I’m a MatadorU writing graduate.Yeeha! I’ve been doing their online travel writing course over the last six months and can finally say that I’ve completed it. The course has been a great learning experience for me and I’ve really enjoyed it.
MatadorU is the largest independent travel publication online, with nearly two million unique visitors per month. Their mission is to create travel journalists. They have won two consecutive Lowell Thomas Awards for travel journalism excellence and partner with brands, host countries and major outlets such as National Geographic, CNN and Google.
COURSES AND RESOURCES
They offer courses in travel photography, travel writing and filmmaking. A graduate programme is also available, which offers an intensive one-year study of the craft of travel journalism, aimed at emerging writers, photographers and filmmakers. There are forums that students can get involved in but the one thing that really appeals to me about the extras related to these courses is the fact that the students get access to press trips, paid writing jobs, assignments from major publications and can become part of a large community of thousands of other journalists.
I was looking at this course online a few years ago but it was only in January this year that I decided to go ahead and do it. The travel writing course cost me 350 USD – about 264 Euros, which isn’t bad. There are twelve chapters in the course and the aim is to complete a chapter a week (with an assignment at the end of each chapter), finishing the course in three months. But it gives you the flexibility of being able to stop and start whenever you like, which was good for me because it took me six months to complete. I was working a lot and had other obligations so I couldn’t finish it in the expected three months.
The resources that they have are really useful and are a valuable source of information for any would-be journalist, writer, photographer or filmmaker. On the homepage of the MatadorU.com website alone, there are links to articles on writing, photography, filmmaking tips, events and workshops, journalism and career tips and a whole lot more.
TECHNIQUES OF WRITING, MULTIMEDIA AND SOCIAL MEDIA
You get feedback from the editors in the faculty on your first, sixth and final assignments. I really enjoyed the first four chapters. They covered the techniques of travel writing and I really learned a lot from them. I got very good feedback on my second assignment, which gives us the opportunity to look for and write down everyday details that we see around us, as we travel from our house to some nearby place that we visit often. This assignment was very much on the narrative side of writing and I really enjoyed the end result. I am quite proud of the piece that I wrote, even though it has no real story to it. http://tinyurl.com/ksejqg5 The lesson in this chapter is the importance of everyday details and being able to capture them in our writing. I realised from this story that I’m quite good at describing things. I never noticed this before because I have never written in this style before.
I also really liked chapters six and nine. Chapter six is about multimedia and how to add these to our story-telling skills. The section on “Choosing A Camera” and “The A-B-C-D-E Of Travel Photography” was really interesting because it gives you valuable information on choosing a good camera and the techniques of photography. I want to improve my photography skills and have taken two photography courses already, so this part of the chapter was very useful for me. The rest of the chapter was a good introduction to both photography and filmmaking helping us add “visual storytelling” to our skillset.
Chapter nine is about building and keeping an audience online by mastering social media, which is extremely useful these days. Part of this assignment is to sign up with at least two of the social media sites mentioned in the chapter, to start sharing content we like on these platforms and practice responding to other people. I only use social media when posting my blog entries, which I know is not enough, so I had to try out conversing with other people on places like Twitter and it also gave me an excuse to upload more of my photos to Flickr, which I hadn’t done up till now.
There are a lot more very useful tips, reading materials and information in the other chapters too but for me, chapters one to four, six and nine were the most enjoyable. The main aim of the final chapter is to write a story that is good enough to get published somewhere. I wrote an article and with Candice Walsh’s help and feedback (Candice is one of the editors in the MatadorU faculty ), came up with a story that I’m really proud of. I haven’t been able to get it published on the Matador Network, but Candice gave me a few ideas on what other publications to try, which is great. I’ll definitely check them out.
Candice checked most of my work and she has been very helpful and really encouraging and it was great working with her. Josh Johnson also gave me some good tips. The Matador Network is the MatadorU online publication which publishes articles on various topics such as Art & Design, Food & Drink, Health& Lifestyle, Writing, Music & Events, along with articles on numerous destinations from all over the world and also includes blogs, galleries and photo essays. The Matador Network community is huge and is a great way to connect with other travelers, writers and photographers.
PROUD OF THE PIECES I’VE WRITTEN
While doing the course I had the chance to read other writer’s work, which gave me an idea of the standard of writing out there. I must admit that I felt a bit inadequate with the high standard of writing because I thought to myself “Gosh, some of these writers are brilliant. What chance do I have against these when pitching to magazines?” But every writer has their own qualities and it depends on what you want to do with your writing. Some people are happy to just write as a hobby, others are very competitive and want to get published regularly. I just write as a hobby at the moment and I must admit that when I do write, I enjoy it. Since I started this writing course, I really think my writing has improved and I’ve discovered that I could be quite a good narrative writer. Maybe I’ll concentrate on that style of writing, I don’t know, but I’m proud of some of the pieces that I’ve written while doing the course. That gives me more motivation to keep writing. For more information on writing course and other aspects of MatadorU, check their website: www. matadoru.com