Authors share essays on women’s travel

BY MARISA WAY | MARCH 26, 2010 7:30 AM

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For Stephanie Elizondo Griest, travel writing has always been the job of her dreams — literally.

The author, who is a first-year student in the Nonfiction Writing Program, said she has several relatives whose travel stories she has heard since childhood.

“I grew up with the most extraordinary bedtime stories,” Griest said.

Griest, who edited the book Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010, will be reading from the piece at 4 p.m. on Sunday. The collection consists of 27 essays, all examining the adventures and voyages taken by various women travelers.

Kendra Greene, Marisa Handler, and Jen Percy will also be reading pieces that they contributed to Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010. Like Griest, these women all attend graduate school at the UI.

“It just so happens that Iowa has the best writers,” Griest said, laughing.

Like every travel experience — and the essay that follows — each women’s story about how she ended up getting work published in Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010 is unique. Kendra Greene, a second year student in the Nonfiction Writing Program, answered a request for submissions at the end of last summer. However, Jen Percy, who is in her third year with the Nonfiction writing program, said she was completely surprised that she was going to be in the book.

“A former colleague of mine in the Nonfiction Program sent my essay to the contest,” Percy wrote in an e-mail to the DI. “I didn’t even know he did it, and then I got a surprising but lovely call from the editor.”

Over 300 essays were submitted for Best Women’s Travel Writing 2010, Griest said. In addition to submissions, she pulled essays from all possible resources that she acquired over the last 10 years she has been travel writing. From this pool, Griest made her final selection at just under 30 essays for the collection. Despite the various cultures that are explored in the book, Griest said there is one quality that unifies all the essays in the piece.

“I feel that women travel the world in a different way,” Griest said. “I really came to realize that women see travel as a metaphor for life — they feel that if they haven’t traveled, they haven’t lived … I feel like there’s a great liberation that comes from reading women’s travel writing.”

For Greene, her passion for traveling definitely preceded her passion for writing. Her essay from Best Women’s Travel is about her time spent in South Korea, which she had initially planned to document through photographs.

“I found that I didn’t like taking pictures,” Greene said. “I couldn’t figure out what was OK and what wasn’t, so I started writing.”

Similar to Greene’s experience, Griest found that travel writing seemed to choose her, rather than the other way around.

“Writing is a vocation,” Griest said. “It’s like a call to the priesthood … those kind of things, they call you.”

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