Margaret Montet joins The Spotlight this week to discuss her book of travel essays, Nerd Traveler
Author Name: Margaret Montet
Book Title: Nerd Traveler
Book Genre: Nonfiction; travel essays
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Publisher: Read Furiously
Welcome, Margaret! Please tell us about Nerd Traveler.
“A perfect voyage of mindful traveling for explorers of all ages. Nerd Traveler asks us to pack a bag and consider ‘what if?'” (My publisher wrote that and I really like it: mindful traveling!)
What sparked the idea for this book?
I noticed, especially in group-travel situations, that I had done a lot more research and planning than other travelers. I read books about the destination. I learned some phrases and words if the language spoken was not my own. Sometimes, fellow travelers would even make fun of me. Even though we know they were just jealous, I decided to embrace my nerdiness rather than make excuses. That’s how Nerd Traveler was born!
How long did it take for you to write it? What was the research like?
The collection of essays took me a little over two years to write. It was my thesis for my MFA in creative writing program which itself included travel, so I had a firm deadline. I loved doing research about all of the interesting locations I traveled to during that period, especially the art, music, and literature of the place. I found so much of it compelling, but I couldn’t use it all! I had to be selective and this helped me develop my revision skills.
What drew you to travel writing?
I’ve always enjoyed writing nonfiction, especially nonfiction that includes research. I had been writing travel articles (what to see/what to eat/where to stay) for some time and having some success publishing them. I wanted to move into more literary writing, so I signed up for the Pan European MFA Program at Cedar Crest College, and some wonderful mentors showed me how to transform my writing. Along with the research I was already including, they taught me not to be afraid to add some bits of memoir. I wasn’t afraid to reveal my thoughts and ideas, but I didn’t think the reader would care. I was wrong: I get lots of comments about those personal memoir bits!
What’s your favorite part about writing/being an author? What do you find challenging?
I love hearing/reading reactions of readers. It seems like everyone responds to a different thing.
If you were speaking to someone who hasn’t read your writing before, why should they want to read Nerd Traveler?
A reader just told me this evening that they love the book because it seems like I am sitting in the room talking to them. I try to cultivate that feeling, and I’m glad it came through. I don’t try to be funny necessarily, but sometimes the only way to describe something is with a little bit of snark and sarcasm. Another reader told me today they were reading it in bed and LAUGHING! I’m thrilled that my writing made someone laugh. Basically, it’s a fun read, the reader will learn some stuff about interesting places, and occasionally there will be a poignant moment.
What about the writing/editing/publishing process has been the most surprising to you so far?
I’ve been to so many conferences and workshops that I knew most of what to expect. I was surprised, though, when people received their books and posted selfies with it on social media, and then when they tell me which essay they are currently reading. I didn’t expect that, and I love it! It’s almost like we’re traveling together.
Any words of wisdom you give your pre-published writer self (or to a new writer)?
Don’t quit. Revise more than you think you need to. Put it aside from time to time and let it percolate or slow-cook.
What are your interests outside of writing and reading?
I love to quilt and do many kinds of needlework. I listen to multiple genres of music and I enjoy researching it (which may include interviewing musicians). During the pandemic, I watched opera streams from the Met’s website for 174 straight evenings, and of course I wrote about that.
Are you working on a new project? Please tell us about it.
I’m working on a collection of music essays, all kinds of music, and there will be a focus on what one learns from being involved in music. I played the clarinet all through my school and college music major years and learned a lot of life lessons: groupwork, communication, there’s always going to be someone better than you unless you’re Benny Goodman. Once I get most of it written, I’ll experiment on ways to present it. I have some ideas…
Where can readers find you?
My website is http://www.margaretmontet.com/, and I try to keep that updated with my events and stuff. Readers can sign up for my newsletter there. I send that out when I have something to say, such as big news about my speaking, workshop and publishing endeavors. I occasionally post on my blog, https://margaretmontet.blogspot.com/. There’s lots of travel there, lots about my hometown of Cape May, NJ, and some other topics that strike my fancy.
Thank you, Margaret! Nerd Traveler is OUT NOW.
“As the gypsy band played Frank Sinatra’s ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ in the Prague bar, my cousin’s son proposed to his girlfriend and presented her with my Aunt Grace’s antique engagement ring.” This sentence opens my essay, “Enduring Images of Kafka’s Prague,” from Nerd Traveler, a collection of my travel essays where fun narratives of place are woven together with memoir and culture. As a 50+ librarian, my travels are on the tame, quiet, well-researched side where whimsy and high culture co-exist. There are no travels across the desert atop a camel or waking up in someone else’s shoes in an opium den. Typically, I travel solo or with a single companion, sometimes on a group tour, but this visit to Prague that I wrote about was one of the last explorations with my late sister. Road-tested on students and listeners of all ages, each of my essays portrays its own wondrous world with me winding my way through it. Next up? A collection of essays about music.
Margaret Montet’s narratives of place are combined with memoir, research, and culture. She’s a college librarian and professor (she teaches Effective Speaking!) with an MFA in Creative Writing from the Pan-European Program at Cedar Crest College. Her creative nonfiction has been published in The Bangalore Review, Clever Magazine, Dragon Poet Review, Pink Pangea, Flying South, and other fine periodicals and anthologies. Margaret speaks frequently on colorful and quirky places, music, news literacy, and information-seeking. Her collection of travel essays, Nerd Traveler (published by Read Furiously), is was born in July 2021. Visit Margaret’s website at www.MargaretMontet.com.