Learn to pitch 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 query-block, from imposter syndrome to perfectionism, fear of failure, and the etiquette of networking for referrals.
Pitch Like a Honey Badger will also explore how the pandemic and decreased ad revenues are changing the industry — and strategies for rolling with those punches.
Over two decades of full-time freelancing, Instructor Amanda Castleman has cold-pitched into publications ranging from Wired to BBC Travel and USA Today. 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. We all develop patterns — of querying, phrasing and pre-reporting — that can bear revisiting from time to time. 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.
Recently this process has helped alumni break into outlets like SELF, Bon Appétit, National Geographic, CNN Travel, Sierra, Outside, American Way, The Daily Beast, Al Jazeera English, Travel + Leisure, Lonely Planet, Conde Nast Traveler, Yahoo News, The Kitchn, Buzzfeed, Rumpus, Data Journalism, The Nosher and GIA Reader, among others.
Personalized feedback allows everyone work at their own level and (hopefully) jump up a few rungs… and it also helps experiential learners get better traction. Blane will critique alongside Amanda for two of the four weeks, while Jessica will help the workshop end strong with an Ask Me Anything (AMA).
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
Please note: PLHB has written lectures, feedback, and chat forums. There is no fixed time requirement to be on the classroom site.
Week One: The Art Of The Ask
Exploring different types of stories. The essential ingredients of a good query. Selling the story and yourself. Pushing past the fear. Assignment: workshop your best idea, exploring the “why THIS story NOW by YOU” components and how your piece will build on previous coverage (max 600 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 two short pitches (max 500 words).
Week Three: Telling The Stories Only You Can
Highlighting your expertise, unusual access and insider sources. Interviewing 101. Assignment: turn in two pitches, either new or revised (max 500 words).
Week Four: Opening Up New Markets
Networking. Cold-pitching. Researching and breaking into suitable publications. Assignment: revise one or two of your previous pitches (max 500 words)
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.
Coaching sessions are also available.
“Consider me a success story. I’ve already sold three ideas I explored in the workshop. Two pieces touching on personally important topics like racism, misogyny and bias against Asian-American women; and an interview with an emerging poet who writes about grief and loss through the experience of miscarriage. These are obviously very niche topics! Amanda walked me through how to write concise and effective pitches for a range of publications, opening the doors to new opportunities that I lacked the confidence to previously pursue.” — Shin Yu Pai
“Amanda’s class is the best investment I’ve made in my writing career. A former newspaper and magazine staffer, I had an inkling I could have some success with freelancing, but felt super intimidated by pitching and breaking into bigger name outlets. The course was a wealth of information, beyond just pitching, really, with resources on imposter syndrome, sourcing, the business side of freelancing, etc. And though the personalized feedback was invaluable, it was also really illuminating to learn from other students’ pitches and writing interests and Amanda’s years of experience. She was able to edit and push us to grow while being incredibly supportive and boosting the group’s confidence. Back to that great investment: Not only did some of the pitches I worked on in class lead to bylines at some of my dream outlets, such as Bon Appétit and CNN Travel, but the class also paid for itself a few times over with those commissions. I’ve continued to take the lessons learned with me, Amanda is still cheering me on and I will very likely take another course soon. Thank you! ” — Sophia Gottfried
“This isn’t just another pitch feedback class; the lessons are thorough and Amanda’s dedication to helping writers takes it to a whole new level. She answers all your questions in detail and never leaves you feeling lost in the middle of this big bad freelancing world. If you’re struggling to get started or find yourself in a pitching rut, this might be the push you need. Thanks, Amanda!” — Sakshi Udavant
“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
“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
“Writing for several years, it was never something I made a living off of but more a hobby. Determined to change that, I took Amanda Castleman’s class. Her critiques are thorough, with insightful edits. Plus she’s kind and considerate in her critiques while helping writers get closer to landing an assignment. In the midst of the class, I even landed an assignment with Fodor’s, something I don’t think I could have done without the skill and confidence I got from Pitch Like a Honey Badger. Another excellent thing about the class is the exhaustive resources of where to pitch stories.” — Malika Bowling
“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
- Adventure Cyclist: Long Live Columbia by Simon Willis
- Al Jazeera: ‘The fight continues’: Colombia protests persist despite pandemic by Jennifer Bitterly
Best Travel Writing (gold in travel & sports): The Ringer by Jennifer William
- Bon Appétit: From Pandemic to Protests: How Food Businesses Nationwide are Responding by Sophia Gottfried
- 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
- Data Journalism: Harnessing Wikipedia’s superpowers for journalism by Monika S. Jones, PhD
- 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
- Insider: I gave my Afro-Latino boyfriend the ‘police talk’ before visiting the US. After George Floyd’s killing, I watched his baptism into American life by Jessica Poitevien
- 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 Geographic: Celebrate Pride with 10 travel books by LGBTQ authors by Gillian Kendall
- 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
- Sierra Magazine: When Nature Calls in the Backcountry, It’s a Problem for Parks by Colleen Stinchcombe
- 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
- Yahoo News and Christian Science Monitor: Pandemic pulls Latin America’s trans community into the spotlight by Jennifer Bitterly
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Where are the classes held?
We’ll be working on CourseCraft, a browser-based teaching platform. This allows files to be shared easily, without cluttering your inbox, and gives you classroom access from any net-wired terminal, anywhere in the world. But you’ll still have options to push alerts to email, if that appeals.
When does the bell ring?
Never! Go online whenever you please — the classroom is open 24/7.
Is there a video component or live chat?
No. The lectures, feedback and chat forums are all done in writing, so we can accommodate students traveling and living in many different time zones.
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.
What if I write in another genre than the instructor?
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). Pitch Like a Honey Badger usually attracts about 60-75% established freelancers, but all levels are welcome.
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 each week, students average 30-60 minutes to read the lecture and at least 60-90 for the assignments, plus another half hour for peer feedback. So plan for a minimum of two to three hours.
What sort of success can I expect?
Students have published in outlets from Sunset to National Geographic 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.