From Writer's Festival Attendee to Author
I was 21 and living in Sydney, Australia when I saw an advertisement for an event where my favorite writer would appear. I’d moved there partially for a guy, but also hoped it would launch my travel writing career. Instead, I was working as a bartender at the time, living in a shared apartment and spending my free time writing blog posts about my experiences living abroad.
The Sydney Writer’s Festival would be in a few weeks so I made sure I didn’t have to work that day and snagged tickets for me and my then boyfriend. The morning came and we took the train to Redfern station and walked to the Carriageworks buildings in Eveleigh. The panel was entitled “I Was There” and shared the stories of writers living in New York City during 9/11. Anthony Bourdain was there, joined by Michael Cunningham, Emma Forrest, James Gleick and moderator Lee Tulloch. A few weeks later the conversation would change when Osama bin Laden was captured and killed.
As I listened to them talk about that fateful day, I felt the inspiration rising in me. Being in the presence of greatness and talking about great books is like a drug. I get high off of words. From that May afternoon onward, I committed myself to this career that has as many highs as lows. To the self reliance and hustle required. I started leveraging my blog into freelance work, getting published by BBC Travel, Afar, National Geographic Traveler, and many others.
Six years later, I was contacted by a publisher interested in turning my website into a book. It became This Is My South: The Essential Travel Guide to the United States, a 60,000 word love letter to my home region. This fall, I’ll be speaking at the Decatur Book Festival, one of the nation’s most prestigious author events, this time as a professional writer. And it all began in a similar room on the other side of the world.