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Freelance Journalist Focus: Anna Downing

In today’s Focus interview with freelance travel writer Anna Downing, we hear about her upcoming trip to South America, voluntourism and Lolcats…

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
I run a blog called, which seeks out and shares places off the tourist trail, as well as advice, reviews and fun features that I write because I can. I also write destination guides for Holiday Autos –‘s car hire subsidiary, as well as other travel websites.

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done
I started my travel blog in June 2010, so that’s pretty exciting for me right now. It’s had interest from BBC Radio 5, who want me to appear on a discussion panel broadcast as a travel expert, which is very encouraging. Right now I’m looking forward to writing a regular blog column documenting my four-month adventure through South America, starting in January 2011.

In my years as a journalist my most amazing experience has been being handpicked to create from scratch a new magazine for Haymarket Network. Called Banter, it was full of pub chatter and snappy, tongue-in-cheek articles. It was a big hit with 14-year-olds but not so much with then Haymarket Chairman Michael Heseltine. I’ve since tried to launch it alone but had neither the time nor the resources to get it up and running. If anyone’s interested, Banter is ready and willing to be picked up again!

I kicked off my career interviewing celebs for a teen website, from Amy Winehouse to Take That, which was a pretty good start if I may say so myself. I’ve also written for Runner’s World magazine, which was a fantastic challenge, as you have to be very creative in coming up with new angles on what is understandably a somewhat narrow subject. I’m quite happy to turn my hand to anything.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
I’m planning a feature on volunteering, which I’ll be researching in South America. There are a lot of interesting aspects to the volunteering holiday phenomenon, the more controversial of which I intend to expose.

If I could write about absolutely anything it would be an in-depth feature comparing paradise islands around the world and their signature cocktails by spending an all-expenses-paid week on each one. All in the name of journalism.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Every week I have a different business idea, from a mobile cupcake van to a website that trades web design work for beer and cookies to a cafe-come-book club. If I wasn’t a journalist I’d like to think I would actually make one of my hundreds of silly (but fun) ideas a reality.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
I would use it to add another month on to my trip to South America. At the moment I’m doing lots of extra freelance writing and sub editing in the evenings after work for the benefit of travelling. The way I see it, every extra article I write or sub is an internal flight to Venezuela, a hotel upgrade in Costa Rica, a nice meal out in Argentina, an excursion into the Amazon. Why sit around watching The Apprentice (OK I still do that) when I could be working towards these things?

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
My favourite author is Lee Child; his protagonist Jack Reacher is my literary boyfriend who I like to curl up with every night. I’m also making my way through the hefty Lonely Planet Travel Photography Guide looking for tips. Magazine-wise, I pick up Shortlist just for Danny Wallace’s column, which for a while I tore out and kept, like a teenager with pictures of the Backstreet Boys from Smash Hits (which I also did when I was 14…). When it comes to blogs I’m a big fan of time-wasters – Lolcats, There, I Fixed It, Cake Wrecks, The Daily Mash, as well as travel blogs like Nomadic Matt and Where Is Jenny.

[lnk||_blank|Anna Downing on the Freelance Journalist Directory]

[img|jpg|Anna Downing]