Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Andrew McCarthy to speak at 20th annual Travel and Food Writing & Photography Conference

Tomorrow marks the 20th annual Travel and Food Writing and Photography Conference at Book Passage in northern California, which runs Aug. 11-14. This extraordinary gathering was started in 1991 by independent bookstore owner Elaine Petrocelli and conference chair Don George. The former travel editor of the San Francisco Examiner & Chronicle, the Wanderlust section of, and Lonely Planet Publications, Don George is also the author of The Lonely Planet Guide to Travel Writing and the editor of six literary travel anthologies.

Don George in conversation with Andrew McCarthy
I attended the conference in 2005 and 2007, inspired and encouraged by great writers like Linda Watanabe McFerrin, Rolf Potts, Tim Cahill and Isabel Allende. The event includes a morning workshop series, afternoon panels, and networking ala casual lunches and dinners with editors, publishers and agents (including Kimberley Cameron, whom I interned with this year).

Last year they added food writing to the travel & photography components, and this year includes more online writing than in the past. Now, in addition to traditional offerings like Personal Essay and Memoir with Dave Farley and Travelers' Tales founding editor Larry Habegger, you can sign up for a daily morning workshop like Travel Writing and Blogging in the Digital Age with WorldHum founding editor Jim Benning.

This year's keynote speaker is actor-turned-travel writer extraordinaire Andrew McCarthy. Well-known for his roles in St. Elmos Fire and Pretty in Pink, he's a two-time Lowell Thomas Award winner and was named 2010 Travel Journalist of the Year by the SATW Foundation. Join Andrew McCarthy in conversation with Don George Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. -- just $10 for non-attendees. If you can't make it, check out a recent recap of a prior interview on Don George's gadling website.

After I took an additional 6-week course from Don George at the bookstore, my first travel story won a silver category award from Travelers' Tales 2008 Solas Awards. Then "Rite of Passage," about skydiving in New Zealand, was published by Travelers' Tales in 2009. Michael Shapiro, a conference alum and instructor, later helped me shape my Carnival in Rio article, which found a home at the LA Times. How I'd love to return this weekend to meet the travel editor, Catherine Hamm, but I'll be on a Jewish women's retreat in the woods of Mendocino--gearing up for a new chapter as summer comes to a close. 

Thinking about my writing dreams, aspirations and goals for the year ahead, I'll take Don George's advice with me, from his top tips for writing conferences:
"The road doesn't end when the conference ends. That's just the beginning. Follow up with the contacts you've made. Incorporate the lessons you've learned. There's no such thing as overnight success: All success is the result of hard work and respectful persistence. Pursue your passion; follow your dream. There's no guarantee where your journey will take you, but... there's only one way to get there: step by step."

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