I’ve never met Anne Born in person. We met years ago online, when both of us were writing on a blogging site called The Red Room. Anne wrote a beautiful, spooky piece about looking for family graves in Ireland. I was thrilled to be able to reprint it on Cemetery Travel. You can check it out here.
Anne Born is an award-winning New York-based writer who has been writing stories and poetry since childhood. She blogs on The Backpack Press and Tumbleweed Pilgrim and her writing focuses on family and life in a big city after growing up in a small one. She is the author of A Marshmallow on the Bus, Prayer Beads on the Train, Waiting on a Platform, Turnstiles, and a contributor to the 2015 anthology, Love Her, Love Her Not: The Hillary Paradox, edited by Joanne Bamberger. She is also curator of The Late Orphan Project.
Anne is also a pilgrim on the Camino de Santiago. Her latest book is Buen Camino! Tips from an American Pilgrim, published by The Backpack Press in December 2017.
What inspired Buen Camino?
I’d been working on the book for about four years, off and on. I had the idea of writing about my experience walking the pilgrimage road, what it was like to become a pilgrim, what I had learned, but I couldn’t even get myself really interested in that spin. My spiritual journey? Nope. Too hippie for me – and I needed to write something that would be a book I would look at and buy. The solution actually came to me about a year ago while I was in Spain, on the very difficult Camino Primitivo, the original route to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela. I needed to give potential pilgrims the practical things I had learned. What good is it for me to learn how to do this if I can’t help other people? So it became tips. Tips for American pilgrims from a veteran American pilgrim. Well, and stories too because at heart, I am a storyteller. I figured it would make reading tips less dry.
What is your favorite scene in the book?
I have a very dear friend who lives in Spain. He writes wonderful, thorough, thoughtful travel guides to the various routes across Spain and he suggested I write a letter. A letter directed to my target audience of American pilgrims. So I added it last. It’s honest, it asks people not to be fearful about undertaking this adventure, and I tell people flat out why I wrote the book. I wrote the book I wished I’d had when I walked my first pilgrimage in 2009.
What was your writing process like as you wrote the book?
It was anguish and heartache and frustration – I guess like anything that’s worth doing. I would sketch out an outline and walk away from it for weeks. When I got back to it, I’d start in another notebook from scratch, never revisiting the one I’d done earlier. And I got nowhere fast. That’s really what took so long. I had this giant big huge idea of a book and couldn’t really get into the writing of it because I wanted to do it all. Then, I was having dinner with two friends up by Columbia University and I whined that I wasn’t getting any real writing done and the book was starting to languish. If only I had a place I could go, like a cabin in the woods out in the middle of bust-ass Pennsylvania or something. I wanted a place where I had nothing else to do but write – and my friend gave me her house for a weekend. I rented a car, drove to bust-ass, which is beautiful by the way, and I wrote 70% of the book over three days of nothing else to do. I sent a draft out to four readers a week later.
What was the best thing that happened during your promotion of the book?
I had never done travel writing of any kind before. I suppose it could be called my “Duh” moment, but it never occurred to me to do it. I have such tremendous respect for travel writers and I know some of the really good ones, so I never felt up to their level. Now I have this little guide and it really is geared toward the travel industry, meaning if you are planning to go to Spain to walk the Camino, this is the book you want to read. So I wrote to my friend who is a premier travel agent in Spain and I sent her a pdf of the book. She read it and wrote about it on her business website, she Tweeted about it, mentioned it on Facebook, and I was blown away.
I spent one whole Saturday night writing to a half-dozen more travel agents – all of whom offered tours of the camino or self-guided walk on the camino and I met some really lovely people – virtually – including one lovely woman who interviewed me and translated the English conversation into Spanish and then published them both. And when I was in Spain in April, I told the hotel I was staying at that I had mentioned them in the book as being “pilgrim-friendly” and they had a note on Facebook ten minutes later with a link to that Spanish interview. I never set out to advertise or promote to the travel industry, but the response I have gotten so far has been overwhelming.
What do you have planned next?
I am always writing poems and essays, journal entries, chronicles of life in the big city, but yes, I want to do more travel writing. I always like to write as if I am bringing you, the reader, along to the physical geographic place I am in right now. I love describing people and places so you, the reader, feel like you can see it too. I go lots of places by myself now that my children are grown and it’s a way to have some company. That’s my “Duh” moment. Why haven’t I been writing travel books all along? Well, I guess in many ways I have. Most of my work has been written on the subway or the NYC bus system.
Summary of Buen Camino: Tips from an American Pilgrim:
This is just the story of timid Anne from Niles, Michigan: a young girl who fell for the Camino, and the older lady who finally experienced it. The book is full of Camino de Santiago preparation essentials and the perfect companion to your walk! Not a guide book, no maps, not a step-by-step, no long-winded history — just lots of fun little stories and helpful tips from a veteran American pilgrim. Ideal for first-time pilgrims and anyone interested in traveling on The Way of Saint James. How to plan, where to stay, how to pack, what not to miss, and how to have a Buen Camino from the #littleoldladywalking!
You can get your own copy of the book here: https://amzn.to/2M2s2qS
Check out all of Anne’s books on her Amazon Author Page: https://amzn.to/2M3jzEe