This past Saturday, I took myself down to the journalism workshop at Girls Write Now. This month’s topic was travel writing. Since I like to travel and report about my adventures abroad, I thought I might get some tips from an expert. In this case the craft talk was given by Heidi Mitchell, a journalist and editor based in New York, who, as her bio puts it, is “on a plane once a month.” I hope that some of what I learned will help me focus my travel writing–or rather, the travel writing part of my blogs and memoir.
In the discussion period, a question was asked about the differences between memoir and journalism. How does each genre balance the role of self and setting? In memoir, Kate Trebuss, a mentor suggested, the setting functions as a lens for the self, in journalism, the self provides the lens or frame for the setting. I found that an extremely apt distinction, and also an excellent description of what I try to do in my Paris memoir, Breathless: An American Girl in Paris, where the city recomposes the character who is myself in unexpected ways.