Travel Writing Conference Morning Class Descriptions


Advanced Narrative Workshop, led by Tim Cahill

This will be an intensely hands-on workshop for a small group of advanced writers. This workshop will focus on taking good writing to the next level: framing a story, finding and crafting a lede, using the right anecdotes and details, and shaping a resolution. The workshop will include writing exercises as well as close readings and critiques of material written before the class. This session is now closed.


Short-Form Storytelling, led by Spud Hilton

Sometimes, the only thing more difficult than writing a long story is writing a shorter one. It gets easier, however, when you understand (and use) the principles and practices that separate great travel storytelling from merely the rehashing of a diary. We'll talk about the importance of a strong, new angle and getting to the point quickly; how to still include and balance the narrative, observation and reporting that make up most compelling stories, but in the 700- to 1,000-word range; and reliable ways to structure a tale to grab readers and keep their attention. There will be hands-on writing assignments and exercises, as well as discussion about how to get the most from your writing by tailoring it to multiple platforms. We'll also spend time discussing freelancing best practices, as well as the inside tips you need to pitch a story -- and possibly join the long list of Book Passage conference participants who have written for The Chronicle.


Getting Personal: Narrative, Essay, Memoir, led by Larry Habegger

The best travel stories are really stories about life, with lessons for the writer and reader about ourselves and the people and places in our still magical world. My intention in our morning sessions is to help you develop powerful stories with simple tools. We will explore the craft of the personal essay and memoir through a combination of lectures, discussion, writing exercises, and sharing our work. The concepts we cover apply equally to brief essays, short personal stories, and longer works such as full-length memoirs. We’ll start by discussing and exploring different aspects of the genre: learning to conjure up inspiration; adding emotion and weight to your work; learning how to write vivid, powerful prose; the best structure for your story; and finding a home for your work.


Building and Branding Your Digital Path, led by Pam Mandel & Candace Rardon

The web can be an ideal space for self-expression, giving novice travel writers that great feeling of sharing your stories while growing your credibility and connections as a writer. At the same time, it’s also an essential vehicle for establishing your platform and engaging your readers and audience. This three-day course will cover how to set up and make the most of your own presence on the web—from the hows and whys of blogging, to branding yourself as a writer and storyteller, to social media best practices. Our intention is that you leave the course equipped with an understanding of the different kinds of travel writing, tools for expanding your digital reach, what does well on the web and why, and how to find your place in this continually shifting landscape.


Finding, Telling and Selling Your Story, led by Jim Benning & Chris Reynolds

Like every traveler, every travel story is different. But there are strategies that get best results when you’re seeking, pitching, reporting, writing and editing a story– and we want to share them. Drawing on many decades of print and web writing and editing for the Los Angeles Times, the BBC and others, we’ll spend our first morning talking about how to identify a great story idea (or how to refine a mediocre idea into a great one), and then how to sell that idea to an editor. We’ll spend the second morning on reporting – how to gather the threads you'll need to weave a memorable tale, whether it’s an old-fashioned narrative, a digital slide show, a video, or some combination of those. On day three, we'll focus on writing, editing and what to do after you seem to be done.


Travel Photography, led by Robert Holmes, Andrea Johnson & Catherine Karnow

Over the course of three mornings, this course will introduce the concept of visual travel journalism, both still and motion, with an emphasis on creating visual storytelling.  We will assess photographic equipment, techniques and working methods; take an in-depth look at aesthetics, developing your creative vision, photographing people and working with light. This will be a highly interactive workshop with lots of opportunity for Q&A. Please note that those attending are asked to bring ten (10) photos on a flash drive for sharing in a group critique.


Alumni Salon: Tips & Tales, with Don George and Lavinia Spalding

This year for the first time we are offering a morning workshop exclusively for returning conference participants. Led by Don George and Lavinia Spalding, the workshop will offer the opportunity for an intimate and wide-ranging discussion of issues and challenges facing travel writers today, from understanding and navigating the current publishing landscape (in print and online; short form, long form and books) to creating a writing habit, scheduling and managing freelance work, building relationships with editors and agents, and utilizing social media as a tool for audience engagement and career development. The format is flexible and designed to meet, as much as possible, participants’ wants and needs. If you're a conference alum, bring your questions, experiences, ideas, and dreams to this workshop designed to help you realize your writing goals.