Travel Writing Classes in La Rioja, Spain (May 17-23, 2020)  with The Writer’s Workshop
(nick@thewritersworkshop.net)

Travel, Food and Wine Writing classes in Rioja.

Travel, Food and Wine Writing classes visit the enchanting wine region of La Rioja, Spain.

TRAVEL WRITING CLASSES – Travel writing, Food writing and Wine writing are some of the most appealing genres of nonfiction, calling on all of an author’s skills—dramatic scenes, character sketches, concrete detail, point of view, scene by scene construction—to compose compelling, engaging travel narratives. This one week intensive class will introduce you to essential techniques of travel, food and wine writing and give you expert, insider advice about how to submit and publish finished travel stories.

In addition to learning these skills, you’ll dine at outstanding restaurants, visit some of the world’s best wineries, and explore fascinating historic sights during the travel writing classes. You’ll enjoy exclusive behind- the-scenes tours unavailable to the general public. Best of all, you’ll receive up-to-date story ideas from local industry experts that you can turn into finished travel, food and wine stories by the end of the class and submit to newspapers and magazines for publication. And now, I will personally edit and recommend your stories to a well-known food and beverage magazine for likely publication.

Delicious tapas, one of the many Spanish dishes we’ll enjoy during the Travel, Food and Wine Writing Classes.

The one week travel writing class will take place in La Rioja, Spain’s premier wine region, a land of astonishing beauty and rich geographic diversity, producing some of the finest wines in the world. Mountains to the north and south protect it from cold and wind, creating an ideal micro climate for growing grapes, figs, pears, highly-prized white asparagus as well as pasturing cattle and sheep that make for delicious carne asada and succulent roast lamb.

The cost will be $2600 per person, including accommodations and most meals. (Single supplement, $500 per person) Plane fare, transit to and from La Rioja and some meals extra.

To enroll, please send me a non-refundable deposit of $800 to 201 Newell St., Seattle, WA 98109. Enrollment is limited to 10. For more information, contact me at nick@thewritersworkshop.net or 206-284-7121. The balance for the class will be due April 1st. After that date, there will be no refunds except in the case of medical emergency. See details below.

Travel Writing in Provence

Online Travel Writing Classes – Available Online Anytime

INTRODUCTION TO TRAVEL WRITING CLASS – The romance of travel writing is easy to understand. Who wouldn’t like to go on an all-expense paid trip to a Hawaiian resort? How about traveling the Whiskey Trail through the American South, visiting the best micro distilleries? Or what about a food and wine tour of Argentina? These are all trips I have turned down recently, mostly from lack of time. Would you like to go in my place? Sign up for the travel writing class you’ll learn the techniques of travel writing which can lead to getting invited on these trips.

Travel writing is one of the most exciting genres of nonfiction, calling on all of an author’s skills—dramatic scenes, character sketches, concrete detail, point of view, scene by scene construction. Through readings, written assignments and individual critiques, students in the travel writing course will gain a practical grasp of these techniques. These travel writing classes will discuss where to market work. Six assignments including a 1,500- to 2,500-word travel story and its revision. $500.

 

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE FOR TRAVEL WRITING CLASSES IN RIOJA

This course will give you an intensive introduction to the art and practice of travel writing, allow you to experience the incredible richness of the local wine and cuisine scene, and provide time to explore this amazing place. Tentative itinerary:

We'll visit the gleaming Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao as part of the travel writing class.

We’ll visit the gleaming Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao as part of the travel writing class.

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE

This course will give you an intensive introduction to the art and practice of travel writing, allow you to experience the incredible richness of the local wine and cuisine scene, and provide time to explore this amazing place. Tentative itinerary:

SUNDAY – 8:30 p.m. – Welcoming dinner at Los Augostinos Restaurant in Haro, Spain. Sample Rioja wines and regional specialties such as roast lamb, white asparagus, carne asada and grilled scallops with saffron cream sauce as you get to know the other course participants.

MONDAY – 9 a.m. to noon – Introduction to the travel writing course, discussion of travel writing, genres of travel writing (article, essay, profile, etc.), story ideas. Noon to 2 p.m. – Lunch – 2 p.m. to 5 p.m. – Tour of Haro. – Dinner at local restaurant featuring local specialties like lamb, beef and grilled shrimp. (Breakfast and dinner provided.)

TUESDAY – 9 a.m. to noon. – Lecture and discussion of scenes, scene by scene construction, dramatic outlines. Noon to 2 p.m. – Lunch – 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Free time – 4 to 6 p.m. Tour of Rioja winery. (Breakfast provided)

Travel Writing Class

The scallop shell, symbol of the Camino de Santiago, a portion of which we’ll walk during the Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class.

WEDNESDAY – 8:30 a.m. leave to visit to Bilbao. – 10 a.m. Walking tour of Bilbao, covering history, culture and gastronomy. Tour of Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, one of the most celebrate museums in the world. – 1 p.m. Lunch at outstanding local restaurant serving local specialties such as grilled octopus, sea bass, pigeon and piquillo peppers. – 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Free time in Bilbao, a fascinating city and capital of the Basque region with outstanding shopping, meat, fish and vegetable markets . –  5 p.m. Return to Haro – 8:30 dinner in local restaurant. (Breakfast, lunch and dinner provided.)

THURSDAY – 9 a.m. Plot and characterization – 10 a.m. – noon – Draft story. Noon to 2 p.m. – Lunch. – 2 p.m. – Optional walk along the Camino de Santiago, leaving from Haro. (Breakfast provided.)

FRIDAY – 9 a.m. to noon – Write, workshop stories – Noon to 2 p.m. – Lunch – 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Discuss publication, writing query letters, readings of stories, course evaluation. – 8:30 p.m. – Class celebration at Terete, a local restaurant specializing in roast lamb, beef and white asparagus. (Breakfast and dinner provided.)

SATURDAY – Check out of the hotel, alas!

 

LA RIOJA, SPAIN

 

Nick O’Connell, founder of The Writer’s Workshop, walking the Camino de Santiago outside Haro, Spain.

THE PLACE – La Rioja is Spain’s premier wine region, a land of astonishing beauty and rich geographic diversity, producing some of the finest wines in the world. Mountains to the north and south protect it from cold and wind, creating an ideal microclimate for growing grapes, figs, pears, highly-prized white asparagus as well as pasturing cattle and sheep that make for delicious carne asada,  succulent roast lamb and pungent cheese.

The quality of the produce inspires an extraordinary culinary culture, not only in Rioja itself, but in nearby Bilbao to the north, the defacto capital of the Basque region, boasting the world famous Guggenheim Museum, an array of lively tapas bars and many shops and restaurants.

The famous Camino de Santiago bisects the region and serves as a spiritual magnet for the thousands of pilgrims who complete the 500-mile trek every year. Over the centuries, the route has played an important role in Spanish history, bringing in new art, ideas and customs, making this an important cultural destination for wine, art, architecture and the Spanish language itself.

We will experience the richness of La Rioja during my upcoming 2020 Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class in Haro, Spain.

ACCOMMODATIONS

Double-occupancy rooms at historic hotel in Haro, Spain. Single rooms available with a $500 supplement.

TO ENROLL

Please send me a non-refundable deposit of $800 to 201 Newell St., Seattle, WA 98109, USA. Enrollment is limited to 10. Spouses, partners or friends can attend the events and meals but not the class for $1800, with a $800 deposit. For more information, contact me at nick@thewritersworkshop.net or 206-284-7121. Please sign up early; the class likely will fill quickly.

THE INSTRUCTOR

My introduction to the moveable feast that is Europe began during a junior year abroad program in Nantes, France. On weekends and holidays, I criss-crossed the continent with my rail pass, visiting Florence to see the Michaelangelo’s David and indulge in a bottle of Chianti with Bistecca Alla Fiorentina. The next weekend I’d board the night train to Madrid to gawk at Goya’s black paintings and drink way too much sangria. Then I’d return to Nantes to enjoy oysters with a bottle of Muscadet and the occasional splurge on a leg of lamb with a good Bordeaux. In completing my studies in French at Amherst College, I saturated myself in the continent’s language, literature, art and history. I returned to Italy, France, Spain and Germany many times since then, traveling all over the continent to savor its food, wine and culture.

nick-with-flowers

Nick O’Connell, founder of The Writer’s Workshop, and leader of the Travel, Food and Wine Writing class.

This in-depth knowledge of Europe quickly led to writing about it. Today, I contribute to Newsweek, Gourmet, Condé Nast Traveler, Saveur, Food and Wine, The Wine Spectator, Outside, GO, National Geographic Adventure, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Commonweal, Alaska Airlines Magazine, Westways, Sierra, and other publications. I’ve written the following books, The Storms of Denali: A Novel (2012), On Sacred Ground: The Spirit of Place in Pacific Northwest Literature (2003), At the Field’s End: Interviews with 22 Pacific Northwest Writers (1998),Contemporary Ecofiction, (1996), Beyond Risk: Conversations with Climbers (1993).

In addition to working as a freelance travel writer, I moonlight as a winemaker, making a Cabernet, Merlot, and Syrah under the Les Copains label. At one time I contemplated a career as a winemaker, but shelved the idea because I enjoyed writing and teaching too much. After completing my MFA in fiction writing and PhD in Literature at the University of Washington, I went on to create the university’s year-long program in Narrative Nonfiction in 1993, one of the first such programs in the country. After teaching in that program for a number of years, I founded www.thewritersworkshop.net, an online and on-campus writing program based in Seattle, Washington. This program allows me to indulge my passion for teaching small, personalized travel writing classes as well as introduce students to the incredibly rich history and culture of Provence, one of the crown jewels of this beautiful continent. For more: nick@thewritersworkshop.net.

 

RECOMMENDED READING

The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway.

Medium Raw by Anthony Bourdain.

The Art of Eating by M.F.K. Fisher.

The Wine Region of Rioja by Ana Fabiano.

 

GETTING THERE:

There are many transportation options, bus, train and car. Here are some links to websites for more detail:

By bus: http://www.rome2rio.com/s/Madrid/Haro

By train: http://www.thetrainline-europe.com/train/madrid-puerta-de-atocha-to-haro~7100049~7100434

 

ABOUT THE TRAVEL WRITING CLASSES

Travel, Food and Wine Writing Classes, Haro.

Downtown Haro, the capital of the Rioja region and a wonderful place to enjoy tapas as part of the travel writing class.

The Writer’s Workshop’s Travel, Food and Wine Writing classes have explored some of the best wineries, restaurants and cultural destinations in the world. The travel writing classes grew out of a visit to St. Emilion in 2004, where the food, wine and culture of the Bordeaux wine region inspired me to launch the travel writing classes in 2005, visiting First Growth wineries Chateau Margaux, Chateau Latour, Lafite Rothschild and Chateau d’Yquems as well as dining at outstanding restaurants like Le Lion d’Or and visiting historic sites like the grave of St. Emilion.

After running the travel writing classes for four years in St. Emilion, I branched out to Provence, choosing Vaison la Romaine, an idyllic destination in Provence, home of a spectacular weekly market, wineries like Vieux Telegraph and Chateau Beaucastel, amazing restaurants like Oustalet and important Roman ruins like Pont du Gard.

Provence’s proximity to Italy inspired a visit to Tuscany where I discovered Montalcino, a wonderful town which became a destination in 2009, allowing me to introduce students to the pleasures of Tuscany, visiting wineries like Biondi Santi, restaurants and taking in fantastic cultural destinations like Pienza, the world’s first planned city, an architectural jewel box.

And for the second time, we’ll visit La Rioja, Spain in May 2020, a captivating destination, with authentic Spanish cuisine, outstanding wine and important cultural and historical landmarks.

 

PARTICIPANTS IN THE TRAVEL WRITING CLASSES

Travel Writing Classes.

Participants in the 2017 Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class in Haro, Spain.

Participants in the travel writing classes are a self-selected group, some of the most interesting, diverse and motivated students I’ve had the pleasure of teaching. Many work as chefs, sommeliers, restaurateurs, public relations professionals, editors, authors as well as professionals in other fields such as medicine, law, teaching and engineering. Some have written books, others are new to writing, but all have appreciated the expert instruction and beautiful surroundings. Some have likened it to a summer camp for adults.

The class is ideal for those traveling with or without a friend or significant other. The self-selected nature allows participants to quickly bond, making friendships that have lasted a lifetime. Though  packed with activities, the schedule allows free time for writing, reflection, and the opportunity to explore the destination on your own. Here’s what some of the previous participants have written about my travel writing classes:

WHAT FORMER STUDENTS SAY ABOUT THE TRAVEL WRITING CLASS

These travel writing classes are incredible. This is my third one, each in a different location, each a fresh experience. I learn something new each time and always have new adventures and meet new friends with like minds.

Teresa Shorter writes from Greensboro, North Carolina.

You are the Domaine de la Mordorée rosé of writing teachers!

Julie Ramos writes from West Nyack, New York.

Best of all is Nick’s straight-forward advice, helpful information, down-to-earth nature, sense of humor and great taste. I love how we left the class with an article to send out!

– Jenine Abboushi writes from Beirut, Lebanon.

It’s a very pleasant way to energize your writing in a beautiful setting with congenial colleagues. I enjoyed it so much I came back a second time.

– Concha Alborg writes from Philadelphia, PA.

What an amazing week in the most beautiful place on earth! Learning the craft of food, wine and travel writing with your excellent insight and instruction was so helpful. Thank you for organizing the dinners, excursions and wine tastings.  I would recommend this travel writing adventure to anyone with a curiosity to learn what writing for this genre can entail.

– Michelle Morgando is a judge and chef from Las Vegas, Nevada.

I wanted to say thanks for an amazing travel writing trip! It keeps hitting me now just how special everything was, particularly meeting the winemakers…wow! Thanks so much for making the trip so memorable.

 Anne Banas is the Executive Editor of Smarter Travel

The Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class was so much fun that I find myself smiling whenever I think of it.  The small class size is ideal for a seminar and even better for the excursions to the wineries and restaurants.  Nick is extremely knowledge in all areas included in the seminar and is a marvelous host with a great sense of humor.  It is obvious why the small “garage” wineries and the venerable estates alike warmly welcome Nick and his entourage. While not a fan of group travel in general, this travel writing class could not have been better.  I highly recommend it to aspiring travel writers, Francophiles, and anyone who wants to enrich their appreciation of wine and food.

– Kate Jackson is a writer from Missoula, Montana.

James and Marcus howled with laughter. Ann and Jack, heads crushed together, pored over photos. Nick gestured wildly, indicating precisely what it is about Bordeaux that speaks to his soul. Balash, the international party boy/philosopher, snatched and drained half empty glasses. Out of the corner of my eye I saw silver-haired Barbara tiptoe into the kitchen in search of more crème brûlé. I felt the kind of relaxing smile you feel at the end of a long day with people you know well. How did this selection of strangers become so at ease with each other?… http://www.thewritersworkshopreview.net/article.cgi?article_id

– Erin Byrne is a writer from the Seattle area.

I can’t thank you enough for our week in Saint-Émilion. Rosemary and I had so much fun. I learned so much about travel, writing, food, wine and good teaching. I am so grateful.

– Andy Hall is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington.

I’m still smiling over our excellent St. Emilion travel writing adventure! Take care and thanks!

– Kristin DeCook is a freelance writer from Chicago.

Thank you for such a wonderful week – you are a master!

– Lauren Hirt is a freelance writer from Seattle, Washington.

We'll explore the lovely region of La Rioja as part of the travel writing class.

We’ll explore the lovely region of La Rioja as part of the travel writing class.

Enroll in a Travel Writing Class


CANCELLATION POLICY : The $800 deposit is refundable within 24 hours of payment. After that, it’s non-refundable. In the case of a medical or family emergency, the balance of the course fee may be transferable to a future class or may be refundable if you let me know far enough in advance to cancel the hotel room and other expenses. I highly recommend purchasing travel insurance before you go to make it easy to get a refund in the case of an emergency.

CELL PHONE ETIQUETTE: While cell phones are marvelous devices, they can detract from the experience of exploring a new place. Please turn off cell phones during class and  meals and store them in a place where they will not distract. Please do not take or make calls from the table or classroom. Please feel free to take photos of food, classmates and other aspects of the trip, though I encourage you ask others for their permission before taking photos of them.

Nick O’Connell: Writing His Own Story from Queen Anne Neighbors Magazine

Neighbor story: Nicholas O'Connell of The Writer's Workshop who teaches Seattle writing classes, travel writing classes and online writing classes.

Neighbor story: Nicholas O’Connell of The Writer’s Workshop who teaches Seattle writing classes, travel writing classes and online writing classes.

Nick O’Connell: Writing His Own Story from Queen Anne Neighbors Magazine, December, 2017

When you become a teacher, you begin to think more deeply about the subject upon which you are teaching. Culinary instructors must thoroughly understand the food they are using in class. Language instructors must comprehend the subtle nuances hidden within a language. And writing instructors must have an intimate relationship with the craft of writing so they can help others create their own stories and narratives.

This is what Nick O’Connell has learned over his years as a writing instructor in his Seattle writing classes, travel writing classes and online writing classes.

“Teaching others how to write requires that you understand the process in a very detailed and conscious way,” he explains. “By explaining how to write, I came to understand the writing process much more deeply.”

After pursuing MFA and Ph.D. in English, both from the University of Washington, his love of writing led Nick to start The Writers Workshop in 2001. After teaching at the U.W. for many years, Nick decided he wanted to run his own program focused on the art and craft of writing in his Seattle writing classes, travel writing classes and online writing classes.

“I thought my students would really benefit from taking classes as a part of a comprehensive program, learning all the facets of narrative writing, story ideas, research, interviewing, profiles, personal essays and then moving to more narrative techniques like dramatic scenes, character sketches, scene by scene construction, dramatic outlines. I thought I could offer a very appealing package for students both here and beyond.”

Though there are challenges that come along with running a small business, such as worrying about marketing, websites, and other mundane necessities, the positives definitely outweigh any negatives. The school gives Nick the chance to work more intimately with the craft of writing, imparting that wisdom to his students in his Seattle writing classes, travel writing classes and online writing classes.

“I wanted to develop a more personalized writing program, with small classes, individual attention, and ability to teach a curriculum that would allow students to make great progress in a relatively short period of time.”

Nick has contributed to such publications as Newsweek, Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and Food & Wine. His love of the outdoors led him to contribute to places like National Geographic Adventures and Outside. It wasn’t long until he decided to extend his writing courses to include travel writing courses, as well.

The one-week intensive class introduces students to essential techniques of travel, food, and wine writing and helps students write, submit and publish travel stories. the Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class with The Writer’s Workshop has gone to such places as the Bordeaux and Provence regions of France, as well as Italy and Spain.

One of Nick’s most cherished memories from his time teaching the Travel, Food and Wine Writing Class occurred during a tour of Biondi-Santi Winery, the inventor of Burnello de Montalcino, perhaps the most famous of Italian wines.

“Franco Biondi Santi, the fifth generation to run the winery, gave the tour,” Nick recalls.  “He was in his 80s, with a mane of gray hair, a passionate enthusiasm for winemaking, and a generous spirit in opening older bottles of his stellar wine, tasting through it with myself and the class, and explaining his enthusiasm for the world of wine.”

Nick mentions how rare it was for him to give a tour like that. “But he gave one to The Writer’s Workshop.” And though it was years ago, and Santi is now gone, the memory of the visit lives on for Nick.

“I’ll be thinking about it this spring when I visit Montalcino (home to Biondi Santi Winery) with the travel writing class.”

The adventures often include his family, as well. He’s been lucky enough to bring his wife Lisa, and their children along on several trips.

The trips have “added interest and zest to our family life,” Nick says. “My wife, Lisa, often accompanies me on the trip. We’ve also brought the kids along on a trip to France, introducing them to the many amazing aspects of Europe, including the culture, food, language and history.”

Married in 1994, Nick and Lisa first met in a nonfiction writing class at the University of Washington.

Originally from Spokane, Lisa received her B.S and M.D. from the University of Washington and completed a general surgery residency at the University of Utah (as well as a plastic surgery residency at the University of Cincinnati). She still finds time for art and writing. She loves to play guitar and sing and continues to write—mostly about plastic surgery on her blog, but also for other publications.

Together they have three children: Sons Daniel, Nick Jr., and daughter Marie. The family also includes their four-legged border collie/Australian shepherd mix dog, Stella.

The O’Connell’s consider Queen Anne to be a great place to both live and raise kids. They have lived on north Queen Anne since 1993. “We moved when we bought a house and got married. We both loved Seattle and the Queen Anne neighborhood.”

“I love Queen Anne because it’s a real neighborhood,” Nick says. “People look out for each other . . . we look out for each other’s kids. I like our neighbors and the larger community; they are a vibrant, caring group of people.” They hope the neighborhood can remain a single-family neighborhood and avoid the city’s attempts at upzoning it.

It’s the connections that make Queen Anne stand apart to the O’Connells, even after they’ve traveled the globe.

“Last summer our neighbors Steve Albright and Paula Cipolla hosted a weekly informal Friday evening gathering on their deck. Many of the neighbors showed up,” Nick recalls, “demonstrating that this is a strong, appealing, friendly community. Informal events like that make Queen Anne a great place to live.”

As a family they enjoy wine bottling, kids sports, and Irish step dancing. Nick also helped coach his son’s soccer team, back in the day. Nick can often be seen out in the community riding his bike, volunteering at St. Anne’s, and singing in their church choir. Always active, he enjoys skiing, climbing, swimming and running.

Their family motto is simply to “embrace life.” Thankfully, when you see the world through writer’s eyes, you see possibility in the smallest of details and breathtaking stories in the subtlest of moments.

Personally, Nick considers his novel The Storms of Denali to be one of his proudest achievements. “I put all I know about writing into that novel,” he explains. “As well as much that I know about human nature. It took many years to complete and publish, but it was worth the effort.”

It’s near impossible not to embrace life when you spend your days surrounded by the timeless craft of storytelling, the eye-opening adventure of travel and the in-depth relationship that teaching nurtures. Not only have the O’Connells found ways to fully embrace life, but they’ve done it on their own terms. When it comes to his life story, Nick has chosen to write his own.