Welcome to Moment Sketchers

Hello! My name is Candace, and I’m a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I’m glad you’re here!

Book Passage 2013: Notes on living with an open heart.

Posted on Aug 12, 2013 | 36 Comments

“When you do things from your soul, you feel a river moving in you, a joy.”

― Rumi

It’s a Saturday night in Corte Madera, California, and National Geographic photographer Catherine Karnow is wrapping up her presentation at the Book Passage Travel Writers and Photographers Conference.

She has just spent the evening enchanting the audience with her images of traditional junk boats in Halong Bay, Vietnam, the ever-impressive tiffin wallas of Mumbai, India, and Prince Charles striding across one of his properties in slick black gumboots – all while illuminating what it is that draws her to her art:

“Photography opens up everything. It’s a passport, it’s an excuse.”

Not one hour later, the projector screen has been put away – in its place, a karaoke machine and two mics.

Soon the air is filled with belted renditions of “Love Shack,” “Summer of ’69,” “Last Friday Night,” and “Don’t Stop Believin’.” Backup dancers assemble behind the singers, their hips a shakin’ and hands a rollin’. Long-established editors and first-time conference attendees alike throw their arms around each other.

Any sense of division – between faculty and student, work and play – is entirely absent.

It isn’t often that you come across such a place in life – a place where poetic images and pop songs can share the same stage – where the profound and the playful not only coexist, but even complement each other.

But this, my friends, is the magic of Book Passage.

Book Passage Conference 2013

Book Passage Conference 2013

Book Passage Conference 2013

* * *

Although Book Passage is currently in its 22nd year, this was only my second time attending the conference, which brings together the best of the best in travel writing and travel photography, and lets people like yours truly pick their brains for four days.

Naturally, I’ve spent much of the weekend thinking over what it is I most wanted to say in this post. Did I want to set about convincing writers thinking of coming to the conference in the future to sign up? (because seriously, you need to be there.)

Did I want to do a round up of my favorite quotes from speakers? (which would no doubt include Jeff Greenwald saying: “You can’t take notes on a zip line; trust me, the jungle floor is littered with my notebooks.”)

Or did I want to talk about the many full-circle moments the weekend held for me? (Because lord knows I don’t talk about those enough here…)

But what it comes down to is this: Book Passage is a touchstone for what it means to be a human being engaged in our world.

Yes, the conference will teach you how to be a better writer and put you in a place to meet editors and agents you wouldn’t have otherwise, but its biggest strength – in my humble opinion, that is – is that it will inspire you to live a life of no divisions or distinctions; to live with an open heart, connect with people, and hear their stories, whether you’re in your backyard or in the furthest corners of the globe.

On Sunday morning, I was lucky enough to eat breakfast with Elizabeth Harryman, travel editor of WestWays magazine as well as several other AAA publications.

There were a million things we could have talked about over our ham and spinach quiche and bowls of thick Greek yogurt, but what our conversation centered on was how important it is to take what we’ve learned while traveling and incorporate that into our daily lives back home.

“There’s no difference between our real life and our travel life,” Elizabeth said – and it was all I could do not to cry from connecting with such an esteemed editor on such a beautiful level.

* * *

It’s now Sunday afternoon and the conference is minutes away from ending. The last panel session has finished, the writing contest winner announced (congrats, Gigi!!!), and champagne is being poured as conference co-chair extraordinaire Don George begins his final speech.

“The risk-tasking that you put out into the world comes back to you 100%. The world rewards you… You have a fear, and the more you deny it, the more you empower it. If you face it, you empower yourself. We have the ability to create a fear and let it grow, or we can deflate it. Journey into your discomfort zone and it will open up magical things for you.

“This is our one chance to live life as fully and graciously as possible. The more that you infuse every moment of your path with love, the bigger and better and richer you become. That goes for travel, writing, photography, dish washing, laundry, life. This conference is about travel writing and photography, but it is also about life – just like the best travel stories.”

I’m fairly certain the only reason my eyes are dry at the end of his speech has something to do with how much sleep I haven’t gotten during the conference. In my fatigue-addled state, my heart can’t handle much more emotion, but still I race to write down my favorite lines, knowing they’re something I’ll return to again and again in the future.

Just like Book Passage itself.

 * * *

I don’t have a huge moment to end this post with (nothing compared to last year, at least!). Instead, it was a weekend of quiet victories, of taking small but steady steps towards seeing my dreams become reality.

Carrying me through each step was the gift that Book Passage gave me, as I’m sure it gave many students: assurance that we are on the right path. That all those days that find us banging our heads against the wall are maybe worth it – that every page written, every risk taken, and every dream believed are actually leading somewhere.

And, as I look towards basing myself more in the US next year, I’m also left with the belief that who I’ve grown into and become on foreign soil can find her place in the world closer to home, too. That these two realities aren’t as separate as they seem in my mind – just like those pictures and pop songs carrying equal weight on the conference schedule.

To everyone who made this year’s Book Passage possible – the faculty, co-chairs Don and Bob Holmes, bookstore staff including Kathryn, Karen, and Dana, and all the students who made for fantastically inspiring company and even more brilliant karaoke companions – thank you.

Thank you for the courage to live with an open heart, no matter where we are in the world.

Book Passage Conference 2013

Passing the mantle of the essay contest winner to the wonderful Amy Gigi Alexander – you’re amazing!

  • amy gigi

    Candace, it was such a pleasure meeting you! I can’t help thinking of the strange kismet that compelled me to look up your website 24 hours before I attended the conference. I can’t help but think it was key to my decision to go. I thank you for having written that post a year ago about writing your essay at the last minute: it gave me permission to do the same. I probably would not have entered the contest without that blog post of yours.
    I look forward to getting more connected this year and especially having you advise me about all the social media venues which are beyond my limited attention span at the moment!
    The conference has left me somewhat breathless.
    Best wishes, love from amygigialexander

    • Gigi, meeting you was a true highlight of the conference for me. I am definitely in awe of how you serendipitously stumbled across my site just before the conference…and I’m so glad you did! I can’t wait to stay in touch this year and help each other on our writing journeys. Sending lots of love your way today!

  • Kathy Petrocelli

    I love you, Candace. This is simply beautiful. Miss you already!

    • Love you too, Kathryn!! You, Karen, Dana, and the rest of your amazing team are such a huge part of what makes BP so magical…thank you for everything, and I can’t wait to see you guys again next year (if not sooner 🙂 xoxo

  • Dad

    Great story, Great Picture! Just a tad bit proud:)

    • Thanks so much, Dad! Can’t wait to tell you more about the conference soon. See you in a week!

  • Lou Ann Granger

    Great story, Candace! Loved seeing you again this year, and comparing notes on sketching, journaling, and enjoying the experience of travel. Best wishes for your onward journey!

    (And, big congratulations to you, Amy Gigi! What an amazing story you shared and in such a compelling way. Beautiful!)

    • Lou Ann, I can’t tell you how much I loved the chance to pore over your journals yesterday at lunch…thank you again for sharing them with me. You are a true kindred spirit, and I look forward to seeing the creations that your journeys inspire this year!

  • Jim Benning

    Beautifully put!

    • Thanks so much, Jim! That means a lot. It was wonderful to see you at BP again, and I’m already looking forward to next year 🙂

  • So great to meet you lady! Glad to put a face, a name and some lovely conversations to a Twitter avatar I already knew well 🙂 Hope to connect in SF before you leave town.

    • So fantastic to have met you as well, Jodi – here’s to BP for bringing us all together! Thanks so much for all the wonderful breakfast conversations, brainstorming sessions, and late-night karaoke performances 🙂 Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

  • What a beautiful post. I was at the conference but never met you, so nice to find you here.

    Your post is insightful and so true! I am so happy you quoted Don’s final remarks….

    It was my first conference and I was in the front ro weeping!

    What an experience.

    Bravo on your post!

    • Hello, Liz! Thank you so much for saying hello – while I’m sad we didn’t have a chance to meet at Book Passage this year, I’m still thrilled you were able to be there and soak up the magic! I was in the very back during the last session, frantically scribbling down Don’s words – I’ll be thinking over them for a long time, I do believe 🙂 Thanks again for stopping by, and I hope to actually meet you in person at next year’s BP!

  • A beautiful round-up my dear, you have certainly got me ready to book my ticket for next year! And I can’t wait to hear more about those quiet victories of yours – let’s Skype soon for a proper chat xxx

    • Yessss! Nothing would make me happier than to see your beautiful face at Book Passage next year 🙂 And I would absolutely love to Skype – we are waaay overdue for a catch-up! Sending you an email soon 🙂 xxx

  • Great post Candace! This makes me wish even more that I could have been there this year!

    • Thanks so much, Chris! It definitely wasn’t the same without you and Lily there, but fingers crossed we can all reunite at next year’s BP 🙂

  • Wonderful post, Candace! And I agree wholeheartedly. Like Chris, you made me wish I hadn’t missed it this year. See you both there in 2014? 🙂

    • Thank you, Lily! And YES, can we please make an epic BP reunion happen next year?!? I was thinking about you and Chris all weekend and wishing you were there 🙂

  • Lovely recap! What great photos!!

    • Thanks so much, Andi! And I’m so glad you enjoyed the photos – they were certainly fun to take 🙂 Hope you’re doing well!

  • Marisa Hoke – marisahoke2013

    Candace, my eyes are wet again – after reading this as they were while Don was speaking. You expressed so much feeling and many experiences of more than yourself in this writing. People like me. Thank you for your beautiful post.

    • Thanks so much for taking the time to read this, Marisa – I really appreciate it. Don’s final speech was truly moving and I loved trying to put the magic into words here 🙂 It was wonderful to see you again at BP, and hope our paths cross there next year as well!

  • I love the message – life returns what you give it. The bigger the risk, the bigger the return. Just beautiful!

    • Exactly! So glad this post resonated with you, Claire. Thanks for stopping by and saying hello 🙂

  • This sounds like a truly fantastic conference. I’m going to have to check out their website, because the quotes that I’m hearing from this post are gold! Is it a beginner friendly sort of conference or is it for more established travel writers? Just curious!

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and saying hello, Amanda! I may be a little biased, but Book Passage absolutely is a fantastic conference and so worth the investment. What I love the most about it is that it is indeed for everyone – from those just getting started to people with lots of experience in the industry. If there is anything else I can help with, please don’t hesitate to send me an email at [email protected]. Book Passage has truly become one of my favorite parts of the year, and there’s not much I love more than convincing other writers to attend it as well 🙂

  • Pingback: Messy Thoughts on Book Passage 2013 | nerd's eye view()

  • Pingback: #BPTravel 2013: Thoughts On Travel Writing And The Journey Of Life()

  • Cynthia Brownsmith

    You have captured the essence of the Book Passage Moment. It brought unanticipated joy. We didn’t meet, but I hope we will next year.

    • Thanks so much for your kind words, Cynthia! I’m sad we didn’t have a chance to meet at Book Passage last month, but look forward to seeing you there next year 🙂

  • Pingback: Candace Rose Rardon Illustrated Inspiration from Book Passage Travel Writers Conference 2014.()

  • Pingback: Candace Rose Rardon Coming up for Air on Lake Atitlán.()

  • Oh Candace you made me want to sign up NOW, and those lines from Don made me cry — what a beautiful place to be inspired, renewed, and surrounded by very cool (but totally not intimidating) people like YOU! 🙂

  • Pingback: Candace Rose Rardon Six weeks of Beneath the Lantern's Glow...and a giveaway!()