Travel Writing Workshop review and critique

Silver Travel Advisor Travel Writing Workshop

After our travel writing workshop, we ask each attendee to write an article for critique by Nick Dalton, the idea being that they can make good use of their newly honed skills.

Steve Francis decided to do just that but with a twist! Rather than writing a piece about a destination, he wrote about the course itself, and his article below was duly critiqued by course tutor, Nick Dalton.

Steve’s Review

Following the demise of my parents I inherited a large box of photo albums and loose pictures all of which related to their lives before I came along and modified it. My children looking at the various photographs asked who, what, where and when to which I had no answer. It was at this point I decided to write my life story for them. I was on a yacht delivery from São Palo in Brazil to Falmouth, which was to be a three month journey , and thought to fill the time with writing. This branched out into keeping a journal of our escapades, storms encountered and the excitement of watching the coast of Cornwall growing out of the early morning mist. A new hobby was born.

Having written several blogs for Silver Travel Adviser about my travels in Thailand I thought attending the witting course might sort out some of the wobbly things that happen to me whilst putting pen to paper.

The trip from Falmouth to “Lunun” had its usual excitement of getting lost and being back in the capital. I alighted the underground at Hyde Park Corner as per the joining instructions and taking exit 3 headed for Grovesnor Place. I arrived at the same time as Mags and received a warm welcome from Debbie. After a welcoming cup of tea we casually talked together until our last attendee arrived and we sat down to introduce ourselves more formally. I was surprised to find we all had such different backgrounds and aims of what we wanted to achieve from the course. We had all had to write a 300 word piece on somewhere we had been and submit it for appraisal before the course. Everyone had edited to achieve this but my usual “last minute.com” entry was by far the longest, probably 600 words, as I’d done a calculation of 12 words to the line. I sat in trepidation as my essay was last, dreaming up various excuses for overrunning then it dawned on me that I needed to learn how to shorten my ramblings.

The course instructors Deborah and Nick gave a great critique of our pieces giving good examples of how we could improve the piece we had written. We then had a chance to rewrite some of our submission using what we had learnt. The result was a great improvement by us all and I managed to shorten and liven up mine.

Lunch was a chance to chat and find out about each other’s travels, us silver travellers do get about you know, and gather information on places I would like to visit someday.

We had several other exercises which to tell of them would spoil it for future course attendees. The wind up consisted of blog and twitter advice with an added bonus of where to look for travel writing competitions. All too soon for all of us it was over and I for one sat dazed at the simple things I had overlooked when writing. It is so worthwhile doing the course even if you just keep a journal of your travels. The course was over and I had run out of excuses to stand and natter and absorb more information I had to leave. One last hug then I was out to the noise and bustle of London again with a dash across to Paddington station to beat the rush hour. I wonder if I could fill the gap left by Alan Whicker?

Nick’s critique

Well done, Steve. I think it would be a foolish person to disagree with your travel writing views of a travel writing course!

As we talked about on the course, you have found an interesting way into the piece with the box of photos. It’s a rather moving introduction although perhaps you could have introduced a little more of a travel element into it – were there photographs of family holidays, of destinations that have become important family meeting spots?

Then perhaps tell us a little more about your journal – there must surely be some good stories there. And how much did you write?

I like the autobiographical thread that runs through the piece,  from sailing around the world to getting lost in London. And all credit for recognising that there is always something to learn when it comes to writing. And for seeing how results can be immediate.

Although I like the Alan Whicker line I might have been tempted to bring the piece full circle, saying something like ‘Who’d have thought that a dusty box of family photos could have changed my life in such a big way.’

But I’m impressed that you have taken on board things that Deborah and I said, and have chosen a very different piece of writing for your homework. And I’m glad that you’ve manage to have a pleasing social occasion as well as a travel writing course.

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