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15 March 2013
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5 April 2013

June 1,2,10,11 – Shanghai Centre Course – Writing to Tell a Story

Angela Doland

Spring 2013 JMSC Shanghai Centre Writing Course

Angela Doland

Angela Doland

Date and Time: June 1, 2, and 10, 11, 2013, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Venue: HKU Shanghai Study Centre

Language: English

Enrollment deadline: May 15

Course Fee: HK$3,500  |  Early Bird Fee: HK$2,500 (Before April 10th)

Course Description:

Whether you’re working on a travel story, a personal narrative or a serious journalistic feature, there’s one ingredient that will take your writing to a higher level: storytelling. The best reporters and non-fiction writers set scenes. Their characters face dilemmas. Their stories keep us riveted and have as much suspense as any fictional tale. In this four-day class, spread out over two weekends, we’ll do in-class writing exercises to break free of conventions and think about narrative.

We’ll workshop your stories. Using real-life examples from writers and reporters, we’ll talk about how to find and develop ideas, how to structure pieces and how to research stories in ways that make the telling easier, whether you’re working on travel features, memoirs, profiles or business stories. And we’ll unravel great writing by Peter Hessler, Barbara Demick, Atul Gawande, Gene Weingarten and others. How exactly do they do it?

Registration and credit card payment here.

For questions and the course fee bank transfer instruction, please send inquire to, or call Lily Lu, director of JMSC Shanghai Centre, at (086)137 6134 2815.

Intended Learning Outcomes: By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  • Write narratives that hook readers and keep them engaged
  • Use advanced interview and research techniques to help stories come alive
  • Complete two polished, convincing story pitches that will grab editors’ attention, and draw up a plan for reporting and writing the stories

Teacher’s Bio:

Angela Doland is a Shanghai-based journalist who has reported from Europe, Asia and Africa. In China, she contributes to outlets including CNN Travel and Advertising Age. Previously, she worked for 12 years as a Paris correspondent for Associated Press, covering events from the Concorde crash to the Cannes Film Festival, from terrorism in Morocco to a royal coronation in Monaco. She once flew to Tahiti to chase a missing basketball star; on another assignment, she joined Italian priests for an exorcism workshop. Doland holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University.


Day 1: Introduction to storytelling

  • What is a feature story?
  • Generating ideas. You can write about anything, but let’s face it: Some ideas are better than others
  • Subject vs. theme
  • The nutgraph — the “why” of the story
  • Moral dilemmas, turning points, crises
  • Discussion: your stories. (Each student will come to the first class with a 200-word story about something that once happened to them. There are no guidelines beyond this: Every story has a beginning, middle and an end).

Day 2: Before you write — great writing starts with great reporting

  • Reporting — going beyond the basics
  • Background
  • Using documents and photographs
  • The writer’s place in the story
  • The art of the interview
  • In-class interview and writing exercise

Day 3: The beginning, middle and end

  • The lede
  • Suspense
  • Re-creating scenes
  • Tone and voice
  • In-class writing exercise: observing a scene and writing about it

Day 4: Getting your story out there

  • Choosing a media outlet
  • Writing in the tone of your publication
  • Each outlet has its own persona
  • Examples of great story pitches
  • In-class exercise: workshopping your pitches
  • Wrapping it all up