Instructor: Amanda Castleman
Next dates: 9/25/24
Duration: six weeks
Price: $420, full scholarships available
Level: intermediate to advanced
You may also like: Pitch Like a Honey Badger
Elevate your pitching and land those dream assignments! Suitable for intermediate to expert writers, this six-week workshop dives deep into advanced techniques. And it gets granular about how to propose different types of stories from essays to creative non-fiction, opinion pieces, instigative coverage, and data and solutions journalism.
We’ll spend a week discussing how to recycle ideas successfully and another exploring how to encourage repeat assignments, and negotiate larger fees. The Journalism Pitch Master Class will also address pitch-tracking tools and follow-up strategies.
Please note: There’s never a specific time you need to be online, allowing us to welcome students around the globe — and those traveling during the course too! Read the written lectures, discussions, and feedback at your convenience.
Like all classes at Write Like a Honey Badger, this is a hands-on workshop. Students put the lectures’ advice into practice with weekly projects, receiving developmental (“line”) edits from Instructor Amanda Castleman each week, plus feedback from your fellow students.
Assignments encourage writers stay accountable and actually craft those pitches! And the customized guidance helps them accelerate far more quickly than with a book, webinar, panel, or courses that don’t offer detailed critiques.
Recently we’ve helped alumni of our Pitch Like a Honey Badger course break into outlets including:
- Al Jazeera English
- AARP’s The Ethel
- BBC Travel
- Bon Appétit
- Civil Eats
- CNN Travel
- Condé Nast Traveler
- The Daily Beast
- Data Journalism
- GIA Reader
- The Huffington Post
- The Kitchn
- Lonely Planet
- National Geographic
- The New York Times
- The Nosher
- Travel + Leisure
- The Washington Post’s Lily
- Yahoo News
About the Instructor Amanda Castleman
She has taught pitching since 2004 and launched one of the topic’s first online courses in 2012. She also walks the walk. Over two decades of full-time freelancing, she has cold-pitched into publications ranging from Wired to Rough Guides, BBC Travel, Hemispheres, Time Out, and USA Today. She has also staffed at websites, newspapers, and magazines, allowing her to lift the curtain and show students what editors want and how they work.
Amanda’s recent clients include AARP, Afar, Bon Appétit, Hidden Compass, National Geographic, The New York Times, Robb Report, Sierra, Scuba Diving, and The Seattle Times, as well as various in-flight magazines. 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 fearlessly and relentlessly… like the world’s fiercest animal, our school’s namesake, the honey badger.”
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!”
Pitch Master Class Schedule
This workshop has deadlines, but no fixed time you must be online.
- Lectures — Wednesdays (written, read at your convenience)
- Assignments — due by midnight on Mondays wherever you are
- Critiques — post Thursdays by midnight Pacific
- Peer feedback: due by midnight on Thursdays
- Special projects, like bios at the start — Saturdays
Suitable for intermediate and advanced writers alike — in any journalistic genre — this six-week workshop will push you to land the projects you want and thrive as a freelancer, not just survive.
Is the Journalism Pitch Master Class right for you?
Not sure whether this course or Pitch Like a Honey Badger will best suit your needs? A good barometer is whether you’ve published 20-ish stories in regional outlets or ten national-level ones. Both those benchmarks are good indicators you’re ready for the master class… though individual critiques allow any student to work to their own level in either class.
Please reach out to instructor Amanda Castleman if you’re not sure and would like input!
Curriculum for the Journalism Pitch Master Class
Week One: Research, Timely Angles, Pre-reporting and Source Plans
We’ll review elements that drive successful pitches and the timelines common among websites, newspapers, and magazines. Then we’ll delve into advanced techniques for getting editors thirsty for your work. These will include identifying your audience (and speaking their language!), drumming up newsy hooks to create urgency, picking clips to include, and leveraging research and source plans to establish expertise. We’ll also dive into when it’s worthwhile to pre-report and pre-interview, and how to keep this process from becoming a “perfectionist-procrastination” tool!
Assignment: one pitch (max 300 words)
Week Two: Essays, Narratives and Creative Non-fiction
Explore how to elevate pitches for more personal stories, making them relevant and compelling for editors. Topics will include demonstrating the audience’s need for the coverage and how to balance emotion, voice, and essential pitch elements (“why THIS story NOW by YOU?”). We’ll also touch on techniques for overcoming Imposter Syndrome — a common plight! — about more intimate stories, as well as pitching in general.
Assignment: one pitch (max 300 words)
Week Three: Everyone Has an Opinion
Learn how to best convey why outlets should buy op-eds, opinion essays, analysis, columns, and think pieces featuring your — or a client’s — point of view. We’ll examine tactics for substantiating arguments and introducing news hooks concisely, while connecting to deeper themes. We’ll also discuss summarizing credentials and conveying a sense of the proposed piece’s style and tone in the pitch. Other subjects will include active-statement headlines, strong calls to action, the power of humor, avoiding jargon and cliches, and how to deftly use opinion pieces to generate publicity. Finally, we’ll touch on other resources like the OpEd Project.
Assignment: one pitch (max 300 words)
Week Four: In-depth, Investigative, Solutions and Data Journalism
The master class will dive into advanced techniques for integrating research and data storytelling. Learn how to succinctly and compellingly convey your idea’s news value, timeliness, stakes, characters, narrative arc, and sense of drama. Topics include the benefits of pre-reporting, outlining, and mentioning audio, video, and visual data suitable for infographics that could fold into multimedia storytelling. We’ll also revisit how — and when — to research publications’ departments and previous coverage, so you can emphasize how your idea addresses readers’ needs.
Assignment: one pitch (max 500 words)
Week Five: Recycling for a Better World
Learn the finer points of repurposing ideas across titles, genres and types of stories. We’ll discuss what elements can multi-task and which typically require a refresh. We’ll also review simultaneous submission-etiquette, before digging into pitch-tracking tools and follow-up strategies.
Assignment: one pitch, three ways (max 900 words)
Week Six: Thriving Not Just Surviving
Explore tactics that will help you break into the biggies, encourage repeat assignments, and land larger fees through value-adds and negotiating. We’ll also review pitch timing, and legal and ethical considerations like conflicts of interest, paying for interviews and being paid for mentions.
Assignment: revise, perfect and polish your most promising pitch from the term (max 300 words). Instructor critiques will include notes on copyediting (suggestions for clarity and conciseness) and proofreading (grammar and spelling advice).
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. Enroll here.
“Thank you so much again for your invaluable feedback and all the energy and specificity you gave to the class. It really shines through!” — Rin Hart
“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 class is dope! It was the most INSANELY COOL, AWESOMELY PERFECT, WONDERFULLY BRILLIANT course I’ve ever taken (and I must say, I’ve taken some really bangin’ prof dev courses of late). I’m so incredibly grateful to you and your brilliant kick-ass team. The feedback has been so beyond helpful, so thorough, so supportive. I want to both shout your praises from the rooftops because you and the course are SO good, but also keep you and the course completely to myself to stay ahead of the competition!” – J’nai Gaither
“I learned so much in Amanda’s class. Her lectures contain a wealth of practical, insider information helpful for the newbie as well as the experienced freelancer. The class was worthwhile for the pitch help alone — Amanda and her team provided expert, detailed feedback on six!
“Blane’s feedback was right on target. She helped me hone in on a unique, sellable angle, and she knew where to cut extraneous language to get to the heart of an idea. I’ve read her feedback often as I’ve crafted new pitches. Jessica’s critiques were also positive and encouraging — vital for those of us building confidence about pitching — but also constructive. She knows what it takes to land an assignment with an editor, and her expertise came through in her thoughtful line edits and comments.” — Alyssa Kagel
“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.
SELECT WORKS BY PITCH LIKE A HONEY BADGER ALUMNI
- Al Jazeera: ‘The fight continues’: Colombia protests persist despite pandemic by Jennifer Bitterly
AARP’s The Ethel: Why I’m Chasing All the ‘Likes’ I Can Get in Midlife by Catherine Palmer
- BBC Travel: Pice hotels: a lifeline for Kolkata’s hungry workers by Jennifer Kishan
- Bon Appétit: From Pandemic to Protests: How Food Businesses Nationwide are Responding by Sophia Gottfried
- Business Insider: I‘m a private ski instructor in Aspen, where lessons can cost $1,000 a person by Zoe Rosenberg
- Condé Nast Traveler: What I Learned While Traveling With a Visual Disability by Arundhati Nath
- Data Journalism: Harnessing Wikipedia’s superpowers for journalism by Monika S. Jones, PhD
- Eater: Meet Five Spice Company Founders Demystifying the Industry by Sophia Gottfried
- Fodor’s: One of the World’s Best Cherry Blossom Festivals Is in This Small U.S. Town by Malika Bowling
- Health: I Have Lumps in My Breasts, but They Aren’t Cancer by Rebekah Kuschmider
- Huffington Post: My Son Was A Highly Competitive Chess Player. Then COVID-19 Happened by Dorit Sasson
National Geographic: Cultivating the world’s largest, stinkiest flower is no small task by Shi En Kim
- Observer: ‘Jagged Little Pill’ Shows Broadway Should Prioritize Accessibility by Brijana Prooker
- Sapiens: An Excavation of the COVID-19 Pandemic by Sarah Ives
- Smithsonian: Before Rhode Island Built Its State House, a Racist Mob Destroyed the Community That Lived There by Robin Catalano
- Smarter Travel: A Tribute to Travel Hero Alex Trebek by Vanessa Chiasson
- The Daily Beast: Zipline Above Bears and Kayak With Gators in Florida’s Best Secret Getaway by Jessica Poitevien
- The New York Times: Tiny Love Stories – A Stud for My Husband by Shin Yu Pai
- The Nosher: A Short History of Challah Bread, and How It Got So Sweet in America by Liz Susman Karp
- The Postscript: Trans People Are Experts in Our Own Experience by Rey Katz
- Times Union: Are upstate farms equipped to become the Amazon of food? by Robin Catalano
- Today: Co-founder of NYC’s 1st cat cafe defies anti-Asian bullying to help cats in need by Jen Reeder
- Yahoo News and The 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 Google Classroom, 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. (Also, Amanda has covered many, many beats in her 30-year career, ranging from the news desk to books, business, credit cards, culture, the environment, fintech, green living, health/medicine, insurance, science, travel, technology, and women’s issues. And she’s edited at general-interest outlets, making her very nimble!)
Didn’t Julie Schwietert Collazo teach a class like this?
Yes! Amanda created Pitch Like A Honey Badger 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 she’s awesome — please study with her if you get a chance!
Can I travel during class?
Students — and the instructor — 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 Al Jazeera 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 more have been featured in various “best of” series.
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 they began.
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 and a web browser. 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 definitively not the class for you, then. Can we suggest food or recipe or travel writing, instead? Or perhaps our introductory Pitch Like a Honey Badger course, a better entry point for starting to share your journalistic work?
Will this course help a blogger?
Yes, if you’re eager to sell work to the mainstream media. You’re also 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.
I’m worried about participants co-opting my contacts and outlets? Should I be?
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. (Please note: we supply this address so we can assist students and alumni. We do not accept proposals to improve SEO or app/web-dev proposals. All off-topic emails will be reported as spam.)