SATW: Inspiring Travel Through Responsible Journalism.
SATW: Inspiring Travel Through Responsible Journalism.
Upping Your Writing Game
As part of SATW’s professional development program, the organization is proud to have a writing coaching program, an ongoing and available to all SATW members. It’s an opportunity to build your writing muscle and improve your story-telling skills open to both Actives and Associates.
This opportunity is a member benefit and free to members. If you’re not a member and would like to take advantage of this benefit, consider joining.
SATW COACHING FOR WRITERS
Whether you’re an Active or Associate, you probably do plenty of writing. If you feel as though the competition for readers’ attention has increased, you’re right. The best way to capture and hold readers’ attention? Powerful prose.
That’s where SATW’s Coaching for Writers comes in. Unlike editing, which focuses on what the writer has done wrong, writing coaching focuses on what you can do even better and will give you the tools and the confidence to implement changes.
This pilot project is designed to develop your writing muscle, no matter your area of expertise. We’ve gathered a group of coaches who are experienced in assessing and improving writers’ work.
COACHING CODE OF CONDUCT
All coaches have signed their agreement to abide by the code of conduct below.
Why do we call “writing coaching” instead of “editing”? Too often, editors approach a story from the perspective of what’s wrong or missing. As coaches, we want to encourage writers and help them understand that great writing isn’t rocket science. Our job is to show them the steps and help them see how to get there by demonstrating, guiding and teaching.
An editor might show a writer how to tighten sentences so he can do the rest, but it’s not our job to fix writing. It’s out job to teach them how to fix it, or, better yet, to try new ways to express what they hope and want to say.
An important aspect of coaching, besides your wealth of experience, is trust. Coachees must trust us, which means we must be respectful and discreet if we turn to one another for help.
This is, in the end, a team effort. Yes, you are doing the work, but please know that we are here to support you as well. It’s wise to seek another’s counsel with a thorny problem as long as you remain respectful of your coachee. This is not always an easy path to navigate, but you’re a traveler after all. Even the most experienced among us sometimes needs to stop and ask for directions.
Please share your ideas and provide candid feedback to the program directors as well. This project is in its infancy, and our hope is to nurture and grow along the way.
Here are some responsibilities that will form the basis of your relationship with your coachees:
–Once we have paired you with a coachee, you’ll need to contact him or her and set up a time to meet. It’s imperative that you have a coachee’s work in hand at least a week before you meet, and, alas, it may be your job to reinforce that several times.
–You’ll also need to set up a Zoom account. The good news is that Zoom gives you 40 minutes of free time; these sessions are supposed to be 30 minutes, but if you’re tempted to run over or the student wants to, know that Zoom will cut you off. Keep an eye on the clock.
–Arrive early for your Zoom meeting. You probably will not need to give your coachee a password (there’s a place on the Zoom form that allows you to skip that), but we would urge you to be the keeper of the admission to the room. (If you’re a Zoomer, you know what this is.)
–Please turn off your cellphone and turn it upside down or stick it in the drawer. Encourage your coachee to do the same.
–You may suffer some nerves before your coachee arrives so envision how your coachee is feeling. Make it clear that you are there to assist, not to condemn. Try to start with something positive. It may be as little as “There’s a solid story idea here, so let’s work on a couple of places to make it shine.”
–But don’t mislead. You’re leading your coachee to higher ground, and that takes work on the coachee’s part. This isn’t a collection of magic tricks. It’s sensible steps, but they require mental exertion.
–As Davy Crockett said, “Be sure you’re right and then go ahead.” Model that response for your coachee. If the writer needs to go back and research, that’s perfectly OK. What’s not OK for a writer: winging it, making broad-based assumptions on facts not in evidence (“Most people go to Europe for culture”) and generalizations born out of biases, as in “He’s a surprisingly spry 78-year-old who loves to mountain bike.”). And it is never OK to skip fact checking.
–Find the focus. Stories need nut, or focus, grafs. A story that may seem muddled becomes clearer when you ask the person who wrote the story what it’s about—in 25 words.
–Again, discretion is the better part of valor. If you need to share a story about a piece you worked on to illustrate a point, don’t give away identifying information. As coaches, we will discuss the person or his or her their work only to try to provide more effective guidance.
–Share what you have learned. Pass along your techniques for organizing material, handling dialogue or citing sources. As we work on one piece, we want to help make the writer stronger for the next one.
–If you feel as though you did not connect with the writer, we urge you to double down for the next session. Acknowledging that something didn’t go quite as planned may help ease the tension and asking for the coachee’s input and help is key to managing this. But if there is a conflict that you think cannot be resolved, please contact the program directors immediately.
–Revisit the story in the next session to see what you have said was applied. Again, make sure you have some time to evaluate the revisions.
Want a sneak peak of the program? Check out some of the webinars that were produced in 2021.
▶ Interviewing, a key to great writing or podcasting
If you’re interested in participating or have any questions, please reach out to [email protected].
MEET THE COACHES
SATW President Larry Bleiberg has served on a Pulitzer Prize team, is an eight-time Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Award winner and was honored for editing the best newspaper travel section in North America. He has written for USA Today, Better Homes & Gardens, the Los Angeles Times, BBC, the Washington Post, AARP, Afar, Westways, Atlas Obscura, CNN and many other publications. Larry has also helped produce several National Geographic books, and he created CivilRightsTravel.com. He’s formerly the travel editor of Coastal Living magazine and The Dallas Morning News.
Adrian Brijbassi has won multiple awards for his fiction, travel writing, photography, and journalism and is considered a digital media and tourism expert.
He has an MFA degree from Southampton College in New York and is co-founder and managing editor of Vacay.ca, one of Canada’s leading digital travel publications. He has worked as an editor for major media outlets in Canada and the United States, including New York Newsday and the Toronto Star, and as the social media manager for Canada’s tourism marketing agency, Destination Canada.
Brijbassi is the editor of the cancer-fighting cookbook “Inspired Cooking,” which the “Best of Food and Wine” radio show called “the best cookbook of its kind.”
In 2019, he launched the travel-trivia app, Trippzy, which Matador Network describes as “America’s next great time-killer app.”
Diane Covington-Carter has won numerous awards for her travel writing, including a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism in 2020. She has also garnered awards for two of her four books, her photography and NPR commentaries. Her articles have appeared in the LA Times, Hemispheres, Sierra.com, Reader’s Digest, France Today and many other publications. Her memoir, “Finding Gilbert, A Promise Fulfilled” (2018), received a Gold Award from SATW in 2019. She holds American and Australian passports and is currently in New Zealand during Covid-19.
Diana Dawson has spent18 years at the School of Journalism at the University of Texas in Austin, which led her to create UT’s Moody Writing Support Program. The core of the program she directs is one-on-one tutoring sessions with peer writing coaches
Dawson has taught beginning newswriting since 1996 as well as feature writing. Before teaching, she was a reporter in newsrooms around the country, writing investigative pieces about teachers’ sexual misconduct with their students, breakdowns in state mental health systems and how foster care abused its charges.
She also wrote a nationally syndicated column and was a freelance writer whose work has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune and Austin Monthly magazine. She has worked as a writing coach and consultant.
She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri at Columbia.
Liz Fleming, who holds a master’s degree from the University of Toronto, began her career in the public relations department at Brock University. Since then, she has worked in p.r. with the Ontario Editorial Bureau, served as a syndicated Canadian Press travel columnist and written for major North American newspapers and magazines. For four years, she was the editor of Niagara Life Magazine, then managed the Niagara Now online magazine for two more. Today, she’s the editor-in-chief of Cruise & Travel Lifestyles Magazine, is an associate editor at Bold Magazine and contributes weekly articles to the National Post’s O.Canada.com– when there is no pandemic in progress. For the last several months, she’s been hosting Liz Fleming Travels, a weekly radio show on iHeart Radio’s 610 CKTB.
Don George wrote the book on travel writing, literally. He is the author of the best-selling travel writing guidebook in the world, Lonely Planet’s “How to Be a Travel Writer.” George has been a travel writer and editor for four decades, including stints as travel editor at the San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle and Salon.com, and as global travel editor at Lonely Planet. He is currently editor at large for National Geographic Travel. He has edited 12 award-winning literary travel anthologies and is the author of “The Way of Wanderlust: The Best Travel Writing of Don George.”
Heather Greenwood Davis
Heather Greenwood Davis is a contributing writer and on-air storyteller for National Geographic and a freelance feature writer for The Globe and Mail in Canada. She has been writing professionally for more than 20 years. Her work appears in print and digital publications, most recently EnRoute, Afar and Travel and Leisure. She is a popular expert on TV shows and lifestyle programs (including “The Social” on CTV and “Good Morning America”). Greenwood Davis is the founder of GlobetrottingMama.com, an international travel, family-focused blog that features her adventures with and without her husband, Ish, and their two sons, Ethan and Cameron. She lives in Toronto.
Jody Halsted is an award-winning writer and podcaster happily based in the Midwest. Halsted has been a digital storyteller since 2004, and her “media empire” includes four websites, a podcast and two books. When not in America’s heartland she can be found exploring Ireland (the home of her heart) or roaming America’s backroads and byways in her RV.
Catharine Hamm recently retired from her role as travel editor for the Los Angeles Times, where she worked for more than two decades. She also is a past president of SATW and current president of the SATW Foundation. Other stops on her journey: editor of The (Salinas) Californian; city editor and managing editor of the San Bernardino County (Calif.) Sun; deputy managing editor, among other roles, including travel editor, at The Kansas City (Mo.) Star; reporter at the Johnson County (Ks.) Sun. She counts New York, Virginia, Hawaii, the Philippines, Kansas, Missouri and California among the places she has called home, which she thinks should always include a cat.
Elizabeth Harryman recently retired after 21 years as travel editor of Westways, the magazine of the Auto Club of Southern California. With her late husband, Paul Lasley, she also co-hosted two daily radio shows that were broadcast to a million listeners in 167 countries on the American Forces Network and air as podcasts at www.OnTravel.com. The couple also wrote the Travel Smart column for Westways. The Harryman/Lasley radio shows have won two Gold and one Silver Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism awards, and during Elizabeth’s tenure, Westways won seven Lowell Thomas awards.
After a stint teaching, at high school and university, Anna Hobbs landed her dream job as one of the founding editors of Canadian Living magazine. As associate editor, she developed the travel section and now indulges her itchy feet freelancing. Although her focus has been on wine and food (turkey testicles in Romania, anyone?), some of her most memorable experiences include whitewater rafting on Chile’s Futaleufú River, getting lost on the tundra near the North Pole and flying over Iceland’s Bardarbunga Volcano. When she isn’t on the road, the high seas or in the, air she and her husband cherish country life in the scenic Purple Hills of Ontario.
Susan Lanier-Graham is an award-winning food, wine, and travel writer. She is a member of SATW and a Certified California Wine Appellation Specialist. She is the publisher/editor-in-chief of Wander With Wonder, an online magazine.
Her writing and editing credits include AAA publications, local and regional newspapers, Modern Luxury, Montage, Fairmont, Lifestyle publications, Western Horseman, TravelandLeisure.com, and more. She is the author of dozens of books and guides.
She holds a BS in International Relations and a master’s in social science research. Along with writing, Susan has taught high school, college, and in business for more than two decades.
The search for the perfectly pitched story, the finely balanced sentence, the precisely chosen word- that’s the quest of all serious writers, and Barbara Ramsay Orr hopes that SATW Coaching For Writers will be a useful aid in that journey. She is a long-time journalist, an award-winning writer and has been teaching creative writing for several decades but says she remains her own harshest critic. In more than 30 years of writing, she has never stopped fine tuning and tweaking her stories and finds great satisfaction in paring down wordiness and polishing tone. She hopes that through this collaborative exercise that together, you can make your writing sing.
At 17, Glen Petrie wrote his first travel article about Nova Scotia, the place where he grew up, because, he said, “I’d never been anywhere else,” and placed it with the Toronto Star. A fire was lit. In the next decades, he go somewhere else ‒ a lot of somewhere elses ‒ on seven continents, and has written hundreds of stories for The Star, Globe & Mail, Ottawa Citizen, National Post, Miami Herald, Dallas Morning News and other dailies, as well as various magazines on both sides of the border. Several stories were recognized with awards, and some others never saw the light of day. And, he said, “I’m still learning.”
Norie Quintos is an award-winning independent journalist and editor. She is an Editor at Large for National Geographic Travel Media, contributing content and representing the iconic brand. She is also a consultant for the travel industry on communications strategy, media relations, custom content, and messaging. She helps clients find and tell their stories through seminars, coaching, and print and pixel projects. She has spoken and presented at conferences including the Adventure Travel World Summit, the New York Times Travel Show, International Media Marketplace, the International Indigenous Tourism Conference, and the World Bank World Tourism Day Forum. Her interest areas are cultural tourism, indigenous tourism, sustainable tourism, and transformational travel. She bikes, hikes, and tweets @noriecicerone. www.noriequintos.com
Vani Rangachar has always loved words, travel and all things digital. She launched her editing career as an editorial assistant at India Abroad, a weekly newspaper for Indian immigrants in the U.S. In the early ’80s, she moved to the Asbury Park Press in New Jersey, where she bought her first computer. In 1993, she was hired at the Los Angeles Times, where she held many jobs, the best being deputy travel editor. In 2008, she joined Lifescript.com, a women’s health website, as its managing editor to get a hands-on education in digital media. She is digital content editor at Automobile Club of Southern California and is especially interested in helping those who want to learn more about great digital writing.
Christopher Reynolds, who was born and raised in California, has written about travel, the outdoors, arts and culture for the Los Angeles Times since 1990. He Reynolds has kayaked in Canada; surfed in San Diego; snorkeled in American Samoa; floated in Xochimilco; climbed the hills of Dingle; swallowed twitching seafood in Seoul; and found his family in the ledger book at Ellis Island. (And in the last several months, he has written way too many stories from his home office about what’s open and what’s closed.) He grew up in San Diego and graduated from Cal State Fresno with a double-major in English and journalism.
Jack Schnedler, SATW president in 1995, worked as travel editor for the Chicago Sun-Times from 1982 to 1994. He was honored as Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year in 1994 and was runner-up for that award in 1995. He wrote stories from all seven continents, more than 100 countries and 46 of the 50 states.
Schnedler worked as a newspaperman from 1965 until retiring in 2011. He was a reporter, writer and editor for the Chicago Daily News, Miami Herald, Washington Star, Chicago Sun-Times and Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. In 1981-82, he served as an assistant professor at Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.
He lives in Little Rock, Ark., with his wife, Marcia, a travel photographer. They continue to for the Democrat-Gazette and a statewide magazine.
Howard Shapiro – everyone calls him “Howie” – was twice The Philadelphia Inquirer travel editor totaling 12 years. He is a longtime member of SATW and in 2006 received a President’s Cup for service to the organization. He became a theater critic for The Inquirer in the last part of his 43 years on the staff and is currently Broadway critic for a group of NPR affiliates called The Classical Network. Howie has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard University and an Internews Fellow in Greece. He was a fellow, and later a mentor, in the National Endowment for the Arts Institute for theater critics in Los Angeles. He teaches courses in travel writing and arts criticism at Temple University in Philadelphia.
Alice Short is a senior editor at the Los Angeles Times and is currently serving as interim food editor. It’s her second stint at the newspaper, after a three-year hiatus during which she freelanced as an editor and writer. Before that, she was an assistant managing editor at The Times, overseeing food, travel, books, home, health and fashion content and assisting with several projects and events. She is a past president of the Society of Features Journalism. She lives in Los Angeles with her husband, Steve Vielhaber, and is the mother of two children, and upon occasion, they respond to her texts.
Carolyn Spencer Brown
After more than 25 years as a travel journalist and editor at such publications as The Washington Post, Cruise Critic and Conde Nast Traveler and beyond, what most has intrigued Spencer Brown is this: How can we produce compelling, inspirational stories about travel that serve our readers and clients? As the chief content officer at Cruise Media LLC, she works directly with cruise lines such as Silversea Cruises (discover.silversea.com) to create content that lives on their own platforms and entices travelers, both new-to-cruise and new-to-brand, to highlight awareness that drives clear results.
Catherine Watson was the first travel editor at the Minneapolis Star Tribune. She has taught travel memoir for the University of Minnesota; Ghost Ranch at Abiquiu, N.M., Madeline Island School of the Arts, Wis., and Brown University’s summer program in France. Her honors include Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year; SATW Photographer of the Year; NPPA Newspaper Magazine Editor of the Year and Distinguished Educator at the University of Minnesota. She wanted to be (in order) a geologist, a paleontologist, an archaeologist and an anthropologist but only got into journalism because, as her best friend said, “You haven’t tried that one yet.” Journalism was the right fit.