Lori Henry got her start as a travel writer by chance. Originally a film actor with a background in acting, she began picking up the odd freelancing gig to help cover the rent between auditions. The writing began to take off, while the acting wasn’t moving as fast, and within three years, she’d transitioned to writing part-time, and then finally to writing full-time, eventually leaving her acting agency to focus on her freelancing career. She’s now been writing for almost ten years, and finds that sometimes “you just have to go with the flow.”
Lori thinks that it was probably her curiosity that made freelance writing such an attractive career choice. “If I would hear of a story or something going on in the city, or I had a question about life, I found that being a freelancer, it was our job to go in and investigate and research and come up with some sort of an answer.” She likes being the one to come up with the questions, and finds that she always has new questions to ask. “That never gets boring; it never gets old. We can ask questions forever. So it’s that curiosity to always find out the answer, which keeps me doing the freelance work.” She also enjoys the greater flexibility that freelancing affords her, which allows her more freedom in lifestyle. On the other hand, the uncertainty of not knowing when the next paycheque might be coming in can sometimes prove a challenge.
Her main focus is on travel writing, but she also covers lifestyle events, like hockey, dance and dining, in her hometown of Vancouver. One of her favourite jobs was working as the Vancouver City Specialist for WestJet’s Up! magazine, which gave her a chance to stay home and explore the city.
She says that it’s essential, especially for a travel writer, to maintain balance in her life, and she finds that local articles can help balance out the more exotic ones, allowing her to remain connected to the people at home. “If you’re travelling a lot as a writer, and there’s life on the road and life at home, it’s really easy to get used to going away and having all these different trips or different ways of travelling. But the balance is really important because it’s really easy to get burnt out.”
To those just starting out, she advises, “know what you’re getting into.” Pitching story ideas is a vital part of freelance writing. She recommends spending some time learning to draft query letters and researching publications, because it’s important to make sure each pitch idea perfectly suits the magazine that you’re approaching. She also finds it important to have a good organizational system for tracking pitches, so that she can easily note the status that each pitch is in, and what responses she’s received from various publications.
She recommends finding tools of the trade that fit the situation and the specific type of writing being done. For instance, she used to carry around a big DSLR camera but discovered that, travelling so much, a smaller point-and-shoot camera was much more practical, and has in fact, become a lifeline for her. She uses it not only for taking photographs, but also to record videos and photographs as reminders to herself, as part of her note-taking system.
You can learn more about Lori on her website. She has also recently published a new book, Dancing Through History: In Search of the Stories that Define Canada, which is available in both traditional and eBook format.