Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Selling Your Writing to Sailing Magazines: A Review

If there is one overwhelmingly popular way that would-be cruisers dream of filling the cruising kitty while underway, it is by writing. And why not? Ample time and a daily cocktail of equal parts adventure and inspiration provide plenty of fodder for stories. Not to mention the fact that the sea will often bring out the desire to wax poetic in a person. Sadly, writing doesn't always pay the bills...or, any bills for that matter. Not only is writing a famously meager way to make a living, but the cruising world is small and the publications that cater to us - and the audiences that read them - are limited.

BUT...all is not lost! There are many cruisers selling words and making decent money with their writing, and you can be one of them. The new book "Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and other niche mags)" is a step by step guide on how to, well... sell your writing to boating magazines. Turns out, there are tricks to successfully writing for niche publications and industry-proved ways to ensure your piece stands out in the crowd. While it is difficult to make a bonafide living by writing articles, published stories can be a fantastic way to drop coins (and sometimes many!) into the cruising kitty. You just need to know how.

"Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and other niche mags)" is your book. Author Micheal Robertson is not only a fellow live-aboard cruiser, but one of the people making a decent chunk of change with his writing, and has been for years. You might recognize his name among the authors of the fantastic book, >>>"Voyaging with Kids"<<< and he is regularly featured in the most popular sailing publications, so he knows what he is talking about when it comes to pitching magazines. His book is not only for sailors either, the tips and tricks can be applied to any niche publication. While his examples, contacts and anecdotes will be almost exclusively related to the sailing industry, they will be helpful to any writer try to break into the industry.

I obviously have a vested interest in this subject because, in time, I have big plans to ramp up my writing and (hopefully) make more money with it - so when he reached out to me for a review, I jumped at the chance...

The book is short, sweet and to the point. I read it in three days, so it is by no means overwhelming, which I loved. It assumes you know nothing about publishing, which makes it very easy for a layman to read. It's laid out in a very organized "step by step" way - from pitch to payment - any really demystifies the world of publication. "Selling Your Writing to the Boating Magazines (and other niche mags)" takes you through each and every step of the publishing process, he offers tips on how to make your piece stand out and how to forge good relationships with editors. In short, Michael lays out everything for you in a clean, easy to understand format. The only thing he doesn't do is write your piece for you.

Not convinced? Some other review snippets from very prominent cruisers and industry insiders:
“From now on when I get queries from sailors wanting to know how to get started as writers for the sailing press, I’ll recommend this book. It’s not just the book editors have been waiting for, it’s the book long awaited by every sailor who hopes to make a buck while pursuing his sailing dream.” —Karen Larson, Publisher of Good Old Boat
“Concise, useful and encouraging for any aspiring magazine writer, not just those in the sailing field.”—Lin Pardey, author of more than 400 magazine articles 
"Michael Robertson has done a great job composing a primer of practicalities for freelance writers. His clear advice is reinforced by having been widely published himself, allowing him to cite numerous useful examples from his own efforts."
—Tim Queeney, Editor of Ocean Navigator 
"If you’ve ever thought about sharing your passion by writing about what you love, you need this book. Michael Robertson has put together the ultimate toolkit for launching your freelancing dream." —Beth A. Leonard, freelancer, speaker, and author who supported herself for two decades writing from her boat
If you have dreams to sail off into the sunset and want to pen "freelance writer" in the occupation box on your customs forms, you need this book.

Who knows? You might even become the next >>>Fatty Goodlander<<<....

Happy writing!

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book free of charge in return for my honest review. The thoughts and opinions expressed in this article are my own.

Monday, August 22, 2016

From Cruiser to Expat: On Fernweh and Putting Down Roots Abroad

The incredible experience that lead to this photo would never had happened if I wasn't a local.
There was an internet meme going around a while back that defined the word "fernweh" (n) which is the German word for "farsickness". According to Wikipedia it means: wanderlust, a desire for travel, a longing for far-off places.  I, along with many of my cruising comrades, have this. I cannot say exactly where this "fernweh" in me came from, but I know I had it from a very young age and I suspect it had something to do with being born to pretty adventurous parents. Throw in a well cultivated love of reading (the very best way to travel if you can't actually do so), a thirst for all things "different", and - POOF! - there I was, a child who wanted to see the world and would stop at nothing to do so.

From comparatively exotic family vacations to places like Belize, and fairly regular trips to England to visit my British family - my youth was peppered with the excitement of travel. I was privileged and lucky to experience these things and my parents were sure to remind me of this. As I got older, I literally worked for no other reason that to save money for travel. At eighteen I backpacked around Europe for five weeks, and as I entered my twenties I spent a semester abroad in Rome, Italy. I traveled, solo, around Southeast Asia and South America and while my shoe-string journeys were full of all the adjectives one could use to describe travel (amazing, beautiful, awe-inspiring, eye opening...etc. etc.), I always left wanting more... Not more stamps on my passport or patches for my pack, but...more...something intangible and out of reach. I wanted to feel like I belonged in those places I visited. To sit at the cafe and laugh at the jokes the locals were laughing at. To know the intricacies, the stories, the histories and the true color of a place. I wanted to know about the widowed lady who ran the bakery and the grumpy man who sold the papers outside the flower shop. I didn't want to be a person merely passing through. I wanted to be a local. And a few days to a few weeks in a place just doesn't get you there.


No place in this world has held so much allure to me as East Africa. Growing up, I had read several books that were directly responsible for this blind love affair that began as an early teen, and in college (after reading several more books) I made up my mind that I was going to live there one day. I graduated from University and lived the boozed-up post collegiate city life and loved it. But Africa was always on my mind. After a few party-packed years of care-free fun and not much to show on my resume, I knew I needed a change. A nasty break up with a not so-great-(for me)-boyfriend seemed as good a catalyst as any, and I quit my lucrative yet dead-end waitressing job in the city and signed up for a three month volunteer stint in Tanzania.

I came back three years later.

This experience, way too rich and bohemian to describe in a single blog post, was my first experience as an expat.  It was the most incredible, storied, and adventuresome period of my life thus far and there is no way I would have had even a sliver of the experiences I had if I'd only visited for a few weeks.


Which brings us to now. We are expats. We've >>>put down roots here in the British Virgin Islands<<<. And while being an island-dwelling (live-aboard) expat and being a cruiser have quite a few similarities, this is a significant deviation from the suspected plot-line of our well documented story in which we had cast ourselves as roving sea gypsies.

While there are certainly aspects of cruising that I miss; the countless nights at anchor, the freedom of coming and going, seeing the sun rise on the ocean and the excitement of a new landfall - for me, being an expat is, in many ways, more fulfilling.

While we were cruising, we would only scratch the surface of a place. We'd visit a few beaches and towns near the anchorage. We'd visit a restaurant or two and maybe get friendly with a market vendor during our time, but knowing that we'd be leaving in a few day's or a few week's time meant our understanding of a place was always limited. Don't get me wrong, you can (and will!) have incredible cross-cultural experiences as a cruiser but they will be different to those you have as an expat. As an expat, we are certainly not acquiring as many passport stamps, but the experiences we are living have that much more depth.

So what do I love most about expatriate living?

Getting to Know A Place

For one, we have a car at our disposal which means getting off the beaten path and exploring farther afield is that much more feasible. We've lived here for about a year in total and we've only just begun to see what this place has to offer. Part of this slow learning curve is due to the fact that a busy work schedule and a gaggle of girls limits us significantly, but it's also due to the fact that it takes a long time to really get to know a place. We are now getting to know customs (for example, here you always say, "Good Morning" or "Good afternoon" when walking into a place of business or a store, not doing so is considered rude) and the inner-workings of island life (like how to deal with island time, the 'powers that be' and general island bureaucracy.) We still have a lot to learn, but time is an expats greatest teacher. In my experience, it takes at least six months to really sink your teeth into a place...

Cultural Diversity

While the "melting pot" of America is certainly diverse, where I grew up you would need to go to great lengths to not only see that diversity, but interact with it on a daily basis. If Isla was living in my hometown (which, I might add, is a wonderful place!), odds are she'd be in pre-school with no children of color, and seeing a rainbow of ethnicities would be reserved for trips to the city. Here, she is the minority. We interact every day with children and adults from all over the world, and - as a parent - this is very important to me, and a huge bonus of expatriate life.  We certainly got this perk from cruising as well, but instead of playing for a single afternoon, or sharing one single conversation or sundowner on the beach, we are forging more consistent relationships with people from all over the globe. Our girls have a steady group of little friends, which I think is important for them at this age.

Like Minded People

Expatriates, I learned first in my experience in Tanzania and am learning again here, are a different breed of folk. As with cruising, it takes a certain type of person to up and move from their homeland to somewhere foreign. Forming friendships with other expats is usually pretty easy - people who want to live abroad tend to be more open-minded, accepting, and cut from a similar cloth. We are all a dose of hedonist mixed with a pinch of crazy. While the expatriate community is transient, the coming and going of so many interesting people in your life can be very stimulating and inspiring. While the relationships you make might not be as longstanding as, say, a childhood friend, they carry a different kind of depth and connection that is equally fulfilling in a whole new way. Stronger relationships are forged in a shorter amount of time, which is the same with cruising, except with our fellow expat friends we're not saying "goodbye" nearly as much, which is a nice change.


As with cruising, living as an expat requires a good amount of adaptability. Things don't work like they do back home and island life takes more effort in general. You learn to get by with what's available or improvise. Because of the comparative lack of resources you will, in general, be much more inventive with what you do have. Furthermore, making an effort to integrate yourself into another culture, and not simply acting as an observer, will force you out of your comfort zone and show you the importance of being flexible, open-minded, and accepting.

Adventure Every Day

I've already written about the fact that >>>island life is not for everyone<<< and is by no means utopia. But if you are the kind of person who can find beauty in the mundane, laugh at the absurd, and stop and smell the roses, this life is full of excitement - it's all about your perspective. For example, one quick run into town as a family turned into a full morning out when we decided to take our car to the pop-up car wash. Sure, they took over an hour and a half to get our car cleaned, but instead of being annoyed, I chose to find the beauty in it. The car wash was basically a street party; loud speakers blasting music, friends washing cars while shaking their hips to the beat, and a giant water truck providing the means to was an event! I ended up doing a little photo shoot and it was so fun to embrace this experience as something we'd never have back home. Perspective.


While there was a time in my life I would scoff at the notion of stability, as a mom of three little ones, I embrace it. I love that our girls have a little consistency in their lives.  They love our "neighborhood" of Nanny Cay and the community we live in is a HUGE reason why we chose Tortola as home. We have wonderful friends and neighbors and a few days before we left a taxi driver told my mom, 'We love those kids. That family is very good to us and we watch after those girls. All of us here love them and look out for them." He then told her he was going to taxi us to the airport, for free, as a gift (turns out Scott got off work so he could take us, but still...) I nearly cried when I heard that. Aside from the sense of community, being in one place means we have some nice land-lubbing liberties that were not available to us when cruising... Very soon the girls will be going to a little preschool a couple days a week to give mommy a break and to give them a chance to experience a slice of life away from my hip (which, for the record, they've never been away from their entire lives!) I'm excited about this for all of us.


Do we miss cruising? Of course. It's an incredible lifestyle and one that we have plans to return to one day. But I love expat life just as much and in a different way. Luckily for us, we chose to live in one of the >>>most popular cruising destinations in the world<<<, so there are many similarities between the lifestyles and elements that still remain the same. Do I still suffer from fernweh? Yep. Do I long to travel freely and experience new and different places? For sure. Will we do everything in our power to show our girls as much of the world as we can? You betcha. But this period of our lives, the one where one day we will be able too look back and talk about the time we lived in the British Virgin Islands? It's pretty incredible too.
“What makes expat life so addictive is that every boring or mundane activity you experience at home (like grocery shopping, commuting to work or picking up the dry cleaning) is, when you move to a foreign country, suddenly transformed into an exciting adventure. Try finding peanut butter in a Japanese grocery story or explaining in broken Spanish to the Guatemalan pharmacy that you need cough drops and you’ll understand. When abroad, boredom, routine and ‘normal’ cease to exist. And all that’s left is the thrill and challenge of uncertainty.” 
 – Reannon Muth

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Flying Solo with Three Kids Under Four or: That time I felt Like a #BossMom

It's difficult to know the potential for utter mayhem and chaos that three small people (two of them being twins) can bring unless you have/had three small children and/or twins. We can go from zero to pandemonium in .02 seconds flat, I have three relationship dynamics to manage at any given time, and did I mention my twins are two? So when it was decided for me through the workings of fate that I would be flying, solo, with my three tots age four and under to my mom's for our annual visit, I began having heart palpitations.

Many people offered words of wisdom and travel suggestions to me via >>Facebook<<, but almost all advice from other parents with a similar adult-to-child scenario replied with, "WHAT!?! ARE YOU INSANE?" because, like I said, these people get it. They know. They have tasted defeat by way of child terrorists and know how physically, spiritually and mentally crushing it can be.

But I thrive on a good challenge and despite the fact that there was chance I could have sent my eldest home with my mom so I would only fly with the twins, I decided that - nope - I was going full Monty. It was all or nothing. Once I'd gotten it in my head that I was doing it, my commitment to the challenge of a full day traveling with my three girls took on an almost Olympic quality. One puddle-jumper plus one layover plus one Boeing 737 and over ten hours of travel door to door would equal the ultimate mom test. I went into it with the attitude of "GAME ON".


We've flown a lot with our girls, and had both >>good<< and >>traumatic<< experiences, so I knew - in a way - what to expect on both ends of the spectrum. The only difference was this time, I would not have an extra set of hands to help me from losing a child and/or my sanity. No biggie, right? (insert emoticon with wide eyes). "Deep breaths, stay cool, and think like a ninja" - this was the mantra playing in my head as I mentally prepared for the day.  And prepare I did.

I spent almost a week of sleepless nights visualizing the task at hand, chatting with my trusted advisors (my fellow mamma tribe) and making lists. The night before the flight I was up from 1am till dawn running through scenarios (and worrying my ass off) to be sure I had everything in line. This might seem like overkill and possibly a little dramatic, but it's how I gear up (cue: Rocky Music). Preparation is key to successful travel with young children and I know too well that all it takes is one epic diaper blow out, one kicking and screaming tantrum, or one projectile vomit to really ruin a day. As much as I wish I was kind of person who flies by the seat of her pants by slapping on some lipstick, throwing a few things into a bag and strutting out in the world with her head held high, I am not. I err toward "Type A", make an insane amount of lists and am anything but haphazard when in travel mode with kids in tow. I've learned the hard way that being unprepared does you no favors when your kids are as young and as close in age as mine are.


Yes, I was prepared for it all. Blowouts (extra diapers, wipes), tantrums (lollipops, gummy bears), puke spillage (extra clothes for kids, layers for me), boo-boos (bandaids, antiseptic wipes) and sleeplessness (hello, dramamine!). My carryon was loaded with entertainment, food, drink and meds. I was a modern day Mary Poppins and my bag was packed to provide. While I had absolutely envisioned the day going smoothly in several versions of my mental trial runs ("hope for the best, expect the worst", right?), I wasn't prepared for the day to go...well, almost perfectly.

Okay, "perfectly" is a stretch. Our two hour layover turned into a five hour layover (thank God for the $32 sky lounge!! Best. Money. Ever. Spent.) and there was that moment going through security where I was on the verge of a very unfortunate/desperate potty mishap that came dangerously close to disaster (tmi??) and although I dosed my kids with dramamine, none of them slept a wink until the final two hours of our travel day meaning I was ping ponging between defense and offense all. day. long...but despite these minor glitches, the day went as good as I could have possibly wished for.

There were many moments when things could have taken a turn for the worse, but we managed to stave them off with lollipops (thank God for the lollipops!), new toys, and straight-up bribery.  I did whatever I could to keep my little sleep deprived babes at bay and all 'rules' went out the window. Sure, they ate pure junk all day (high fructose corn syrup and sodium, anyone?). Yes, I was utterly exhausted by the end of it (fourteen hours of travel door to door and running on almost zero sleep, yeah!) And, yep, we were a full blown spectacle to anyone who paid any attention to us, particularly in the (very long) security line ("Are you traveling alone with those three little girls?!")...but, we made it. We were grimy, sticky and punch-drunk at the finish line, but we made it. I even got few high fives and some kudos along the way.

We've been incredibly lucky with our travel karma (thank you Universe!) and our girls always seem to win over some strategic people during our journeys. During this day, our karma presented itself as an airport security woman who let the girls and I leave the security line (and come back to our same spot) so I could do the afore-mentioned desperate run to the bathroom. It manifested itself in an extra seat for Isla (who was across the aisle), and provided us with two Puerto Rican teens who entertained the twins for over an hour during our four and a half hour flight. The icing on the cake was a sweet flight attendant who was so impressed with the girls that she comped me not one, but two mini bottles white wine. Catching a slight buzz at 35,000 feet never felt so good.


By hour three of our final flight my girls were sound asleep around me, their angelic faces softened by the dim sepia-toned lights of the plane, their little bodies sprawled along the seats...We were on the home stretch and I thought to myself "we made it." Gazing at my girls nestled around me, my heart bursting with love for them I could not have been more proud of their behavior. And as this combination of love and pride swelled up in my solar plexus somewhere over Georgia, I started crying. The pressure in me released and I silently cried tears of joy and thanks. We had made it, and while a lot of luck was on our side, the girls and I were an awesome team and at that moment, I thought I could tackle just about anything. I took a sip of my wine, adjusted myself in my seat, and lifted my head to the screen to enjoy the end of the in-flight film.


Traveling with kids is hard. Parenting is hard. Like Olympians, sometimes our work pays off, sometimes it falls short, and sometimes we simply get unlucky. We don't always get the gold, but when we do - we owe it to ourselves to celebrate. On this day I got the gold. I was a boss mom. My babies were boss babies. And I was grateful.

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