Author, editor and publisher Chuck Woodbury of Edmonds will speak Thursday evening, May 9, in the Plaza Room of the Edmonds Library. In his program “A Writing Life on the Road,” Woodbury will chronicle how he went from a struggling freelance writer to a national celebrity nearly overnight after embarking on a career as a roving travel writer.
In 1985, Woodbury set off in an 18-foot motor home to explore America and write magazine articles about what he encountered along the way. His RV, he notes today, “broke down nearly every trip and leaked when it rained.” Still, he was able to earn enough to pay for repairs, buy gas and keep going.
In 1988, on a whim, he published a 24-page tabloid newspaper he called Out West, which he billed as “America’s on-the-road newspaper.” The media got wind of the folksy periodical and soon Woodbury found himself in its spotlight. In the next few years he appeared on ABC World News Tonight, the Today Show, CNN and in hundreds of periodicals including USA Today, the Washington Post and People Magazine. “For a while, I did a phone interview with a radio station nearly every day,” he said. One appearance on National Public Radio brought in $50,000 in subscriptions.
After his appearance on ABC-TV, he landed a book deal with William Morrow that resulted in the “Best from Out West” and he was signed by the New York Times Syndicate, which distributed his stories to newspapers around the world.
Out West continued for 10 years until, said Woodbury, “it ran its course.” About the same time, the World Wide Web was catching on. “I knew it would be big,” he said, “so I bought a bunch of domains related to travel with an RV.” Today, more than 200,000 RVers a month read his websites and daily newsletters. Woodbury continues to travel by RV, logging about 12,000 miles a year gathering stories and, nowadays, making videos for his YouTube channel. He occasionally wanders abroad, most recently touring Iceland in a small camper van.
“My dream beginning in college was to combine travel and writing,” he said. “I loved the idea of travel with a motor home, which to me was simply a small home and office that moved. When I look back now, after 30 years of nomadic journalism and millions of words written, I realize I carved out a pretty great life for myself. I could have never imagined how everything would play out when I began with a manual typewriter, a portable darkroom and tiny, mechanically-challenged motor home, hoping only to somehow pay my bills.”
Woodbury’s hour-long talk will begin at 6:30 p.m. in the Plaza Room of the Edmonds Library. The event is part of the Edmonds Literary Series. Admission is free.