This genre stretches from iPhone apps to some of the world's most powerful narrative nonfiction, as modern explorers tackle journeys both interior and exterior.
Writers.com offer three modules. Longtime instructor Amanda Castleman teaches her classic Travel Writing: From Press Trips to Punctured Tires roughly three times each year. We also offer a 12-week Travel Writing Master Class. Anchored by Amanda, it includes a rotating cast of guest-instructors like Murder In Italy author Candace Dempsey , London's Anna Melville-James, and World Hum columnists Frank Bures and Thomas Swick. Not sure if the master class is for you? Take our quiz to find out.
The glamour of travel writing attracts many people. After all, who wouldn't want subsidized trips to exotic destinations? But it's not all easy living. Journalists must concoct ideas, sell them, plan the trip, research extensively in the field and then craft
a gripping article. It's work. Nice work, if you can get it, but a far cry from slobbing on the beach with a margarita.
The ten-week course prepares you to enter this competitive arena. Explore the different types of travel writing, including first-person memoirs, destination guides, historic reflections and news flashes for globe-trotting executives. Learn to devise appealing pitches and target the right editors. Discover the tricks of the trade, from filing taxes to building a journalism portfolio.
Other topics include photography, narrative devices, research and interview techniques, new media as a marketing tool, and perhaps the greatest challenge how to earn a living wage. The class also covers ethical considerations (for example,
subsidized trips alienate publications like The New York Times and The Los Angeles Times).
You don't need to be a world traveler to become a "writer about place". Reveal the secrets of your hometown for visitors. Record an exceptional hike or festival. Share family holiday hassles and tips on how to avoid friction. The important thing is to learn how to capture a journey's details and sensations even the frustration of a flat tire then spin them into perks, paychecks and published work.
This course takes you through the process step-by-step, with weekly lectures, discussions and feedback. Past students have taken this momentum into bylines at The Independent, The Guardian, The Los Angeles Times, The Washington Post, The New York Times, The Toronto Sun and The Christian Science Monitor, among others. One landed three clips in national outlets -- off her first pitches ever -- before week six of the course. Another has won travel-writing's most prestigious prize, the Lowell Thomas. Whether you're new to publishing or a seasoned writer, the class will help you find a new voice and inspiration.
Amanda works intensively with students' prose, interleaving comments (line-critiques). She fine-tooth-combs the text, figuring out what's naughty and what's nice and why. By the last lesson, you should have a polished draft ready for submission and be on your way to making vacation a vocation.
Future sessions: September 15, 2014; Jan 5, 2015; April 6, 2015; September 14, 2015. $340, enroll now
Late enrollment permitted until day ten, space permitting.
Week 1: Specializing
What is travel writing? Controversy. Three catchall categories: inverted pyramid, commentary and features-style. The different facets of travel writing, including essays, adventure tales, destination guides, news briefs, special interest and historic articles. Capturing the moment. Goals and experience. Assignment: Travel brief (500 words or less).
Week 2: Bright ideas
Generating concepts. Angles. Write what you know. Spotting trends. Press releases. Media kits. Press trip and tour traps. Online options. Research. Travel writing and literature. Guidebooks. Review brief. Assignment: Brainstorm ten story ideas (500 words or less).
Week 3: Selling the goods
Researching your market. Keeping an eye on the competition. Writer's guidelines. Writing succinct and successful queries. Approaching editors. Simultaneous submissions. Writing on speculation. Portfolios. Trappings of the trade. Snail mail vs. electronic pitching. Do you need a Web site? Review story ideas. Assignment: Query letter. Focus on one story idea for development (500 words or less).
Week 4: Building blocks
A colorful palette. Universal themes. Gathering quotes. Interview tools digital and analogue. Key volumes. Guidebooks. Online resources. The future of your work and your library: cybersolutions versus tangible media. Review query letters. Assignment: Find ten resources for your article (500 words or less).
Week 5: Story structure
Themes. Capsule sentence. Plot and narrative arc. A snappy start. Prioritizing information. Transitions. A strong finish. Sidebars. Review resources. Errors to avoid. Finishing touches. Fact-checking. Assignment: Article outline (500 words or less).
Week 6: On the net and on the road
Establishing expertise. Building a brand. Social media as a research and promotional tool. Blog basics. Self-publishing. Writing sticky content. Introduction to SEO (search engine optimization). Content sharing. Citizen journalism. Media convergence. Reality versus romanticism. Freebies and junkets the controversy. Editorial transparency. Ethical double-standard? Pre-trip research. Planning, but not over-planning. Tools. Cultural sensitivity. Review outline. Assignment: Begin the rough draft (500 words or less).
Week 7: Toning up
Target audience. Viewpoint. Colorful language and metaphor. AP style. Punchy headlines. Short, clear sentence structure. Avoiding word repetition. Revise concepts. Why redrafting matters. Writers to emulate. Review rough draft. Assignment: Finish the rough draft (500 words or less).
Week 8: Travel multimedia
The pros and cons of self-sufficiency. Basic image composition. Photojournalism versus snapshots. Model release. Equipment: getting started. Lenses. Accessories. Film and slide. Digital. Submissions. Stock shots. Showcasing art: Flickr and other photo-sharing sites. Assembling a digital slideshow. Introduction to Audio and Video. Review rough draft. Assignment: Polishing your article (1,000 words or less).
Week 9: Ethics and etiquette
Subsidized trips. Freebie ethics. The middle road. The benefits of anonymity. Recycling material. Following up a pitch politely. Dealing with rejections. Courtesy in the face of frustration. Advertising pressure. Coping with rewrites. Review article. Assignment: Prepare package for submission (1,500 words or less). Post questions.
Week 10: Nuts and bolts
Rates. Syndication. Earning a living wage. Rights. Invoices. Tax and Accounting. Where to go from here: Conferences, organizations and books. Q&A.
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Can I travel during class?
Students -- and the instructor -- frequently travel during the course. The lessons and discussions remain online, and late submissions are welcome by special arrangement throughout the ten-week period. The decision should hinge upon your work habits: can you work and focus well on the road? Will you have the discipline to make up assignments back home?
Is the introductory course suitable for experienced writers?
Absolutely. Amanda's taught full-time travel journalists and professionals jumping genres or reviving skill-sets (including former staffers for Shape, The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal). Most find the pitching advice and line-critiques (detailed feedback on assignments) the most valuable aspects, as well as the class camaraderie.
Is the master class suitable for unpublished or inexperienced writers?
In most cases, no. This workshop focuses on advanced techniques and career-building steps, not the basics of freelancing and travel writing. For an overview, we suggest Writers.com's From Press Trips to Punctured Tires, which caters to beginners, as well as professionals jumping genres or reviving skill-sets.
Not sure if the master class is for you? Take our quiz to find out.
How much time does it take?
The time commitment varies, of course, but students seem to average 30-60 minutes for the lectures and at least 60-90 for the assignments (some may be quicker, like the outline). Ambitious readers can delve deep via links and articles: some study is self-guided and entirely optional.
Why only one article?
Resources and rewriting separate beginners from the pros. This course addresses the typical weaknesses of fledgling authors.
What sort of success can I expect?
Students have published in outlets from Sunset to National Geographic Traveler and The New York Times. One had to pause, then restart the class later, because she landed so much work off the first pitches she ever sent. Another won travel-writing's most prestigious prize, the Lowell Thomas. See some examples of student work below.
But placement depends on timing, connections and marketing savvy, as much as talent. I work to boost each student up a few ladder rungs from where he or she began. For some, that's publishing a first clip, for others breaking into A-list publications.
I live outside the U.S. Is this a problem?
The class is entirely online with no fixed hours. All you need is a word-processing program, Internet access, a browser and a credit card. A recent session included students from Ireland, Scotland, Prague, India and New Zealand, as well as across North America; such a mix really invigorates the class. Amanda has staffed in the US and UK and continues to work for publications around the globe. Thus she's sensitive to Anglophone dialects and how they might effect publication-ready prose.
I'm not sure I want to publish...
No problem. The introductory course emphasizes the skills of professional writers, not just to rocket-boost freelancers, but also because those storytelling and style elements work. But above all, Writers.com helps students develop their distinctive voices -- and cheerleads any level of ambition.
Will this course help a travel blogger?
Absolutely. In fact, our alumna who won the Lowell Thomas -- travel writing's Pulitzer -- coauthors The Vacation Gals blog (Kara Williams).
The workshop has a robust new media component, exploring both DIY options and online outlets. It explores techniques common to strong writing everywhere: interviews, authoritative sources, news angles, narrative arc, etc... Most importantly, it offers detailed feedback, line by line, from a professional -- something independent authors often lack.
I'm interested in both the travel writing workshop and the new media bootcamp. Which should I take first?
Much depends on your immediate goals, of course. All things being equal, we recommend starting with the introductory travel writing course, as it concentrates on writing finesse. Students generally prefer to hone their voices first, then delve into the technology and tactics to share online.
What if I can't finish in ten weeks?
Writers.com designs classes to build camaraderie and momentum. However -- should travel, work or life blindside you -- Amanda does permit students to pause, then reboot another term (within one calendar year).
What if I have another question?
Mark Dahlby can answer any queries (firstname.lastname@example.org).
An ongoing writers' workshop for anyone who has taken Amanda's travel-journalism class. No lecture, no lesson and no assignment. Instead, the course focuses on works-in-progress: from queries to articles to book-length memoirs. Whether you're trying to rough out a first draft or polish pieces for publication, each week you'll submit up to 750 words for feedback. You'll also critique other writers in the workshop. Via the classroom platform Haiku, Amanda will post links, commentary and conferencing material.
Late-enrollment open until day ten, space permitting.
Next dates: January 23, $340, enroll now
The Best American Travel Writing 2011 by Sloane Crosley
Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer by Roy Peter Clark
$445, enroll now
AMANDA CASTLEMAN spent eight years in Europe and the Middle East, before returning to freelance full-time from her homeport of Seattle. Her photos and articles have appeared in Outside, Salon, the BBC, MSNBC, Alaska Airlines Magazine and The International Herald Tribune. She writes regularly for outlets like Yahoo, travelgirl, Sport Diver and Scuba Diving Magazine. She won a 2007 Lowell Thomas award (travel writing's ersatz Pulitzer) for adventure coverage and is now thrilled that her first student has followed suit, as Kara Williams and her co-authors took the travel-blogging gold in 2012.
Amanda has contributed to 30-odd books, including Greece, A Love Story and Rome in Detail, plus titles for National Geographic, Frommer's, Michelin, DK Eyewitness, Time Out and Rough Guides. She has launch-edited glossy consumer magazines, as well as a Silicon Valley start-up. Previous gigs include graphic- and web-designing, and staffing and editing on metro dailies. In addition to Writers.com, Amanda teaches through the Richard Hugo House and TravelWritingClass.com, which offers week-long workshops in Rome.
"Amanda is a phenomenal editor and a patient teacher; precise but not nitpicky, critical but not harsh. My writing is clearer and more focused than ever before. I spent eight semesters in creative writing classes at UC Berkeley, and Amanda offered more guidance and carefully directed help than any professor I took there."
"Amanda is the best teacher I've ever worked with. Her feedback was exceptional in terms of quality, detail, extent, and sheer usefulness. Her generosity with her time and expertise is astonishing. I learned a huge amount, have had four pieces published and paid for (including my very first assignment, in The Guardian) and have completed the course with a sense of expanded possibilities. Thank you so much -- this is the most rewarding educational experience I've had."
"What an amazing gift you've given us: personalized attention plus huge generosity in sharing practical knowledge from the trenches. Far better than courses at traditional institutions."
"Amanda is an amazing line editor and quick to provide excellent answers to questions. She's very supportive and encouraging, and I consider her not only my teacher, but a mentor as well."
"At the end of 10 weeks, I had arrived in the Blogosphere, made new friends and even bagged a job as a writer at a magazine -- all thanks to the new-media course!"
"She corrects in such an affirming way. My confidence has risen and I now have tools to move forward and (hopefully) progress."
"She had it all -- warmth, attention to each student as an individual, tremendous savvy about the field, and very perceptive comments on our writing."
"Rather than discouraging, the critiques inspired me and got me thinking or seeing ways forward. Many times I found myself laughing at my mistakes and keen to improve. Again I want to say how terrific Amanda is, her knowledge, skills, and talent as an inspiring teacher."
K N Kennard
"Amanda is extremely thorough, tactful, professional, sensible, generous, knowledgeable, insightful, and funny (did I miss anything? I could go on...). Her class and the other students were a real pleasure."
"Amanda is amazing. She is more generous than any teacher with whom I've studied. She encouraged me to work beyond my limitations as a writer to points I'd never before reached, and beyond to new ones. During class, I placed a travel essay at the San Francisco Chronicle (I believe Amanda worked patiently through four drafts of that sucker with me) and an online article at GirlsguidetoParis. Anyway, studying with Amanda will improve your writing, no matter the genre, and you'll have fun doing it!"
"Almost five years ago, I completed Amanda Castleman's beginners' travel writing class. Published piece in hand, I landed my first job as a journalist at a local newspaper. Recently, I tackled the advanced travel writers' class, and used the resulting articles and knowledge to launch my full-time freelance career.
"As with any new business, it hasn't been a walk in the park, but what a ride! More importantly, it is one that I was well-prepared for with the help of Writers.com. Plus, I've made great co-writer friends. I would (and regularly do) recommend it to anyone who considers entering the slightly weird and always wonderful world of freelancing or travel writing."
"I was very impressed by the level of individual attention, thought and response time."
Inside the Travel Lab
"With the confidence and skills Amanda gave me, I was able to approach highly regarded publications, like The Washington Post and the Toronto Star, and succeed in getting published. Amanda's class is a good investment, for beginners, as well as for professionals who need to energize their work and look at it from a different perspective. "
"The travel writing workshop is invaluable. Since the course I have had a couple of articles published in nursing journals and today I found out that I have been accepted as an Editorial Board member of the Journal of Emergency Nursing (the only member outside of America). The workshop content has been transferable and I can imagine Amanda's comments as I read through and edit my work (sentence too long, need a more catchy introduction, etc). Just wanted to share my achievement and say "thank you" for the writing guidance last year - it has made a huge difference to me and my path forward."
"Her approach to teaching is clear and concise. I'll not be surprised if one day she writes a book on Travel Writing. ... She is an inspiration, an ideal to aspire to."
"Fab experience, again! One word describes Amanda: awesome. Her critiques were thorough, encouraging us to aim for excellence. Her lectures were chock-full of practical advice (and humor) about writing on the road. She is a dream teacher, just the
right balance between a knuckle-rapping tutor and a mom full of hugs. Thanks again for Writers.com. The course fees are lots cheaper than a shrink!"
"It surprised me that I felt more of a sense of community in her classes than I experienced in live workshops ... Best of all, Amanda is a wonderful editor, both sensible and sensitive. She helped me immensely to make my writing more concise and effective, and to use my quirks to best advantage.
"Here's the proof: I went through all the stages of writing and marketing an article on Magellanic penguins in southern Chile. To have my first article accepted by the first publication I approached The
Christian Science Monitor was like rocket fuel for me, and I have Amanda Castleman's expertise to thank."
Anne Clippinger, PhD
Adjunct Lecturer, Department of English, Montgomery College, MD
"Amanda Castleman leads her courses with thorough precision. She inspires careful attention to detail so that essential elements of the writers' work shine."
Kayla Allen, also published in the Christian Science Monitor during class
"I rate Amanda Castleman's course A+. I finished it last month and promptly sold an article. Amanda is a first-rate instructor who reviews every word of each student's assignment and offers detailed comments in a constructive, supportive way."
"After taking her class, I went on to publish a number of travel writing stories and currently have 20 travel assignments due to my favourite editor (Canadian Living's online presence: www.canadianliving.com
) before July 1. I started picking up assignments while taking Amanda's class and have kept all my notes for easy reference. Cheers."
"I thought that the class was EXCELLENT and well worth the time and money... The overall structure of the class, literary critique/criticism tied with the "business" end of travel writing, is a great approach."
"A very generous, knowledgeable person! Amanda was definitely worth every penny. Without your program, my writing would have stagnated. As it is, it remains one of the most important things that I do."
"I haven't taken Amanda Castleman's class I already make a living as a travel writer but because she's a friend, she just looked over a 6,000-word piece I was doing for National Geographic Traveler. Plain and simple, her comments
and suggestions were the best I have ever seen from any editor, anywhere. Amanda's a genius."
Winner of multiple Lowell Thomas Awards
"With her words and comments, she not only teaches, but inspires... This is my second class already and definitely I will take more."
"The learning was PACKED and the class had a lot of energy. She seemed very devoted to her charges and was always extremely helpful. Amanda Castleman's class is one of the best learning experiences I've had."
"Topnotch ... excellent balance of being supportive as well as having high expectations I love her genuine, witty humor as well as her creative way of approaching writing. She is extraordinary... I already have recommended Amanda's class to many people. YES! I would take another."
"The humour, generosity and laser-sharp direction provided in her feedback inspired me to persist when the going got tough. More than an instructor, Amanda is a coach, a cheerleader and a friend to her students. Thanks to her I discovered a passion for writing, fell in love with my thesaurus, developed consciousness in my reading and writing, and staked my claim to the title, "aspiring author"... Writers.com is offering great value for the money."
A sampling of works by alumni...
Best Travel Writing (gold in travel & sports): The Ringer by Jennifer Williams
Boston Globe: It's Chopin's 200th year, and Warsaw is Humming by Mary Ellen Monahan
Christian Science Monitor: Magdalena Island's Magellanic Penguins by Anne Clippinger
Christian Science Monitor: Cats Among the Ruins by J Almon Polk
Food Network Canada: Spotlight on Luang Prabang (Laos): A Hidden Foodie Gem by Mardi Michels
The Guardian Weekly: Bhutan: a day of sunshine in the midst of the rainy season lifts spirits by Rachael Davey
GoNomad: South Africa: Top Ten Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in Cape Town by Petro Kotz
National Geographic Traveler: Miami Road Trip by Kelly Amabile
The New York Times: Chic but Not Famous: A Resort Named Jos, by Paola Singer
San Francisco Chronicle: Spirit of Resistance Lives on in French Village by Debra Borchert
Washington Post: Finding Gems in N.C. Ore, Not by Gaston Lacombe
World Hum: Square Grouper on the Cocaine Coast by Jill K. Robinson
writers on the net/writers.com