How Elaine Lee Landed a Travel Writing Teaching Gig in Paris

Last year, when I was preparing for my annual trip to Paris, a fellow travel writer and tour group leader suggested that I consider pitching the idea of teaching a travel writing class to a friend of hers, who had recently been appointed board president of an English-speaking educational association in Paris, WICE.
Coincidentally, there was a 39th anniversary celebration of the organization’s founding during the time I was in Paris, so I decided to attend. I introduced myself to the President of the board and she said, “Oh I have met you before. I attended your book party here in Paris many years ago, I have your book and I am a fan.”
After we finished exchanging pleasantries, I broached the travel writing class idea and she loved it. As the new president she wanted to bring new ideas and classes to the association. She felt this would fit the bill since they had never offered a class like that before, no other institution was teaching such a class (that she knew of) and many of their members are travelers, writers and/or retirees who would probably love to learn about travel writing. She asked me to send her a proposal.
When I got back to the Bay Area, I wrote a proposal and ran it past a more experienced travel writing instructor and she ripped it to shreds. After a revision, I got the green light from her and sent it off. She liked it and forwarded it to the head of their creative writing department. He reviewed, suggested some changes and we ultimately came up with a course description and viola. They published it on their website and in their newsletter in August and the class filled up shortly thereafter.
Though I had taught travel writing several times before, this was on opportunity to blend all those previous class notes and create something extraordinary. I re-read travel writing books, listened to travel writing talks and scoured my own book to find great examples of character development and creating a sense of place to share with the students. On October 19th, I was finally ready for the task before me.

The class attendees came from varied walks of life. There was a professional business writer who wanted to expand into travel journalism, a painter who needed to figure out a way to bring more vitality and precision in the written descriptions of her work, a retiree who was toying with the idea of becoming a travel writer and a travel photographer who wanted to add prose to her upcoming book, etc.
Somehow over the course of two 3-hour sessions over two weekend days, I managed to address their needs, answer their plethora of questions, teach them the basics of our craft, share my travel life/philosophy/travel writing history/website as well as offer them prompts to write their own short travel story. Their work was amazing. Either they were gifted writers or I am a good teacher. We each gave them feedback and exercise created a wonderful synergy in the class. So much so, that they decided to create their own network so they could meet monthly and help each other reach their travel writing goals.
The class was enthusiastically received by the attendees and the evaluations were amazing. I have been invited to return next year to teach the workshop again with the possibility of teaching more sessions.
The experience was deeply satisfying and a wonderful opportunity to “lift as I climbed” in the city that I love, Paris. Readiness meets opportunity=success.


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