It is rare to attend a conference at which the faculty and the participants are so intermixed, and I think that was the most valuable part of the conference. I had great conversations with people from Lonely Planet, Traveler's Tales, Fodors and Frommers (including Pauline Frommer). Tim Cahill (one of my all-time faves) gave a fantastic talk, and I hung out in line for the bathroom with Eric Weiner (and it is "whiner" not "weener") talking about his next project, a book about religion. Alison Wright brought me to tears with her photographs, many of which I recognized from the pages of National Geographic and other publications. And Simon Winchester -- well, he is downright hysterical and a hell of a storyteller. Even puffins call his name!
I also had some heartbreaking conversations with newspaper people -- many of whom are faced with buyouts, layoffs, and an ever-changing publishing industry. But the people who work at internet outlets had some encouraging words. Clearly publishing has more growing and changing to do -- some of which will be very painful for the country's most talented writers.
Tom Swick, consummate newspaperman and lover of words, taught a great class on Narrative Non-Fiction. And unlike at some conferences, my classmates were truly talented writers with stories to tell and evolving writing lives. We had some tremendous conversations together.
Looking for a good conference? I recommend this one. For more information visit Book Passage, one of the world's great bookstores.