Tim Cahill, Isabel Allende, Don George, Larry Habegger, Jeff Greenwald
August 14-17

A few people have been asking me if I thought they should go to the
Book Passage Travel Writer and Photographers Conference

My answer is YES. If you can afford six hundred bucks ($595), or can request it as an early Christmas or birthday present, by all means, get out here and go to it.

As far as I know and have heard, it is the premier conference for travel writers. Both from a learning stand point, and a networking persepective.

Have I ever taken it? No, but here’s why. I wish I had during my first few years employed at Travelers’ Tales. That’s when I was sponging up as much as I could, (1995-1997). The truth was, I couldn’t afford it. Even at $500 which is what it was back then. That was still steep consdidering I was working for $8-$10 bucks an hour and living in San Francisco.

As the years passed and I was making a little bit more, ($500 was still steep), I had already learned and met so many of the facutly from my TT life, that it didn’t make as much sense anymore. I was at a point where I needed to act on the writing advice I’d already learned, instead of listening to more. I could already get any of my stories critiqued and looked at by the TT editors. For me, I needed to just do it. As you know, this is still an issue with me.

Instead I would go to the open evening events, listen to the guest speakers, and have drinks with the travel writing community that stayed afterwards. I eat that stuff up. If you can’t afford the classes, show up for this part of the evening and you can still punch your networking time card.

Three years ago, I got to sit in on a few classes for free (The coordinator is long gone and I wish I had thanked her properly), and I got to see how helpful they are. Especially John Flinn and Larry Habegger’s.

Obviously your needs will differ depending on where you’ve already been published, whether you’re a photographer or writer, and what you want to get out of it. But there’s something for everyone interested in travel writing and photography. Check out the conference highlights.

If you do choose to particpate in the conference, I suggest that you do work in advance to make sure you get your money’s worth. Write up the best idea you’ve got going. It doesn’t matter if it’s for a newspaper, magazine, or book. Don’t just do a first draft, make it your best work. Have it looked at for an extra $90, a fair price (though it used to be around $50), and follow up with your consultant. We had a few last minute stories make it into Sand In My Bra last year because writers had Larry critique their stories at the conference and emailed him their revisions afterwards.

Another thing to note, is that many travel writers have kick started their career from winning the conference contest. Lots of winning contest stories, and the runenrs up, have been selected for TT books. And several conference participants have gone on to become faculty like Linda Watanabe McFerrin and Alison Wright.

Just like their tagline says, Book Passage is “where travel writers meet.” Without a doubt, it is the central point for the travel writing community in the Bay Area. For travel writers who pass through too!

If I’m in the Bay Area during that part of August, I’ll see you Thursday night for Tim Cahill’s event. And probably Friday night too, when Isabel Allende will be in conversation with Don George.

Here’s the class schedule.

Here’s where you sign up.

When you do, please tell them that Jen Leo at Written Road recommended it to you. Thanks and have fun!


  1. Thanks for this alternative to spending $600, which I’d spend on the conference if I could. I didn’t know I could come for the evening sessions. I’ll do it.

    Actually, you can’t imagine how much your contribution made for me.

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