I am a writer, photographer, editor, guide, teacher, traveler, Ohio native, Florida resident, and world citizen. I live in Palm Harbor, Florida with my husband and crazy Welsh Terrier, but I can’t sit still very long. In addition to maintaining my own websites Cold Pasta and Red Wine and Christine Cutler, I am a travel, non-fiction, and memoir writer; a photographer; an editor whose work has appeared in various print and digital publications; executive editor of Food, Wine, Travel Magazine; travel editor of Live In Italy Magazine; and president of IFWTWA. I’ve taught Spanish and English, and grammar and writing classes on assignment for UNLV’s EMBA and Educational Outreach programs. In addition, I’ve taught memoir for the Las Vegas Memoir Project, which I founded.
I find being a travel writer the perfect job since it allows me to see the world and work from wherever I am. (Have laptop and iPhone; will travel and work!) I’ve visited three continents, 44 states, 35 countries, and more than 850 cities. My specialties are writing about the experiences, food, culture, and history of the destinations I visit. The majority of my non-travel writing is memoir, my relationship with my Italian grandmother, and my journey to become and Italian citizen.
Becoming an Italian citizen has been a great joy in my life. I spend as much time as I can exploring Italy, and I love sharing the real Italy through my writing and photos. I’m fluent in Italian and Spanish, and I can read basic French and Portuguese.
In addition to NATJA, I’m also a member of IFWTWA, Travel Massive, TravMedia, Phi Kappa Phi, PEN America, and Nonfiction Authors Association
1. What got you into travel writing?
It’s more like travel writing got into me. When I was in grad school for my MFA, we had to read 8-10 non-fiction books per semester and write abstracts about each. One of my first books was Anthony Bourdain’s A Cook’s Tour. As stupid as it sounds, until that point, I had not realized that travel writing was becoming so popular. I began reading Bill Bryson, Susan Orlean, Paul Theroux, Rita Golden Gelman, Pico Iyer… I had to write like that.
2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
Finding time and energy to travel and write is challenging. The past two-plus years wreaked havoc on the world, and, quite frankly, I had some added crap I would rather forget. While I have always thought that I would do things while I could, all of that made me more aware that there is going to come a time that I may not be able to do what I want forever.
3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
If I have to choose one thing, it would be my iPhone. It’s a camera, computer, video recorder, tape recorder, and more. And, don’t forget that it’s a way to post social media.
4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
My last semester in grad school, I started writing articles about my Italian grandmother and her journey from a small village in Abruzzo to Youngstown, Ohio. I decided I had to find her village, and in 2010, my husband and I embarked on a month-long trip in search of Pettorano sul Gizio. Because of the internet, I was able to find it on the map and rent an apartment about 10 miles from it. Once we arrived, the owner of the apartment took use to the hill town.
I had seen photos online, but nothing prepared me for the scene that came into focus as we approached Pettorano. Rectangular little buildings—creamy beige, brown, red, butter yellow—cascaded from the precipice of a rocky hill. The village fanned out at the hill’s bottom and gave way to pastures bordered by the Gizio River on one side and the highway on the other. I was in love.
We parked at the top of the hill. The town was so quiet. We were in the middle of “downtown” Pettorano—if one can consider a village of 600 of having a downtown—and all I heard were rustling leaves and happy birds. No cars. No motorcycles. No blaring music. No happy children running and shouting. Except for two old women sitting on a bench on the other side of the piazza, we were alone in that beautiful place.
The next morning, we returned to Pettorano, and I was able to find the house in which my grandfather grew up. I went inside and talked to cousins I did not know existed. It was the beginning of my journey to become an Italian citizen. And, as many times as I’ve been to Italy and Pettorano since, the memory of those first hours in Pettorano still bring me the most joy.
5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
I was managing editor of BLVDS Las Vegas Magazine, and I was writing about destinations in the area. I decided that it would be a good idea to join a professional organization to meet and share.
6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
The best way to improve your writing is to read other writers. Reading exposes you to both good and bad writing, and you can learn from both. You don’t even have to read just travel writing. Read novels. Read memoir. Read poetry. Pay attention to the words, structure, rhythms. Write down a word or sentence that you particularly like. Believe me: All of it will positively affect your writing.