Travel Writing Workshop in London

“We have to take the kids to London,” I heard my self gushing at Bryan over and over after returning from a rare solo weekend away from the family.  He had gifted me the time to attend the Travel Writing Workshop; an encouraging push toward something I’ve thought about for a long time.

“We should look at moving to London.” I would say, followed by “its really not that expensive.”

“Yeah, but you lucked out on a sunny weekend,” he would reply.  Which was true.

The weather was amazing at the beginning of April.  It was warm and bright.  I didn’t even need the coat I was wearing daily back home in Spain.  The spring flowers were out and trees were greening, which made the parks of London tell me I belonged there.

“How was the workshop?” he would ask over the following week.  “Did you learn a lot?” he wondered. “Was it worthwhile?”  Then I would talk nonstop for two hours, or until interrupted by children, about how motivated I was, how empowered to continue travelling with the kids and writing, how positive it was for a real editor to hear my stuff. My poor husband had to listen to every nauseating detail of the one day blitz workshop; how Peter Carty looked, what the morning was like, where I went for my lunchtime assignment, who I sat next too, and when I want to return.

I spent two more weeks with so much information rattling through my brain: so many ideas and places and angles for articles going through my mind that I simply couldn’t write a thing.

I’ve sorted it now (I think).

Peter Carty’s Travel Writing Workshop covered the gamut.  The morning session focused on the travel and writing itself.  He talked about how to plan, research, and go.   Most helpful to me was the actual writing lessons on format, structure, and phraseology.  I’ve been doing it all wrong!  Well, not really, as I’ve actually done some writing.

The group was made up, surprisingly, of all women and, happily, all from very different backgrounds and experience.  We needed to be able to share our writing aloud with others, and this was wonderful as I’ve not had much opportunity to hear solid feedback outside of friends and relatives.

At lunchtime we had an assignment, so I needed to visit a local something to write about and chose the nearby Grant Museum of Zoology.  London is so chock full of museums, and this one was chock full of dead things in glass jars.

On the way through the University College, to which the museum is affiliated, I passed a Korean grocery, did a double take, and was nearly in tears to see a rotating display of hot bun!  Pangs of memory went through me, as did my hunger, and I appreciated Korea even more than ever as I walked on with my warm paper-wrapped lunch.  Oh, how I miss that little peninsula.  Then it crossed my mind that I could just get Korean stuff at this grocery and live in sunny London. The lucky weather was working its magic.

The afternoon session answered so many of my ‘how to’ questions about the travel writing industry.  Peter really laid out how it works – from beginning writers and submittals to pitching trip ideas and getting them paid.  He even covered digital blogging and social media, which sounded quite overwhelming and a glorious hassle.  But here I am, on my blog again, and motivated to try the field.

One incredible perk of the workshop is an open invite to keep in contact with Peter for advice, which I did. He encouraged me to keep up the blog efforts, and not just so Grandma Effie (my loveable primary audience) can read it.

The weekend went quickly.  I enjoyed a show in the West End theatre district, rode a public bike from park to park, took selfies with famous loot from antiquity at the British museum, walked around Soho at pub time, and stayed at the Indian YMCA where the workshop took place and my rate included wonderful Indian food for breakfast and dinner.

I did miss Bryan and the kids, and so caught my flight home Sunday afternoon despite a weighty desire to stay.  I left pretty springtime Britain and returned to the rain in Spain that is mainly on the plain.

 

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Here is my lunchtime assignment, unedited, which garnered positive feedback when read aloud:

“I think its guts are spilling out!” squeal the excited boy next to me. Together we are examining a jarred Thylacine specimen with the thrill of future zoologists. Its fur is still brightly colored and looks soft even after a century floating in this specimen jar at the Grant Museum of Zoology.

The museum is a collection of tidily arranged skeletons, jarred samples, and preserved animal parts.  They fill shelf after shelf of the wood paneled great hall, rising to a second floor where humanoid skeletons watch visitors from the railing.  A bit of morbid curiosity brought me here, and I find myself fascinated by ox eyeballs, cat brains, and a dissected monkey head winking back at me.

Edward Grant was the first chair of Zoology and Comparative Anatomy in 1827. His collections are contained at the museum, and have been used by budding zoologist ever since.  Even Charles Darwin was his student.

I look around.  The floors are now squeaking under the foot falls of more visitors.

“oh my god!  It’s archaeopteryx. It’s the first bird!”  My young companion has found a new favorite.

 

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