“Sedate Travel”: Travel Writing with Tom Miller

Vi In 2010–for the first time in our 37-year history–the Port Townsend Writers' Conference will be offering a creative nonfiction workshop dedicated specifically to writing about travel.

Tucson-based writer Tom Miller–you know him from such books as "The Panama Hat Trail" and "Trading With the Enemy: A Yankee Travels Through Castro's Cuba," among others, as well as articles in the New Yorker, Smithsonian, and Los Angeles Times, among many other magazines and newspapers–is leading the class. Read a description of Tom Miller's workshop here. Life on the southern U.S. border inspired his first travel book: “On the Border: Portraits of America’s Southwestern Frontier”, and he is known for the keen eye he brings to travel writing, and the way that he helps students unlock that same power not only of observation, but discovery.  

"I love research," Miller writes. "In minor libraries, in exotic locales, in friends’ living rooms, in museums and factories. And I always keep in mind: the most important part of writing is rewriting. It’s the writing itself that’s difficult. Like many of you, I think I get better at it as I write more, but it doesn’t get any easier."

"In my travel writing workshop we will do the obvious–critique and discuss each other’s ideas and pieces–Market and the not so obvious–using our favorite writings and writers, we’ll analyze how a sense of place emerges and, by the end of a work, grabs us by the shoulders and shakes us silly. By far the best travel writing I’ve read in years is "The Travels of Mungo Park," which tells of the forays of an 18th century Scotsman into West Africa. Park had imperial tendencies, of course, but also a good eye, a wide vocabulary, and fantastic experiences."

"If Park's journeys were to take place today they'd be called “extreme travel.” I’m quite willing to entertain “sedate travel.” I want to hear you talk about a chess game you observed, and what that game said about the players, their lives, and their surroundings. (Was the chessboard paper or wooden or plastic? Homemade or store-bought? How about the pieces? Was the lighting natural or artificial? Ambient sounds? Spectators?)"

Tom Miller "The stamps in your passport are of casual interest. How your mind was expanded once you arrived is of keen interest. We’ll discuss everything from choosing your words carefully to the use of a notebook. (I used to have a prejudice against Moleskine notebooks; now I’m sold on them.)"

"By the end of our last day I hope you’ll be pleasantly exhausted, enriched, and excited. As Ella Fitzgerald sang, who could ask for anything more?"

Registration for workshops at the 2010 Port Townsend Writers' Conference is available here, as well as by calling us at 360.385.3102, x117 or x131.

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