Editor, Writing Coach, Speaker
My story about floating down the Canal du Midi in the south of France appears in No Set Boundaries: Eleven Stories of Life, Travel, Misadventure, the second volume of essays from Townsend 11, a publishing entity created by my long-term writers group. Get it wherever good e-books are sold, or download it to read on your computer or phone. Read my introduction to the book.
Here’s the lead to my story:
A Trickle of Time and Water
The church steeple in the village of Montesquieu-Lauragais in the Haute Garonne of France’s Midi-Pyrénées has stood for hundreds of years. From its perch above the gently recumbent wheat and sunflower fields caressing the Canal du Midi, it has seen scourges, sieges, and the everyday life of countless generations. But tonight it looked as if it was finally coming down.
Smoke wafted out of the belfry. Fire within threw a red glow on the stone tower. Sparks spurted into the air and fell toward the crowd below. A series of explosions erupted in the sky to the oohs and oh la las of the throng. But no, the church wasn’t burning down, these were feu d’artifice—fireworks. The fete was on.
Moments later, the lights came up in the plaza and a band began to play French popular standards from the ’30s and ’40s. The “dance floor” filled with couples in their 80s, 70s, 60s, while the young stood back in the comfort of their peers, and the younger still rode a mini-carousel of cars or “fished” for plastic ducks or lit up at the sight of cotton candy swirls larger than their heads.
“These are the men who fought my war,” said 84-year-old Ethel, one of my four companions, nodding toward the dancers. Her war, of course, was World War II, the war that Europeans hoped would be their last after centuries of conflict and bloodshed.
As I do each autumn, I’m organizing an advanced personal essay/travel/memoir writing class in San Francisco. We will meet on seven Wednesdays, Oct. 12-Nov. 30 (skipping Nov. 23 for Thanksgiving), 7:30-9:30 p.m. on Townsend Street between 4th and 5th streets. Group size: minimum 6, maximum 10.
In the first session we’ll get to know each other, talking about your experience, your goals, your hopes for the immediate future, what you’d like to get out of this class, and, of course, the material you’re working on. In the six subsequent sessions we’ll work on your stories in depth. Each week half the group will send a story to everyone for all to read in advance so we can be prepared for discussion in class. This way, each of you will get three of your stories worked on over the seven weeks, and you’ll have the benefit of critiquing everyone else’s pieces.
Once we’ve finished our seven weeks together, this class could transform into a master class that meets monthly or twice-monthly indefinitely, but that will depend on interest. I have had three ongoing monthly classes and one ongoing twice-monthly class that began as weekly sessions like this. One is still running seven years later and it’s worked out nicely for all.
For information, contact me at larry@LarryHabegger.com
My story about cruising the Nile appears in No Fixed Destination: Eleven Stories of Life, Love, Travel, a new collection from Townsend 11, a publishing entity created by my long-term writers group. Get it wherever good e-books are sold, or download it to read on your computer or phone. Here’s the lead:
Up a Lazy River
Egypt’s story begins and ends with the Nile.
The great river made Egyptian civilization possible by bringing fertile soil and life-giving water to the desert. It set the stage for the world’s first stone building, for the great pyramids and Sphinx, for countless monuments to honor gods and rulers such as Horus and Tut, for the first nation-state.
And here I was on it, the silver water lapping the side of the boat as we poled away from the dock in the predawn light.
I had come to Egypt, as most tourists do, to see the pyramids, the mosques and palaces and souks, and the ancient temples and tombs strung like gems along the Nile. But it was the river that really spoke to me.
Not long ago I had a chat with Tim Leffel about the state of travel journalism on his Travel Writing 2.0 blog. Check it out.
I won a gold and a silver award in the SATW Western Chapter Awards for two stories I wrote about Egypt for the San Francisco Chronicle. “Buying a Shirt had Several Wrinkles” won the top prize in the category Newspaper Travel Story—less than 1000 words, and “Up a Lazy River: The Nile offers glimpses of ancient, modern Egypt,” won silver for Newspaper Travel Story—more than 1000 words.
My friend Brian Weirum has been working for almost two decades to protect the tigers of India and Nepal through his work with The Fund for the Tiger, where I’m on the board of directors. Part of his good work has been leading an annual fund-raising trip to India and Nepal through Mountain Travel Sobek. This trip has raised more than $175,000 that Brian has put directly into the field over the last 14 years.
Now the government of India is planning to ban tourism to the parks where the tigers still roam. See what Brian has to say about it and what the issues are at my blog post on Cleared for Takeoff: The Triporati Blog.
Last year’s trip was fantastic, but don’t take it from me, listen to what the participants had to say.
“What a journey, everything I hoped for and so much more! There is no better place to be lost in thought, no better teacher with whom to contemplate craft, and no better way to stretch the artist within than with fellow writers on the open waters. Turkey was presented in a tailored tapestry, finely woven with the filigree of hospitality, the bold color of pungent produce and the tinseled charm of attentive service. Whether it is the sapphire waters, the distant horizon or the inherently starry skies there is no way you won’t feel inspired!”
—Jennifer Leigh Rosen, Writer & Photographer, Baja California Sur, Mexico
“When I signed up for the workshop, I couldn’t have imagined what I would leave with: deep friendships, a new understanding of myself and my writing goals, an amazing collection of photos, and a great big notebook of souvenirs in the form of writing tips, techniques, and guidance I received from Larry, who has replaced my 3rd grade teacher, Ms. Klein, as my favorite instructor of all time. Sailing on a handsome gulet along the gem-colored shoreline of the Aegean Sea is the perfect place to get inspired, forget about all the distractions at home, and devote yourself to a week of writing.”
—Cheryn Flanagan, San Francisco, California
Read the rest of this entry »
My essay about taking my young daughters on their first mountain backpacking trip appeared in today’s San Francisco Chronicle Travel Section. Read it here, or see it with photos on my blog at Triporati.com.
The Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conference has come and gone and now that I’ve just about recovered from all the fun, here are my highlights. It was quite a time.
1. Alison Wright on her horrific accident in Laos and amazing recovery. Read her new book, Learning to Breathe. 2. Simon Winchester meeting his mentor, James Morris, for the first time, discovering a woman, soon to be Jan. 3. Isabel Allende on following her instincts. Did she really say that?! Only those present will know what I mean…sorry! 4. How do you spell karaoke? Battle between the “Wail of the Tormented” and Pauline Frommer’s exquisite voice. Who knew? And she says her kids don’t like her to sing!!?? 5. Don George’s moving eulogy and moment of silence to honor Linnea Larson, Tim Cahill’s wife, killed in a recent car crash. 6. Tim Cahill’s talk about founding Outside magazine, and why he left. Management mistreated his co-workers, the women. 7. My morning sessions on the Personal Essay. Lots of talent, lots of laughs, rewarding for me and for others (I trust). 8. Seeing fine old friends like the plump and expecting Jen Leo, “the other Larry” Larry Bleiberg, John Flinn, Don George, Tim Cahill, Tom Swick, Georgia Hesse, Catharine Hamm, Amanda Jones, Jim Benning, Bob Holmes, Simon Winchester, Isabel Allende, Phil Cousineau, George Olson, Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Michael Shapiro, Janis Cooke Newman, Pauline Frommer, Alison Wright…the list goes on and on. Don’t miss it next year!
My young daughters had never backpacked before this summer, and they were so excited when we got them real backpacks at REI. Our first test trip covered a mile and a half and climbed about 400 feet in Point Reyes National Seashore to Sky Camp. It wasn’t easy for my 8-year-old but she managed. Next was a 5-mile, 1500-foot climb in the Desolation Wilderness of California’s Sierra Nevada. Was I crazy? Find out here.
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