Sunday 30 May 2021

How To Be A Travel Writer

"Only describe something as breath-taking if you are writing at high altitude or interviewing someone with emphysema" warned Peter Carty. It was the first session of his online travel writing course and he wanted to demonstrate how the genre lends itself to cliche. He's asked us to identify examples of this and several other clunkers were put forward. I laughed along with my course mates but realised that in ten years of blogging and occasional contributions to magazines, I'd used many of these words and phrases myself.

I enrolled on the course during the most recent lockdown hoping to sharpen my writing skills and to improve my chances of getting published more widely. The course is designed to meet both of these objectives, has a very practical focus and offers continuing support at no extra charge. It consists of four sessions of two hours. They are spread across four evenings and combine information-giving, discussion and  short writing exercises to practise the skills being covered. The sessions are well structured, relaxed and thoroughly enjoyable and I quickly felt very comfortable speaking and sharing my work. Handouts of case studies and resource lists are provided to support the work done in the sessions.

The first two weeks concentrated specifically on writing, including choosing and researching subject matter, style and structure. Each of these areas was covered in depth and was accompanied by a short exercise. This led up to an assignment completed between the second and third weeks - a 500 word piece on a subject of our choice. It had to be focused, interesting and meet Peter's style and punctuation guide. This exercise replicates the requirements of potential publishers as well as Peter's strong emphasis on good writing. "If you want to torture me tie me up and make me read badly punctuated articles" he said. 

I wrote about a marzipan shop in Tel-Aviv. Sharing it with the rest of the group was a bit nerve wracking and of course, as my name begins with letter A, I ended up going first. Peter gave an initial response on ways of  improving our work, before providing more detailed written feedback. I enjoyed sharing my piece and it was helpful to hear the approach classmates had taken and to learn about places I didn't know, such as an historic pub in Saint Albans, a cafe in a working class neighbourhood of Warsaw and a river walk in north London.

The third and fourth sessions focus on getting into print, how and when to pitch to different types of publication, both hard-copy and online, marketing one's work and general advice on communicating with the travel industry. Again Peter emphasised the need for detailed research before approaching a publication. 

I completed the course feeling that my objectives had been fulfilled. I learned a lot about sharpening my writing and have been looking back on some of my earlier work and seeing how it could be improved. It has also made me feel more confident about pitching to a wider range of publications. I just hope there aren't any cliches or too many adjectives in this post.

More information

Peter Carty runs regular travel writing workshops. He also offers the course I took as a single day workshop. There is also the option of a six module distance learning course conducted over email with zoom meetings on request. Unlimited post course feedback and support is offered with each course. My course cost £115.

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