I’ve been blogging on and off for 3 years and consistently getting feedback that people like my writing. AND people keep asking me why I’m not writing to be published, so when I got an email announcing Great Escapes 2017 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop I seriously read it. Of course, because they are great marketers, they had a large discount that could only be taken if I signed up within 24 hours. It was enticing because the course was scheduled for mid-September which was the right time frame for me to visit my sister in NY anyway so I could piggy back both things in one trip. Hmmm. I thought about it, talked with Michael and took the plunge to sign up.
That was last April. Life continued on and I didn’t think about the course much until I was getting ready to fly to the US in September. I still wasn’t blogging and so I was wondering – was this an expensive mistake? (Course price, flight, hotel, etc.) I’ve really admired Michael’s focus on Fashion and Beauty photography – his focus is crystal clear and he’s not distracted by other kinds of photography or other interests. Me, I’ve been flitting around – blogging, making jewelry, thinking about doing something with glass making – and the list goes on. I was hoping the course would kick start my writing, but I was nervous about wasting money if it didn’t light me up.
I arrived in Washington, DC 2 days early because the ‘right’ flight would land in DC around 12:30 AM on the day the course began and if there was a glitch with the airlines (Grenada to JFK, JFK to DC) I’d definitely miss the first day and probably the second day as well. Not a good thing since the course was only 3 days. The conference hotel was near the national mall and so I spent the time being a very happy tourist.
We didn’t travel at all this year. Michael has been engrossed with Carnival since April and I was just really happy being in Grenada, enjoying our home, and not having construction sounds in my ears all the time. Arriving in DC, I remembered why I love to travel and see new places. DC has been on my list of places I’d like to live for a month or more while filling up with wonderful museum experiences, good food and city life.
The course started with a welcome event Thursday night and it was exciting seeing everyone so pumped up to be taking the course. There were a number of people who had taken the course 1 to 3 years before that were all now writing professionally and often. This was both inspiring and inviting. None of them had written professionally before taking the course and all were successfully engaged in travel writing. Some were making reasonable money and others were getting a lot of travel perks – free trips, accommodations, etc. which fueled their love for travel, covered their costs and put some money in their pockets. All were originally working on a goal of 100 published travel articles and some were already over 200! What was great about hearing this is that it wasn’t one person, a star outlier, but 7 people who each had a story about how they were being successful.
The next 3 days were a whirlwind of informational sessions taught by experts, with a number of magazine editors available to discuss their requirements and panel sessions with the former students. For the most part, this wasn’t a writing course although we did get some great insight and tips on writing great articles. Rather, this was a course on how to get published. I learned about how to write a query letter or a pitch to an editor, how to find writer’s guidelines so that the article could be tailored to a specific magazine’s mission and requirements, using social media to promote your work, tips for landing press trips and travel perks, editor panel discussion on what works for them and what drives them crazy … the list goes on.
Possibly the best session for me was the writing clinic – we were given 30 minutes to draft a 300-400 word article, then we were divided into small groups and sat with an editor to critique the articles. We read our work aloud and each article was dissected and evaluated. This was fabulous because it became easy to hear what writing worked, what didn’t and how to improve each piece. I wrote an article about J’Ouvert, a fantastic street party that takes place during Carnival. When it was my time to read, I was shaking because I was so excited. I could immediately see that everyone was engaged and the editor said it was really great. One person moaned that no one would want to read their stories after me – which I considered the ultimate compliment! I definitely got a boost from that session!
Everyone left the workshop feeling like we had the skills to break into travel writing and the enthusiasm necessary to go home, start writing and pitching stories to editors. We even left with a 10 day plan of action that could be used over and over again to get published. I was on the start of a whirlwind trip around the US. I left DC to visit with my brother and his wife in Arizona for a few days, then flew to NY to see my sister, headed to CT for a visit with my friend, Diane and then drove back to NY to pack a few barrels to ship to Grenada. When I arrived back in Grenada at the end of the month and logged into the group I was pleased and astounded to hear that a number of participants had already had sent out multiple pitches to editors and had gotten their articles accepted. The pressure is on! Stay tuned and I’ll let you know how I’m doing with my stories and pitches.