The short answer is: our IdeaFest Program is a revolutionary way to re-orient the way you think about article ideas.
If you feel like you just don’t quite “get” it, that’s exactly what we designed this comprehensive program to fix!
Why the IdeaFest Program Exists
When I first starting helping travel writers with everything that comes under the category of “pitching,” I was entirely focused on how one physically constructs the pitch, and (sometimes more importantly) how to do it calming, quickly, without over-researching, and without second guessing yourself each stage of the process.
The very first weekend retreat we ever ran at our retreat house in the Catskills was Pitchapalooza. The curriculum is all about getting incredibly clear on the structure of pitches, what needs to be there and what doesn’t, and how to create a work flow for yourself to turn out polished pitches reliably, easily, and in an amount of time that makes sense financially.
During Pitchapalooza though, I found that people would often get handicapped by something that is actually the problem with (in my estimation) 90-95% of pitches: the idea is rotten.
There are a lot of things that we can fix in the text of a pitch if the basic concept includes three key things:
- The writer definitely has the background to write the piece.
- The thing they want to write about is definitely interesting to a wider audience.
- The idea fits what the magazine is actually publishing in a specific section that is open to freelancers.
The problem that I was finding was that a lot of folks want to work on pitches for things that should not be pitched in the first place, because:
- the idea was too generic and impossible to sell why this specific writer (rather than a member or staff or someone with more experience) should write it
- the idea was something the writer loved about their trip and was totally obsessed with that they hadn’t yet figured out how to explain in a way that was interesting to other people
- the idea was awesome, but there was just no way the magazine they wanted to pitch could publish it
And so, to make sure people could actually write pitches when they came to do Pitchapalooza, IdeaFest was born.
IdeaFest is, as the “fest” part of the name indicates, a joyous occasion of finally getting that almost audible click of an idea that is solid, salable, and ready to write up a pitch for.
We’ve run both Pitchapalooza and IdeaFest many times since, and I have been so honored to play a part in the formation of writers who go on to write for USA Today, CNN, BCC, National Geographic Traveler, and many, many other prestigious outlets that make me very proud, in our attendees being but there were always people who weren’t able, because of location or finances, to make it to these programs, who wanted to take part and have the same transformation in their own professional lives, that asked if we could run the program online.
The problem with both our Pitchapalooza and IdeaFest programs in terms of creating the same change and momentum online though, is that the intensive, in-person setting is one of the reasons that you can actually manage to get 25 sendable pitches written or 100 ideas matched to magazines in just a weekend.
At home, there are thousands of things that can come up to make you lose confidence, momentum, organization, focus, and necessary knowledge.
So we made our at-home programs very different to compensate for these differences.
How the At-Home IdeaFest and Pitchapalooza Programs Work
In our at-home programs, we run the content for much longer that one weekend, so it’s easier to digest in the middle of everything else you have on your plate and to cement in your memory, but also with more exercises, so that you can work through the content in small pieces that work together to for an impressive and incredible whole.
Think of it as very wax-on-wax-off approach (Karate Kid reference alert!), but with less sanding the deck and painting the fence, and much more explanation about how the skills you develop through each exercise are crucial to the overall mission of what you’re trying to achieve.
How the program works:
- Every day, you’ll receive a concise email with the important learning points for the day, along with links to additional resources if you have time to dig in more.
- At the end of the email, there will be a short assignment that you’ll either hold onto for a later step or you’ll finish and post in the forum.
Our combined At-Home IdeaFest and Pitchapalooza move through the following stages:
- IdeaFest Week 1: Getting crystal clear on the three sides of the idea triangle–the conceptualizing approach that will ensure you never have an idea that an editor doesn’t think fits her magazine again.
- IdeaFest Week 2: The magazine-first approach to pitching in practice–learning how to let magazines give you dozens of ideas of what to pitch them, and getting comfortable enough with the magazine landscape that you never have to wonder what kind of magazine would be interested in a certain story again.
- IdeaFest Week 3: Final checks and the spin cycle–the methods to not only ensure your ideas don’t bong with the magazines your pitching, but the see how those “outside the scope” concepts actually become dozens of new pitch ideas for other magazines.
- IdeaFest Week 4: Pitching specialized articles–digging into the dreaded (or highly anticipated!) feature, essay, and long-form markets and learning to formulate ideas that cover thousands of words as well as thousands of miles or years while expressing everything in the succinct format of an idea that can be proven to sell.
- Pitchapalooza Week 1: Laying the groundwork for the 10 pitches we’ll write by examining ourselves and our trips.
- Pitchapalooza Week 2: Familiarizing ourselves with the magazine landscape and the magazines we’ll pitch and find the why and what for each of our pitch ideas.
- Pitchapalooza Week 3: Continuing writing the “what” section of our pitches as we learn about feature structure and the best ways to create powerful leads.
- Pitchapalooza Week 4: Polishing our pitches and work through common pitch hiccups as we add headlines and “about me” paragraphs that pop.
- Pitchapalooza Week 5: Sending our pitches out, plan our next round of pitches for our upcoming trips, and learn how to handle editor responses.
Two important things we often get questions about:
- What if I know I won’t be able to complete the assignments every day and will need to do them in chunks when I have time? In that case, if you aren’t sure if you’ll have time to do the assignments every day, no worries! The accountability and scheduling of when to complete the assignments are up to you.
- How long will it take to complete the assignments? I typically recommend allotting anywhere from a half hour to two hours for each assignment, depending on your level of experience and how fast you write.
Your assignments and questions are reviewed by a member of my team looking for any technical issues or problems using the Travel Magazine Database or any other resource you may run into and our truly fantastic teaching assistant.
She holds an MFA in creative non-fiction, so she is well-versed in the process of workshopping writing submissions, and her work has appeared in BBC Travel, N by Norwegian, Hakai Magazine, Singapore Airlines’ SilverKris, Verge Magazine, and many other publications. In her capacity as senior editor for Almost Fearless magazine and managing editor for Everywhere Magazine, she has also sat on the other side of the desk, fielding pitches as an editor.
Every time I see copies of her comments on program member’s posts come in through my email, I am so delighted. She says exactly what I would want to say (and often more from her own experience!) in the kind of detail that is hard for me to have time for outside of our Full Coaching Program.
Are IdeaFest and Pitchapalooza For You?
Now, I not only recommend people start with IdeaFest, we require it. You won’t do your best pitching work until you get very, very solid and quick at parsing what is a good idea and what you shouldn’t spend your time on.
We cannot help everyone who is struggling with their pitching through this program.
There are certain situations these programs are not designed for:
- people who simply need help with the grammar, sense, or quality of their writing
- people who aren’t sure they want to write for magazines and are just dipping their toe in the water (in generally, all content we produce through Dream of Travel Writing is designed for those who are serious about earning a well-paid, full-time living through their travel writing)
- people who are not open to rejiggering their mindset and preconceptions around what is an idea and what magazines are interested in to get more assignments because they are very attached to writing the stories that interest them (we recommend those people continue to publish their stories on their own blogs and look to monetize their writing through that venue, because you just can’t succeed with editors if you’re not open to prioritizing what they’re looking for over your own writing concepts)
- people who just want things to happen without putting in the work to improve their skills–this is not a place where we write pitches for you! (that would cost A LOT more ;))
- people who are focused on attributing their lack of success to their circumstances, rather than focusing on what they can do to improve their lot–we want to help you get their, but if you’re not happy with where you are than you need to be open to making changes if you want to be in a different place in the future
I know those situations might apply to a lot of people!
I’m sorry we can’t cater our offerings for everyone, but we have decided that we really want to focus on people who have enormous drive and potential and get them to an incredible place of high-earning and high-functioning travel writer that they and we can be incredibly proud of.
This program can absolutely engender an enormous shift for you though if you’re in one of these situations:
- You feel like you have tons of ideas from past trips hiding in your notes that you’re not currently utilizing well.
- You struggle with know which pitches or magazines are the best use of your time at any given moment, so you flit between a bunch and nothing seems to get done.
- You would benefit from working on your ideas and pitches in a community of other dedicated writers who are working through the same challenges.
- You learn best when you can see many examples of something to understand the gap between what you’re doing and what you’re trying to do.
- You feel like a guided pitching experience would help you with structure and accountability you’ve been struggling with.
- Your pitching work flow or process seems to have a lot of sinkholes in terms of areas of the pitching process you regularly waste too much time.
- You’re a person who just thrives on timed challenges and other types of imposed structure!
- You’ve been trying to pitch but know there are some knowledge gaps that keep holding you up at critical junctures.
- You know you want to write for magazines but you just keep doing every other type of work possible, like pitching job boards or writing posts for your own blog, rather than knuckling down and getting pitches out the door.
- You need a good, old-fashioned kick in the pants because you keep putting off getting pitches out.
- You are ready to move past the clients you currently have and hone your skills to be able to land your dream clients–or really any publication you set your eyes on.
When You Can Join an Upcoming Cohort of the At-Home IdeaFest Program
To make sure that our teaching assistant and customer support folks can give everyone enrolled in the program their full attention, we’re opening up ten spots at a time, so that you can have a cohort of other travel writers to move through the lessons and assignments with as a small group.
This also means that even if you get a bit behind in the program, and want to join back in, you’ll also have a fresh wave of new folks joining after you that you can sync back up with.
We’re also doing something very special with both our At-Home IdeaFest and Pitchapalooza programs: making them completely free to all members of our coaching programs.
- Coaching Program members only: IdeaFest March 4-29; Pitchapalooza April 1-May 3
- Previous members of the Pitchapalooza program, Coaching Program and Dream Buffet members: IdeaFest March 18-April 12; Pitchapalooza April 15-May 17
- Brand new sign-ups first available: IdeaFest April 1-26; Pitchapalooza April 29-May 31
- Next opening for brand new sign-ups: IdeaFest April 15-May 17; Pitchapalooza May 20-June 21
- Exclusive WITS attendee cohort: IdeaFest May 6-31; Pitchapalooza June 3-July 5
- Summer break! IdeaFest and Pitchapalooza will return in the fall.
All at-home program registrations this spring include:
- 45 lessons (daily on weekdays for the 9 weeks of the two back-to-back programs)
- access to the Travel Magazine Database for the duration of the program
- private forum to discuss and critique assignments, article ideas, and pitches–available not just during the course, but going forward for you to use again and again, even to redo the program material during future rounds of the At-Home IdeaFest and Pitchapalooza Programs
- support from our customer service manager and teaching assistant on each of your homework assignments
- the ability to repeat the program in its entirety in the future whenever you would like to join
The responses past attendees have received from editors are incredible. Here’s one of my favorites:
“Thank you for sending in this pitch – I would like to take you up on it! Sounds like you have everything fairly dialed in and know the department well (thank you for that!)”
And it was a very quick acceptance, too!
Watch for more information in our newsletter about how to grab spots in the new programs soon if this is what you’ve been waiting for to finally crack the magazine-writing puzzle in your freelance writing career.
I can’t wait to see your acceptances start coming in.