Creating a Sense of Place in Fiction, Memoir, and Nonfiction 6-Week Zoom Workshop, Starts Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
Begins Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
The class will meet on Wednesday nights via Zoom, 7:00PM - 9:00PM Eastern (EST)
Open to All writers!
Any questions about this class? Use the Chat Button (lower left) to talk with us.
Led by James Sturz, author of the novels UNDERJUNGLE, set entirely underwater, and SASSO, set in the cave homes of Basilicata, Italy. His magazine and newspaper articles have run in more than 90 publications in the U.S. and abroad, including in The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Outside, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, New York Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Playboy, Afar, Saveur, Organic Spa, and Yoga Journal, among many others. Sturz's work has been published in 18 countries, translated into nine languages, and been anthologized in ITALY: THE BEST TRAVEL WRITING FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES and BEST FOOD WRITING 2007, among others.
Learn more about James in our Meet the Teaching Artist series.
Creating a sense of place means treating your settings as characters themselves—not as backdrops, but as catalysts for character development and engines for change.
Have you ever felt in a book or story that the location was as important as any of its characters? Creating a compelling sense of place involves far more than a simple description of your location’s physical attributes. It can include unusual occurrences that could only have happened there; the sounds and smells, or wildlife or architecture, that tell you unmistakably where you are; the history that influenced the characters’ personalities even without their knowledge; and the way those characters transform as they move from place to place over time.
Over the course of this class, you’ll learn to create multidimensional settings that establish both voice and mood, and that give your writing whimsy and weight. James Sturz learned his craft by writing travel articles for the U.S.’s top publications and then began applying what he developed to essays and fiction, including two novels. This is a class on craft. Students may focus on a single piece of writing, or they may work on several pieces, across one or more genres.
James will assign material for students to read for Week 2. Thereafter, students will each present one or two published passages they’ve found especially meaningful and lead discussions about what they learned about storytelling from them, with an emphasis on their settings.
- Week 1: Lecture by instructor, student introductions, and course organization, including workshop schedule.
- Week 2: Instructor passage discussed; first workshopped pieces.
- Week 3: Student passage(s) discussed; second workshopped pieces.
- Week 4: Student passage(s) discussed; third workshopped pieces.
- Week 5: Student passage(s) discussed; fourth workshopped pieces.
- Week 6: Student passage(s) discussed; fifth workshopped pieces.
In this class, students will:
1. Learn techniques for creating complex settings, relying on a five-fold process:
- Capturing the attributes and characteristics of locations by adopting the right mindset in the field and applying a series of prompts.
- Translating images and attitudes into words.
- Researching locations to add details to your descriptions, while avoiding adding superfluous material.
- Recognizing how your settings will shape your characters, and choosing elements that will help you achieve this.
- Understanding the importance of never just saying what places are, but always what they are like.
2. Students will workshop their writing.
3. As part of the workshop process, students will critique the work of their peers, helping them to write better pieces themselves.
4. By the end of class, students will not just grasp the fundamentals of creating meaningful settings, but understand their individual strengths as descriptive writers—and then how to achieve the most in their own pieces.
"James was definitely more than qualified to teach this course, in terms of his vast experience and industry knowledge. He also made himself available outside the class by email." -Former Student
"James is an excellent instructor. He has the ability to size up a pitch immediately and identify its strengths and faults. He is also rigorous in his criticism, and he tailors his comments to the particular student's/pitch's needs very well. He also gives students a good idea of how editors will view pitches - what questions they'll ask, the kind of information they will want to know, what will grab their attention, etc. And he was open to questions throughout." -Former Student
"What I liked most was James' willingness to be completely candid. If an idea was lousy or a query off he just gave it to you straight and then helped you fix it." -Former Student
"James Sturz was a great combination of low-key and wildly helpful. During the break I asked him a question and he gave me a suggestion of where to pitch an idea. I liked the way Sturz described the difference between magazine stories and books involving travel. He also demystified the travel part of travel writing, and got me out of the amateur mindset of vacation vs. writerly travel thinking. Thank you! When I have more time, I'd happily consider taking Sturz' longer course." -Former Student
"The class with James Sturz is the most helpful Mediabistro event I have attended. It is clear that James really takes his duty seriously to educate students and that he cares about helping fellow journalists. He was very patient with questions. I have recommended one-night classes to people in the past, but not longer classes. I did not get as much out of my 12-week memoir class as I did with one night of listening to James Sturz." -Former Student
"James was great! He had valuable information and presented it in a very straightforward way. He was motivating and I'm so glad that I signed up for this class." -Former Student
"I really liked James Sturz; he came across as smart, caring, and soft-spoken. He respected all questions and questioners and was clearly well versed and experienced in the subject." -Former Student
"James’ class was excellent. His material was perfect, he has a charming and pleasant manner, is certainly smart and accomplished and has great experience with which he is generous." -Former Student
"James' presentation was both interesting and informative. His delivery was very professional." -Former Student
"The teacher was very professional and knowledgeable. He had great comments on our work. James Sturz was a consummate professional and I did get value out of the class." -Former Student
"I thought James' talk was enlightening; he is a thoughtful instructor; he made good points about travel writing." -Former Student
"The class was inspiring. I got a lot of great tips on how to approach travel-writing." -Former Student
"I was very pleased with the seminar. James's presentation was pithy, frank, humorous and sprinkled with memorable anecdotes." -Former Student
"James was a great instructor - I appreciated his honest, straightforward delivery and really valued the experience of listening to a well-respected and talented writer speak." -Former Student
ONLINE COURSE STRUCTURE:
This class will have a live weekly Zoom meeting, weekly deadlines, and plenty of interaction with James and your peers, with the addition of a dedicated online classroom in Wet Ink. Students will use Wet Ink to submit material, as well as use the portal to submit edits of their classmates’ work. Students will post work and provide and receive feedback within the online classroom environment in Wet Ink. Each writer will have the opportunity to submit their work and receive detailed feedback from their peers as well as from James.
- Instructor: James Sturz
- Maximum Number of Writers is 12. Class length and the number of students will impact how many chances students will have to workshop their work.
- Starts Wednesday, April 17th, 2024
- Class will meet on Wednesday nights via Zoom, 7PM - 9PM Eastern
Instructor James Sturz is the author of the novels UNDERJUNGLE, set entirely underwater, and SASSO, set in the cave homes of Basilicata, Italy. His magazine and newspaper articles have run in more than 90 publications in the U.S. and abroad, including in The New York Times and The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, The New Republic, Outside, Men’s Journal, National Geographic Adventure, New York Magazine, Travel + Leisure, Playboy, Afar, Saveur, Organic Spa, and Yoga Journal, among many others.
From 2015 to 2018, he wrote a biweekly column for Coastal Living about building a house in Hawaii, and he is the contributing koan editor for Fathomaway.com. Sturz's work has been published in 18 countries, translated into nine languages, and been anthologized in ITALY: THE BEST TRAVEL WRITING FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES and BEST FOOD WRITING 2007, among others.
His many awards include Winner, Destination Canada Award for Excellence for Adventure Writing 2017 and honorable mention in THE BEST AMERICAN SPORTS WRITING, 2010 and 2012.
Raised in New York City and now based in Hawaii, Sturz is also a PADI Divemaster, ice diver, free diver, and Explorers Club fellow. From 2002 to 2015, he was Mediabistro’s travel-writing instructor in New York City, teaching introductory-level seminars, workshops, and master classes, as well as workshops and seminars on the mechanics of freelancing and pitching. Sturz graduated Phi Beta Kappa and Magna Cum Laude from Cornell University, where he studied creative writing with Alison Lurie, Robert Morgan, and Stephanie Vaughn.