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Meaningful story-making: news writer David Clark on literature and tourism

  • Written by Kirsten Abel

“It is through stories that we consider how we are going to live the rest of our lives,” wrote Woodinville Weekly news writer David Clark in a recent paper he presented at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association annual conference on November 11.

The conference, which took place at Chaminade University in Honolulu, is in its 115th year. Clark served on a panel called “Literature and Tourism.”

His paper, entitled “How Make-Believe Manages Your Experience,” explores the ways in which stories shape not only the way we live, but also our motivations for and expectations surrounding travel.

PAMLAWoodinville Weekly news writer David Clark at this year’s Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association conference at Chaminade University in Honolulu (Photo courtesy of David Clark)“If storytelling in its various forms through language and literature are the triggers that get the person to transform into the traveler, then there is going to be a preconceived notion of the travels that they will have,” Clark wrote. “Already, before any transportation, accommodation, or reservations have been made, the tourist is already  contemplating how their experience is going to come about.”

Novels, guidebooks, and the photographs and stories of our friends and family members all give us an idea of what to expect—and what to desire—when we go somewhere new.

This process by which stories influence where we want to travel and what we want once we get there is what Clark calls “touristic tastemaking,” one of the main topics he discussed during the panel.

That influence can work both ways too. Tourists are swayed by a television show or a book or a friend into wanting to visit a place. Then, over time, that place changes to present itself back to those tourists for consumption.

It’s a transaction—one that Clark says we have to be careful with. “There is a responsibility one assumes when separating oneself from their typical life,” he wrote. He advocates for culturally sensitive travel, travel that is well researched and educative above all else.

In his paper, Clark draws on his own experiences visiting Iceland and Guatemala. He references Icelandic sheep (“the sheep, because they’re sheep, are scattered across the country”), the Blue Lagoon, and the South American jungle.

This year was Clark’s third time at the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association conference. His first attendance was about three years ago, where he participated in a panel on ekphrastic poetry. (An ekphrastic poem is most often a description of a work of visual art.)
Clark described that first year as daunting—rubbing elbows with long-time professors, PhDs, and other academics. “It was a really cool experience, so I kind of just kept at it,” he said.

The 2017 Literature and Tourism panel was made up of three total people. “I shared a panel with two very, very brilliant women,” Clark said. Linda Allen presented a paper on race wars in tourist spaces and Eun-Gwi Chung discussed collective memory as it relates to Angel and Ellis Island.

Clark attended college at Metropolitan State University in his hometown of Denver. There, he studied English with a minor in tourism. He became the Woodinville Weekly’s news writer after an internship with SagaCity Media.

As  for  his   future   conference plans, Clark said he intends to participate at the annual PAMLA conference again next year in Bellingham.

“Right now I am kind of continuing to write travel stuff,” he said. “Otherwise, I’m always working on poetry, nonfiction.”

See more of Clark’s writing at www.clippings.me/davidbclark and learn about the Pacific Ancient and Modern Language Association at pamla.org/.

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