On-the-ground reports from the Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Denver
Since you couldn’t be with us in Colorado for our workshop, I asked David Morgan – a freelance writer and photographer – to fill you in on what we’ve learned. You’ll find his report here below.
Director, Great Escape Publishing
Lost luggage. ATM card won’t work. Kidnapped by Kashmiri carpet salesmen. Showed up for your flight 20 minutes or 20 years too late. Held at gunpoint by Buddhist monks.
If you travel, then things go wrong. That’s part of the adventure, and part of the fun when you tell the story later. At least, it can be.
Better yet, your travel disasters can lead directly to your first travel-writing paychecks and bylines. Publications pay for “funny” travel stories… when they can find them.
The good news for you is, hardly anyone writes good travel humor anymore.
“Some of the best travel stories tell the tale of something that wasn’t funny at the time,” said Stan Sinberg, a MAD magazine writer and travel humorist who joined us during the 2006 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Denver, Colorado.
“With time and perspective, things that weren’t funny then can become hilarious travel articles now.”
The problem is, most people who think they’re funny, aren’t.
*** How to tell funnier stories
Until today, I had thought that a person could either write humor or couldn’t. I didn’t think it could be taught. How wrong I was.
My name is David Morgan, and I’ve been writing to you over the past few days with free, on-the-ground reports from our Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop here in Denver.
My primary goal is to debunk the myth that you have to be rich, elegant, or inherit some natural-born “talent” in order to prosper as a travel writer and enjoy a footloose international lifestyle.
Turns out, you don’t have to be a comedian or be able to commit jokes to memory in order to write travel humor, either.
Stan Sinberg reduced writing travel humor to a science for our participants today. I was impressed, as I’m sure you would be. I had never thought about why we as readers find some things hilarious and some things not humorous in the least.
He broke the process down for us, and I think you’d get a lot out of what he said, too.
You know, I’d love nothing more than to give you a full blow-by-blow in these daily reports of every last secret we’ve learned. But there’s simply not the space. Instead, I’ve picked a handful of key points — intelligence you can put to use immediately.
…which leads us to your fourth free writing tip of the 2006 Ultimate Travel Writer’s Workshop in Denver:
***Make yourself the brunt of the joke.
To write a successful travel article that’s funny, you need to volunteer to be the victim of the story.
In other words, whatever happened that wasn’t funny at the time had to have happened to you, not someone else. If it was your friend who got trampled by the ostrich and not you, don’t write the story.
It is also helpful if no one in the story (including you) was maimed, killed, or permanently damaged due to whatever happened. Your story needs a happy ending to be funny instead of sick: It was terrible at the time, but no real harm done.
When you laugh at yourself, it’s funny. And, as Stan today pointed out, when you laugh at someone else, it’s sadistic. And sadism isn’t funny.
Can you think of something that happened on some past trip that made you look the fool… made you angry… made you never want to visit a place again…
If so, it’s likely you’re sitting on a travel article you can sell and resell. And, as you well know, once your name starts getting published here and there, it’s a lot easier to start cashing in on the perks seasoned travel writers enjoy — like press trips… reduced-rate travel… and even the occasional complimentary, all-inclusive resort vacation…
Writing humorous travel memoirs is actually a great way to start a travel-writing career from the comfort of your own home. The story you write about in your article could have taken place 40 years ago!
It’s been a real pleasure writing to you over the course of this year’s conference, and I do hope to see your name in print very soon.
Freelance writer and photographer
[Editor’s Note: Learn more about opportunities to profit from your travels (and even from your own home) in our free online newsletter The Right Way to Travel.]