Writing about Place

Crafting & Publishing Travel & Place-Based Stories

Writing about Place

Writing is all about exploring the world around you, whether that's another country or your own neighborhood.

You must be passionate and curious to venture out into the world, and you must also bring those same vibrant emotions to your writing. Do you remember how you felt the last time you traveled to a new place or perhaps your favorite place? Excited, surprised, invigorated, hopeful? How can we create writing that evokes those feelings in our readers?

Whether you’re looking for professional and paying gigs, writing (or thinking about writing) a travel blog, or just seeking to capture memories and emotions as personal mementos, this day-long workshop is for you.

In this day-long workshop you will:

  • EXAMINE a variety of forms and approaches to writing about place;
  • LEARN essential elements to craft engaging and moving stories;
  • EXPLORE overlooked craft techniques that make writing come alive;
  • DRAFT a short essay;
  • CREATE a sample editorial pitch;
  • DISCUSS potential markets for publishing different kinds of travel and/or place-based writing.

No advance preparation is required, and writers of all levels are welcome.

Read on for an overview of the workshop schedule.

Saturday, March 17, 2018
10:00 am – 4:00 pm

Advance registration strongly recommended.
The workshop is limited to 16 students.

Workshop Schedule 


Getting Started
At the start of the day participants will have a chance to clarify their particular interest in the genre. We’ll discuss the practicalities of note-taking and observation, pitching work to editors, finding potential markets for your writing, and planning an experience or trip to write about. The interests expressed by those present will shape our discussion for the remainder of the day.

Writing about place can take many forms, including personal essays, informational articles, and longform narrative pieces. We’ll look at examples of a wide variety of approaches to the genre and consider what elements are essential for each, such as using detail effectively and incorporating research, theme, and reflection.

Theme and Reflection; “Letter to a Stranger”
The travel magazine “Off Assignment” runs a series of short personal essays called “Letter to a Stranger,” which asks writers to talk about someone they met during their travels who haunts them to this day. This might be someone they interacted with briefly—a fellow tourist, a shop owner, a partner in a short-lived romance—or someone they noticed, but never spoke to at all. All the essays are written in the format of letters to these essential “strangers.” The format provides a great structure for exploring elements of writing that are too often overlooked: emotion, reflection, and theme. During this part of the day we’ll consider how these essential elements function in travel (and other) writing, and will read and discuss a few sample essays. During the subsequent lunch break, participants will compose a draft or partial draft of their own “Letter to a Stranger.”

Lunch Break and Writing Time
The 90-minute lunch break will include 45 minutes of writing time. Participants can choose to bring their lunch or can buy lunch at one of the nearby restaurants.* During the lunch break participants will write a draft of a brief personal essay using the “Letter to a Stranger” format.


Crafting a Pitch and Sharing Your Work
In the final part of the day, we'll walk through pitch writing step-by-step and produce sample pitches. Participants will also have the opportunity to share a short writing sample (up to 500 words) for group discussion.** This can be one of the pieces you've crafted during the day, including your pitch, or something you've written previously.

**Participants are welcome to bring a piece they’ve been working on.

Location // 5119 Coral Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15224

The lower level of our workshop and gallery space is wheelchair accessible. Free on-street parking is available.

Doors open at 9 am, event begins at 10 am. Breakfast and coffee will be provided. *The workshop schedule includes a mid-day break for lunch at area restaurants, but boxed lunches can be provided for a nominal fee (advanced notice required) and a kitchenette, with refrigerator and microwave, is available onsite for packed lunches or snacks.

Anjali Sachdeva worked as a journalist in the US and Ireland before earning her MFA from the Writers' Workshop at the University of Iowa. She has taught creative writing at the University of Iowa, Augustana College, and Carnegie Mellon University, and for six years she served as Director of Educational Programs at the Creative Nonfiction Foundation. Her work has been published in Off Assignment, Creative Nonfiction, The Iowa Review, Yale Review, and Best American Nonrequired Reading, among others. She currently teaches at the University of Pittsburgh, and her debut short story collection, All the Names They Used for God, will be published February 20, 2018 by Spiegel & Grau.

Questions? Please call us at 412-404-2975 or email our events manager, Lauren Boehm, at boehm@creativenonfiction.org.