Are you ready for the workshop?
Thanks for your interest in the Travel Writing Master Class. The 10-week workshop has no prerequisites, but students should be comfortable with some key concepts and industry terminology. The following dozen questions help determine if you and the course are a good fit…

Don’t despair if you’re not. The workshop runs annually –  we’ll be here! In the meantime, we suggest studying with Naomi Tomky or Julie Schwietert Collazo. Both offer courses catering to beginners, as well as professionals jumping genres or reviving skill-sets.

Some of you may be tempted to cheat and look up answers on the internet. And that’s just dandy. It shows the sort of hustle and intrepid reporter spirit we can work with…

A. “Land of many contrasts”

  1. Nutshells a destination’s rich dichotomies
  2. Signals that a piece pushes beyond fluff into a balanced perspective
  3. Is a post-colonial construct
  4. Expresses tension and irony
  5. Is a cliche, as well as a generalization that expresses little sense of place

B. What is a lede?

  1. A horrible, horrible typo
  2. An exciting point low in a piece
  3. The hook that kicks off a story
  4. The flotation element in a fishing lure
  5. The who-what-when-where-why-how paragraph

C. What’s a nut graf?

  1. Another typo. And you people call yourselves instructors? Sheesh.
  2. A passage that cues an article’s basic where, when, why, how, etc.
  3. A crazy defrauding scheme
  4. A sidebar element, usually a diagram
  5. An eye-grabbing pull quote

D. A news angle rocks because…

  1. It substantially increases the chance of a commission
  2. It gives readers a reason to pay attention now
  3. It can connect your story to wider and more topical issues
  4. It inspires hits, link love and social-media sharing online
  5. All of the above

E. What’s inverted pyramid?

  1. A graphic representation of how much publishing money reaches writers
  2. The ratio of lean protein to carbs now advised
  3. A get-rich-quick Ponzi scheme
  4. A story structure that places vital elements first
  5. A story structure that buries the lede

F. Quotes are important because…

  1. Many old-school editors demand at least three per piece
  2. They broaden a story beyond the writer’s experience
  3. They add authenticity, authority, texture and perspective
  4. As Master-class Instructor Thomas Swick said in the Columbia Journalism Review: “What can you know and feel about a place when you don’t meet the people who live in it?”
  5. All of the above

G. Generally speaking, verbs should …

  1. Be passive to convey elegance and academic detachment
  2. Be active and evocative, telegraphing action
  3. Express the state of being as much as possible
  4. Spice up the end of a sentence
  5. Be supported and qualified by helping verbs

H. The rule of three

  1. suggests that things in threes are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other quantities
  2. requires that you repeat key points three times so readers internalize the information
  3. conveys the minimum number of quotes old-school editors require of even a short article
  4. dictates the number of rewrites in most publishing contracts
  5. Explains that mènage á trois to your Great Aunt Tilda (“Seriously, they won’t allow you onto online dating sites now without one…”)

I. A strong kicker …

  1. Employs apt imagery
  2. Ties together story strands with a flourish
  3. Offers insights specific to this place and no other
  4. May intertwine both the interior and exterior journeys
  5. All of the above

J. “In media res” is…

  1. a nickname for Rupert Murdoch, the king of all media
  2. the point when a story’s protagonist successfully trouble-shoots the blocking action
  3. the critical number of typing monkeys to produce at least two lines of a Shakespeare sonnet
  4. Latin for “in the middle of things,” which describes a lede that drops readers right into the action
  5. Latin for “in the middle of the story” the action just before the climax

K. In travel writing, a good essay’s conclusion

  1. Underlines universal appeal with phrases like “something for everyone”
  2. Reveals something deeper about the destination, as well as the narrator’s interior journey there
  3. employs imagery, insights and revelatory details apt to that place and no other
  4. Answers 2 and 3
  5. Expresses the author’s desire to repeat the experience

L. Press trips and “comps” spark controversy because…

  1. Subsidies might compromise objectivity
  2. Of inconsistent policies about staff versus freelance participation
  3. Not all outlets are transparent about them
  4. The FTC requires more strict disclosure for bloggers than mainstream media writers
  5. They’re a necessary evil, in a landscape where the average national-magazine-article fee has flatlined at $500 for the last two decades
  6. Junkets project a shiny, stage-managed view of a destination and don’t encourage original reporting
  7. Of hypocritical “don’t ask, don’t tell” practices at outlets with strict ethics policies
  8. The New York Times won’t hire a freelancer who has accepted a comp in the past two years, yet sends staffers out “on deep background”
  9. Bans on them tend to encourage coverage by wealthy authors, many of them hobbyists rather than professionals
  10. All of the above


Scoring your quiz
Give yourself one point for each correct answer. Yes, we kept it simple in classic reporter-math style!

Answer key

A. 5     E. 4     I. 5

B. 3     F. 5     J. 4

C. 2     G. 2    K. 4

D. 5     H. 1    L. 10

A score of 0-4 and an “OMG” panic

Our geekiness might annoy you at this point. Perhaps consider an introductory workshop before the master class. Or check out Jack Hart’s seminal book A Writer’s Coach.

A score of 5-7 and a “too many trick questions” irritation
You’ll probably do just fine in the class, especially if you have a solid portfolio of travel clips. But you may want to review a little with Roy Peter Clark’s Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer.

A score of 8-11 and a perverse feeling of joy
You’re an ideal candidate for the master class. Treat yourself to a new keyboard guard and a copy of Telling True Stories: A Nonfiction Writer’s Guide to broaden your perspective even further.

A score of 12 and a “you call that a quiz?” smugness
Congrats. You’re either a whiz kid or one motivated search-engine maven. Either way, go read Jon Franklin’s Writing for Story so you can help us teach down the road.