My nerves tingle with apprehension and excitement. The omnipresent nagging doubt competes to trump any sense of anticipation that manages to snake through to my consciousness. Can I really do this? Can I learn to write? Can I turn my love of travel into something more? I am finally on my way to New Orleans for an intense three-day workshop for aspiring travel writers. Always at different locations, Great Escape Publishing sponsors this event yearly.
New Orleans often evokes savory images of Creole and Cajun cuisine, jazz, Mardi Gras, voodoo, and vampires. Rich in history, the Big Easy offers entertainment and activities for everyone. Luckily many of the attractions are located in or near the French Quarter.
The participants range from millennials to baby boomers. Some are experienced writers who have already been published. Others, like myself, are newbies. Many are retired, or simply seeking a career change. A love of travel binds this diverse group. Throughout the workshop the tone remains encouraging, fun, professional, supportive, and inspiring. With so much to experience and so little time, it is difficult to decide what to do.
Great Escape Publishing packs tons of information into three full days. We learn to target our writing to our intended audience. We explore ways to find unique and interesting story angles to those well-worn stories that have been told scores of times. We discover the importance of query letters, and where we send our pitches. We learn to look for a publication’s writer’s guidelines. We hear from editors about what sells and what doesn’t. We learn how to research. We learn the importance of taking decent photographs to go with your stories. One of the highlights of the weekend showcases the success stories of previous workshop attendees.
Travel writing involves research. It can be time consuming. It can be frustrating. But let’s face it…it’s not rocket science. And it can be fun! Imagine the adrenaline rush of seeing your first byline! I’m not there yet, but working on it! While most travel writers will not get rich, there are opportunities to acquire various perks. Some of these might include free or reduced lodging, meals, entrance fees to various attractions, and free press trips.
The conference’s busy schedule does not allow for ample time to see New Orleans unless we extend our stay. That can be difficult when you have other obligations. In the evenings we have time to sample some of NOLA’s famed nightlife. One day we have the morning to explore. Again, with so many intriguing possibilities, what to do?
On our free morning, I opt for our ‘Save Our Cemeteries’ tour of the oldest existing cemetery in the city, St. Louis1. Aside from the sweltering 90-degree temperature, 90 percent humidity, the tour is an interesting glimpse into NOLA’s history. Monique, our quirky guide, is entertaining, funny, and knowledgeable. The cost is $20.00. To reserve the tour, visit the website: www.saveourcemeteries.org.
My last night in New Orleans I take a haunted pub crawl tour. Only in New Orleans can you openly drink your booze while strolling down the city streets. Our guide, John, intersperses history and ghost stories in an entertaining, amusing style. The tour can be booked through www.ghostcitytours.com for $50.00 (plus bar tabs).
You’ll never go hungry in New Orleans as long as you have money. Top quality restaurants abound. Muriel’s, in Jackson Square, is top notch. The quality and friendliness of the service, the décor, the building’s history, and the food presentation, meld with the enticing aromas of Creole cooking to create a truly enjoyable, relaxing environment. The menu offers gluten-free and vegetarian options. The scrumptious food is cooked to perfection. Sundays from 10:30-2:00 they offer a jazz brunch. Check the website out at www.muriels.com.
Now I need to return to NOLA when I have the time to truly explore this unique city. Next time I will take my family.