THE PLACES YOU’VE BEEN: TRAVEL WRITING by Jillian Schedneck
START DATE: This class is currently closed.
DURATION: 6 weeks
COURSE DESCRIPTION: This course will take you through the elements of writing about your travel experiences. Whether you’ve barely left your hometown or lived a life abroad, you are filled with important stories to tell that take place within a particular time and place. Learn how to make that place and those experiences come alive for readers through careful instruction, discussion of example readings, and targeted feedback on crafting a compelling story, honing a captivating voice, providing the best details for setting, portraying compelling characters, using innovative structure, and improving your revision skills.
Each week students will focus on a particular feature of travel writing, read and discuss a travel essay, complete an assigned exercise and receive feedback from the instructor on their draft. The whole group will see the instructor’s responses, and this feedback will contain recommendations for moving further with the story of the essay. Participants may post one revision of any of the week’s assignments for more response.
Extraordinary assignments. When I compare assignments and topics covered by other teachers, I feel I was at a better place. ~ Amy S.
One of the best, kind, and understanding professors I have had an opportunity to work with! ~ Georgia B.
Pushes students to do their best without pressuring them. ~ Sarah W.
Jillian is brilliant and always encourages us to keep learning. She is very patient and easy to understand. ~ Mahmoud S.
I loved doing the exercises. Loved clear structure. ~ Emily V.
Good feedback from the lecturer. ~ Lou H.
Excellent presenter. ~ David M.
The whole workshop was useful. Ideas and possibilities. ~ Mariam L.
Inspiring and encouraging as an emerging writer. ~ Helen D.
WEEKS AT A GLANCE:
Week 1: Story
Readers want to be pulled into a travel essay and feel satisfied when they come to the end. Achieving this typically entails creating a satisfying story where the narrator undergoes a small or large change by the end. What is the shape of your story?
Reading: Without a Map by Meredith Hall
Assignment: Write down five ideas for travel essays, including a description of the place and a few details about the change you went through. Choose one of your ideas. Write the first 500 words, paying attention to inviting the reader into your story.
Week 2: Voice
The voice you adopt in your essays is essential to intriguing the reader, and sets the mood and tone for your essay. This voice is essential to you. It’s your personal “take” on what's happening around you. Yet voice can also be modified and adapted to fit the particular story you wish to tell. The concrete details and emotions you choose to reveal through your particular voice will make the reader feel confident in the truth and meaning in your story.
Reading: The Queimada by Michele Morano
Assignment: Rewrite and finish the travel essay you began last week, paying more attention to voice and how it can best match the story you’re telling. Or, begin another essay from your list of ideas in a different voice from your first piece. If you start a new piece, it should be 750 words or longer, until you have finished the story.
Week 3: Setting
Setting is essential to any travel essay. The reader is looking for how and why this place changes you. We need to see why this place is compelling—for all its magnificence and all its flaws.
Reading: Trekking Bhutan’s Higher Plains by Kira Salak
Assignment 1: Describe only the place where one of your essays is set. This description could be broad—contextual and historical, or minute, providing particular details. Don’t put yourself into the scene. Write two paragraphs. Then rewrite those paragraphs so that you are in the scene. What happens? What changes?
Assignment 2: Describe your expectation of a place before you went, and compare that with your actual experience there. Write what you learned about the reality versus the expectation.
Week 4: Character
You are most likely the most important character in your travel and personal essay writing. The voice you’ve established will give the reader clues to your character, but you will also reveal yourself as a narrator through your thoughts, actions and dialogue. Yet travel writing isn’t only about you. Your essay will most likely be populated with characters. How do the people you meet in these new places change you and your perspective?
Reading: The New Mecca by George Saunders
Assignment: If you haven’t already, focus on one of your travel essay ideas that especially relies upon the importance of another person in your journey. Include at least one scene of your interactions with this other person, making sure to describe the way this person looks, acts and what they say throughout the scene. Complete the essay, showing the reader how this person changed your point of view about something important.
Week 5: Structure
Structure is key to any piece of writing. How will you handle time? How will you get across your major themes? Structure can be linear or braided, telling several interweaving stories, or jump ahead or back and forth in time. What makes the most sense for your essay?
Reading: It Starts as a Name by Marilyn Abildskov, and a craft of writing essay about structure.
Assignment: Complete one of the essays you’ve only started. Think about the structure you’ve adopted, probably without even really thinking about it. Include a paragraph describing your craft and decisions for this essay: why did you choose the structure you did? Why or why isn’t this the best structure for this particular essay? Do you want to try something else?
Week 6: Revision and Publication
Revision is key to any writing process. This week will give you the chance to revise further, and learn more about publication options.
Reading: Life During Wartime by Janine Di Giovanni
Assignment: Revise one of your completed essays, or include a different completed essay for response and feedback.
Materials needed: A computer with an Internet connection.
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR: Jillian Schedneck is the author of the travel memoir Abu Dhabi Days, Dubai Nights, published by Pan Macmillan in 2012. Her travel writing and essays have appeared in over a dozen international literary journals and magazines, including Brevity, Redivider, The Common Review and Literary Traveler. She received an MFA in Creative Nonfiction from West Virginia University in 2006 and a PhD in Gender Studies from the University of Adelaide in 2013. She is currently completing her novel Hungry for the World and Its Glow, which focuses on three young women's very different travel experiences.
COST: $150, which includes weekly assignments and feedback from the instructor.
BUY NOW: The Places You’ve Been: Travel Writing by Jillian Schedneck (6 weeks, starting 2/29/2016) Limit: 20 students. Early registration is recommended.
This class is now closed. Please check here for our current schedule.
Notes: Upon successful completion of payment, your name, email address, and contact info will be submitted to your instructor. She will contact you via email and deliver your self-study program on Friday.
Questions? Email Marcia & Angela at:
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