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Beaches, watermelon, tan-lines ... writer's conferences?!? Yes, summer is probably the busiest season of the year for would-be scribblers. And for aspiring travel talent, there's no conference as celebrated, or frankly, as useful as the Book Passage Travel Writer's and Photographers Conference (www.bookpassage.com) held each August in Corte Madera, California (just outside San Francisco). Not only do participants get to hone their skills under the tutelage of some of the best in the biz, many credit this conference with helping them snag their first paying travel writing (and photography) assignments. That's because along with working authors and photographers, the faculty includes editors and talent agents, all of whom are here to scout for new talent.

The faculty line-up reads like a "Who's Who" of the travel writing community. This year the teachers will include:

  • Isabelle Allende, author of a number of international best-sellers including House of the Spirits and City of the Beasts.
  • Pauline Frommer, creator of the Pauline Frommer guidebooks (www.frommers.com/pauline) and a frequent contributor to this website.
  • Tim Cahill, founding editor of Outside Magazine and author of a number of best-selling travel memoirs, including Hold the Englightenment and Lost in My Own Backyard.
  • Rolf Potts, author of the best-seller Vagabonding and host of the Travel Channel's "American Pilgrim" series
  • Catharine Hamm, Travel Editor for the LA Times
  • Wendy Perrin, Conde Nast Traveler's consumer news editor and author of Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know.
  • Phil Cousineau, documentary film-maker, poet and author of The Art of Pilgrimage.

Usually by this time in the summer, the conference would be sold-out. But thanks to the recession, there are still openings available. The conference begins at noon on August 13 and wraps up at the end of the day on August 16. Participants take classes and attend lectures from roughly 9am to 9pm each evening, with breaks for food (of course) and plenty of opportunities to buttonhole the celebrated participants. For complete information on costs, housing and more, go to www.bookpassage.com/content.php?id=45.