Exploring Northwest Florida
Exploring Northwest Florida
As a journalist, I don’t find it easy to talk "About Me." I’m usually interviewing someone else and getting the facts. It would be romantic to say that I always wanted to be a writer, that I’d been inspired by the great authors of the ages and the power of the pen. I suppose there is a little truth in that, but mostly I just fell into writing as a career.
I started out as an English teacher, which is rather like being an editor and you get to use a red pen. That appealed to the demigod side of my personality, but not to the “I want to have people tell me how much they love me” side, which you don’t often hear as an English teacher.
So, when an opening at my local twice-weekly newspaper became available, I applied for the position and was hired. My job was to write a once-a-week gossip column. As the town voyeur, people would tell me all kinds of things, then check the paper to make sure I got it right.
Getting it right has always been the primary thing about me and my writing. I never state anything as fact unless I’ve double checked it. This became especially true when I moved from gossip to travel. With travel there are phone numbers, addresses, and these days, web addresses and Facebook URL’s. My first publisher, Brett Dufur with Pebble Publishing, always said check it, check it, then check it again.
The other thing about me is that I believe strongly that, as a travel writer, you actually have to go there. I never write about a place I haven’t been to, which is why all the photos you see that accompany my books and articles, and now my website, are taken by me or my wonderful husband and travel partner Nick. Way back in the gossip column days I got a 35mm Pentax and learned to shoot what I wanted. Digital has put me in seventh heaven with no film, no developing, and immediate upload, which is great for a website.
I wrote for the Plant City Courier for six years before moving to Destin in Northwest Florida. As a true, peninsula-bred Floridian I said, “Where?” The “Panhandle” was frontier Florida in the 1980’s, and in some spots still is, luckily. I continued to write for local newspapers and started branching out to regional magazines.
In the early 1990's, Nick, our three daughters, one dog, a rabbit, some gerbils, and I began a series of moves that took us to South Carolina, Missouri, North Carolina, Arkansas, North Carolina (again), and finally back to Northwest Florida. All this time I continued to write about the “fun things to do” wherever I was.
My first travel guide book was “99 Fun Things To Do in Columbia and Boone County” which I wrote while trying to survive the Missouri winters. Fun and Free Things became my trademark and I found there were always plenty of both no matter where I went. My greatest moment was when a high school kid came up to me at my author table at Earth Day and told me he was working his way through the book and was determined to visit all 99 of them. I found that I was still teaching after all.
Later I wrote “Carolina Wine Country The Complete Guide” and co-authored two editions of “North Carolina’s Southern Coast and Wilmington,” all the while continuing to write for magazines and newspapers. When we returned to the incomparable Northwest Florida gulf coast, I knew I had to write a guidebook for this amazing, and under discovered part of Florida. This is “old Florida,” far more Southern than South Florida, and with the most beautiful beaches and wildest natural areas in the Southeast USA. I soon realized that the travel guide of the 21st Century has a cyber presence, so here it is, "Exploring Northwest Florida, the Complete Guide." It’s about me and my travels, but it’s also about the great “fun things to do” in this part of Florida.
The one thing I’m learning about online publication is that you don’t wait until the manuscript is finished. You publish as you go, so this is an ongoing project. I’ll be adding pages, tinkering with the current ones (that is when Mr. Dufur isn’t in my head telling me to stop tinkering) and coming up with new ideas. I’m also open to suggestion, so if there is something I haven’t covered that you think I should, please contact me and tell me about it.
Meanwhile, I’ll keep traveling and writing as long as you keep reading and enjoying. The teacher in me thinks that when you write and tell me that you visited some place I told you about, whether in person or online, it’s my greatest joy. I like that better than red pens.