Wednesday, August 15, 2012


Corte Madera, CA

My life, as a story, is a disorganized mess, words and chapters strung together with no preplanned narrative arc, a writing disaster with a nut but no nut graf divulging the real heart of my story.

The news peg (timely relevance) here is the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference in Corte Madera, California, where famous, accomplished travel writers pretend they are regular people with regular shoes and sit around tables with credentialed regular people (like me) to discuss narrative arc, news pegs and story pitches.

It's lonely now, writing down here below that last weighty paragraph where you stopped reading about a banal writing conference in, where was that again? If you'd pressed your nose up to the plate glass window at Book Passage, you'd have observed that same paragraph (oh no, not again!) in 3D, and you would have thought it looked scratch-my-eyes-out boring. That's because magic doesn't travel through glass.

My life underway on a sailboat, even with another person, is inherently solitary, disconnected from land and, unfortunately, its people. Writing about traveling by sailboat is more solitary still. I'm a lonely, nomadic writer without a tribe. I thought.

I so love being wrong.

Robert Louis Stevenson said, "For my part, I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel's sake. The great affair is to move."

No, Robert Louis Stevenson was not at the conference, which, quite frankly, is his loss, but he describes the soul of those who were there. Travel writers are addicted to going somewhere else, to smudging our consciousness with the fresh soil of a new place -- and then writing about it. We carry the germ of place, and we want to infect our readers.

Gathered all in one room, we carriers of place incubated our germ into a raging epidemic that fed and consumed us by turns. It was an enchanted inspiration frenzy in the feverish way that, after the fever has broken, you crash into a dark, healing slumber, and upon waking, wonder which part was real and which part merely delirium. Did I get all weepy at the end? Did everyone?

We did.

I think.

We reached out from our solitary worlds as travelers and found a connection made of passion, passion for place and words and being transported. We exchanged shards of paper with @s and .coms, yearning to maintain the arc of extraordinary connection made in a room with ordinary blue carpet and ordinary blue chairs.

As a reader of my own messy story, it isn't clear yet if this conference is a significant plot point in the narrative arc of my life. Like the shocking discovery that you have a tribe and then melting into a feverish, 4-day, whirling Dervish-ish inspiration dance with them wouldn't be? (It would be if I were writing this. I'm not.)

So, reluctantly leaving behind the clarity of Book Passage and my newfound tribe, I drive south onto the Golden Gate bridge bathed in too bright, post stupor sunlight, disappearing, me and the bridge, into a chilly shroud of fog -- and a new place.

To be continued...

Linda Watanabe McFerrin introducing Andrew McCarthy,
 who is about to interview me at Book Passage.*

*Sincere apology to the magnificent Don George for this gag.**

**Sincere apology to Linda and Andrew as well, as if they'll ever read this. Carry on.


  1. Hi, Tammy,
    I was just looking at the websites that went with the business cards everyone handed out at the conference.
    I liked your article and enjoyed having dinner with you.
    Julia V.

    1. Hi Julia! Thanks for checking in. Great to hear from you. Please be in touch. --tammy