JCU Logo


COURSE NAME: "Creative Writing Workshop: Travel Writing"
SEMESTER & YEAR: Fall 2019

INSTRUCTOR: Elizabeth Geoghegan
EMAIL: [email protected]
HOURS: MW 4:30-5:45 PM
PREREQUISITES: Prerequisite: EN110 with a grade of C or above
OFFICE HOURS: Thursdays after class & by appointment

This creative nonfiction workshop explores the long tradition of travel writing, fostered by the keen observation and thoughtful documentation of landscape and culture that travel inspires. Students will gain exposure to several subgenres encompassed by the term travel writing including, but not limited to, the travel memoir, the travel essay, guidebooks, and food and humor pieces that tandem as travel writing. The course offers instruction in the research and mechanics of travel writing aimed at the generation of articles and essays for newspapers, magazines, guidebooks, the Internet, as well as how to begin drafting ideas for longer-form works.
Classes move between writing workshops and peer reviews, traditional lectures, discussions of the assigned readings, in-class writing exercises, and occasional class outings. Readings will correspond to the genres and topics covered and will help create a foundation for the writing assignments themselves. Assignments will often take students out of the classroom and will connect directly with the course objectives. Dedicated to the philosophy that all writing benefits from careful critique and thoughtful revision, workshops will help students develop critical thinking and editorial skills, while fostering an aesthetic sensibility about your own writing, the writing of your peers, and a more thorough understanding of the various components of travel writing.
Students will be familiar with the travel writing genre including historical and contemporary examples. Students will gain writing and editing skills, and better understand the writing techniques employed when generating ideas and producing their own travel pieces. Students will have gained writing exposure to the editorial skills necessary to offer critique and self-edit, while taking their own work through various stages of revision.
Book TitleAuthorPublisherISBN numberLibrary Call NumberComments
Granta 147: 40th-Birthday Special (Granta: The Magazine of New Writing)Sigrid RausingGrantaISBN 10: 1909889229 Available at Almost Corner Bookshop, Via del Moro, 45, 00153 Rome, Italy (Trastevere). Students are required to have hard copies of the textbooks by the end of Week One. No digital copies allowed in class – no Kindles, phones or computers allowed in class.
The Lonely Planet Travel Anthology: True stories from the world's best writersLonely Planet and Shannon Leone Fowler Lonely PlanetISBN 10: 9781786571960 Available at Almost Corner Bookshop, Via del Moro, 45, 00153 Rome, Italy (Trastevere). Students are required to have hard copies of the textbooks by the end of Week One. No digital copies allowed in class – no Kindles, phones or computers allowed in class.

Participation & PreparednessParticipation is the active engagement in the class – simply showing up and remaining awake does not equal participation. The use of cellphones, laptops and other electronic devices during class will be considered the same as being absent for that particular day. 10
Homework Assignments, Reading Assignments, In-Class Presentations Specific Assignments TBA; this may include a travel journal or blog, a close-reading assignment or an assignment that requires a specific outing to another area of the city. Evidence of not having completed assigned readings will significantly lower your grade. Graded assignments will drop one letter for each late day. Homework assignments are not always graded ‘per se’ but will account for a percentage of the final total. (How much will depend on number and type.) Assignments that are more than one week late may not be accepted for workshop. All work must be formatted according to MLA (Typed, DS, 12 pt.) or to other specifications noted in advance. Improperly formatted work will drop a half letter grade for each infraction. Submitted work with more than 12 errors in grammar, spelling, or syntax will automatically be downgraded to a failing grade. Proofreading in advance is of the utmost importance.20
Peer Reviews & Conscientiousness of Editing/Responding to the work of peersA large portion of the class will include "workshop.” You are responsible for written and oral critique of the work being generated by your colleagues. This is a crucial element of class and will require as much organization, preparation, and participation as the writing of your own pieces. You will be required to submit a copy of your comments to both the writer being reviewed and to me for each workshop.10
Conscientiousness of Self-Editing & Process AnalysisOne of the most crucial elements of writing prose is learning how and when to approach the editing process. You will be taking your work through various revisions and drafts and this should be evident when you submit revised work, in particular the final portfolios. Each revised assignment will require you to write a "process analysis" noting the stages you worked through, the elements (strategies) you employed, and a statement about the "readiness" or level of polish you feel the particular draft embodies. Guidelines for the portfolios will be provided in advance so you have time to revise each piece. The total number and length of the pieces varies each term. 10
Final Portfolio of Revised Essays The Final Portfolio is the sum total of your work over the course of the semester. You will not receive letter grades on your writing drafts until you submit the pieces in the final portfolio. The portfolio should, therefore, contain only polished work. Each portfolio piece MUST include a “process analysis” or it will not receive full credit. Detailed guidelines about the requirements and format will be handed out in class. (In general the portfolios contain 4 to 5 essays of varied lengths.)50

AWork of this quality directly addresses the question or problem raised and provides a coherent argument displaying an extensive knowledge of relevant information or content. This type of work demonstrates the ability to critically evaluate concepts and theory and has an element of novelty and originality. There is clear evidence of a significant amount of reading beyond that required for the c
BThis is highly competent level of performance and directly addresses the question or problem raised.There is a demonstration of some ability to critically evaluatetheory and concepts and relate them to practice. Discussions reflect the student’s own arguments and are not simply a repetition of standard lecture andreference material. The work does not suffer from any major errors or omissions and provides evidence of reading beyond the required assignments.
CThis is an acceptable level of performance and provides answers that are clear but limited, reflecting the information offered in the lectures and reference readings.
DThis level of performances demonstrates that the student lacks a coherent grasp of the material.Important information is omitted and irrelevant points included.In effect, the student has barely done enough to persuade the instructor that s/he should not fail.
FThis work fails to show any knowledge or understanding of the issues raised in the question. Most of the material in the answer is irrelevant.

Students are required to attend all scheduled class meetings and to participate in all classroom activities. Students are allowed only two absences (no questions asked, no excuse needed). However, each additional absence beyond the two allowed will result in the reduction of the final grade for the course by 5%. Students with more than five unexcused absences will likely fail the course.  Students arriving at class after the class attendance may be counted as absent.  Students using their cellphones or computers in class (without permission) will be counted as absent. Please refer to the JCU catalog for the attendance and absence policies. Please refer to the university catalog for the attendance and absence policy.
As stated in the university catalog, any student who commits an act of academic dishonesty will receive a failing grade on the work in which the dishonesty occurred. In addition, acts of academic dishonesty, irrespective of the weight of the assignment, may result in the student receiving a failing grade in the course. Instances of academic dishonesty will be reported to the Dean of Academic Affairs. A student who is reported twice for academic dishonesty is subject to summary dismissal from the University. In such a case, the Academic Council will then make a recommendation to the President, who will make the final decision.
John Cabot University does not discriminate on the basis of disability or handicap. Students with approved accommodations must inform their professors at the beginning of the term. Please see the website for the complete policy.


Class Schedule, readings, assignments and due dates are subject to change due to workshop times, etc.
Text books are required in class when readings are assigned for a particular day. NO DIGITAL COPIES 
ALLOWED in class. If you bought a digital copy, then photocopy the section from the reserve section of
library. If you don't have the appropriate materials for discussion, you will be considered ABSENT.

TEXTS: LP = Lonely Planet Travel Anthology & G147 = Granta Volume 147



Reading/Homework/Activities *if readings are assigned, please bring text/copy to class

Mon 9/2

Course Intro: Variations on a theme: Types of Travel Writing from Literary to journalistic

In class: “Decline and Fall" (Dyer) handout; 

Weds 9/4

Journaling, Research,
Note-taking, the role of memory, planning & dreaming.

What constitutes a journey?

LP Read: "Long Distance" (DeRoche) & "Eight Hours in Bangkok" (Bachelor) & be prepared to discuss

HW1: Write a list of 5 destinations and the travel stories you’d like to write for each. These can include “dream destinations” but you should also include practical ideas that you may able to do during the term.
Typed & presented in class.

Mon 9/10

Personal Essays & Travel; the known & unknown, In-class writing

Read: LP "Deceleration" Koch & "Flight Plan" (Kasper); Choose an sentence, image, or scene from each essay that you find illustrative and important and be prepared to share your ideas with class.   Bring text to class.

Weds 9/12

In-class writing

Read: LP  & "An Iranian American in Indonesia" (Khakpour) & "Jasmine and Other Flowers that Make Me Cry" (Johnson); Look closely at the use of description in each story and be prepared to discuss what it tells the reader about both the tone of the piece and the narrators. Bring text to class. 

Week 3
Mon 9/17

Vignettes due (see guidelines + bring copies); Workshop

See Guidelines + bring Copies 

Weds 9/19


Read assigned vignettes & be prepared to offer critiques in workshop for each day of workshop

Week 4 
Mon 9/24



Weds 9/26

Travel Writing as Reality Check: the role of humor, satire, and honesty in travel writing

Homework 2 Due

Read: "Turbulence" (Sedaris) & TBA (handouts); bring both essays to class. 

Week 5
Mon 9/30

Research: locations, historical events, and fact checking

Read: LP: "Into the Congo"(Silber) & G147 "The Zoo in Basel" (Berger) and be prepared to discuss

Weds 10/2

The Long Form Essay

Read: G147 "Dreams for Hire" (Garcia Marquez) & "The Fall of Saigon" (Fenton); HW 2 Select an element (a scene, a description, a technique – structural or otherwise) from each piece and write a 2-paragraph close reading of each, explaining why it works. Type, turn in.

Week 6
Mon 10/7

Exploring Travel & Culture through Food

Read  “Long Day’s Journey into Dinner” (Gilbert, handout) & TBA

Weds 10/9


Travel Writing for Consumer Consumption;

Informal presentations

HW3: Go online and identify one travel writing and/or travel and food writing site that you like. Be prepared to discuss focus, audience, and one article.

Week 7
Mon 10/14

Food & Travel


Read “Small Plates” (handout) & HW3: choose a food or drink that you ate while traveling and write a 50-word, 100-word, and 150 word description of it; typed + copies for class

Weds 10/16

Workshop continued; in class writing

Read & critique remaining writing assignments

Week 8
Mon 10/21

Food & Travel Essays DUE; bring copies for Workshop

Food & Travel Essays due; see guidelines + bring copies for class; Workshop order TBF

Weds 10/23

Workshop; read & prepare critiques for remaining essays

Week 9
Mon 10/28


Read & prepare critiqiues for remaining essays


Weds 10/30

Writing what we know … 

Read: G147"The Snow in Ghana" (Kapuciscinski) & "Tadpoles" (Levi); be prepared to discuss

Week 10
Mon 11/4

Places we know intimately & how to use them in the Travel Memoir

HW4 Choose a place you know intimately and write 1-2 paragraph description of it, your memory of it, without naming where it is; bring copies for class

Weds 11/6

The Journey is the Destination 

Readings TBA

Week 11
Mon 11/11

Destination pieces due; bring copies for workshop

Write "Destination" pieces; see guidelines + bring copies for Workshop

Weds 11/13


Read and prepare critiques for workshop

Week 12
Mon 11/18


Read and prepare critiques for workshop

Weds 11/20

The travel memoir: the intertwining of landscape, travel, and memoir

Read: LP: "Ticket to Vienna" (Patchett)  & "Channeling Eudora" (Baszile); be prepared to discuss

Week 13
Mon 11/25

Possible Outing 

Read: "Writ in Water" (Stacey) & TBA

Weds 11/27

Abstract + First paragraph due; Mini Workshop 

Write abstract and begin drafting opening paragraph of Final Essay; bring copies 

Week 14
Mon 12/2

Opening Paragraph workshop continued 

 Read and prepare critiques 

Weds 12/4

Last Class: Final Essay Due, Portfolios Due



Exam Week
December 9-13


Details TBA