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Freelance journalist Focus interview with Helen Werin

Professional travel writer Helen Werin talks about her work, from getting feature ideas from the postwoman to caring for her motorhome, Roly. PRs interested in working more effectively with freelance travel journalists can pick up tips in this week’s FeaturesExec Freelance Focus interview.

About your journalism:

What do you write about?
Mostly in-depth touring features on specific areas of the UK and Northern Europe. Although I am probably the only professional travel writer using a motorhome for a lot of my work, my articles are of interest to everyone, regardless of how they travel. My trips spawn many spin-off articles, from hobby, gourmand or family interest to ‘long weekend’ features.

Having said that, I am not averse to a little ‘luxury’ and also write ‘short break’ features from the comfort of a hotel, chalet or even a boat.

Where are we likely to see your work?
Camping and Caravanning Club Magazine, Motorcaravan Motorhome Monthly (MMM), Oxford Mail, Derby Daily Telegraph, Midlands Regional Newspaper titles…

What’s the most memorable work you’ve done?
Covering a three-way channel swim in the small support boat. I spent most of the trip trying desperately – and spectacularly unsuccessfully¬ – not to be sick.

What interview or feature would you love the chance to do?
My family emigrated to New Zealand when I was a child, but it didn’t work out. I loved New Zealand and the exciting ports of call like Cape Town and Tahiti, as well as all the adventure on board the ship. I have loads of memories and memorabilia and would love to do a retrospective feature from my childhood viewpoint.

About you and PRs:

Where do you source ideas for articles?
I work closely with PRs from regional tourist boards, but also take inspiration from simply looking at maps and wondering “what’s that like?” – a legacy of my childhood where I loved poring over atlases. I also talk to everyone I meet about where they’ve been. People love to tell you about their travels and the quirky things that happened to them. In fact, it was our postwoman who gave me some great ideas for a recent Northern Ireland trip.

How can PRs be useful to you?
By being thoroughly knowledgeable about their destination. It’s not hard to tell the difference between forced enthusiasm and a real love of the place – it’s the latter which ‘sells’ me an idea.

How and when do you like them to get in touch?
Between September and Christmas is when I start deciding on where I am going to go for my major touring trips the following year. For shorter trips any time is fine and email is ideal. I don’t use a mobile phone as I am often on a lonely camp site or in a hilly area where reception is poor..

Do you find press conferences, trips, parties and other events useful or an interruption?
Of course it’s good to network; unfortunately I just don’t have the time to go to the conferences and other events I get invited to. I do go on quite a few press trips every year. I also find these trips a good way to catch up with what other travel writers have been doing.

If you could make one change to the way PRs deal with you, what would it be?
To understand my need to be flexible. I don’t do set itineraries. I like to go at my own pace so I can really get to the heart of a place. Working a lot of the time with my partner, well known landscape photographer Robin Weaver ( also underlines the need to stay flexible, mostly because of the weather.

About you:

How would you pay the bills if you weren’t a journalist?
Chief tripod carrier to Robin. I don’t know if he’d pay me very well though.

If we gave you £1000, how would you spend it?
Earlier this year I spent £2,000 on a damp problem in ‘Roly’, my motorhome. Then we went to Devon for a feature for Camping and Caravanning Club Magazine and the rain was so heavy that it poured in through a dodgy locker seal and we were literally bailing out water. So, never-ending repairs on Roly, I suppose.

What books are on your bedside table, magazines in your bag, or blogs on your screen?
I’ve only just picked up In My Wildest Dreams, Leslie Thomas’ autobiography. He’s from Newport, Monmouthshire, my home town, which I haven’t visited in many years. I’m about to read it because one of my upcoming commissions is actually on Newport. I have just finished Stephen King’s Cell and am glad, that like him, I don’t own a mobile phone.

[img|jpg|Helen Werin]
[lnk||_blank|Helen Werin on the Freelance Journalist Directory]