Travel Writing Master Class


Master Class
Twelve-week workshop with six guest instructors

Other Travel Writing Courses
Travel Writing: From Press Trips to Punctured Tires
Ongoing Travel Writing Workshop
Advanced Travel Writing

About Amanda Castleman
Student Comments
Complete List of Writers.com Classes

Travel Writing Master Class (12 weeks)

Amanda Castleman with Frank Bures, Candace Dempsey, Chelsea Lin, Anna Melville-James, Thomas Swick and Jim Thomsen

Take your prose to the next level, honing your voice and perspective. Bring a conference panel's worth of teaching talent to your computer -- any time, anywhere. Each week, students receive direct feedback from one of seven instructors, ranging from a New York Times contributor to one of London's leading travel journalists.

The roster includes multiple winners of the Lowell Thomas (the genre's ersatz Pulitzer) and Best American Travel Writing honorees.

Explore imagery and epiphanies apt to an area. Sharpen your eye for timely angles and compelling quests. Push your plot arcs further and master the interweaving of action, analysis and reflection.

From broadcast basics to longer-form narrative, this online workshop helps intermediate to expert authors refine their games. We'll delve into the sound of words on the page, as well as how to capture the best quotes from locals and experts. The class will even touch upon investigative tactics: when to tuck that press pass in your hat band... and when to meditate and read poetry for inspiration. Finally, you'll refine your cutting, redrafting and repurposing skills, exploring the same material through different subgenres and editors.

Past travel-writing 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.

But awards and publications are just icing on the cake: wherever you start from, this online workshop will help you kick things up a few notches via detailed critiques.

Not sure if the master class is for you? Take our quiz to find out.

Next session: September 25, 2013, $445, enroll now

The master class extends priority registration (immediate enrollment) to alumni of Writers.com's travel writing courses. Other applicants may be wait-listed until a week before class kicks off.

Week 1: Work Every Angle
Advanced narrative techniques and how to develop strong, "sticky" news pegs that excite editors to commission and audiences to read avidly. Write an essay or feature with a timely angle (750-word max).

Week 2: Place as Character
Delve into the revelatory details and techniques that illuminate a story, raising place from "backdrop" to center stage. Assignment: Write a feature or essay, emphasizing the sensations, history and culture of a destination (1,000-word max).

Week 3: The Plot Thickens
Using motion, suspense and blocking action to build literary steam ... and ideally reveal a deeper message specific to the location. Assignment: Reverse-engineer an outline from a completed article (your choice). Track the arc of ideas and emotions, indicating the lede, nutgraf, exposition, points of revelation, rising action, climax, point of insight, denouement and kicker (500-word max).

Week 4: Look Who's Talking
Explore how to populate stories with characters, including a defined and intriguing narrator, where applicable. Go beyond interviews and authoritative sources to vignettes that evoke universal themes and rich, specific experiences. Learn how to gather revelatory quotes and telling dialogue, then smoothly integrate these other voices with your own. Assignment: Write -- or revise -- a story, employing three original, authoritative sources (1,000-word max).

Week 5: Writer, Sell Thyself
Finesse your authorial persona. Explore tactics for marketing your brand, pitching major projects and stage-managing your new- and social-media self. Assignment: Submit your online portfolio URL (or materials for one) for review, along with two bio blurbs (one 150 words, another 75). Supply five social-media posts, which adhere to the 80/20 rule while still building your brand and expertise.

Week 6: Superpowering Social Media
Editors increasingly ask writers to blog and tweet while on assignment. Discover how to finesse your new- and social-media footprints. Tips on networking, writer's groups and finding a mentor. Assignment: Write a 250-to-500-word brief suitable for a blog, as well as five related posts for Twitter.

Week 7: Cuts & Redrafts
Truman Capote once said, "I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil." Fine-tune your self-editing skills from microtrims to mechanical overhauls during revisions. Assignment: Redraft a feature as a 500-word news brief.

Week 8: Recycling For A Better World
Journalists are hired guns, who assume house styles, voices and even moral viewpoints to suit various clients. Learn to chameleon your prose better... and also how to recycle your research and original reporting for multiple markets, increasing your profits. Assignment: Suggest news angles for the five story ideas supplied, as well as five of your own concepts (750-word max).

Week 9: Broadcast Cross-training
From videos to book trailers, writers increasingly wind up on air. Walk through the basics of multimedia storytelling and confident presentation. Assignment: Create a piece of multimedia of your choice.

Week 10: Action, Analysis & Reflection
Craft smooth segues and structures that pan from the specific to the universal and on to insights. Assignment: Revise one of your pieces or submit a new one (1,000-word max)

Week 11: The Point of Insight
Evolution of an idea: how a theme, narrator and sense of place transform throughout a tale. How to choose revelatory details and a point of insight aligned with a piece's theme or quest. Produce 750-word and 250-word versions of the same story. Maintain thematic unity, plot arc and strong ledes, nut grafs and kickers, despite cuts.

Week 12: Voice and Rhythm
The sound of the word on the page has power, as does its placement within a piece, a paragraph and even a phrase. Explore how to write with force and flow, emphasizing the important elements of a story through thoughtful, conscious choices. .Assignment: Revise one of your 1,000-word pieces for line-editing or submit a new 3,000-word one for more general comments.

TEXTS: The course has no requirements -- too difficult with such far-flung students -- but the following books make great additions to any dedicated travel writer's bookshelves.

THE INSTRUCTOR TEAM is anchored by Amanda Castleman, who has taught travel writing for Writers.com since 2003. For each master class, she invites guest teachers to handle half the feedback.

This term's teaching roster features:

Other teachers in the pool include David Farley, Charyn Pfeuffer, Edward Readicker-Henderson and CNN correspondent Stephanie Oswald.

FRANK BURES has a thoughtful style, which has won acclaim in Best American Travel Writing four times, and also in Best American Sports Writing 2012. His work has appeared in Washington Post Magazine, Bicycling, Harper's, Runner's World and other places. Based in Minneapolis, he is also a contributing editor/writer at World Hum, Poets & Writers Magazine, The Rotarian and Thirty Two Magazine.

More at frankbures.com.

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.

Her website is www.amandacastleman.com and she ego-casts further on the blog Road Remedies.

CANDACE DEMPSEY, an award-winning author, has written for Slate, The New York Times, Art & Antiques, The Chicago Tribune, The Boston Phoenix and many other magazines and newspapers. Her adventure stories appear in the Travelers Tales anthologies Turkey, Women In The Wild and A Woman's Passion for Travel, as well as Seal Press's Gifts of the Wildand Solo: On Her Own Adventure. She's appeared on MSNBC, CNN, the BBC, CBC and Italian television.

An Italian-American, Candace wrote Murder In Italy (Penguin/Berkley Press), the true story of Amanda Knox. The ultimate nightmare travel book, it's a Library Journal Bestseller, and winner of Best True Crime 2010 Reader's and Editor's Choice awards.

Her stories reflect her addictions. She loves to kayak, ski, backpack, hike, scramble and wander everywhere, while enjoying luscious foods and wines. Candace fell in love with long-distance driving while growing up in the Pacific Northwest and now lives on an island near Seattle.

She is the former editor of Alaska Airlines Magazine and editor/producer of MSN Underwire, which Newsweek called cheeky, nicely written, smart.

Read her stories online at: candacedempsey.com and Byliner.

CHELSEA LIN has spent the last five years giving recommendations on where to eat, drink, shop, and play around San Francisco and Seattle: professionally via channels like City search, Seattle Weekly, and now, MSN Local, and independently to her network of friends (and really, anyone who will listen). Previously, this journalism-school alumna staffed for outlets like the San Francisco Weekly, California Home and Design, and the Bay City News, a 24-hour wire service.

She loves traveling overseas, baking elaborate layer cakes and enjoying a good cocktail. But her favorite decompression remains dancing around the living room to 80s tunes with her husband and year-old daughter.

Catch her tweets @Stewarded.

ANNA MELVILLE-JAMES has written regularly for the British national newspapers for over 12 years. She specializes in travel but also writes on anthropology, family life, the environment and popular psychology in press ranging from The Independent and Guardian to the more conservative Daily Telegraph and Sunday Times.

Anna has authored travel guides for Michelin on Italy, Sicily, Rome and London, and helped launch the Daily Mail's www.travelmail.co.uk and Museum's Association's www.museumassociation.co.uk.

She's currently massing up content for the launch of Passportini an online resource for those exploring the world with small children in January 2013.

Anna lives in London with her partner and daughter, two-year-old Claudie -- already a seasoned traveler. When she's in Blighty, Anna's passion for rowing (a hangover from her days as a student at Cambridge University) still helps her shake off tension from too much typing.

Experience Anna's spirited voice on her portfolio site.

THOMAS SWICK is renowned for his commentary on the travel writing trade, through both World Hum columns and essays in The Wilson Quarterly and the Colombia Journalism Review. His work has been included four times in The Best American Travel Writing anthologies, and he authored two books: Unquiet Days: At Home in Poland and A Way to See the World: From Texas to Transylvania with a Maverick Traveler.

Born in Pennsylvania, Tom grew up in New Jersey and has lived and worked in England, France, Greece and Poland. (He speaks French and Polish.) He worked for the Trenton Times and the Providence Journal before moving to the South Florida Sun Sentinel where, over nearly two decades, he developed a reputation as a "writers' travel editor." Tom went freelance in 2008, writing for Afar, Smithsonian and The Oxford American, as well as other publications.

His website is www.thomasswick.com.

JIM THOMSEN is a Seattle-based copy editor and second-line story editor of book manuscripts. He works primarily with indie authors, including several who were offered lucrative contracts by leading traditional imprints, and does occasional contract work for publishing houses. (Clients include New York Times best-selling authors Gregg Olsen, M. William Phelps, Jamie McGuire and Michele Scott.) Previously, he worked as a reporter, copy editor and managing editor, ending his newspaper career in 2011 as the news editor at the Kitsap Sun in Bremerton, Wash.

Jim was raised on Bainbridge Island, Wash. and makes his home in West Seattle. He belongs to the Mystery Writers of America, the American Copy Editors Society, the Pacific Northwest Writers Association and the Northwest Independent Editors Guild.

Learn more on his blog.

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How much time does it take?
Akin to a three-credit college class, the workshop requires 60-90 minutes of reading and at least two hours for the assignments each week. Ambitious readers can delve deep via links and articles: some study is self-guided and entirely optional.

Can I travel during class?
Students -- and the instructors -- frequently roam during the course. The decision should hinge upon your work habits: can you focus and write well away from home? Will you have the discipline to hand in assignments early, if necessary?

With multiple teachers in the mix, we can't always accommodate late submissions. But we're happy to help folks work ahead -- or to wrangle late critiques in special circumstances.

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.

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.

But placement depends on timing, connections and marketing savvy, as much as talent. We work to boost each student up a few ladder rungs from where he or she began. For some, that's breaking into a new publication, for others that's working towards a coveted clip, book proposal or Lowell-Thomas submission.

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. One assignment will involve an audio or video recording, which can be done easily from most PCs and Macs.

All the instructors work for international outlets, and several have staffed and freelanced outside the US. They're sensitive to different Anglophone dialects and how they might effect publication-ready prose.

I'm not sure I want to freelance...
There's no publish or perish here. The master class covers career-building skills, but primarily focuses on storytelling and style elements that can translate to many mediums.

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 explores techniques common to strong writing everywhere: interviews, authoritative sources, news angles, narrative arc, etc... Most importantly, it offers detailed feedback from seasoned writers, editors and instructors, something independent authors often lack.

What if I can't finish in twelve weeks?
Due to the evolving roster of guest instructors, we can not offer term transfers for this class. However, we're happy to discuss partial refunds or discounts for future courses, should life get in the way of the workshop.

What if I have another question?
Mark Dahlby can answer any queries (writers@writers.com).


Top of Page | About Amanda Castleman | About the Guest Instructors | Complete List of Writers.com Classes



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