Instructor: Amanda Castleman
Dates: 2/24/20, 5/15/20
Learn to query editors like the world’s most fearless animal with this four-week writing course online. No excuses. No mercy. No apologies. Get the work you want.
We’ll drill down into the mechanics of selling your articles and essays, from how to research markets to marketing yourself. We’ll also talk about how to overcome pitch-block, from imposter syndrome to fear of failure, and the etiquette of networking for referrals.
Over two decades of full-time freelancing, Instructor Amanda Castleman has cold-pitched into publications ranging from Wired to the Rough Guides and The International Herald Tribune. Like many freelancers, she has survived peaks, troths and long periods of pitch-procrastination. But she has learned to bootstrap out of the plateaus, by asking “I am 100% content with my current outlets, income and creative output? Because if not, the quickest way to change that is by querying.”
You’ll submit up to six pitches during the course, receiving comments from your fellow students and developmental line-edits from Amanda. These detailed critiques will accelerate your skills and help you strengthen the weak spots and unconscious habits holding back your sales and progress as a writer.
Alumni describe Amanda as a “a dream teacher, just the right balance between a knuckle-rapping tutor and a mom full of hugs.” Her feedback has been celebrated as amazing, funny, insightful, confidence-boosting, and “exceptional in terms of quality, detail and sheer usefulness.” One student commented, “A fine-toothed-comb edit like this is hard to find. I can’t wait to get started revising: it’s like being told the cheat to a Sonic the Hedgehog game at school and rushing home to test it out!” (Read more reviews here.)
Suitable for emerging and experienced writers alike — in any journalistic genre — this month-long workshop will push you to think about the freelancing career you want… and to start reaching for it.
PITCH LIKE A HONEY BADGER CURRICULUM
Week One: The Art Of The Ask
The essential ingredients of a good query. Selling the story and yourself. Pushing past the fear. Assignment: write two pitches or submit 10 story ideas (max 700 words)
Bonus primer: Getting started – how and when to submit completed article (“on speculation”). Researching writers’ guidelines. Simultaneous submissions. Setting up a quick and easy web portfolio.
Week Two: Timing Is Everything
Understanding editorial lead-times. Devising timely angles. Assignment: submit either one long pitch or two short ones (max 500 words)
Week Three: Telling The Stories Only You Can
Highlighting your expertise, unusual access and insider sources. Assignment: turn in two pitches, either new or revised (max 700 words)
Week Four: Opening Up New Markets
Networking. Cold-pitching. Researching and breaking into suitable publications. Assignment: Q&A-a-palooza. Ask me anything and everything.
Optional Add-on ($125)
A critique of your biography and online portfolio. Advice on tactics and your authorial persona. This includes two rounds of questions by email or a half-hour call.
“Amanda is a phenomenal editor and a patient teacher; precise but not nitpicky, critical but not harsh. My writing is clearer and more focused than ever before. I spent eight semesters in creative writing classes at UC Berkeley, and Amanda offered more guidance and carefully directed help than any professor I took there.” — Jenny Williams
“I absolutely loved Amanda’s class. Not only did she give the most specific and constructive writing feedback I’ve ever received (and I spent 6+ years in graduate school), she showed us how to transfer specific comments to future projects. As a former academic, I found the class especially useful for recognizing and letting go of jargon and distilling complicated ideas into something interesting and palatable. As I work the tools I learned, I’m starting to get more takes on my queries and recently had an editor refer to one of my pitches as “one of the best” she’s seen. What a great day!” —Stacey McKenna
“I am an Amanda groupie. After three classes with her, my confidence as a writer has grown thanks to her encouragement and mentoring. I started to believe in my voice through her generosity, thoughtfulness and constructive feedback. Her confidence in my abilities helped me persevere and create a framework for a query that is garnering responses like “great pitching here” from editors (and also a series of assigned stories!).” — Elena Sonnino
“What an amazing gift you’ve given us: personalized attention plus huge generosity in sharing practical knowledge from the trenches. Far better than courses at traditional institutions.” – Anne Anderson
Read more reviews here.
WORKS BY AMANDA’S ALUMNI
- Best Travel Writing (gold in travel & sports): The Ringer by Jennifer Williams
Boston Globe: It’s Chopin’s 200th year, and Warsaw is Humming by Mary Ellen Monahan
- Christian Science Monitor: Magdalena Island’s Magellanic Penguins by Anne Clippinger
- Christian Science Monitor: Cats Among the Ruins by J Almon Polk
- Food Network Canada: Spotlight on Luang Prabang (Laos): A Hidden Foodie Gem by Mardi Michels
- The Guardian Weekly: Bhutan: a day of sunshine in the midst of the rainy season lifts spirits by Rachael Davey
- GoNomad: South Africa: Top Ten Free (or Cheap) Things to Do in Cape Town by Petro Kotzé
- Misadventures: Gorillas — and a Role Model — in the Mist by Lindsay Rohrbaugh
- The Medium: Little Snail Slowly Slowly Climb Mount Fuji by Aaron Paulson
- National Geographic Traveler: Miami Road Trip by Kelly Amabile
- National Parks Conservation Association: Forest Lights by Gina Vercesi
- The New York Times: Chic but Not Famous: A Resort Named José by Paola Singer
- San Francisco Chronicle: Spirit of Resistance Lives on in French Village by Debra Borchert
- Spinoff: The Christchurch that could be: How the FESTA festival of urban renewal is creating magic out of disaster by Summer Hess
- The Vacation Gals, a site co-authored by alumna Kara Williams, which won the 2012 Lowell Thomas (travel-writing’s top prize) for blogging.
- Washington Post: Finding Gems in N.C. Ore, Not by Gaston Lacombe
- World Hum: Square Grouper on the Cocaine Coast by Jill K. Robinson, honored by the 2017 Lowell Thomas Awards for Strolling among Ghosts in Vietnam
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
What’s with the goofy name?
We’re honoring the animal named most fearless by the Guinness Book Of World Records – and also this hilarious 2011 viral video by Randall (warning: explicit language).
Pitching can be stressful. We hope our tribute to the Honey Badger reminds you to be tenacious – and also to smile a little too.
Your school focuses on travel and culinary writing. What if I write in another genre?
No problem at all. This workshop explores the best practices of pitching, which are universal across journalism, and draws on successful queries on a variety of topics.
Didn’t Julie Schwietert Collazo teach a class like this?
Yes! Amanda created Pitch Like A Honey Badger in 2015 and handed it off to the amazing Ms. Collazo, when she took a break from teaching. Julie is now busy captaining Immigrant Families Together, but still offers coaching and consultations via her website.
Can I travel during class?
Students – and the instructors – frequently travel during the course. The lessons and discussions remain online, and late submissions are welcome by special arrangement throughout the four-week period. The decision should hinge upon your work habits: can you work and focus well on the road? Will you have the discipline to make up assignments back home?
Is the course suitable for experienced writers?
Absolutely. Amanda’s taught full-time journalists and professionals jumping genres or reviving skill-sets (including former staffers for Shape, The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal).
Can unpublished or emerging writers benefit from this workshop?
Yes. Wherever you are on the ladder, we can help you climb higher.
How much time does it take?
The time commitment varies, of course, but students seem to average 30-60 minutes for the lectures and at least 60-90 for the assignments. Ambitious readers can delve deep via links and articles: some study is self-guided and entirely optional.
What sort of success can I expect?
Students have published in outlets from Sunset to National Geographic Traveler and The New York Times. One had to pause, then restart the class later, because she landed so much work off the first pitches she ever sent. A handful have now won travel writing’s most prestigious prize, the Lowell Thomas, and been featured in Best Travel Writing.
But placement depends on timing, connections and marketing savvy, as much as talent. We work to boost each student up a few ladder rungs from where he or she began. For some, that’s publishing a first clip, for others breaking into A-list publications.
I live outside the U.S. Is this a problem?
The class is entirely online with no fixed hours. All you need is a word-processing program, Internet access, a browser and a credit card. A recent session included students from Ireland, Scotland, Prague, India and New Zealand, as well as across North America; such a mix really invigorates the class. Amanda has staffed in the US and UK – and continues to work for publications around the globe. Thus she’s sensitive to Anglophone dialects and how they might affect publication-ready prose.
I’m not sure I want to publish…
This is not the class for you, then.
Will this course help a blogger?
Yes, if you’re eager to sell work to the mainstream media. You’re welcome to work on letters negotiating ads, sponsorships, ambassadorships or fundraising, but the course material won’t focus on these topics.
What stops other writers from stealing my ideas?
The world teems with story concepts and writers often stumble across the same ones: overlap tends to be coincidence, not theft. But this workshop will inoculate you, by focusing on the stories you’re most suited to tell, and digging deep for original angles, access and sources to make them shine. Between your unique take – and the 10,000-odd English-language publications worldwide – there’s room for students to explore the same topics, working together, rather than being at odds.
Will other students steal my contacts and outlets?
No. We encourage people to pool intel, as a rising tide lifts all boats. But you’re under no obligation to divulge publication details or editors’ emails, if that doesn’t feel comfortable.
What if I have another question?
Please ask us! Email email@example.com.