999, a property developer named Basim Sabri was sitting on a bucket in a building he’d just bought off Lake Street in Minneapolis. For twenty years, the place had sat abandoned and rotting. Now he was trying to fix it up, even though he had no idea what he was going to do with it. Then in walked two guys.

“One of them had a very pleasant face,” Sabri recalls. “He said, ‘Will you guys have a coffee shop here?’ And I said, ‘Sure!’

I asked where they were from and he says, ‘Somalia, and there are so many of us coming.’”

The man only had a couple thousand dollars saved up, but Sabri helped him out and soon, as he tells it, half the Somalis in town were coming over asking for a spot. Sabri, who grew up in the Palestinian Territories, had traveled the world and he loved open-air bazaars. So he decided to recreate a bazaar inside the building. As soon as he did, the building was full.

Issue_5The venture was so successful that Sabri built another entire building next door as an expanded Somali mall called Karmel Square. Today it is the biggest of several Somali malls in town with 175 businesses, including shops, restaurants, grocery stores, a mosque, a learning center, day care, and more. It is, for many of those who visit, a piece of Somalia, salvaged from memories and reborn in an old building. It has zero vacancy.

Read the rest here.

In Praise of the Wild Child

Posted in America, Clips, Parenting, Science, Travel on July 29, 2014 by frankbures

mm0814_TrueNorth4BFrom Minnesota Monthly:

When I was 5 years old, I wanted more than anything to go camping, to be out in the woods, running, climbing, exploring. But we didn’t own a single piece of camping gear, and my dad was, let’s just say, not much of an outdoorsman. He came from Iowa, where forests didn’t really exist. As a boy, he joined the Boy Scouts and went to a nearby lake with his troop, where they were supposed to cook food “like the Indians did,” buried underground with hot coals. His potato came out black and hard on the outside yet somehow raw on the inside. So he went to bed hungry, tossed around all night on the hard ground, got eaten by mosquitoes, and vowed never to set foot (or at least sleep) in the woods again.

But I begged and begged, until finally some uncles invited us to go camping with them, and my father grudgingly agreed. At a garage sale down the street, we found an old canvas World War II tent and some worn cotton sleeping bags. With these, we headed into the wild.

phpThumbWe met the others on the banks of the St. Croix River. My uncles came hauling a new, shiny pop-up camper that looked like the Taj Mahal on wheels. My dad looked around, picked a spot at random, and set up our tent. That night, we tied the flaps shut and drifted off to the buzz of mosquitoes in our ears. Some hours later, I woke up to the sound of my dad splashing around and swearing, having discovered too late that he’d put our tent (more or less) in a dry creek bed. Water was flowing through the middle of our sleeping area, and we spent the rest of the night shivering on the car seats. I realize now that he did all this not because he loved nature, but because he loved me.

Read the rest here.

Women, Words and the Future of Magazines

Posted in America, Writing on July 11, 2014 by frankbures

TheRiveterMagazine.CoverSMFrom MinnPost:

In March of 2013, Joanna Demkiewicz and Kaylen Ralph were sitting in a classroom at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia, listening to a panel discussion, when they got a strong sense of déjà vu. The panel was for a new book being published called Next Wave, which featured “America’s New Generation of Great Literary Journalists.” There were 19 stories in all, but only three were by women. On stage in front of them were five writers, all men. Finally someone asked, “Why are there only three women in your anthology?” The publisher, Mike Sager said they had their criteria — the writers had to be born between certain dates, and that it had proved really hard to find women who fit for the collection.

Demkiewicz and Ralph both thought back to the previous year, when not a single woman was nominated for a National Magazine Award in writing. They immediately started texting each other and later that day launched The Riveter online, which they imagined as a female version of Esquire: A magazine full of smart, compelling stories by women that appealed to all readers. The first print issue came out last summer. The second — bigger and better yet — was just released.

Read the rest here.

Lé Lé Oh Brasil!

Posted in Calcio, Video on July 7, 2014 by frankbures

Upcoming Class: Telling True Stories: The Art of Narrative Nonfiction

Posted in Events, Teaching on June 19, 2014 by frankbures

imagesFor those who want to expand their writing craft in all genres of narrative nonfiction–longform and shortform–I’m teaching an online class this fall that will cover essays, profiles, travel, features and more. Use the Early Bird Promo Code EBFA1434 by August 22, 2014 to get $20 off. Here’s the copy from the catalog:

To be a successful nonfiction writer today, it’s not enough know how to type, blog or tweet, or even how to cobble an article together. To write powerfully in today’s media environment, you need to be able to tell a great story. In this class, we’ll look at the evolution of narrative nonfiction beginning with the New Journalism. We’ll review some of the master nonfiction writers and study their techniques to write more compelling nonfiction stories. We will examine and practice different genres of narrative nonfiction, including profiles, essays, travelogues and features. And finally, we will review how to pitch and sell your stories.

More info here.

Riding the Kingdom of Bicycles

Posted in Asia, Clips, Travel on June 16, 2014 by frankbures

BikingHainanFrom the Financial Times:

High in the mountains of China’s southernmost province – the island of Hainan – I walk into a long room full of bikes. They’re a far cry from the lumbering machines that once led to China becoming known as the “kingdom of bicycles”.

These are a new breed: mountain bikes and road bikes, all made of high-end carbon fibre. They are light and fast and not one of them has a rack for carrying sacks of rice. These bikes are built for speed, for the joy of riding and nothing else. They are a sign of all that has changed in China.

“Those were good bikes,” says Frank Ji, when I ask him about the old ones. “They would go and go and go but nobody buys them any more.” Ji is owner of Velo China, a bike rental and touring company based in Wuzhishan, and has agreed to show me why Hainan, the so-called “Hawaii of the east”, has become a magnet for cyclists.

Read the rest here.

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