TPM~ Is travel writing your full-time job?
JB~ No, but both writing and travel have been lifelong passions. I am a retired business owner.
TPM~ How long have you been writing?
JB~ I have been writing since fifth grade when I wrote the class play. In high school, I was the Feature Editor of the school paper. In the business world, I was published in many trade journals. I have been officially a travel and culture writer since 2014 when I attended an Ultimate Travel Writers Workshop in San Diego California.
TPM~ What and where was your first byline?
JB~ My first byline as a travel and culture writer was a product of a live exercise at the seminar mentioned above. I wrote a restaurant review on a local eatery I experienced on a lunch break. It was published in the print publication, Edible San Diego. The story, Café 21: Infusing San Diego Cuisine with Care and Creativity, was released a few months later.
TPM~ What and where was your last byline?
JB~ My last byline was an eight-page feature article, Dag Hammarskjöld’s Place in History, for the glossy, niche cultural magazine, Scandinavian Press. The story is about the unsolved mystery of UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld’suntimely death and possible assassination in the Belgian Congo in 1961.
TPM~ Where have you been published Print? Web?
JB~ For a year, I wrote restaurant and museum reviews for a North Dakota newspaper, Minot Daily News. Owned and operated by a national chain, the paper covers three Great Plains states plus Florida.
I wrote a full-page article, Six Things I Learned at the Mall of America—without shopping. Upon publication, Dan Jasper, the Vice President of Public Relations for the Mall of America, wrote to me: “I loved the article and appreciated it so much. In fact, I really like the fact that you didn’t focus on shopping – because that is what the vast majority of reporters do. This was a refreshing take on the Mall.”
I have written theater reviews for broadwayworld.com, and for my travel blog, JohnBechtelWriter. I have also ghostwritten memoirs and non-fiction books, the most recent of which is the book Malpractice, published in early 2017 and still selling.
TPM~ What destinations are on your ‘must-see’ list, and why?
JB~ South America; Argentina in particular. I have already spent more than a year there. It is a vast and diverse country with a fascinating history. I want to write an updated, boots-on-the-ground English-language cultural history of the entire country and its relations with its contiguous neighboring countries. I have spent many years traveling in Europe, and for me, South America is almost an undiscovered continent.
TPM~ Do you take photos or videos of your travels? If so, do you include them with stories?
JB~ Yes, to both videos and photos. Many of my photos have been published in print and online.
TPM~ What writer groups, associations, or networks do you belong to?
JB~ I have been a member of the Professional Writers Alliance since 2013.
I have a loose association with Great Escapes Publishing/International Living, the sponsors of the Ultimate Travel Writers Workshop. I was invited to their Success Panel at the 2015 workshop in Denver Colorado. See a video of my presentation HERE. (You will also see Thresa St James and Noreen Kompanik.)
TPM~ What advice would you give a new writer when it comes to queries?
JB~ Be humble, cast your nets far and wide, and take whatever you can get. Then develop a strategy to build on your base, find your passion, and specialize.
Nurture relationships every step of the way, especially with editors and publishers. You may be blessed with some lifetime friendships. I found the greatest joy in spending real time with the locals, experiencing their lives through their eyes rather than the tourist’s eyes, and appreciating both. I have a passion for human backstories. I’ve had the good fortune to have an editor and publisher who permitted me to indulge that passion and paid me well to boot.
About John Bechtel—During the last four years, John’s had 53 feature articles published by the chic print publication, Scandinavian Press, covering stories of Nordics in the Caribbean, South America, Eurasia, Canada, and Africa. Topics cover the fine arts, dance, music, architecture, authors and playwrights, cuisine, history, economics, and politics.