Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tui travels Texas and finds. . .

Who knew Texas was so full of ghosts? Today’s guest found out!

Tui Snider

Tui Snider is a travel writer, photographer, musician, and speaker who specializes in quirky, haunted, and downright bizarre destinations in Texas. As she puts it, "I used to write fiction - but then, I moved to Texas!" Snider's best-selling books inspired by the Lone Star state include Paranormal Texas, The Lynching of the Santa Claus Bank Robber, and the 2015 North Texas Book Festival First Place Winner, Unexpected Texas. Among other projects, Snider is currently writing a Field Guide to Historic Cemetery Symbols and a book about the 1897 UFO crash in Aurora, Texas.
Did you always have the time to travel, or did your writing begin as a strictly research-based venture?
One of the biggest misconceptions about being a travel writer is that you have to travel. I know, I know, that sounds silly. Maybe it's from all those National Geographic magazines I devoured growing up, but I always thought you couldn't be a travel writer unless you went to far-flung places. And that's certainly one way to go about it, but it's not the only way. In fact, writing about your hometown can be travel writing if you do it right! It's a matter of mindset.
For instance, my first published travel writing articles were about Italy. Why? Because I lived in Naples at the time. I was simply writing about my current hometown! I bet you can guess why I've been writing about Texas for the past 6 years - because I moved here in 2009! (And, yes, a man was involved, but that's another story for another day!)   
So my great big travel writing secret is this: Start off  by writing about wherever you are.
And here's my great big travel writing motto: Travel is a mindset, and even home is a travel destination! 
OK, so how did I become a travel writer? Writing has been a major creative outlet for me since I was a little kid, from keeping a journal to writing short stories and novels. So I was always writing, and I love to travel...but I never ever planned to be a travel writer. Funny how things work out, isn't it? 
Like I said before, I didn't realize I could write travel articles about wherever I happened to live. Finally, in 2007 a magazine editor stumbled onto my blog, liked what he read, and offered to pay me for a monthly column.
Now, I'd had short stories and essays published here and there, but no one had ever paid me before, let alone offered me a steady job, so I thought, "Great! I'm a travel writer now!" I felt as if I'd finally been given a permission slip to become a professional writer. From that point on, one travel writing gig led to another, and publishing in magazines became my main focus.
Then, in March of 2014,  I self-published my first book, a travel guide to offbeat and overlooked places called Unexpected Texas. Two days later it hit number one on Amazon's Dallas - Fort Worth Travel best seller list, and in 2015 it won first place at the North Texas Book Festival. I've been hooked on writing books ever since!
2015 North Texas Book Festival First Place Winner,
How many places have you been in Texas? What are the top five which stand out?
Hmmm... I haven't kept count of the places I've explored here in Texas, but I do have a great big state map on the wall with push pins marking the places I've researched and/or plan to research.
It's super hard to pick a top five, and if you asked me tomorrow I might pick five difference places, but here are a few that spring to mind right off:

With its brick streets, horse drawn carriages, wrought iron railings, and abundance of Greek revival architecture, a visit to Jefferson, Texas can make you feel like you’ve stepped onto a movie set for New Orleans in the late 1800’s. This town’s resemblance to the “Big Easy” is no mere affectation, but a genuine part of its heritage. In fact, Jefferson has so much in common with New Orleans that it’s sometimes called the “Little Easy.” They’ve even been celebrating Mardi Gras for over 100 years!
For a small town, Mineral Wells packs a lot of offbeat history per square inch. In fact, my second book, Paranormal Texas, includes a chapter on Mineral Wells because when there’s so much offbeat history, there’s bound to be haunted lore! (And boy, did I have so *weird* experiences there!)
Are you familiar with the alleged UFO crash site in north Texas which pre-dates the infamous Roswell Incident by 50 years? According to a Dallas Morning News  article published in 1897, the wreckage from this extraterrestrial vehicle included a tiny humanoid that was "not of this world." The incident is also mentioned on the Texas State Historical plaque at Aurora Cemetery, where the creature was buried. I'm currently writing a book about this peculiar rash of UFO sightings that took place near Aurora in 1897.
Deep Creek Cemetery: From Pioneers & Comanches to Mickey Mouse & Folk Ballet
This allegedly haunted country cemetery makes a great picnic spot, and the headstones tell tales of what it was like to live in the real Wild West, as well as having surprising connections to the Mickey Mouse Club and American Folk Ballet! 
Paris is one of those rare towns in America which resists looking like “Anytown, USA” by actively cultivating its charms. From the gorgeous Italian marble fountain creating a centerpiece for its town square to the many quirky sites to explore, including the infamous "Jesus in Cowboy Boots," and a scale model of the solar system. Fans of Victorian architecture will enjoy wandering through the Historic Neighborhood on foot or by car, and traipsing through the antique shops. (Plus, I must confess to a special fondness for Paris, Texas because my visit there is what sparked me to write my first book. I wanted a book that listed offbeat and overlooked places to explore, and not finding one, I decided to write my own.) 

Do you think you’ll ever run out of places to visit in Texas?
Definitely not! My Texas travel to-do list just keeps getting longer and longer. The biggest surprise to me is that I keep discovering places close to home that I've not yet explored.  

When did you develop your interest in visiting/writing about haunted places?
While researching my first book, Unexpected Texas, which is a travel guide to quirky, offbeat and overlooked places in the Dallas - Fort Worth area, I kept running across interesting sites and the fascinating history connected to these spots. I finally realized that I had ... Even if you don't believe in ghosts, the history behind these places is fascinating. I've always been fascinated by the paranormal, and have had several experiences I can't explain. While researching my first travel guide, Unexpected Texas, people often told me about the allegedly haunted places in their hometowns. Not only are Texans good storytellers, but before I knew it, I had enough material for my second book, Paranormal Texas, a travel guide to haunted places. Researching that book gave me an excuse to spend the night in haunted houses, tag along with professional paranormal teams, and even attend a seance in a graveyard. Fun stuff! 

Do you schedule your meetings with people who ‘know’ about the places you visit, or do you wait and see who turns up?
It's a bit of both! For me, planning a trip is part of the fun. I don't want to waste time figuring out what to see and do when I'm there, so I make a detailed plan in advance. I even use Google maps to plan out my walking route as efficient as possible! I also like to contact museum curators, local historians, librarians, the chamber of commerce and so forth in advance, and spend time on Yelp looking up "mom and pop" restaurants to dine at while I'm in town.
That said, I rarely follow my plans to the letter. For instance, if a local points me and my husband to a different place to eat than what I had planned, we go there instead. Planning is helpful, but spontaneity is a big part of the fun! 
I love meeting residents who are passionate about their hometown and who want to pass along the tips that most people overlook. If no one strikes up a conversation with me, then I look for the oldest person I can find and start talking to them. Writing research is the perfect excuse to talk to strangers, and that is a big part of the fun. 

What does 2016 have in store for you and your creative projects?
I am so excited about 2016! I've got several fun speaking gigs lined up, and several creative projects underway (including four books in progress.) So far, I've been invited to give talks on subjects ranging from "How Writers Can Make the Most of Twitter," "Mysterious UFO Sightings of 1897 in North Texas," "The Meaning of Historic Cemetery Symbols," "How to Plan a Fun Texas Day Trip," "Haunted Hot Spots in North Texas" and more. This summer, I'm having my first-ever photography exhibit in conjunction with my stay as the writer-in-residence for the Langdon Literary Review over in historic Granbury, Texas.  It's a little overwhelming - but in a good way! If the topics I write about intrigue you, I invite you to drop by my website and sign up for my weekly newsletter.

Tui’s books are linked above in her bio. Visit her Amazon Author Page and connect with her on the following social media sites.

@TuiSnider on Twitter
 @TuiSnider on Instagram

 In addition, you’ll find her blog (“Offbeat and Overlooked”) a fascinating read!

Traveling Texas and Telling Tales

1 comment:

Deb Atwood said...

What a fun article! I'd love to visit those quaint towns you highlight--they sound so inviting!