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Excavating the Travel Essay

September 2021

Crafting the Perfect Pitch

October 2021


Excavating The Travel Essay

Five sessions; September 12, 19, 26, October 3, 10 / 12-2pm ET


This course is for anyone who wants to write travel essays that are as vivid as they are insightful. We'll mine old travel journals, photos, correspondences, and conduct original research to write a rich and layered essay. Perhaps it's a story of transformation abroad, of a place that moved you or a stranger who changed your life, a journey that still haunts you, or simply of a distant meal you'll never forget. Or maybe it's a story of migration and identity in a foreign landscape. Over five sessions we’ll push the boundaries of the genre while remaining committed to the heart of the story.  


The course begins by reading a broad range of travel essays to understand how different techniques impact the reader. When would an anecdote be more effective than a statistic? How should a writer portray a culture they know little about? We'll break away from the clichés, tropes, and stereotypes that plague travel writing in order to tell an authentic and dynamic story.


Next, we'll dive deep into structure and craft. Whether you're writing a chapter in a memoir, a magazine feature, a letter, or deep captions for a photo essay, we'll cover the pillars of a solid travel story—curiosity, sense of place, a moment in time, local characters, rich context, narrative arc, sensory details—as well as techniques to illustrate it skillfully.


During the course, each participant will write an original travel essay of up to 2,000 words. The stories will be shared with the group and we’ll generate feedback together. Each student will meet virtually with the instructor for comments and edits, including a personalized list of recommendations for places to submit it to.


Between sessions, participants can join the community forum for daily writing exercises, Q+A, and craft discussions led by the instructor.

This course is limited to 10 participants.

*One full scholarship is available for a promising writer with a background historically misrepresented or underrepresented in the

travel writing genre.


Crafting the Perfect Pitch

Four sessions; October 17, 24, 31, Nov 7 / 12-2pm ET


What does it take to translate a good story idea into an irresistible pitch? In this workshop we’ll learn how to get an editor to greenlight your pitch by covering the tenets of a solid story and matching it to the right publication. Whether you’re just starting or you’re a seasoned writer aspiring to bigger outlets, this course provides clear guidance on crafting effective pitches for quality publications.

This workshop will survey methods for generating story ideas and tips to make them successful. We’ll cover the essential components of a pitch letter, from a catchy subject line, to a captivating hook, and a walk-off that leaves the editor wanting more. We’ll also discuss editor etiquette, navigating the assignment process, and how to land the best placement for your story. 


The course culminates with a private consultation with feedback on your final pitch, as well as feedback generated as a group. By the end of the workshop you'll have one polished pitch letter and a list of places to pitch.


Between sessions, participants can join the community forum for daily writing exercises, Q+A, and craft discussions led by the instructor.

This course is limited to 10 participants.


Immersive travel excursion and writing workshop 

See an unfiltered view of one of the world's best cities—Istanbul!—while sharpening your writing skills in this experiential class. This isn't your typical writing workshop: it's designed to cut  through the fluff and explore real issues in travel writing, such as the risks and ethics of writing abroad, and how to craft a truly authentic story that embodies the complexities a place.


Most importantly, we won't do it alone: We'll meet local journalists, see the streets through the eyes of documentary photographers, taste the cuisine of Istanbul's best chefs, and break bread with local communities.


After Istanbul, we'll head to a private seaside retreat to use as our writing studio. The trip culminates with a historic sailing excursion. A writing retreat trip extension will be offered.


This course is structured through writing prompts, on-the-ground reporting, panel discussions, and group workshops to produce a publishable travel feature.  



Local health protocols will be followed. Price based on shared room; private accommodations available.

Image by Meriç Dağlı

Day 1



*Writing workshop on writing about a sense of place. How do we put a city, and a moment in time, into words?

*Boat ride on the Bosphorus.

*Exclusive behind-the-scenes access with the staff at the royal Ciragan Palace Hotel.


*Writing workshop on incorporating history into writing about the present.

*Historic tour through Sultanahmet, featuring the Blue Mosque, Hagia Sophia, Topkapi Palace, and Byzantine ruins.

Image by Daniel Burka

Day 3



*Culinary tour of Istanbul's tastiest food neighborhood led by a local food writer.

*Dinner at Istanbul's best restaurant.

Image by David Monje

Day 5


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Day 7


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Day 2



*Writing workshop on how to talk to locals and write about a culture that's not your own.

*Contemporary Istanbul art festival.

*Travel writing ethics panel and intimate dinner with local and international journalists based in Istanbul.



*Writing workshop on capturing evocative scene and cityscape.

*Documentary travel photography class led by a National Geographic photographer.




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Day 4


*Fly to the beautiful seaside village of Datca for a private writing retreat. On the way we'll see some of Turkey's most stunning cliffside ruins.

*We'll stay at a stunning retreat center


*Writing workshop on incorporating the inner journey into our travel essay.

*Writing time and free time to explore Datca shops, beach clubs, and restaurants.


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Day 6



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Day 8



*Publishing your work.

*Boat trip and swimming trip on the Mediterranean

*Farewell dinner and closing remarks.

All accommodations
Most breakfasts and dinners
All domestic travel
Guided tours + workshops
Boat trip
Personalized writing feedback
A custom reader and workbook
Intimate group size (8 max)
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