A five-time Lowell Thomas award winner, Peter Mandel is a regular contributor to the travel sections of The Washington Post, The Boston Globe, and The Philadelphia Inquirer. His books for children are published by Simon & Schuster, Scholastic, Hyperion, and Henry Holt, among others, and include two new picture book releases: ‘Jackhammer Sam’ from Macmillan and ‘Zoo Ah-Choooo’ from Holiday House. ‘Jackhammer Sam’ was called “wonderful and overwhelming, rattling and mesmerizing” by Publishers Weekly. “If a new Walt Whitman broke up sidewalks with a jackhammer, this is exactly what his ‘Song of Myself’ would be,” said The Chicago Tribune. ‘Zoo Ah-Choooo’ is a PBS Reading Rainbow selection. “Lively pen-and-ink and watercolor cartoon illustrations join with the humorous text to tell the tale with panache,” said School Library Journal. Published several years ago, ‘Bun, Onion, Burger’ (Simon & Schuster) was named a Summer 2010 Children’s Indie Next pick by the American Booksellers Association. Mandel, who lives in Rhode Island with his wife, Kathy, and cats, Emily and Cecil, has written for Harper’s, The Wall Street Journal, Reader’s Digest, The International Herald Tribune, The Los Angeles Times and The Chicago Tribune. One of his Boston Globe articles won the 2005 Lowell Thomas gold award from SATW for adventure travel article of the year. Stories of his for The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun and The San Diego Union-Tribune won Lowell Thomas awards in 2003, 2006, and 2007. His books have been part of exhibits at The Smithsonian and the National Baseball Hall of Fame and have been translated into Japanese, German, Italian, Dutch, Swedish and Danish.
1. What got you into travel writing?
Because of my wife’s job, we moved to Paris for two years in the early 1990s. Since we spent as much time as we could traveling around Europe, I started to write about it.
2. What’s the most challenging part of being a travel journalist for you?
These days, for me, it’s the almost complete demise of the stand-alone newspaper travel section. Not to mention, the rise of ‘nuggets’, ‘tidbits,’ and ‘tips’ in place of travel narratives.
3. What is one thing [equipment or personal item] you can’t go without on the road?
4. What’s your most unusual and/or memorable travel experience?
Maybe a piece I did for The Washington Post on kayaking from Manhattan to the Statue of Liberty. Or maybe, for another Post piece, flagging down a taxi in Washington, DC and convincing the cabbie to take me to New York City.
5. How did you learn about NATJA and why did you join?
Can’t recall how I learned about it, but the organization was much needed for writers like me who work a long time on stories, and were never interested in trying to accumulate the raft of annual ‘clips’ required to join SATW.
6. What is the best piece of advice you could give to a rookie travel journalist?
I’d warn them…or try, anyway…that “influencers” who promote certain products or destinations for a fee or freebies, aren’t journalists. They’re marketers, pure and simple. (That’s fine, of course, if that’s the sort of career a new writer wants.)