August 16, 2007toAugust 19, 2007

It’s that time of year again. If you’re making summer plans, remember the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference; it’s August 16-19 this year. Below is an article written by first-time attendee Lynn McClain after the 2006 Conference.

Hearing Tim Cahill explain how his travel writing fractures the space-time continuum is worth the price of admission. The acclaimed adventure travel writer is describing his unique style to a group of beginner to advanced level travel writers and photographers attending the conference. All are engaged in this discussion with the man who has been called the “Mishap Maestro.”

I enrolled in the Annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference at Book Passage in Corte Madera, California on a whim, hoping that it would move my nascent travel writing career in the right direction. It did.

The four-day event commenced with an introduction to travel writing by Georgia Hesse, founding travel editor of the San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle and award winning writer. Then Jeff Pflueger, photography wonder boy, presented an introduction to travel photography. Jeff humbly described his meteoric rise in the competitive field of travel photography. Jeff’s work has appeared in National Geographic and the New York Times. Intrepid Jeff entertained the crowd with descriptions of his many adventures, including the trip during which he rigged up a kite-propelled camera to allow him to photograph environmentalist Robert Kennedy Jr. and others on a whitewater rafting trip.

Each morning of the conference was devoted to seminar tracks at different experience levels for writers and photographers. Larry Bleiberg, travel editor of the Dallas Morning News, was the leader of my track, Travel Writing for Beginners (or, in my case, Travel Writing for Idiots).

The woman sitting next to me in the audience patiently answered my questions:
Me: “What is a graf?”
Helpful Woman: “A paragraph.”
Me: “What is a lede?”
Helpful Woman: “A lead sentence.”
Me: “Why do they spell them that way?”
Helpful Woman: “I don’t know. They just do.”

Larry was kind, informative and funny. In the course of providing an excellent foundation of information about the profession, he patiently explained why no one cares whether my plane arrived on time and why it is a bad idea to write a minute-by-minute travelogue.

Afternoon sessions consisted of a variety of small group sessions. Other people’s questions were even more clueless than mine. In a session with Pauline Frommer, one member of the audience foolishly asked if her parents were still alive. “Yes,” said Pauline; there was a little edge to her voice, but she answered more politely than I might have.

It was an ultra-interactive conference. These high profile authors, editors, agents, photographers and publishers did not appear only for their scheduled speeches. They hung around all day and, in some cases, much of the night, eating, talking, and drinking with the students. Students could begin the day at 8:45 a.m. with a one-on-one consultation with a writer or editor of the student’s choice (at an extra charge). Sessions continued through the day, and often included an after dinner speaker. Author Amy Tan, Lonely Planet editor Don George and veteran travel writer Tony Cohan were evening speakers. All but the last day of the conference concluded with an informal evening gathering from 9:30 to midnight. The final day closed with a champagne and chocolate reception. The pace and intensity of the events prompted Larry Bleiberg to open one of our morning sessions by intoning “Book Passage Conference, Day Seventeen.”

The conference took me from confusion to enthusiasm as I began to grasp the concepts. Meeting the other students was a joy. As I had expected, many of the students were from California. Lots of others, like me, were from the East Coast. In addition, there were students from Mexico City, Hong Kong, Juneau and Chiangmai. It was thrilling to meet the speakers. All were accessible. I even mustered up my courage to chat about SCUBA experiences with Georgia Hesse . Conference organizers thoughtfully provided each attendee with a roster of students and speakers, enhancing networking opportunities.

This conference was geared to a wide array of travel writers and photographers, with more advanced sessions for those already published. I would encourage anyone who is considering a travel writing career to attend the 16th Annual Travel Writers and Photographers Conference. It will be held at Book Passage from August 16-19, 2007. The cost of the conference is $635.00. If you are lucky, you might get to hear Jeff Pflueger describe the pitfalls of his first and only model search using Craigslist.

Book Passage is a vast bookstore, with a travel book annex at the rear, an outdoor courtyard, a café and areas for gatherings. Located across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco, Book Passage is worth a visit to Corte Madera on its own merits. I took the Marin Airporter bus from San Francisco Airport to Corte Madera. The fare was $18 one-way. I inquired about cab fare and do not recall the exact amount quoted. I just remember backing rapidly away from the cab in shock at the price. The next time I attend the conference, I will rent a car and spend time exploring the Napa Valley and San Francisco.

Marin Suites, next door to Book Passage, offered great convenience, as the entrance to the conference was next to our parking lot. Unfortunately, due to the last minute nature of my trip, I overlooked the fact that the hotel was undergoing renovation. The heating unit in my room was gutted and left open to the freeway. I was exhausted most nights, and I never travel without earplugs and sleep mask, so I slept well in spite of the hole in the wall. The Bay weather made my mornings quite brisk. That being said, when the renovations are completed, I would highly recommend the Marin Suites. According to a hotel spokesperson renovations are continuing, and projected to be completed sometime in early 2007. The hotel has a pool in the central courtyard, pretty trees and flowers and free breakfast. There is a supermarket three blocks away, with everything you could want, including a nice selection of Napa Valley wine. I did not tell my family and friends that the special wine gifts I brought home to them came from the Safeway.

The conference
The 2007 16th annual writers and photography conference will be held from August 16-19, 2007 at Book Passage in Corte Madera California, across the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco.

The conference coordinator is Karen West at Book Passage, Telephone number: 800-999-7909, ext. 238,

Marin Suites

Many conference attendees stayed at the Corte Madera Inn

Marin Airporter bus from San Francisco Airport


2 Comments so far

  1. Avi Love on July 28, 2007 5:46 pm

    Book Passage conferences are outstanding. Glad to hear the Travel Writers and Photographers Conference is no exception. Thanks for the peek inside. By the way, the Marin Suites has completed its renovations and is highly recommended by attendees I met at the Mystery Writers Conference earlier this year.

  2. Tracey Gofton on April 3, 2013 12:38 am

    Another tip that helps when trying to find a sleep mask is that you want a mask that has a mid to high level of light blocking. Look for a layer of what is know as blackout material. It ought to be sewn into the mask. And, look for the contour of the mask. Check the mask for high quality padding that should be around the entire mask. Masks differ in their contour and just how much of the mask covers the eyes and component of the face. Still yet another important feature to look for is the weight of the mask. Some masks are heavier than others as a result of the type of material that is used. Additional padding will make the mask a bit heavier however it will work much better to keep the light out..

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