Seattle Writing Class Discusses Travel Writing

Seattle 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.

My winter Seattle Writing Class, Follow the Story, will focus on genre in narrative writing. We will discuss travel writing and many other genres during the eight- session class. Here are some tips for the would-be travel writer:


  • START WITH FAMILIAR, GO TO THE UNFAMILIAR – Good travel stories meet the reader’s expectations about a place, but take them a bit further. Good stories take the readers as they are, and in the course of the journey, bring them to someplace new.
  • STRUGGLE – Don’t forget to struggle a bit as you travel. If you fly from destination to destination without a hitch, you’re going to tell a BORING STORY. Conversely, if you have to work to get through your vacation then chances are you’ve got some drama to provide interest and suspense in your story.
  • FOCUS ON PEOPLE as well as the place, especially people who are characteristic of it. Ever notice how the folks you met along your journey conjure up the strongest memories? It’s the same with readers. They want to be introduced to the folks that made your trip special. Add QUICK CHARACTER SKETCHES of the most memorable folks you met.
  • ORGANIZE STORY AROUND SCENES – Don’t include every event that happened, just the important, lively, funny, fearful, memorable ones. This is one of the techniques I’ll discuss in the winter Seattle Writing Class.
  • GENERALLY SPEAKING, USE FIRST PERSON POINT OF VIEW – Make yourself a character in the story. Filter the place through your point of view. Describe how it impinges on you.  In first person point of view the “I” is the focal character and it selects, colors and shapes the material related in the story.When I write in first person, my feelings, thoughts, impressions are added to descriptions of the actions, so that the reader gets a sense of how they affect me, but the “me” is a very selective one, because I understand that readers are looking for a surrogate in the story and that my job is to fulfill that role without boring, irritating or putting them off

Travel and Adventure Writing

Travel Writing classes
Writer’s Workshop founder Nick O’Connell skate skiing at Home Ranch, CO, gathering material for a travel and adventure story.

Travel and Adventure Writing is some of the most enjoyable writing I do. It gives me an excuse to get out into the wild and leave behind all the email, texts, phone messages and other things I need to keep track of as a writer and founder of The Writer’s Workshop.

I had the pleasure of going on a press trip recently to the Home Ranch in Colorado. During the three-day visit, I took skate skiing lessons from Matson Tew, one of the guides at the ranch. The ranch offers lessons for cross country, skate skiing and even telemark skiing, which allows guests to try all kinds of skiing. I have telemarked for years and done classic cross country skiing a lot, but I had done little skate skiing and the times I’d done it, it had kicked my ass. It was so strenuous that I could only do it for a few hundred yards. But I figured if I had good instruction and the right equipment and a good course, I could at least make some progress, and get some material for travel and adventure writing.

In addition to taking lessons, I planned to write about it. The lessons and trip were essentially research for me. I no longer attend many city council or county commissioners meetings, as I did when I was a newspaper reporter, but I try to get out in the field as much as possible. I always learn a lot on such trips, soaking in the geography, the landscape, the people. And I usually return with a story as I did on this trip. As I teach students in my Travel writing classes, Seattle writing classes, and online classes, I like to use scene to organize such stories. Take a look at the story I wrote about the trip for a demonstration of how to do this.