PRESS PASS Newsletter

Volume 37, Issue 01, January 2019


A Publication of the International Food, Wine & Travel Writers
Association distributed to IFWTWA Members Only

All Rights Reserved

Volume Number 37
Issue Number 01
January 2019


In this issue...

Pitching 101

Q&A with Allen Cox, editor-in-chief of Northwest Travel Magazine & Life

Man taking written notes from iPhone

Q: What are the top three things you look for in a pitch from a writer?
A: 1) A smart and brief presentation of a topic and angle that is fresh (not over-published) and well-targeted to the publication.
2) Perfect mechanics, grammar, spelling, etc.
3) Platform and experience - why that writer is qualified to write the article.

Q: Do you prefer brevity or detail in pitches? What is the ideal word count or number of paragraphs?
A: I prefer brevity, but with enough detail to understand what will be included; for example, if pitching a round-up of 5 Under-the-Radar National Parks, I need to know which parks would be included and why. A two to three paragraph pitch is ideal: just enough space to introduce the topic with pertinent detail and a bit about the writer.

Q: What do you like to see in the subject line of a pitch?
A: ”Query" or "Pitch" with keywords indicating the topic for example: Pitch - Hiking the Rogue River Wilderness. I get a lot of emails to weed through, and that helps queries not get lost in the shuffle.

Q: What’s the most unique/creative lead you’ve seen from a writer that really grabbed your attention?
A: ”I'm writing today to suggest a story that stars beer-swilling Army members, a chainsaw-wielding lumberjack, and a century-old soccer field in downtown Portland, Oregon. No, it's not a YA author's fever dream. Rather, it describes the scene at Providence Park, whenever the Rose City's favorite soccer team—the Portland Timbers—take the field for another heated match."

Q: If you don’t respond to every pitch, how do you feel about a followup email (just 1)?
A: I rarely have time to respond to every pitch in a timely manner, so I encourage a follow-up nudge in 30 days. I have often assigned stories from follow-ups.

Q: Any other advice for writers sending pitches to editors - tips on previously published stories? Mention of photos? Bulleted format? Other credentials?
A: Yes, all of the above when applicable. If I haven't worked with a writer before, I appreciate links to a few clips, a website, stats on social media followers and likes, the availability of hi-res quality photos, association memberships, mention of other outlets they have written for and any previous publishing industry positions. Pitch format in a few paragraphs if ideal, and bullet points to isolate pertinent details are fine.

Pitching Tips:

From Irene Levine, More Time to Travel:

  1. Be as succinct as possible. Editors don’t have time to wade through long missives.
  2. Provide a link to your publications or online portfolio. Resist the urge to include attachments. If the clips you want to provide aren’t available online, offer to send them afterwards.
  3. Being able to provide high-quality images can enhance the attractiveness of a pitch. Let the editor know if you have them.
  4. Explain why you are the best (or one of the best people) to write this story. 
  5. If there is a news hook, offer it. Tell why your story is timely now. 
  6. Be sure to spell-check and review your grammar. Grammarly is a great free extension that will help you do that. 
  7. Make sure your pitch is being sent to the appropriate. This may require some research. 
  8. Be sure to mention that this is a Freelance Query in your subject line (along with the topic/a.

From Lisa Truesdale:

I think this pitch was successful because I kept the email short and sweet, because the subject matter was so directly related to the magazine’s readers, because the place I was writing about was brand new and hadn’t been covered before, and because I made it clear that it wasn’t going to be just about an amusement park.

I had carefully researched possible outlets for this, thinking that actual volunteer firefighters would get the most out of it, and this magazine for volunteer firefighters was the only one I pitched (although I normally recommend pitching multiple possible outlets). They responded almost immediately, and the story turned out great. In it, I showcased the feature of the new attraction that was most relevant to the magazine’s readers—beautiful framed displays of station patches from volunteer fire departments all over the country. Firefighters can bring the patches in person when they visit or mail them in, and I included info on how to do that. I later learned that submissions of patches increased twofold in the two months after the story was published.

From Diana Russler, The Winged Sandals:

My tip would be that before pitching, research the magazine carefully to make sure your article will be a good "fit." Read the writers' guidelines, and review the media kit to learn about the target audience. If you can, dissect articles in prior editions to glean information about preferred writing style, tone, etc. (For example, are the articles generally written in the first person or third person).

REAL pitches that worked:

From Lisa Truesdale:

Dear [Editor Name],

Silver Dollar City in Branson, Missouri, opened a new attraction earlier this year.

Here’s why that matters to readers of Backdraft Magazine: SDC's new Fireman’s Landing is a re-creation of an old-time volunteer firefighter recruitment fair, complete with interactive exploration zones related to the theme.

Amusement parks are fun, but volunteer firefighting is serious business. I think your readers might find it interesting to learn that their important work is being honored in this way.

I have been a full-time freelance writer for 25 years. I am headed to Branson next month on a media tour that includes a trip to Silver Dollar City. I would like to explore the new attraction, take photos, talk to a number of people who are visiting the attraction, and write an article about the experience for your magazine. I want to craft a thoughtful, respectful story about this, not a silly “let’s go to the amusement park” piece.

Thanks for your time; I look forward to hearing from you about this.

From Diana Russler:

RE: Query re article “Photographing India’s Ranthambore National Park

Dear xxxx,

I would like to submit a piece to Nature Photographer Magazine about photographing the wildlife in India’s Ranthambore National Park.

The article will be 1500-2000 words, describing four days photographing in Ranthambore at the end of the dry season. Once, this area was the royal hunting ground of the Maharajahs of Jaipur. Today, it is home to an abundance of wildlife.

Remnants of ancient Mughal structures, including the ruins of a hunting lodge, dot the 200 square mile park. In the summer heat, only a few waterholes and lakes remain, and these become the center of life in the park. Not only do they provide the animals with a source of water, but they are also used as baths by numerous species including the elusive Bengal tigers, which regularly submerge themselves to cool down.

In addition to the tigers and other mammals, over 270 bird species inhabit the park. Rose-ringed parrots court outside an opening in a tree; kingfishers swoop across the water into the trees. Look closely, and you might be able to photograph a tiny owlet staring back at you.

Ranthambore National Park provides unlimited photo opportunities for nature photographers. The article will detail how to photograph the wildlife, including the difficulties we overcome to capture images of the tigers. I believe it will be a good fit for the travel section of the summer edition of the magazine.

I have a variety of photographs of wildlife and landscapes taken with a DLSR camera to submit with the article and can provide a list of subjects for you to consider.

I look forward to hearing from you.

From Mira Temkin:

In August of 1619, “20 and odd Negroes” arrived at Old Point Comfort, the present day Fort Monroe in Hampton, VA. According to records, they were the first Africans to be forcibly settled as involuntary laborers in the new world of Colonial America, initiating the slave trade for Virginia’s tobacco crop.

Throughout next year, the 2019 Commemoration will take place in the Hampton area, including Fort Monroe and Jamestown as well as Richmond and many other communities in the Commonwealth. Several different organizations are working together to mark the event and promote Virginia as a leader in education, incorporating themes of democracy, diversity, and opportunity. They include:,, and the National Park Service.

I propose to write a story about the year-long events to generate awareness and engagement of 400th anniversary and the impact it had on the colonies, the nation, and the world. I visited Hampton recently and met with leaders in the organizations and will incorporate their thoughts and quotes throughout the article.

Some of the 2019 events include:

    • Virginia History Trails App
    • American Evolution Stories
    • Faith Journeys in the Black Experience Conference
    • Historic Jamestown – Democracy and Diversity
    • Art, cultural, dance performances

These untold stories need to be shared. I think this is an important event happening in Virginia your readers will want to know more about. Let me know of your interest. Thank you for your consideration.

More reading on pitching:

Marketplaces - Pitch yourself

by Kathleen Walls

Man & woman collaborating on a single laptopAs journalists, we know how to pitch. When we have a story to tell we know that pitching to an editor is the way to go. We need to remember when we attend a marketplace and meet with a DMO, we need to pitch a different product, ourselves. In the few minutes we have to speak with these reps, we need to let them know we are the best person to tell the story of their destination.

A lot of factors go into the impression we make. Will the DMO rep remember us favorably, not at all, or Heaven forbid, unfavorably? There are things to do to leave them with a favorable memory. Naturally, you want to present them with your card. It should list ways to reach you and tell a bit about what you write. A step farther would be to present them with a one-page media kit. Don't overburden them with a ton of printed clips and pages about you. Remember they have to carry all this back on a plane just like you. So do one page with pertinent information and links to previously published articles.

Remember to dress appropriately. Maybe you’re going to the beach later but a bikini with a wrap is not appropriate dress. Ripped jeans may be a popular fad but, especially to mature representatives you may meet, it just looks like you can’t mend your torn clothing. Remember this is business and dress business casual.

It's important to familiarize yourself with what the destination has to offer. If you write strictly wine, you are probably wasting everybody's time meeting with the Baseball Hall of Fame. Always leave some time to let them tell you what their destination offers. No matter how well you researched they know it better; that's their job. Never ever be rude no matter how inappropriate you feel their destination may be for your writing. Next week that same Baseball Hall of Fame may introduce a wine named for its top players. The wine writer who made a favorable impression may be the one invited on the next press trip.

You're spending time and money to attend these marketplaces so do it successfully and pitch your main product, yourself.

Through Len's Lens

by Judy & Len Garrison

Canon DSLR Camera with Peak Design stra

Nothing like starting the year off with new gear. In fact, I’m always looking for something that will make my life easier, especially when I’m on the move. 

Introducing Peak Design. I must admit, I’m a bag junkie, and I’m always looking for a better one. I have a great small one, but I need one with more room for extra lenses and even a laptop if needed. 

Peak Design Camera Strap


Len and I happened upon a pop-up Peak Design store during our recent trip to Amsterdam. One guy was trying out his new Polaroid camera outside and the other was sharing the newest in bags and straps inside. Of course, we stopped and looked and watched the demonstration. I loved the bags that came with packing and travel cubes, and the straps were sturdy without being stiff. Not completely sold on the idea, we left without spending money.

Peak Design Camera Strap


When we returned home, I did more research. After my short strap for my DSLR aggravated me to death during our trip, I knew I needed to return to a crossbody strap. Their crossbody styles fit the hefty DSLR as well as the lighter versions with simple anchor links making changes a breeze. The construction is durable and sleek. It’s really unlike anything we’ve seen before.

I ordered the slide as well as their everyday tote (currently on sale) which provides padded compartments for lenses or travel needs, whatever your preference.

If you’d like to know more, visit their website or email us your questions. This new design is a great addition to our photography camera gear for 2019. 

Story Opportunities for Writers

by Debbra Dunning Brouillette

Travel Pulse

Since 2002, TravelPlus ( has been delivering industry news, dynamic video content and important supplier and destination information that has allowed hundreds of thousands of travel agents to succeed. Now, with dedicated consumer content, TravelPulse is once again revolutionizing the way that travel content is consumed. TravelPulse is based at
 593 Rancocas Road,
 Westhampton, NJ 08060. Phone: 856-505-1400. If you're interested in writing for TravelPulse, please reach out to Eric Bowman at [email protected]


EuropeUpClose ( is a travel blog that focuses on European destinations for mature, affluent travelers who want to discover destinations independently through travel tips, hotel recommendations, and destination guides. EuropeUpClose was started in 2007 and has over 1800 published articles with tips and advice about traveling to Europe. Monthly page views: 143,000; Unique monthly visitors: 97,000; Newsletter: 600; Social Media: 44,000; DA: 47. Send your pitches to Greg: [email protected] 

Photo of the Month

by Judy & Len Garrison

Special moment seeing a local Bedouin showing how he makes cardamom coffee. This moment was shared by his very adorable and inquisitive daughter. This was just one of many cultural experiences guests can enjoy at the Feynan Ecolodge, Jordan.

Photo by Brigitte Hasbron

Congratulations to our January 2019 winner, Brigitte Hasbron, The Food Tease 

Thanks for all the great entries this month. Don’t forget to keep telling your stories visually!

Send your entries to us at [email protected] before January 15th for the February issue. Please include the location of the shot, what is happening within the shot, and any backstory needed that will inspire us.

Here's to a wonderful 2019!
Judy and Len Garrison, Seeing Southern

Excellence in Journalism -
the IFWTWA 2018 award goes to Kristin Henning!

by Allen Cox

IFWTWA Excellence in Journalism logo

Every year, IFWTWA regular members can submit their best work to the Excellence in Journalism Award competition. In 2018, there were several entries that proved IFWTWA members have what it takes to excel in the food-, wine- and travel-writing fields. But only one entry can rise to the top and receive the award. 

Kristin Henning is the winner of the 2018 Excellence in Journalism Award for her story Finding Your Rhythm on the Camino de Santiago published at Travel Past 50

Kristin Henning enjoying cake in Romania
“Finding Your Rhythm on the Camino de Santiago” virtually puts the reader on the road with Kristin. The story is not only rich in its descriptions of the experience but also explores the question of what might motivate one to take on the popular pilgrimage. The story goes beyond mere place to plumb the depths of what makes walking the Camino a transformative experience.

Kristin’s background includes a 30-year career in publishing. After she left that career, she and her husband set out on a journey to see the world. Walking Spain’s Camino de Santiago was one of their many adventures. Their website,, tells the stories of their travels. In addition to writing for her travel blog, Kristin is a freelance writer and a regular contributor to radio and podcasts.

Kristin’s award includes a $500 cash prize, an award certificate, and promotion via IFWTWA news, social media and website.

Please join us in congratulating Kristin on this achievement.

Member Recognitions

by Linda Kissam

It’s an honor to introduce you to our new members and to give recognition to members having anniversaries this month. We thank our new and anniversary members for including IFWTWA on their pathway to success. Your choice to work hard, think positive, network, and use your member benefits brings you to a whole new level of achievement. Way to go!


Brenda Hill
Maralyn Hill

Deborah Stone
Kathleen Walls

Julekha Dash
Aurelia Smeltz

* * * * *


Kristen Chidsey
A Mind "Full" Mom

Christina Kantzavelos

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