Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Entry # 106 - WRITERS TALK - Cynthia Venables, Writer & Travel Lecturer - Part 2

Part Two
Cynthia Venables, Teacher, Writer, Lecturer Describes Her Travels & Writing

Background Notes:
Cynthia Venables has taught art and art history in Ontario, Canada for over 30 years, most recently for the Continuing Studies Programmes at the University of Toronto, Sir Wilfred Laurier University and Third Age Learning in Kitchener- Waterloo. Cynthia travels the world extensively,  researching and taking photographs to create art and cultural history lectures which enhance travel itinerary experiences for cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises. Her lectures and photographs awaken the eye and tickle the imagination. When she is not traveling the world by land or sea, Cynthia lives in beautiful Stratford, Ontario, Canada.

Jan:     Cynthia, thank you for taking time from your busy schedule for our interview. In Part One of our previous interview, we talked about how you got started writing and lecturing on cruise ships. Let’s talk a bit more about the lecture series that you write and present in the Scholarship@Sea program for Princess Cruise Lines, and the other land based travel groups you lead.

Your lectures present topics that explore the social, historical, cultural and artistic features that travelers are likely to see in the various ports.  How many lectures do you usually prepare for a cruise series? 

Cynthia:     I do three to four cruises a year. Cruises with three or more sea days usually have an enrichment lecturer, as well as a port lecturer. I do a lot of Trans Atlantic crossings where we spend as much as nine sea days and so I plan and prepare nine, fifty minute lectures. The Cruise Company lets me determine what I talk about. It doesn’t have to be related to the itinerary, that is my choice. I create all the topics and themes. 

Jan:     How much preparation time is typical for each lecture?

Cynthia:     This means that the lectures are different for every cruise. Many of the same people do Trans Atlantic crossings season after season, so I want to attract these people to the lectures as well as newcomers. I spend a lot of time in preparation. Maybe a week or two, 8 hours a day per lecture. This is my hobby and my passion. I would be reading history, art history and traveling anyway, so it really is a pleasure for me to create the lectures.

Jan:     Humorous anecdotes are among the features of your lectures about the art and history of countries? Humor is difficult to write and to present, what’s your secret to presenting humor to diverse audiences such as those found on cruise ships – who have such a range of age, experiences and cultural backgrounds?

Cynthia:     I don’t try to make my lectures funny. When I do the joke just flops. I do now have the confidence to say what I think, uncensored. This can be dangerous, but also funny. So much of history and art history is ironic, self-serving and just ready to be skewered. I also want the lectures to be sincere, as I am often moved by the art, and in particular, the history and the story behind it all.

Jan:     Your lectures have great titles.  I remember examples like:  “Murder, Mayhem and Painting in the Canadian Wilderness” or “Romance in Cool Climates: Romantic Landscape Painting” and “Leif the Lucky and His Sister: The Mystery of the Vikings.”   Tell us about the importance of your titles.  


Cynthia:     The titles are part of the fun. When I first started I was in University of Toronto mode, that is, I used dry, direct (academic) titles.  This is what the administration wanted. The lectures I hope were interesting, but the titles weren’t. When I began giving lectures for Princess Cruises on the ships, I sent in the similar titles. My boss at Princess had seen my lectures on video, and he knew what they were getting, but he was quite adamant that the dry titles wouldn’t fly. He called me with specific instructions. “Cynthia, remember you are on a cruise ship! Juice it up.” So titles like~ Medieval Egg Tempera Painting ~ became
~Egg Yokes and Ear Wax ~ The Fun and Frustration of Painting in the Middle Ages.    Now making up the title is part of the puzzle.

Jan:      I was particularly pleased to notice that your lectures examine the often-ignored role of women who had a major impact in history and in art.  Tell us about this aspect of your lectures; what led you to weave that strong thread into your lectures?

Cynthia:     Well, many of the people coming to the lectures are woman, and now there is so much history available about female painters and collectors that ‘her story’ provides great new topics. I am also attracted to the underdog. Woman making their way in the art world was -until recently - pretty treacherous territory. 

Additionally, some women making art in the Renaissance and Baroque times were very successful. But then their stories were suppressed in the Victorian Age as not being lady-like. And yes. This seems so odd, to me, since Queen Victoria herself had it all, power, influence, strong opinions and a large family. But then, she did have help.

Jan:      So what countries and ports hold the most fascination for you?  Which ports do you love?   
Cynthia:     I like to go anywhere. I am adventurous and I love being on the ship. I’d love to go anywhere in the Pacific. But I do think some places are best discovered by boat, like the Norwegian fjords. In 2011 I did three cruises up and down the fjords going as far north as North Cape, Murmansk, Spitzbergen, and Greenland. Recently at the end of Trans Atlantic crossings, I have spent a lot of time going to family-related places in Wales and France, discovering Viking/Norman stories and a Norman village that is named Venables.

Jan:     And where do you long to linger?

Cynthia:     I just returned from a tour. This fall I led a small group to Normandy and Paris. In the last few years I have created a tour to Sicily, Art and Garden Tours to Tuscany. And I’ve loved developing and leading a new Easy Walking Tour to Capri and the Amalfi Coast that focuses on art and regional history. I am always ready to go to Italy. I don’t need to go anywhere else really. As I am also learning the language, it makes it fun for me. Then of course, there is all that amazing art, architecture, food, landscape and those wild and wonderful Italians. Italy suits my nature. It is the place other than Canada where I feel at home.

In the fall of 2013, I am hosting a small group tour to Venice, The Veneto and the North Italian Lakes.

Jan:      What’s next in your travels?  Where are you headed for the fall and winter itineraries? 

Cynthia:     In a few days I am off to England with my daughter. We board a ship in Southampton and go down to Spain, the Canary Islands, Madeira and then back to Southampton. She flies home and I stay on going over to Normandy, north of Spain, then the Azores, Bermuda and finally back to Ft. Lauderdale.  Then I’ll be home in time to shovel the snow in my driveway.

Jan:     And where do you hope to go that you want to explore more or that you’ve only begun to explore?

Cynthia:     I would love to do some traveling in the Caribbean, the Pacific Coast, Polynesia, New Zealand, and actually I am happy to explore anywhere the wind may send me.

Jan:      What do you love about your work?

Cynthia:     How could you love not doing this? I am going to wonderful places, traveling with great people, meeting new people and new places. I

Jan:     And finally, what advice can you offer travelers who love to travel and who love art?

Cynthia:     I am following - with no great difficulty - the quote that is said to be by Confucius: “ Wherever you go, go with all your heart.”

Jan:     Thank you for sharing your journey with us.  Princess Cruises is lucky to have you aboard. Happy travels to you.  I hope you are thinking of writing a memoir about your adventures.  Readers are reminded that they can read part 1 of Cynthia's interview - Entry #104 - posted on Tuesday, October 23, 2012.

You can contact Cynthia at cynthiavenables@hotmail.com
and www.blowestravel.com/


Cynthia Venables

87  Front St.,
Stratford, ON
N5A 4G8

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2011 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:


1 comment:

  1. Wonderful Interview. I was on a Princess ship last year and Cynthia's lectures are memorable.