Download and Print Welcome Letter: Watson – Into the Country of Memory
Into the Country of Memory
Instructor: Catherine Watson
Start Date: 10/6/19, End Date: 10/12/19
Check-In Begins at 3:00pm at the Welcome Center on 10/6/19. Dinner 5:30 – 6:30; Orientation 6:45 pm
Invitation: Whether your journeys take you around the globe or deep into the landscape of your heart, the techniques for writing travel memoir are the same, and so is the goal: Helping others understand their world — and their lives — a little better. Distance traveled isn’t as important as insights gained and shared. Come experiment with this age-old genre, and I will promise to send you home with new pieces to work on later, greater confidence in your writing ability and more ideas than you ever knew you had. It’s going to be an exciting week. I hope you’ll feel safe taking risks with your writing and that you’ll try new styles, new approaches, even new points of view. I promise I won’t let you get hurt in the process. I also promise to meet with each of you individually, at least once during the week, to discuss your work and your writing goals.
Learning Outcomes: To come away with greater confidence in your ideas, your writing and even yourself and a greater understanding of one of the world’s oldest literary genres. Despite the speed of modern travel, travel memoir still has the same purpose: To widen the reader’s world. Whether it’s a letter home from college or an ancient Viking saga, the idea remains the same: Sharing what you learned along life’s paths.
Course Schedule: I’m going to ask you to do a lot of writing this week — from flash exercises in class to brief overnight assignments that we’ll discuss as a group the next morning. Note: Discuss — not criticize. Don’t worry — perfection is not the goal, and I monitor class discussion closely to make sure everyone feels safe sharing their work and their thoughts. My goal is your growth, and that means keeping you safe as you experiment with your writing.We’ll also read examples from a variety of travel writers and discuss the elements that give this age-old genre its perennial appeal. Mornings are for class discussion, afternoons and evenings free for writing, attending presentations by other instructors or exploring the spectacular landscape of Ghost Ranch. You’ll quickly see why it has inspired so many other writers and artists!
Instructor Background: I am a journalist by training and a traveler by life-long choice. For me, that combination means truthful writing about personal experience in other cultures, whether wildly exotic or close to home — always with the idea of widening the reader’s understanding.I was the travel editor for a large Midwestern newspaper for more than 25 years, talking directly to my readers via the printed page, aiming always to widen their understanding of the world and its cultures. My work has received many awards, including the top two in the field, the Lowell Thomas Travel Journalist of the Year and Society of American Travel Writers’ Photographer of the Year. In addition to Ghost Ranch, I have taught workshops in travel memoir for the University of Minnesota, University of St. Thomas (in St. Paul), Brown University in Pont-Aven, France, and in Segovia, Spain, and the Madeline Island School of the Arts in northern Wisconsin.
Provided Materials: Hand-outs include:– A book list of recommended works by major travel writers from the ancient world down to the present day;– A list of writers who are masters of this venerable genre; — A check-list of elements that personal narratives (including traditional memoir, as well as travel memoir) need to include in order to make the experience as vivid as possible to readers.
What to Bring: Bring writing tools that you are truly comfortable with, whether that’s a familiar lap-top or plain old pen-and-ink. (Ghost Ranch is not the place to bring a brand-new computer, particularly if its software is not familiar to you.)
FAQs: Q: What if I haven’t traveled very much? A: You have LIVED, and life itself is a journey. The real subject is personal insight that you can share with others. You don’t have to go to Timbuktu or even Paris for that. Flashes of insight can hit you like lightning on a Minnesota hiking trail as easily as on Everest.
Q: What if there’s not enough time to finish a new piece every night? A: “Finish” isn’t the goal this week. I want you to see how many ideas and insights you have — and to get a sense of how many more there must be. — I hope you go home with several rough drafts and half a dozen beginnings of others. They will be starting points for travel essays that you can polish later, at home. With each of them, you’ll know where to go next. That makes them bridges linking you to your writing, when you’re away from the unique world of Ghost Ranch. With these unfinished drafts, you’ll know where to go next.
Testimonials: Because of positive feedback from past students, the College of Continuing Education at the University of Minnesota named me Instructor of the Year in 2012. My two essay collections, “Roads Less Traveled” (2005) and “Home on the Road” (2007), both from Syren Book Company, each won “Best Book” awards from the Society of American Travel Writers. Praise included this comment from Don George, then Global Travel Editor for Lonely Planet Books: “These tales bring the wide world home with an adventurous spirit, a discerning intelligence, a rich attention to detail and a soaring heart.” (For my first book.) And this from poet and memoirist Patricia Hampl:”The eye is keen and kind, the writing by turns sharp and lyrical, the destinations ever a surprise. A magic carpet collection by one of our best.” (For my second book.)
Recommended Resources: Look at the annual “Best Travel Writing” collections published by Traveler’s Tales Books. My work is in several of these, but any of them will be a good introduction to the variety and texture of this age-old form of personal narrative.