Day Three (yesterday) of the 18th Annual Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference was a long day spent trying to absorb as much of the outpouring of knowledge and experience being shared as I possibly could – taking notes both on paper and laptop so fast and furiously that my hands were starting to cramp. You get to a point where you don’t even dare take a potty break for fear of missing something great, which gets uncomfortable when the entire day is filled with an overwhelming amount of information, education, and inspiration.
The morning session was another terrific technical discussion led by Jim Benning and joined by Jen Leo , much of which is best left to a classroom environment, and not a blog post. They covered many of the more technical aspects of blogging, with anecdotes from both Jim and Jen about their personal journeys from the early days of blogging to building their online brand and finding both employment and enjoyment from writing online.
The afternoon began with a terrific roundtable discussion on Advanced Strategies for Freelancers, featuring authors Chris Hall, Michael Shapiro, and Rolf Potts, moderated by the always-entertaining Georgia Hesse……here are just a few nuggets of wisdom (some of which I tried to type fast enough to share on Twitter  yesterday):
From Rolf Potts:
- “Relationships with Editors is a very important thing. Don’t create [negative] ‘personas’ for Editors based on silence – it’s not personal, Editors are super busy people. Avoid getting petty.”
- “Don’t haggle on price [for an article] if you’re a beginner – getting a byline is more important.”
- “Keep your life simple and overhead low – that way you can do what you love, and not have the stress of needing to make a lot of money” (NOT verbatim – it’s hard to type or write fast enough to keep up with what’s being said)
From Michael Shapiro:
- “You want to be low maintenance. You want to please editors, but you also want to stick up for yourself. Read any contracts carefully.
- “None of us are getting rich – you have to do this for the love of it, the joy if it, even if you can only make it a part of your life, not full time.”
- “Diversification is key” (in response to a question about eroding markets due to the proliferation of user-generated content)
From Chris Hall:
- “Always be looking for new markets” (in response to the same question)
- “It’s about determination. If you’re not determined to make it, you won’t.”
- “I cannot overstate the imporance of a brilliant query.”
And how do you summarize Georgia Hesse? You can’t. She illustrates her stories with words in a way that cannot be encapsulated down to a single phrase – you simply must listen to her to fully appreciate and absorb all that she passes on, and she has such great humor that I can’t do justice to (so I recommend that you take advantage of any opportunity to hear her lecture), but here is one VERY important piece of advice from Georgia [paraphrased]:
The community of Travel Editors is a small one, and they do ‘gossip’. They talk about writers, and if you have left one with a negative impression of you, the others will find out about it.
After two lively and valuable panel discussions in the afternoon (“Shaping Your Travels Into a Book” and “The Web: Blogging, Tweeting, & Social Networking”) the evening event was a very sobering and evocative presentation by author David Elliott Cohen of “What Matters: How One Photograph Can Change the World”, doubtless the most moving collection of photo essays I’ve ever seen. Buy the book . Really. Buy several and give them as gifts to people you care about.
And I would be remiss if I didn’t let you all in on “The Moment”.
In every travel writers life comes a ‘moment’. You probably know exactly what I mean. It’s a moment that leaves you struck dumb with awe, that takes your breath away, that moves you, and yet leaves you unable to adequately describe it with words, even though you’re a writer. (Sort of like trying to explain Burning Man  to someone who’s not been there — those who have (in some cases many times, as I have) struggle with cobbling together descriptions of art, of community, of extremes, and still we wind up saying something like (if not exactly) “you just have to experience it for yourself”)……so it was with this moment.
Thus I cannot adequately convey the experience of witnessing an amazing group of well-known and respected travel authors and photographers (and we’re talking award-winning….yes, actual AWARDS…) come together onstage and….perform karaoke.
And not half-heartedly either. We’re talking actual singing AND dancing! This was mind-blowing stuff, and I’ve been in this biz a long time, folks. I said this a couple of times last night and I’ll share it with you: You just don’t get this kind of value-added entertainment at other travel writers conferences, no sir. These folks really know how to cut loose and have fun.
Tomorrow I’ll post a final wrap-up, and a few photos. I’m off now to this morning’s session with Jim!
Have you been to travel writers conferences? Share your experience!