Category: Teaching

How to get into travel writing — via Zoom

The landscape looks pretty different since my last post.

Global events have overtaken normal life and we’re all now staying home to protest out precious NHS.

It’s easy to hide under the duvet at times like these but, as a long-standing freelancer, I know it means I need to change, adapt and evolve my working life.

I had a writing workshop lined up in Chester later this month, offering my insider tips from the coalface of freelance travel writing.

Obviously we couldn’t now meet physically. But one of the delegates inspired me with her positivity to not cancel the event. Instead we did it by Zoom.

I prepared a short PowerPoint and did two Zoom sessions with some homework set between the two online tutorials.

It’s a very different way of teaching for me from my usual workshops and university lectures but it proved yet again that adaptability is a cornerstone of freelance life.

I’m available for travel writing workshops and tutorials — both online and, eventually, in person.

Contact me if you would like to take part in a future workshop.

How to get into travel writing at the Chester Literature Festival

The Chester Literature Festival was in full swing this week.

I was there on Friday to run a travel-writing workshop [pictured above] for future freelancers and career changers seeking to branch out.

Some planned to pitch ideas to magazines, others were looking to develop their voice online as a blogger.

I ran this workshop as a taster session but, given the interest on the day for a sold-out event, I will look at future workshops for the new year.

Meanwhile, as part of the session, I shared my top six travel-writing tips as follows:

People, not places

The best travel stories are not about places. They’re about the people who live in those places.

So talk to local people and weave this into your narrative. Nothing adds life to a story like direct speech.

Find a story

A lot of travel stories are very information led. But the stories that really stand out tell proper stories. So find a real story, get a proper angle, think about your readership. Then frame these elements in the context of a destination.

Get it right

Commissioning editors don’t have the time, nor the inclination, to correct your spelling, cut down your copy if you bust your word count and punctuate your sentences. Want more work? Then get it right.

Work with the medium

And not against it. Writing for print? You have the luxury of longer sentences and more descriptive language. But if you’re writing for online, then take a leaf from George Orwell’s book and keep the language more direct. People are increasingly reading your articles on mobile devices, so format for the screen.

Spot the openings

Publications thrive on regular sections and this is your way in, especially as a first-time contributor. Editors need to fill these sections and often to look to freelancers to plug the gaps. So, read, read and read some more.

 Strictly business

Travel writing is a job. Treat it as such. You’re working as a specialist reporter, covering a niche area. You want to be regarded as a professional? Then act professionally. And expect to be paid …

Two essential events at this year’s Chester Lit Fest

A busy day at Chester’s Storyhouse, then.

It was the final full week of the Chester Literature Festival and I was running two events last week — a morning discussion [first two slides] and a lunchtime workshop [latter two slides].

The former was based around my book, Inside Fatherhood, and took the form of an audience-participation discussion about modern masculinity, fatherhood and male role models.

The latter was a writing workshop, serving as a taster for anyone trying to their idea into print, albeit fiction, journalism, blog or memoir.

Mark Chester, founder of the organisation Who Let The Dads Out, joined me.

He helped to lead the discussion and then bounce ideas in the workshop about more creative writing, while I focused on writing for magazines and websites.

Thanks to Mark and everyone who turned up on the day, including those we dragged up to join the discussion. We appreciate your support.

And we had some good feedback afterwards:

“I throughly enjoyed it and as usual, found some like-minded people to chat to. I’d enjoy any [future] event that makes me write something.”

So, here’s to the next one … watch this space.

The Amazing Story Of How My Music Fanzine Made History

The first issue, published May 1994

It was 1994.

I was a student on a postgraduate magazine journalism course in London with a project deadline.

Step forward Heaven Up Here, a music fanzine I put together with two fellow students.

We dreamed of jobs on Select magazine and loved getting on the guestlist for gigs at venues like the Astoria and the Water Rats.

It was the Nineties and we didn’t have a care in the world.

The first issue, published in 1994, featured a lead interview with film-noir favourites The Tindersticks and went backstage with Britpop breakthroughs Sleeper at the now-defunct TV show The Beat.

Last week I took a couple of issues from 1994 and 1995 to the London College of Communication.

There they will join the likes of Sniffin’ Glue and Smiths Indeed at the University Library Zine Collection. It has over 200 zines from punk to fashion from the late Seventies onwards.

You can find out more from the collection Facebook page.

Or search the catalogue for the issues here and here.

It only lasted for three issues but our little fanzine helped to launch a career in the media for its founders. And it was lots of fun along the way.

As for the name? Heaven Up Here was the second album by Echo and the Bunnymen, my favourite band as a overcoat-wearing student in the early Nineties.

On the day that the NME sees its last ever print edition on the newsstands, my little bit of history is a reminder that, while we all now work multi-platform, print is still not dead.