Travel Writing Part I August 18, 19, 2014 9:00 to 12:00
Love to travel and dream of being a travel writer? Good travel writing is more than just describing where you’ve been and what you’ve seen. Travel writers must convey to readers, the places in their imaginations and beyond, using sensual description, strong narrative, unusual imagery and a clear voice. This course is an opportunity to learn those skills that will transport your writing–and your readers–to faraway places and strange new worlds. If your head is swimming with travel stories… if you like to try new adventures, experiences and explore new cafés, find out how to live the travel writer’s life
Duration of Course: The topics can be covered in two workshops of 4 hours each allowing plenty of time for writing exercises and discussions.
Through a series of exercises, this workshop encourages people who love to travel to tap into their ability to write creatively. Discussions will cover how to get started and where to look for publishing opportunities. The workshop will cover the main techniques of travel writing including:
Introduction- the basics on travel writing : different forms; how to write a query, where to access information
Media –how to find a market, information on how to find the magazine or newspaper to suit your travel story
Research – the role
Finding a voice-different ways to incorporate into your writing
Travel writing tips – details only an insider can share
Travel Writing Part II August 21, 22, 2014, 9:00 to 12:00
If you took Travel Writing I in 2012 or 2013, you are eligible for this in-depth workshop. If you haven’t, but you have writing experience, and the accompanying moxy to convince us you are ready for this leap, please join us.
If you are seriously considering trying on the travel writer life, this is the course for you. An in-depth discussion of the realities of the life of travel writing will be accompanied by practical in-depth writing exercises to get you started as a freelancer. Building on the travel writing basics of Part 1, we will delve deeper into what angles you as a writer can pursue. ” Write about what you know.” We have heard the expression, now let’s explore what that means to make it work.
In this detailed workshop, we will examine publications closely, write sample query letters put an article together step by step . We will develop self-editing skills focussing only on what is important for each article.
The following will be covered sequentially:
Publishing markets: how to find a market that suits your style of writing
Query/Pitches: you will write a query turning it into something you can use
Research : this is a powerful tool, how to use it to get published
Niche/Angle: your unique perspective
Outline: how to outline your article coming up with a formula you can use time and time again
Get Started: the basics on putting yourself out there: what is the first step?
Marketing: how to market yourself, get out there and get published
To register: www.southamptonart.com or call 1-800-806-8838
It was two years ago that I made a conscious decision to try to conquer my fear of death by visiting the celebrations of Day of the Dead in Mexico. I was apprehensive as I entered the gates of the park which were decorated with the scent of Cempasúchil , immediately it felt like a transition to another world. I was engulfed by such thick clouds of overpowering incense, I was coughing and sputtering.
Enormous village bands played loudly and heartily, and authentic Mayan warriors sprinted through the crowd, refusing to stop for photos.
Walking along torch lined path-ways, I experienced feelings of sadness, sorrow, contrasted with frenzied energy emanating from the dramatic thundering of drums, and primal shouting from fierce looking warriors dancing.
For four days in Mexico, everything stops. The eco theme park, Xcaret, an hour south of Cancun, holds its Day of the Dead or Hanál Pixán festivities to honor the souls of the departed. From October 30 to November 2nd, the annual Life and Death Traditions Festival swings between reverence and joyfulness with parades, dancing, face painting, and numerous elaborate altars adorned with candles, food and toys . The Bridge of Paradise is a replica of a Mayan village, with 365 decorated tombs that symbolize the days of the year.
A number of theatres featured a variety of dances. The interpretative dances were quietly haunting, morbidly accented by dancers wearing skulls, along with elaborate torn lace costumes. They moved as if in a trance, and writhed in the ecstasy of death which left me squirming in my chair, heart pounding, the similarity to nightmares uncanny.
Traditional music played in another theatre, the musicians played drums, flutes and guitars joyfully and enthusiastically, an odd contrast to a stage featuring mournful square dancers who circled the stage, stepping briskly to bizarrely slow music, with several of the dancers mimicking pall bearers carrying a corpse.
The powerful emotions and sensations were all reminiscent of the journey of grief. Dancing, singing, celebrating, and mourning, a mad jumble of every emotional reaction associated with death.
Cemeteries in Mexico (the real ones and the replicas at Xcaret) are colorful and vibrant, which is no surprise. The people live as they depart . We visited a local cemetery in Tulum, where families gathered at the gravesides, some beautifully built with elaborate structures completely tiled in bright colours, others made modestly, with hand painted signs. All demonstrate the love put into each gesture. Part of the annual tradition is to clean up the gravesite of the deceased friend or family member, decorating it with lit candles and bright orange flowers – ‘Cempasúchil’, a flower we know as Marigold is used only at this time of year . No altar is complete without the gathering of wild Cempasúchil and the spreading of them everywhere from family altars, pathways, and graveyards. The Aztecs believed that the spicy smell could wake the souls of the dead to bring them back for the festival. The gravesites of the ‘small souls’ of the children are the most precious and heartbreaking, festooned with the favorite foods, toys, and photos of the little angels cherished in life and death.
Death takes a break
Did I conquer my fear of death? Not totally, but I certainly felt more comfortable with the transition from life to death, and wish that the culture I lived in made a conscious effort to mark the anniversary of the death of loved ones with a celebration of everything that was important to them in life.
Where to stay: Even the resort staff were in costume . There are numerous options in the Playa Del Carmen area. We stayed at the all-inclusive Catalonia Riviera Maya, a high end resort that offers superb guest services, several different restaurants to choose from, white sandy beach, swimming pools, entertainment, water sports, and luxurious on-site spa . For a little extra, bump it up and stay in the Privileged section. http://www.hotels-catalonia.com
I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Deepak Chopra earlier this week as he opened his meditation and yoga center on Queen’s Quay West in Toronto, Ontario. Speaking about his new book “Super Brain”, the charming, enigmatic Chopra left me with a number of takeaway quotes.
Dr. Chopra admitted to meditating twice a day and encourages everyone to meditate “once a day and if you don’t have the time, meditate twice a day.”
Speaking about time, he said that ” time sickness is a disease of today” and “the more time sickness you have, the more time awareness you need.”
“Never say, we don’t have time………we have eternity.”
As he left, he concluded with ”take it easy, we have eternity.”
I didn’t realize how many preconceived notions I had about the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador. When I booked my trip, I was looking forward to seeing animals, sea life and a few birds in their natural habitat but I wasn’t prepared for the vast numbers of sea lions,
marine iguanas as well as the great variety of spectacular birds.
Traveling by ship is the best way to see the magnificent Galapagos Islands and the smaller the ship, the better. Our itinerary for the seven night journey took us first to Genovesa
in the north, then east to Fernandina, a relatively young island half a million years old. We then worked westward through successively older islands back to San Cristobal, crossing the equator four times.
The Galapagos Islands sit right atop the equator: an archipelago of volcanic peaks spread across 50,000 square miles from stark Fernandina to relatively fertile Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal. They are separated from the mainland of South America by 600 miles of very deep water and lie at the confluence of marine currents from the Antarctic, equatorial Pacific and South American coast. The hot and cold water temperatures give rise to a wild diversity of habitats and creatures adapted to them. Any month is good to visit butOctober is particularly special because of all the newborns and hatchlings we saw.
We snorkeled with penguins, white tipped sharks, sea turtles and sea lions, and came face to face with the giant tortoises which are the signature animals of the islands. We stepped into a veritable maternity ward with dozens of sea lions nursing their newborns. Ambling along the shoreline of Santiago, we came across fur sea lions, a species that was once
on the verge of extinction. The many animals and exotic birds took my breath away time and time again, and reduced me to tears on more than one occasion. We hiked along ancient lava tunnels and felt like explorers going back to the beginning of time.
I knew there would be birds on each island but was not prepared for the volume, diversity and implausible beauty. One day, we crossed the equator towards Genovesa, a volcanic
caldera that is home to many bird species and saw red-footed boobies with their scarlet webbed feet, Nasca boobies, Galapagos mocking birds with their piercing eyes, four species of Darwin Finches and the elusive short eared owl as it hunted over an open lava field.
As we entered a forest of cactus and mangroves where great frigate birds were nesting, the males inflated their striking red throat pouches to attract females as they flew overhead.
Snorkeling was a focal point andI was soon enraptured by the colorful
inhabitants of the crystal clear water: angel fish, parrot fish, yellow tailed graits, surgeonfish, sea urchins, white tipped reef sharks, sting rays and chocolate-chip star fish (yes, that is their name).
Jumping off the Zodiac into the deep, crystal clear water for the first time to snorkel, I expected balmy bath-like water but I yelped like a sea lion once I hit the ice-cold water even though I had a wet suit on. Currents from the Antarctic explained not only the delightfully tiny Galapagos penguins but also were the reason many in our group were wearing two wet suits at once.
As Santiago Dunn, President of Ecoventura says, “Galapagos is the type of place where nature and simplicity rule and less is often more.” We saw signs reminding us “Be prepared to leave only your footprints and only take away photographs and memories.” We have many of both.
as published in activeover50.com , July, 2013
Melody’s trip was sponsored by Ecoventura, www.ecoventura.com
I was in Dublin in April for part of The Gathering, and went across the River Liffey myself, but didn’t dare dance, but yesterday, 1,693 people kicked up their heels to set a new Guiness World Record for the longest Riverdance Line of Dancers.
1,693 people from 44 countries gathered on the banks of the River Liffey to perform the Riverdance – The Gathering Longest Line. The event was watched by an audience of thousands, who lined the quays from Dublin’s Samuel Beckett Bridge to the Sean O’Casey Bridge, cheering on the participants as they danced into the record books. The previous record of 652 people dancing in a continuous line was held by Nashville, Tennessee.
The participants, who gathered from as far away as Mexico, Uzbekistan and Japan to take part in this once in a lifetime event, were led in their performance by Jean Butler and 100 members of the Riverdance troupe. Following a starting signal provided by the LE Niamh, the Irish Navy ship, the banks of the Liffey came alive to the iconic sounds of Bill Whelan’s Riverdance, and the 1,693 dancers began the very special Riverdance – The Gathering performance, and in doing so set a new Guinness World Record on Sunday 21 July.
The video will make you smile and encourage you to do a wee dance yourself!
The participants were led by acclaimed dancer, Jean Butler. A New Yorker with Irish roots, Jean took the world by storm 19 years ago at the first Riverdance performance in the 1994 Eurovision Finals. Jean said “I am delighted to have had the opportunity to celebrate The Gathering through Irish dance with thousands of people over the course of this weekend. Riverdance has played a big role in my life but it has also played a big part in bringing the joy of Irish dance and music to many people throughout the world. It’s an honour to be among so many of those people here in Dublin to celebrate this Gathering.”
Members of approximately 163 overseas Irish dance schools from 31 countries were some of those who travelled to take part in the Longest Line event, a testament to the influence of Riverdance across the globe. To date over 23 million people in over 350 cities have seen Riverdance perform live.
But it was not only accomplished dancers participating in the longest Riverdance line, the event was open to anyone. However all participants had to master the basic Riverdance steps & received online tutorials in advance to prepare them for the occasion.
The Longest Line record breaking attempt was part of ‘Riverdance – The Gathering’, a one-off Gathering event in a year that will see over 4,000 events, big and small, take place throughout Ireland as part of the Gathering Ireland 2013. It is a celebration of all things Irish – its people, its unique culture, heritage and rich history! It is about the people of Ireland throwing open their arms and inviting anyone who feels a connection to Ireland to come and visit in 2013.
RIVERDANCE – DID YOU KNOW
Since Riverdance began performances in Dublin 1995, the show has…
· Played 10,000 performances
· Been seen live by over 23 million people in over 350 venues world-wide, throughout 45 countries across 6 continents
· Travelled 600,000 miles (or to the moon and back!)
· Played to a global television audience of 2 billion people
· Sold over 3 million copies of the Grammy Award-winning CD
· Sold 10 million Riverdance videos & DVDs
· Performed recently to America’s first family: Michelle, Sasha and Malia Obama at the Gaiety Theatre. First Lady, Michelle Obama was first on her feet leading the standing ovation at the end of the show.
And there have been…
· 1,500 Irish Dancers
· 14,000 Dance shoes used
· 12,000 Costumes worn
· 200,000 Gallons of water consumed
· 60,000 Gallons of Gatorade consumed
· 1,650,000 Show programmes sold
· 60 Marriages between company members including the gorgeous Niamh O’Connor and Padraic Moyles who are here with us today!
· 20,000 Cumulative years of study in step-dancing by Irish Dancers
· 45,000 Rolls of self-grip tape used by company physiotherapists
· 15,000 Hours of rehearsals on tour
· 5,500,000 Pounds of dry ice used on stage
· 60,000 Pounds of chocolate consumed (for energy!) by the cast
Riverdance Director John McColgan said yesterday, “We’ve done it! Congratulations to all who participated today. The talent that was on display is truly remarkable and is more proof if we needed it of the enormous affection that exists for Irish dance and Riverdance in Ireland and throughout the world. Millions of people have seen Riverdance live but today a special 1,693 can say they were part of it in this Gathering year.”
World Record Rules state that to be included in the Guinness World Record the single line of dancers must perform continuously for five minutes.
When I heard about The Gathering taking place in Ireland this year, it tugged at my very core. I knew I had to go.
I grew up hearing stories about my grandmother and about my great grandparents from Northern Ireland and for years I have wanted to investigate further. Suddenly it felt urgent.
I wanted to know the truth about those stories — and also to learn if I had relatives still living there. I had to go.
First, however, I had to do some family research.
Gathering up as many names, dates and birthplaces in Ireland as I could — plus birth, marriage and death certificates — was an important first step. Then I chatted to as many older relatives in Canada as I could, foraging for information and adding names and dates to the mix. The next step was to link up with a genealogist in Ireland who could look into records there that I didn’t know the first thing about accessing
One thing I realized early on was that I was being quite unrealistic in thinking this could be done fairly quickly.
Apparently there were other people wanting the same genealogist to look for information about their own families in Northern Ireland. Who knew?
As I prepared for the trip, my objectives became clear. My first goal would be to find the site of my great grandfather’s farm and to stay in the area to get a feel for it. It would be icing on the ancestral cake to meet any living relatives. Did I dare dream that was possible? I didn’t think so.
Assisting me was a Dublin genealogist named Helen Kelly of Dublin. I also worked with Gillian Hunt, a researcher at the Ulster Historical Foundation in Belfast.
Just days before my flight, I received an enormous report that I hastily read. The information it held, combined with what I had gathered online from census records, allowed me to determine an approximate address for my great grandfather’s farm.
The census report, from 1860, even described his house as being thatched with four large rooms, three windows, two outhouses, a stable and a pigsty. It was roughly 100 kilometres west of Belfast, on Glenkeen Road outside the village of Aughnacloy in County Tyrone.
Toward the bottom of the report, I came across the exciting news that I had living relatives.
It seems that my grandmother had a few siblings I didn’t know about and one of them had given birth to two daughters. They were both long deceased, but had grown children who were now living in the Belfast area.
I was tingling with excitement. With this information, I was able to figure out which cousin lived closest to the area I would be visiting — and also his phone number.
It took me a while to work up my nerve to make the call. What would I say? I even wrote out a script out so that I would keep it simple and to the point.
He answered after the first ring. With my voice shaking, I said, “Hi, my name is Melody, I live in Canada and I believe you are my cousin.”
I explained that his grandfather had been my grandmother’s brother, which meant that we shared great grandparents and that he was my second cousin.
How had I come across this information, he asked.
I explained the source and asked if we could meet, since I was flying to Northern Ireland the following week.
He immediately agreed to a meeting and said: “You must visit our farm.”
I told him that would be great and that I also wanted to go to site of great grandfather’s farm. Using Google Earth, I explained, I had located it on my computer and had actually seen the farm gate.
When he told me that his home was in Dungannon, I was able to share the news that our great grandfather’s farm was in Aughnacloy, only a few kilometres from where he lived. He laughed in surprise and we immediately made plans to see the site together. I hung up the phone that day both relieved and excited.
The next day I responded to an invitation to become his son’s “friend” on Facebook. I knew we were family as soon as I started reading and observed the son’s droll humour. He offered to meet me for lunch at my Belfast hotel when I arrived.
The following week, accompanied by a friend, I flew to Dublin and met with Helen Kelly, the genealogist I had been working with. Over a cup of tea, we studied the information I had gathered and scrolled through other records that she was able to quickly access.
Kelly empowers people to do their own research, but had been able to cobble together quite a bit of information from the scanty collection of dates and names I had sent to her. In particular, I learned, she was able to scan obituaries with a fine eye, picking up on small details that might be clues for further investigation.
Even if you don’t meet living relatives in Ireland, Kelly told me, it’s important to “go to the community that cradled your ancestors.” The landscape is unlikely to have changed much, she noted. So sit and get a feel for it. Speak to the locals and spend time in their presence.
After doing a bit of sightseeing in Dublin, we took a train to Belfast. “Never forget that you are from Aughnacloy, Country Tyrone,” my mother had always said to me when I was growing up. She would have been so pleased to know where I was going.
I carried a photo of my maternal grandmother with me because I felt this was her journey, too. Even though I had never met her, I was starting to feeling a closer connection. I also carried a small album of ancestral photos and pictures of current family members to share with my newly discovered relatives.
My second cousin’s son planned to meet me in the lobby of my Belfast hotel soon after my arrival. I had hardly slept the night before and was as nervous as I would have been on a first date. Did my hair look OK?
When he walked in, we knew each other immediately (thanks to Facebook photos). Over lunch we made small talk, nervously, and I showed him the family tree that I had assembled so far, plus a photo of my grandmother, his great aunt.
Our subsequent search at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI) proved futile in turning up more information, but being there with my new cousin was such a treat. It was surreal to be at a computer looking up family records, glancing over at my newly discovered cousin doing the same thing. I did get quite distracted as I looked at all the information that was available. I know I will have to return some day, since days, not mere hours, are required to do any kind of thorough research.
Getting stuck in a Belfast rush hour traffic jam didn’t squelch my enthusiasm later as we toodled along winding country roads en route to his father’s house in Dungannon. I must have been comfortable, however, because I fell fast asleep on the way.
We were welcomed at the door and tea and sandwiches were quickly served (an apple and Mars bar sandwich — that’s a treat you have to try). We looked through my family pictures and my second cousin showed me a photo of his grandfather, my great uncle. I couldn’t see a family resemblance at the time, but now, looking back at my photos from the trip, I realize there are some similarities.
We drove together to the site near Aughnacloy where my great grandfather’s farm had been located and were able to walk across the property and the surrounding area. It was a deeply inspiring evening, one that my mother would have loved to see.
We took a photo of our newly connected family group in front of the farm gates. Driving through the area, I commented that the landscape was very similar to the Yorkshire Moors in England — so it’s no wonder then that my grandmother ended up settling there when she left Northern Ireland. It felt like pieces of a family puzzle were sliding into place.
I had contacted the Ulster Historical Foundation several months prior to my trip and for about $110 they had provided results for an initial search to find details about my family, using the information I was able to provide.
Back in Belfast, I made an appointment to meet the foundation researcher Gillian Hunt, whose work had allowed me to make contact with my cousins. She was so pleased she had been able to help and we chatted for an hour about further research that could be done. I agreed to a further search (costing about $240), knowing there was a good chance that more information about my family could be found.
While family research was the main focus of my trip, I also made time to do some sightseeing.
Whenever I travel, I make a point of visiting local markets because I find they are a true representation of a place. So on our way out of Belfast, we stopped at the city’s St. George’s market. Operating since 1604, it is the last surviving Victorian covered market in Belfast, located close to the River Lagan and the city’s Waterfront Hall
It was well worth a visit and I picked up lots of goodies to bring home, including some original pieces of art, locally knitted items, linens and locally made chocolate.
From Belfast, we drove to the stunning Atlantic coast of County Antrim, stopping to walk on the Giant’s Causeway, which is an essential stop for anyone visiting this part of Northern Ireland
Formed more than 60 million years ago when molten lava cooled suddenly on contact with water, the Giant’s Causeway is an awe-inspiring landscape of more than 40,000 interlocking columns.
There are stunning coastal trails to follow here, all with breathtaking views of jagged cliffs and bays lashed by wind and waves. The visitor centre is an innovative, state of the art facility that rises out of the landscape with walls of glass, soaring basalt columns and a sloping, grassed roof
And at nearby Carrick-A-Rede, you can test your nerve by crossing a 20-metre rope bridge that links the mainland to the small island of Carrickarede, 30 metres above the rocks along the coast
It was the perfect end to a wonderful trip
Melody’s visit to Ireland was sponsored by Tourism Ireland
The small northern English city of York has been an important population centre for at least 2,000 years. As a Roman, Viking and medieval Anglo Saxon city, its relics, monuments and architectural treasures are woven into the fabric of everyday modern life
It’s a bustling city, as busy with locals as it is with tourists. If you are on foot and want to experience the silence of the past in the midst of this bustling city, first arm yourself with a detailed map of the centre. Then step into medieval and Victorian York by plunging into the maze of “snickelways.”
York is riddled with a warren of tiny alleys and passageways that used to be called “snickets” or “ginnels.” Find these and you step back in time to the gas-lit days of Victorian England. The snickelways are surprisingly well used today, because for those in the know they provide handy shortcuts through the centre of York. You can take a guided tour of the snickelways to learn a bit of the city’s history and also discover a few hidden gems on the way
The term “snickelway” was created in the 1980s by blending “snicket,” a passageway between walls or fences; “ginnel,” a narrow passageway between or through buildings, and “alleyway.” Now local people in York use the word snickelway as if it has been around as long as York Minster, the Gothic cathedral in the city
To do the walk yourself, you will need to buy a guidebook. Mark Jones first wrote about the “secret” passageways in York, and he devised a route through York that takes in all the snickets. You can buy his book, which includes a map, A Walk Around the Snickelways of York, online from the Tourist Information Office in York or from Amazon, U.K., for 5.99 pounds (about $9.50 Cdn) or less
There are some fascinating street names that crop up as you pass through the city, each with a historical narrative of its own, such as Hornpot Lane, Mad Alice Lane, Lady Peckett’s Yard, and Whip-ma-Whop-ma gate (yes, really), a word that sounds as if it should be in a rap song rather than being an ancient tongue twister
When you walk through the centre of York and pass into High Petergate, to your left you will see the Hole in the Wall Pub. On the left of the pub is an opening leading to a passage and a court. Turn right, into the court, and make your way down the narrow “street” and enjoy one of the best but least-discovered views of the magnificent York Minster
In the medieval, walled city of York, streets that lead to openings in the city walls are called gates. The entrances through the walls are called bars
High Petergate winds into the centre of the city from Bootham Bar, one of the oldest entrances to York
It’s a lovely city for walking, with something interesting – and hundreds of half-timbered buildings – to look at and explore at every turn. Some of the best shopping streets are mentioned in the Domesday Book, compiled in the 11th century, and have been commercial centres for more than 900 years
York Minster, one of Europe’s greatest Gothic cathedrals, dominates the city, visible from any vantage point within the walls. The 1,000-year-old cathedral, built on Roman, Anglo-Saxon and early Norman foundations, is 200 feet high. It is the largest consecrated Gothic space in Europe
The Shambles in York is one of Europe’s oldest and best-preserved streets, and also one of England’s most photographed. The crooked, gnarled “hops” that are the Shambles are also deemed snickelways
History envelops you at every step in York. You don’t need to pass through the doors of a museum to experience the background of this stunning city
However, the Yorkshire Museum and Gardens is a must-see. The 10-acre botanical gardens around the Yorkshire Museum stretch from the River Ouse up to the back of York Art Gallery. The ruins of St. Mary’s Abbey, first built in 1088, are all that remains of one of the wealthiest and most powerful Benedictine monasteries in England
The York Observatory, an octagonal stone observatory built in 1832 and 1833, is in the Museum Gardens, along with the Yorkshire Museum. It’s a fully operational astronomical observatory with a history of astronomy and the astronomers of York and Yorkshire. The observatory houses an 1811 clock that tells the time based on the positions of the stars
Where to stay: Cedar Court Grand Hotel is the only five-star hotel in York and it shows. The doorman, concierge, front desk and waitstaff are all top notch, and no request is too much. I was slightly anxious about hauling my heavy luggage to the train station around the corner, only five minutes away. I mentioned it to the front-desk angel, Hannah, and she quickly arranged for the porter, Peter, to walk along with me, pulling my luggage right to the platform. Enormous relief at the cost of a tip! The hotel’s location is central and it’s walking distance to everything you need. Cedar Court Grand, Station Rise, York, www.cedarcourtgrand.co.uk; phone 01904-380-038