For the second year in a row I attended the annual Book Passage Travel Writing & Photography Conference in Corte Madera, California. This year the conference included a Food writing track and there were so many opportunities to sample wine and other spirits it almost felt like a mini wine blogger event. I thought the added focus on food and wine for travel writers was a perfect pairing, especially for a wine blogger like me. I think the gap may be closing between wine blogger and travel blogger conferences.
In addition to the Food writing track, I sampled the session on Writing for Newspapers and Magazines, and some of the Photography offerings as well. I sat in on a photography session with Bob Holmes and Andrea Johnson where I learned composing a photo is not that different from approaching a story. Bob and Andrea collaborated on the book A Passion for Pinot, and their session evening included special guest Jean-Charles Boisset from Boisset Family Estates who poured some Pinot from DeLoach in Sonoma.
The alumni ranks at Book Passage are full of success stories about finding agents, inking book deals, meeting a collaborator, or just getting the confidence to send out that first piece and get published. I got to relate my own personal success story at the opening gathering on Thursday night when I announced I will be the editing the next Travelers’ Tales humor anthology --Leave the Iguana, Take the Mascara: Funny Travel Stories And Strange Packing Tips.
The conference has a magical quality that creates an atmosphere of possibilities. But it's more than the combination of faculty, karaoke, alcohol and camaraderie that make it special. It’s the people that you meet. I’m always as impressed by the students as I am by the faculty.
The Book Passage experience is intense. It's exhausting and exhilarating at the same time. The four jam-packed days are inspiring and give you a buzz and euphoric feeling about your work that is priceless. Although I think some of the buzz and euphoria this year was due to the Absinthe. Oh, did I mention the Absinthe tasting? Oh yeah, that was amazing! Afterwards everyone got that glassy eye glow. Recognize any of these people below?
At the closing ceremony, awards were handed out to the winners of the photography and travel writing contests. I won a prize for my entry in the travel writing contest. The winning story was read aloud by Don George. Don's dramatic readings are always a highlight of the conference. I think he could read the back of a cereal box and make it a transformative moment.
If you are looking to boost to your travel writing career or just want to get inspired by a great group of people, you should consider attending Book Passage next year. And if you do go, here's a tip: Stay late every night. All the real connections happen after hours. Especially on karaoke night.