“A Passage for Writers”
by Georgia I. Hesse
Less than a quarter century ago, the winds of inspiration that blow across Italy wafted down to whisper in the ears of Elaine Petrocelli, sitting with her husband Bill on the sunny shore of Lake Garda. “Travel writing,” they called, coyly. “Teach travel writing.”
“I will,” answered Elaine. And, like the Little Red Hen, she did.
And she does. Just 22 years later, Aug. 8-11, the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera involved 21 faculty and 83 students in a learning exchange through lectures, conversations, workshops, panels, and a sizzling Saturday karaoke session. Aspiring as well as accomplished writers and photographers attended, from as far away as Athens.
As many members of BATW would acknowledge, the word “travel” once meant the same as travail (by shift to “toil, labor”) and if you pursue it to Late Latin you will discover “torture chamber.” “Writing” is no easier, descending from the Old Saxon wrītan or “cut,” as into stone. Why, then, do students flock to this festival of philavery?
Perhaps, as some of this year’s subject titles suggested, to learn to write right, whether penning a narrative story, a book-length memoir, an essay, a newspaper or magazine article, a guidebook, assembling an anthology, writing for the Web, or painting a picture with a camera.
Writer-editor Don George and I have cruised with this conference since the beginning; photographer Robert Holmes shipped aboard the second year. Before the mast, however, stands Elaine, whose enthusiasm (the Greeks would tell us having a god within) surely derives from Calliope, foremost among the nine muses, she who governs eloquence.
Impossible, perhaps, but this year’s conference, as the bookstore’s cast would concur, was palpably the best.
Photo on homepage: Book Passage: Don George, Amy Tan and Elaine Petrocelli