Excavating The Travel Essay


One lecture followed by 3-week self-paced course



Write a literary travel essay in just three weeks! 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. We’ll push the boundaries of the genre while remaining committed to the heart of the story.  


We begin 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.

The course is formatted with a one-day Zoom session to deep-dive into the craft of the travel essay, followed by three weeks of virtual class that includes:

  • Daily writing prompts that correspond with the course material

  • Video lessons to guide you through writing a full essay, step-by-step

  • Live craft chats and virtual office hours to help hone your skills, troubleshoot writer's block, and support your journey

  • Online community forum for peer support and feedback

  • Virtual public reading to showcase your work

Each participant will write an original travel essay of up to 3,000 words and receive feedback on their story, including a personalized list of recommendations for places to submit. 


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


"Jenna offers a game-changing class. The daily prompts helped me focus and generate while delving into this new territory. Not only did I write a substantial draft of an essay during this time (one I have been putting off!), I feel that I can take what I have learned in this class and apply it to my future writing. I would take the class again simply to be in an atmosphere that helps me get the essay out of me. Jenna fosters a collegial and supportive environment where classmates come together to share work and ideas. The class material is well-organized, thorough, and meaningful, and peppered with inspirational words from those who have walked the path before. Plus, Jenna is knowledgeable, sincere, and a pleasure to work with. I highly recommend this class."

—Jennifer Kircher Carr (Excavating the Travel Essay 2021)

"This class was a delight! I'm a beginner and Jenna provided me with enough structured info, examples, daily prompts and community space to feel like a pro. In a short amount of time, she managed to dive deep on aspects of travel writing with refreshing ease. And it was fun! I definitely recommend this class for experienced writers as well as newcomers like me." —Turna Mete (Excavating the Travel Essay 2021)

Individual Coaching & Consulting


Individual writing and career coaching is available for new and experienced writers looking to develop their skills, hone their craft, and determine the best career trajectory for them. Whether it's for writing articles, a book, or effective press releases, this coaching strategy is rooted in a structured, objective-oriented approach based on your goals. 

Editing articles, manuscripts, or other copy is available on a case-by-case basis. 

"Jenna takes the desire to be a writer and skillfully plots the course to make it real. In an encouraging, safe and stimulating environment she walks you through at a pace that allows you to develop and flesh out your ideas. Her breadth of knowledge in the field of writing allows you to sample writers and be inspired by their techniques.  This is simply the best, most satisfying, practical  and least pretentious writing course I have ever had the pleasure of joining." —Julia Booth, (private coaching 2020-2022)


Image by Adli Wahid

The Frontier of Travel Writing

Master Class

Istanbul + Turquoise Coast

September 16-25 2022


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.

Image by Daniel Burka

Day 3



*Writing workshop on capturing evocative scene and cityscape.

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

Image by David Monje

Day 5



*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.


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Day 7


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

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


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Day 2



*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.



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Day 4



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

*Turkish wine tasting with Istanbul's top sommelier.

*Dinner at Istanbul's best restaurant.


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Day 6


*Fly to the beautiful seaside village of Kaş 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 private villa with garden, pool, and sea view. 

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Day 8



*Publishing your work.

*Sailing and swimming trip on the Mediterranean coast.

*Farewell dinner and closing remarks.


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A 4-star boutique hotel in the charming Cihangir neighborhood—home to writers, actors, and artists. It has stylish rooms and a rooftop terrace with views of the Bosphorus. 

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We have a scenic coastal retreat all to ourselves. The mountains and shores have thousands of years of history to share and we'll meet the locals who tell their stories best.


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