Hello - I'm Bianca Dumas.
One year my husband and I lived on a sailboat. She was a little sloop-rigged beauty named Jackalope, and she was completely analog. That means we had minimal electricity, no refrigeration, no heater nor air conditioning, and only the most basic of water closets. That is, our water closet had no running water. Baths and cold beer had to be found onshore.
We spent the winter season in Florida. One night, we anchored off Siesta Key in a little alcove near the town’s most happening waterfront restaurant. When the sun came up, we paddled our dinghy to the town dock and walked up the hill for groceries. As we came back to the dock with our backpacks full of supplies, a woman stopped and asked us if we were sailboat cruisers. She said she figured that we were either cruisers or that we were homeless, and based on the bathing situation, I believe there’s very little difference between the two.
We all laughed because she herself had been a sailboat cruiser for ten years, and had sailed to many parts of the world, so she’d been in the same boat, so to speak. It turned out that she was an editor for Cruising World magazine, and she invited me to put together a short article about cruising in a small sailboat through Florida (as opposed to cruising in a large, luxurious sailboat, which is the norm.) That ran in the May 2022 issue.
After that, she invited me to turn in a bigger story about our entire yearlong trip. I wrote that when we got home, and the story made the June 2023 Cruising World cover (Big Loop, Small Boat).
I really enjoyed writing these articles, and I thought that an opportunity had fallen in my lap, if only I knew how to take advantage of it.
I’d done some freelance writing long before. That was before I had kids, before I started homeschooling them, and before we took them traveling full-time (in an RV, not in a sailboat). In the “before,” I’d sold a handful of stories to regional magazines, so I was familiar with the process of querying and writing on deadline. The problem was that I’d queried those magazines exactly the way you read about in Writer’s Market: craft a specialized letter for one magazine, send it out (by mail), and wait three months for a reply. It was slow going, and I admit I felt disheartened at the idea of starting over from scratch.
But then I found Roy Stevenson. He’d come up with a new, faster way to pitch magazines, one that would help me hopscotch up from Square One. There was only one thing to do, I thought. Pay for an education. I hired Roy.
And then I threw in the caveat. Here he is, one of the U.S.’s most published travel writers, and I told him that I wanted to freelance, that I wanted to learn to pitch his way, but that I don’t want to travel anymore. I was echoing the sentiments of our daughter who, after almost ten years of full-time travel around the U.S. said, “I’m practically done with once-in-a-lifetime experiences.” I simply wanted to stay home and write everything down, and I wondered if Roy could help me do that.
I shouldn’t have wondered. He was quick to respond. He was friendly, energetic, and didn’t mind receiving 3.73 x 10(5) emails a day.
I pitched a personal narrative about my first overnight Gulf crossing on the sailboat, and it got picked up by Good Old Boat. Then, because I live in a small town known for its fine artists and many galleries, I pitched a story about Michelle Condrat, a regional landscape painter. This was picked up by Artists and Illustrators, a UK magazine with a monthly circulation of about 60,000.
Next, I pitched a story about a potter I know who makes replica Ancestral Puebloan pottery. It was a great pitch, but this was my first disappointment. While I got a good response from the editor of American Archaeology, she put me off for a month. When she finally got back to me, she’d decided that they had run enough articles on Ancestral Puebloans for the coming year and recommended that I try my pitch elsewhere. Of course, the market for stories about Ancestral Puebloan potters is small, and I shelved the idea.
The ups and downs came. I got an article about work camping at the Indianapolis 500 picked up by Escapees, only to have the editor of a New Mexico magazine completely ignore me after accepting an article about a deceased Navajo painter.
It was invaluable being able to personally communicate with Roy through these ups and downs. He explained how editors think, told me when to pursue them and when to let them go. He has edited every pitch and been willing to answer every question.
In six months of working with Roy, I have had 12 articles published or firmly slated for publication. These include stories about RV travel, sailing, breweries, and fine art painters. The most time-consuming article was a piece of investigative reporting about changes to the alcohol control board in Utah. The publication most dear to my heart was a personal essay about our family’s favorite cookbook that’s scheduled to run in a literary magazine called Oh Reader.
Of course, getting paid in freelance writing is what I call the “long funnel.” I’ve got articles out there, written in April, that won’t be published until October, and won’t be paid until after that. So for this year, my expenses will be greater than my income. But at least I won’t have to pay taxes.
But I’m also learning to cultivate the perks that Roy promotes. I took my first press trip to nearby Salt Lake City, where I had three assignments. The chamber provided a boutique hotel, Uber rides, and restaurant gift cards. Because I wrote the investigative piece, I got invited to an all-expenses-paid Influencer’s Night at a new kombucha bar and was assigned to cover the place for the same magazine’s upcoming beer issue.
I’ve organized another press trip to Santa Fe, where our daughter goes to school. I have to bring her back for her senior year this fall, but rather than pay for our food and lodging, we’ll have three nights comped — and at a much fancier place than I’d have reserved. That’s because I’ve got three assignments lined up to cover fine art, a brewery, and a tourist activity.
This isn’t bucket-list travel. It’s practical, required travel, and I figure I should make the best of it. If I have to go to Santa Fe, why not try to get my expenses covered? I may only be getting paid a few hundred dollars for the articles, but that’s gas money. Getting a free trip for a necessary excursion is like making money, and it’s fun to stay in fancier hotels, eat at new places, and visit a few tourist spots I’d otherwise miss.
I’m hoping to comp our trip to our daughter’s graduation by getting more Santa Fe assignments in the spring. And our son will be in Salt Lake City for the coming ski season. I love to ski and have pitched stories that will save us money on those downhill days.
So while I hope to spend the bulk of my time writing at the kitchen table, I’m appreciative of all the skills I’ve learned from working with Roy. I enjoy every day I get to spend writing, and the consistency does more for my creativity than anything else; a result is that I do a lot more personal writing. Pitching that kind of thing often works backwards, as sometimes I write something based on inspiration and then write up a query letter to sell the completed essay. But that works, too, and it gives me a thrill to get my creative writing published along with travel roundups and brewery reviews.
My goal is to keep writing, keep pitching, and to keep enjoying myself. And to get a few more payments into that long funnel.
POSTSCRIPT: Here's an update on Bianca's upcoming publications as of October 2023
A lot of this year’s work is still unpublished.
I have articles in production with the following magazines: Escapees (3
articles), Porch Drinking (3 articles), SLC Weekly (2 articles),
Britain (1 article), Famly RVing (2 articles), Utah Stories (2
articles), ROVA (1 article), Business Jet Traveler (1 article),
Montana Living (1 article), Fall Line Skiing (1 article), Cross Country
Skier (1 article).
Bianca’s writing portfolio on her Facebook page here. It has her early assignments & some of her more recent articles:
And, here’s a link to Bianca’s beautifully written, informative story about cruising the Big Loop in prestigious Cruising World Magazine, June 2023. Her story starts on page 38
Roy Stevenson is a professional travel writer and the author of www.PitchTravelWrite.com. Over the past ten years, he’s had more than 1000 articles published in 200 magazines, trade and specialty journals, in-flights, on-boards, blogs and websites and has traveled on assignment around the U.S. and to dozens of international destinations.