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Web Schedule Spring 2017

Revision Date: 12-Dec-16

ENG-2090-VJ01 - Travel Writing

Synonym: 160521
Location: Upper Valley
Credits: 3 (45 hours)
Hybrid Section: This course meets both online and at the site office. See below or consult VSC Web Services - Search for Sections in the VSC portal for specific dates and times.
Semester Dates: 01-24-2017 to 05-20-2017
Last day to drop without a grade: 02-12-2017 - Refund Policy
Last day to withdraw (W grade): 03-26-2017 - Refund Policy
Faculty: Alec Hastings | View Faculty Credentials

Materials/Lab Fees: $2,677.00
This course has started, please contact the offering academic center about registration

Comments: This is a study abroad course and requires separate application and approval prior to registration. Meets online and at CCV-Upper Valley 10AM-3PM on 1/28, 2/25, 3/25, 4/29, 5/27. Trip dates 5/7-5/17. See course details and application on CCV web site.

Browse the Moodle Site for this class.

Course Description:

In this course, students explore the fundamentals of travel writing. Through critical reading and extensive writing, students discover how to craft pieces that evoke a sense of time, place and personal journey. Students also focus on developing points of view and description, and draw upon personal experience and research to build skills in the full range of travel writing including blogs, memoirs, essays and guidebooks.

Essential Objectives:

1. Identify and analyze elements of good travel writing through reading the works of notable travel writers.
2. Accurately and skillfully record observations and reflect critically upon them.
3. Discuss and demonstrate features of travel writing, such as voice, imagery, time structure, and evocation of place and culture.
4. Develop a process for getting started, developing, and structuring drafts of his/her own travel writing, as well as revising toward a final product.
5. Analyze personal strengths and weaknesses in writing, as well as critique one another's work constructively.
6. Create and submit a final portfolio of selected work that demonstrates a commitment to the writing process and competence in the craft of travel writing.

Additional Instructor Pre-Assignments/Notes/Comments:


Travel Writing (and Writing)[1]

Bacon, Francis. “Of Travel.”

Brooke, Rupert. “Niagara Falls.”

Bryson, Bill and Wilson, Jason. The Best American Travel Writing 2016. Required text.

Bryson, Bill. “Neither Here nor There.”

Burke, Thomas. “Nights in London.”

Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia.

Citro, Joseph and Foulds, Diane. Curious New England: The Unconventional Traveler’s Guide to Eccentric Destinations.

Felltham, Owen. “Of Travel.”

Ford, Ford Madox. “London from a Distance.”

Greene, Graham. Journey Without Maps.

Greig, Andrew. At the Loch of the Green Corrie.

George, Don. The Way of Wanderlust.

Hacker, Diane. A Writer’s Reference. Every writer needs a desk reference to figure out the nuts and bolts stuff, where to put commas, when to use capitals, etc. This is as good as any.

Husher, Helen. Off the Leash: Subversive Journeys Around Vermont.

Iyer, Pico. The Lady and the Monk.

Jamie, Kathleen. Findings.

Hawthorne, Nathaniel. “Rochester.”

Hoffman, Gary & Glynis. Adios Strunk & White: A Handbook for the New Academic Essay (5th edition).

Least Heat Moon, William. Blue Highways.

Lenney, Christopher. Sightseeking: Clues to the Landscape History of New England. Here is a book for anyone who wants ideas of places to visit in our region.

Lenney, Christopher. “Sightseeking in Contoocook.” An essay. Grist for the mill.

Matthiessen, Peter. The Snow Leopard.

Meynell, Alice. “By the Railway Side.”

Morton, H.V. In Search of Scotland. In his time, Morton was a widely respected, well-liked, and successful travel writer. This book is a lighthearted, whimsical account of his trip to Scotland soon after World War I. It is chock full of stories and information. A wonderful introduction to Scotland even if it is almost a hundred years old.

Strunk, William and White, E.B. The Elements of Style. A classic text on just what it says. Don’t want the old-school version? Try Adios Strunk & White. One way or the other, just discover style!

Theroux, Paul. Deep South: Four Seasons on Back Roads.

Thoreau, Henry David. A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers. The grand old DWM (dead white male) of American travel writing. Still holds up.

Thoreau, Henry David. Cape Cod.

Zinnser, William. American Places.

Zinnser, William. On Writing Well. If I could only recommend one book to help you become a better writer, it would be this one because much of the craft is knowing what to cut. Zinnser tells you.


Scottish Authors, Scottish Settings, etc.

Atkinson, Kate. One Good Turn.

Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan. You don’t want to grow up? Blame this book.

Boswell, James. Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. James Boswell, a Scot, and Samuel Johnson (writer of one of the first dictionaries) took a trip into the highlands in 1775, the time of America’s revolution against Great Britain. Scotland’s own rebellion of 1745 had been crushed at Culloden (1746), but it was still a wild place, and at that point—thanks in great part to the British—quite impoverished. Johnson published his journal after the trip. When Johnson died, Boswell published his.

Buchan, John. The Thirty-nine Steps. A classic of the early spy novels (circa World War I) and a wonderful story.

Burns, Robert. Poems and Songs of Robert Burns. The undisputed king of Scottish literature, and much beloved around the world. English-speaking people often sing his song “Auld Lang Syne” on New Year’s Eve. If you can recite “Tam O’Shanter” or one of his other famous poems in a Scottish pub, you’ll probably be treated to a free drink.

Crichton, Robert. The Camerons. A well written novel about a family of Scottish miners. Hard times!

Cronin, A. J. The Citadel. Cronin’s novel exposed problems in Britain’s health care in the 1930s just prior to World War II.

Doyle, Sir Arthur Conan. Collected Stories of Sherlock Holmes. Edgar Allan Poe invented the detective story with “Murders in the Rue Morgue.” Doyle made it famous with his iconic Holmes and the great sleuth’s sidekick, Dr. Watson. “Elementary, my dear Watson!”

Grahame, Kenneth. The Wind in the Willows. Timeless classic sounds like a cliché, but the shoe fits in this case. A children’s story that adults can also enjoy. Grahame was a Scot and his characters are unforgettable.

Gray, Alasdair. Lanark. Contemporary dystopian, futuristic novel set in Glasgow.

Herman, Arthur. How the Scots Invented the Modern World: The True Story of How Western Europe’s Poorest Nation Created Our World and Everything in It. I haven’t read it, but I believe (and hope) the title is somewhat “tongue-in-cheek.” Nevertheless, the Scots have made some important contributions to modern civilization, blame them or credit them as you will.

Hogg, James. The Private Memoirs and Confessions of a Justified Sinner.

Jenkins, Robin. The Cone-Gatherers. A sad but well told tale some have compared to “Of Mice and Men.”

MacDonald, George. The Wise Woman and Other Stories. Also, wrote the better known Lilith and Phantastes. MacDonald’s fantasies inspired J.R.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis.

Rankin, Ian. A Good Hanging. Dark, detective novel set in a modern day Edinburgh. Very popular contemporary fiction in Scotland.

Scott, Sir Walter. The Heart of Midlothian. Classic novel from 1800s. Scott is credited with “creating” the romantic image of the Scottish highlander that so many people now associate with Scotland, the impetuous, passionate warrior for whom honor, love, and his clan are all.

Smith, Alexander McCall. Friends, Lovers, Chocolate.

Smith, Alexander McCall. 44 Scotland Street. Smith wrote this in serial form in a local newspaper. Quite a challenge, but he created an entertaining story in spite of it. Gives some feel for Edinburgh too.

Spark, Muriel. Prime of Miss Jean Brodie). A passionate teacher at a girls school in Edinburgh (and a fan of such dubious characters as the fascist dictator, Franco) tells her students, “Safety does not come first. Goodness, truth, and beauty come first. Follow me.” And they do, but one betrays her.

Stevenson, Robert L. Kidnapped. One of the all-time great adventure stories. I loved it as a boy, and I still do. Stevenson’s father was a lighthouse engineer, and R.L. grew up in Edinburgh. You can also read his book about his home town.

Thompson, Alice. The Existential Detective.

Tranter, Nigel. Tales and Traditions of Scottish Castles. Tranter writes fiction and nonfiction. This is the latter and tells stories about 45 Scottish castles.


[1] Titles enclosed in quotation marks refer to essays; titles in italics refer to full-length books.


Spring 2017 textbook data will be available on December 1. On that date a link will be available below that will take you to eCampus, CCV's bookstore. The information provided there will be for this course only. Please see this page for more information regarding the purchase of textbooks.

The Best American Travel Writing 2016, ISBN: 9780544812093, Mariner Books   $12.71

Contact Faculty:

Email: Alec Hastings
Hiring Coordinator for this course: Kathryn Hughes



ENG-2090: Travel Writing in Scotland

Instructor: Alec Hastings ( 802.272.6694)




The Mission


So you want to travel? To Scotland? Good! And you want to write about your adventures in a foreign land? Excellent! What’s that you say? Not sure you will have adventures? Not sure you want adventures? I understand. As Bilbo Baggins said in The Hobbit, they can be “nasty disturbing uncomfortable things.” Maybe we can have small adventures, ones that won’t give us the willies. We don’t have to row a boat to the Isle of Skye and mountain bike down the Cuillin Ridge with Danny MacAskill to have an adventure. As Edinburgh’s own R.L. Stevenson said, “I travel not to go anywhere, but to go.” It is enough just to venture forth. So let’s do it! We’ll pass the stone wall at the edge of the village, and some time down the road, a change will come over us. Later, looking back, we won’t know exactly when or where it happened, but we’ll remember that, at some point, we felt different, we opened a door into another realm. We’ll remember that the ordinary seemed suddenly to have more possibility, that wonder and magic no longer seemed to be relics of childhood. Some may question this. A philosopher named Runes said, “People travel to faraway places to watch, in fascination, the kind of people they ignore at home.” Does this mean the foreigner is not fascinating, or does it mean the people at home, if not ignored, might actually be fascinating too? People often talk about travel as an “educational” experience. Is it? Can it change how we see the world? I think it can. Mark Twain said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness.” I agree. I think the memories of our travels may also serve as wellsprings of inspiration, as reminders of how to really open our eyes and be fascinated even by the familiar.


The Process


To capture these moments of wonder and discovery (and, yes, even magic!), and—most importantly—to interpret them for ourselves and for others is the job of the travel writer. This means we must not only record the bare bones of our experiences, but we must also pick them up, look at them from all angles, note every nook and cranny, and flesh out the meaning, humor, or pathos they may hold for all of us. By the way, why do you think we travel? Maybe there are as many answers to that question as there are travelers.

To find these answers, to continue exploring the possibilities, we need to reflect on where we’ve been and what we’ve seen. When we meet strangers who fascinate us, when we hear quaint phrases and inimitable slang, we need a way to remember such things. Travel writing starts with notes in a pocket-sized book. It needs to be a real book because the link between the spark in the brain and the pen-put-to-paper is alchemical. That spark traveling from brain to pen can turn a common experience into gold. Like the artist’s sketchbook, the writer’s notebook stores eureka moments, mini-epics, rough maps, vignettes, snatches of gossip, bits of whimsy, and the scribbled names of people and places. Later, seated at your writing desk (laptop, desktop, etc.), you can use the notebook to fire your thinking and stoke your travelogue.

Travel writing also starts with reading. To discover, in the library, a place we want to visit enriches our experience of that place when we find it in the world; to know, for instance, that Edinburgh was home to one of history’s most tragic queens, the real-life Mary Stuart, and also to Diana Gabaldon’s fictional hero, Jamie Frazier, and to know who these people were, is to be part of the story ourselves, to take one more step in understanding how place, people, and past all fit together. This is why I included a bibliography in the course materials. Be your own instructor. Assign your own reading above and beyond the minimum requirements of the class. Books about Scotland’s geography, history, culture, literature, etc. can only enrich your experience when you finally arrive in the land of Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott.


The General Plan (see moodle for specifics)


            Before class:


·      Check the moodle. Complete the reading and writing assignments on time to be ready for in-class discussions and writing workshops.

·      Before each class, read about an unfamiliar area and plan a trip to interesting destinations in that area. You could, for example, study the architectural history of a Vermont town and view its 19th century Federalist, Georgian, and Greek Revival homes. Afterward, you could eat at a local diner. To glean material for a travel essay, you would, of course, take notes in your writer’s notebook during and/or immediately after the trip. Then, with your notebook at hand, you would write the first draft of a travel essay based on that experience (800-1,000 words), bring it to class, and work on it in the writer’s workshop. Do you need ideas for places to go? Books like Sightseeking, Curious New England, and Off the Leash suggest new places to visit and new experiences to try (see ENG-2090 bibliography).


In class:


·    Participate in team building activities. Get to know your classmates and instructor. Build relationships. This will help us function as a group when we travel. Very important!

·    Work on your most recent essay in a collaborative writing workshop. You will write three of these essays before the trip to Scotland. You may be asked to read aloud from your works in progress. The class will listen and respond. The emphasis will be on encouragement. Class feedback on craft will be offered if writers are comfortable with that idea. Students will be required to publish at least one professional-level travel piece on the CCV blog, so workshop feedback is useful in helping students engage in writing as a process, an activity that requires revision, more revision, and final editing before being shared with an even wider audience.

·    Give an informal talk and slideshow (5-10 minutes) on Scotland (topics will relate directly to itinerary).

·    Enjoy other class experiences organized by instructor.


On/after trip:


·    Take notes in writer’s notebook.

·    Write and submit your Scotland travel essay. Submit an excerpt from your Scotland travel essay to the CCV blog (if an earlier piece has not already been submitted and accepted). Attend final class.


Grading Categories


  30%   Class Participation: attendance, punctuality, courtesy, communication, effort, leadership.

  30%   Practice Work: presentations, writer’s notebook, essays (with revisions), etc.

  40%   Finished Writing: Scotland essay and blog excerpt.


Grading Criteria


Class Participation:


For any grade below a B, I will write a brief narrative about the student’s performance (if I feel documentation is necessary). I will share it with the student on request. To me (and I’m sure to you), excellence in this category means:


Attendance: Full (with only five classes, any absences are likely to have a significant impact on overall grade). See me in advance if this presents a problem. 


Punctuality: Consistent (arriving early is good practice; being late is inconsiderate).


Courtesy: Respect, kindness, and attentiveness to all. No cell phone use in class, please. Avoid obscenity/profanity when in public settings. We will be ambassadors.


Communication: Talk with instructor and classmates. Relate. Identify small problems before they become big ones. Friendship and trust are always good, and especially good when traveling. 


Effort: Conscientious, thorough work always.


Leadership: Inspires trust, motivates others, and helps build a cooperative, positive community.


Practice Work:


Quantity: The writer’s notebook should contain copious notes for each assigned essay. All essays should include revisions.


Quality: Demonstrate the kind of attention to detail in writer’s notebook that makes it possible to recreate a uniquely memorable experience later; work on originality and voice in rough drafts; show ability to revise and thoroughly edit rough drafts.


Finished Writing: 


See moodle for a more detailed rubric. Also, see various examples of travel writing in the assigned reading for this course. They will be the models to emulate.


Theme: What is the idea, the thread, the takeaway, implicit or explicit?


Organization: Does the essay develop the theme paragraph by paragraph, thoroughly and logically?


Content: Do details, examples, anecdotes, explanations, etc. give the essay depth? Is there a relevant photograph that enhances the essay.


Style: Does the diction, phrasing, sentence composition, and sentence variety achieve not only clarity and readability, but also a level of creativity that will attract and entertain readers?


Basic Skills: Is the writing technically competent (i.e. very few errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation, capitalization, or usage).

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