Monday, June 18, 2012

Passionfruit: Michele Jin tells Left Coast Writers about her women's travel mag relaunch online

Michelle Jin, publisher of Passionfruit
Michele Jin grew up on the plains of Colorado in what she calls "monochrome surroundings." Founder and publisher of the magazine Passionfruit: A Women's Travel Journal, she says her favorite day of Kindergarten was International Day. But it wasn't until she studied abroad in France, followed by a classic Eurail coming of age, that she was bit by the travel bug. Later, Jin taught beekeeping for two years in Paraguay with the Peace Corps, which she readily admits probably had more impact on her than the local people. While she believes "the benefits of cultural exchange far outweigh" all else, she says as travelers and writers it's important to acknowledge our position as wealthy westerners trotting the globe.

Jin was this month's speaker at Left Coast Writers, a literary salon that meets at Book Passage bookstore--home of the annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference (which I've attended twice and hope to return to this August). She shared her process of creating the print magazine, which ran seven issues with national distribution from 1999-2001. Now, after more than a decade-long hiatus of child-rearing with the project on the back burner, Passionfruit magazine has been relaunched online.

The front page features tales of adventure and cultural exchange, but there are several departments including Profiles, Book Reviews and Travel with Kids. One of Jin's favorite sections is Trailblazers: historic essays on women travelers, many of them of the Victorian era who defied traditional roles.

"There was nothing new I was doing," Jin says about her own independent world travels. But she was surprised by the strong reactions of other women who often expressed their fears of solo exploration. "As women move through the world, we face safety concerns men don't have to think about."

She wants the online Forum, which includes sections on fitness, gear, living abroad, and general advice for women travelers, to be a place for readers to discuss the benefits over the risks. The section called Wrong Turns, a chronicle of bad trips, offers humorous tales of misadventure, for sometimes the worst travel experiences make the best stories.

Jin earned masters degrees from the UC Berkeley in Latin American studies and journalism. While there, she worked as photo editor of the newsroom. Her love of the process of creating a publication led her to release her first issue of Passionfruit just six months after graduation. Two years later, she was just breaking even. She intended to continue publication while raising kids, but laughs as she recalls racing toward her last deadline with a baby kicking inside her while eight months pregnant.

Tackling Franz Joseph glacier, New Zealand
The motivation behind the magazine, according to the website, was "to have a place to explore those issues and share our travel stories. We have found that the women-centered format attracts stories with a different flavor from your typical travel fare." Indeed, flipping through the free back issues of its print incarnation, I find the focus not only on women's travels but on the unique (yet often universal) issues facing women who live all over the world, to be a refreshing stance. While she's decided to keep the woman-centered focus, Jin welcomes male input as well.

With an interest in both international and local stories, she is soliciting content for all departments of Passionfruit. She pays $50 per feature article or first-person essay for the front page (previously published works are fine, with nonexclusive rights). Or, if you don't have something polished, she encourages writers to submit Journal Entries, which can include links back to your own posted blog. Outstanding posts will be chosen for the front page. In the future, she hopes to publish book anthologies based on past issues. For more information and writer's guidelines, go to About Us.


Dick Jordan said...

Nicely written profile of Michele and recap of her talk at Left Coast Writers.

adele daney said...

very nice....

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