Pacific NW Travel Writers Conference

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This year I am investing more time and money in professional development in an effort to move my writing and photography business to a new level. To that end, I attended the Pacific NW Travel Writers Conference held in Seaside, Oregon on March 17-18.

Better known as “Travel & Words,” this annual regional conference is organized by a small group of volunteers. Since I have years of experience managing conference registration, I volunteered to help onsite this year. As it turned out, they didn’t need much help, but I am now officially a member of the conference planning committee. I am excited about helping the group organize Travel & Words 2014, which will be held at the historic Davenport hotel in Spokane, WA.

This year’s program included keynote presentations, panel discussions and intensive workshops geared not just toward travel writers but also freelance writers, bloggers, guide book authors and others in the publishing industry. In addition, representatives of destination marketing organizations from around Oregon and Washington staffed exhibit tables, ready with resource materials and story ideas.

A highlight of the two-day conference was the Networking Mixer Bistro on the opening night. Conference attendees were treated to an overwhelming array of tempting appetizers, provided by Seaside restaurants, the Seaside High School Culinary Team, and students from the Oregon Coast Culinary Institute in Coos Bay. Craft beer was also generously hosted by three local breweries.

The Seaside High School Culinary Team had just returned from competing in the Oregon ProStart High School Culinary Championships, where they took first place with a three-course menu of double-chicken consommé, seared beef tenderloins with balsamic seared vegetables, whipped potatoes and hollandaise, and “campfire” s’mores. The team will compete in the National ProStart Student Invitational competition in Baltimore later this year.

So what did I take away from the conference—besides 20 pounds of brochures and travel magazines, that is? I found out that it’s hard to make a full-time living in the travel genre; most writers need to supplement their income doing business writing. However, I also learned that it is advantageous to specialize in a particular niche and become known as an “expert” in that area.

I was told that print media is not dead, but that the future of publishing resides in the digital world. I was given tips on how to write articles that editors will love by avoiding novice mistakes and by honing my self-editing skills.

I received confirmation that writers who can also take professional photos are in demand. I discovered that I am not charging enough for my work. And, I heard from a panel of editors how to pitch a story idea.

Altogether, it was a solid program with excellent content. Also, having the opportunity to connect with regional destination specialists was a plus. I give a hearty “well done” to the planning committee, and I am already looking forward to next year’s conference.

Photo credit: Tamara Muldoon