A Conversation with Regina Winkle-Bryan

Regina Winkle-Bryan and Kristin, our assistant web editor, met over lunch–and a conversation about their shared love for Spain–at NATJA a few weeks ago. While they talked mostly about paella, Las Ramblas, and Spain’s fiery spirit, they also talked writing. In addition to freelance writing for a number of publications, Regina co-runs a terrific blog called The Spain Scoop, which is a must-see for anyone traveling to the Iberian Peninsula. Check out Regina’s personal website here!

How did you get your feet wet in the travel writing industry? What initially attracted you to the field?

Like most travel writers, I have always loved to travel. I lived in Monteverde, Costa Rica; Antigua, Guatemala and now live in Barcelona, Spain. I have a passion for travel abroad but also living abroad. Living in Barcelona gives me that expert, local viewpoint that is so handy in travel writing.

When I lived in Central America, funny and sometimes tragic events were happening around me all the time. I began writing about them in the form of short stories and sending them off to friends once a week. When I’d miss a week I’d get a few emails asking, ‘Hey, where’s the story?’ It was then that I had a sort of ‘Ah ha’ moment and began to take the whole thing more seriously. I also came in contact with many travel writers, hotel reviewers, and photographers working in PR in a small boutique hotel in Central America. These connections helped me find direction and put a face to the ‘unattainable perfect job’ that is travel journalism. ‘If they can do it, why can’t I?’ I naively thought.

Due to my hotel experience some of my first gigs were doing hotel reviews. I’ve also done a lot online and in blogging, which has helped be become a better writer (practice makes perfect) and become more web savvy. Which brings us to your next question…

Where do you see your career as a travel writer being three years from now? How will your income mix change and what are you doing to adapt to the changing media landscape?

I see it becoming even more multi media, or at least that’s what I am hoping for. While I am not the geek that I’d like to be, I am very interested in how we can use many medias to travel more easily, that is: podcasts, apps, social media, blogging, forums, video, etc. In the end, writing is about communication and there are many ways to communicate these days apart from print. It’s also pretty clear that the publishing world is changing, morphing, rearranging, and figuring itself out. I think writers who are able to wear many hats in this new publishing landscape will be more successful.

Knowing what you do now, if you were starting from scratch today to become established as a travel writer, what steps would you take to ensure success?

I’d probably ask for more advice from already established writers, do more with social media, and go to more conferences for writers, bloggers and travel professionals. Being in Spain, it’s been harder for me to attend conferences than it is for writers based in North America (I don’t write in Spanish). Conferences and workshops are an awesome way to learn, meet people in the same boat and improve your craft.

You and your fellow Scoopette, Nancy, co-edit the delightful blog, The Spain Scoop. How did you get started with that and what are some of your goals for the blog in the future?

Nancy and I met in a writers’ group in Barcelona. I am still in the group and it has been an incredibly useful resource for me. We both had a passion for Spain and wrote non-fiction, travel related stuff for the group so doing a blog together on the best of what Spain has to offer just made a lot of sense.

I had the idea for the blog and I asked Nancy to collaborate with me and lucky for me, she said yes. Honestly, we didn’t know what we were getting into. Neither one of us had that much professional WordPress experience and the learning curve was intense. However, we managed to figure it out and are proud to say that The Spain Scoop is moving into its third year!

Ideally, we’d like The Spain Scoop to feature many other Scoopettes in key destinations throughout Spain. We have just added a writer based in the south of Spain and are looking for someone in Madrid. The idea is that to have really excellent scoop, you need to live in the place you write about (or near it). Who knows? In the future there might even be a France Scoop, Italy Scoop, Scandinavia Scoop….we like to dream big.

As you’re a writer and a blogger, I’d love to hear your perspective on the idea that the blog is quickly replacing the bulky print guidebook as a primary source for trip-planning and information. What can a blog do that a traditional print guidebook can’t?

A blog can give you current, local information that a guide can’t because it’s not being updated constantly. This is the main difference. However, I do still think there’s a need for printed guides. Let me give you an example from a recent trip I took to Amsterdam. I went without a guide, but then bought a guide to art and architecture (very specific) when I got there. Wandering around, questions came up about how much to tip, whether or not the I Am Amsterdam city card was worth the price, and so on. I looked up these questions as they came up on Eurocheapo.com’s blog page (I blog for them on Barcelona, and know they work with locals) and got easy answers plus comments from travelers.

With a combo of a guide and up-to-date info from a blog a visitor can be very prepared. I also love that you can write a blogger and ask them a question, which is not as easy to do with a guidebook. Not all bloggers may be open to answering people, but I, for the most part, answer anyone who reaches out with a question on Barcelona or Spain.

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Regina Winkle-Bryan is a Barcelona-based freelance writer, translator and photographer, originally from Portland, Oregon. When not eating tapas and exploring Europe, she is tending her balcony veggie garden and practicing Catalan. She writes on all things Spain on The Spain Scoop. She has published in Adbusters, Afar, Azure, Islands, Spa, and many others. She co-writes and edits The Spain Scoop, a blog on all things Spain. She also blogs for Uptake, Eurocheapo, and Travel Hoppers. Two of her fiction short stories will be published this year.

Interview conducted in October, 2011 by Kristin Mock for Travel Writing 2.0 author Tim Leffel.

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