Tuesday August 26, 2008 at 7:07 PM | 11 Comments
Posted by Nancy D. Brown
As I cruised the tables on the patio, I scanned the place cards to find my evening dining companion. Tim Cahill’s name was neatly penned on a small white card placed at the head of a folding table, cloaked in white fabric. The chairs remained empty, but would quickly fill as students spilled out of the Book Passage event room. I grabbed my notepad and camera and scored a seat at Cahill’s table. Day one of a four day writer’s conference and I was breaking bread with my hero.
“What’s on your bucket list?” I asked Cahill as we dined over California cuisine at the 2008 Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference. “My own backyard,” replied Cahill.
The 65-year-old Founding Editor of Outside Magazine and author of books including Hold the Enlightenment and Lost in My Own Backyardsaid he’d be happy to stay home and explore Montana. When asked about what makes a story standout, Cahill said that research is important. “Tell us some interesting historic facts and something special about the people,” added Cahill.
Cahill, along with the who’s who of travel writers, editors and photographer’s shared their insider tips with students of the 17th annual Book Passage Travel Writers & Photographers Conferenceheld August 14-17, 2008 in Corte Madera, California. The four day conference focused on newspaper, magazine and guidebook writing, as well as travel photography. Portolios were critiqued by Robert Holmes, Andrea Johnson, George Olson, Jeff Pflueger and Alison Wright.
In the evening, Wright earned a standing ovation for her slide show and tales from her latest book, Learning to Breathe. Author Eric Weiner, The Geography of Bliss, shared that “travel writing is writing about place and ultimately writing about people.” While Author Phil Cousineau, Art of Pilgrimage, noted that “the value of travel is that you give yourself permission to be a different person.”
Speaking of different people, Simon Winchester, in conversation with Conference Chair Don George, discussed his relationship with his mentor Jan Morris. Winchester, a wonderful story teller, shared some fascinating aspects of his friendship over the years with Morris.
Blogger rock stars Jim Benning, Jen Leo and David Lytle twittered and blogged their way to alltop.com where the best travel blogs are listed on the web. Pauline Frommerdiscussed writing for the on-line travel industry with David Lytle and Michael Shapiro, while Larry Bleiberg, Catharine Hamm and John Flinn explained how to work with an editor.
“It’s about relationships,” stated Hamm. “The people who are the best writers are easy to work with,” offered Bleiberg. “I treasure people who are good and solid,” added Flinn. “Deliver a good story with no drama.”
Yet drama is expected from Author Isabel Allende. “I think the hardest part of writing is sitting down,” laughed Allende. “I’m not organized. I don’t have an outline. That’s like making love with a manual!”
The last evening of the conference included karaeoke with students and facility. Last year I returned to my room to work on a homework assignment and missed out on the fun. This year I found myself in front of my laptop polishing a writing assignment and looking forward to sleep. I left the writer’s boot camp exhausted, yet energized and filled with the enthusiasm of a college freshman. I hope to see you at next year’s conference August 13-16, 2009. Early birds can register until October 1 for a rate of $575, after that date the cost moves to $635.
Have you been to a writers conference that left you inspired? Post a comment. I’d love to hear from you.