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Getting to TBEX
(a prompt given in the Narrative Writing workshop run by Andrew Evans, Don George (both of whom write for National Geographic) and Pam Mandel from Nerdseyeview. The conference and the workshop are explained below.)

First there was a bus from downtown Santiago, onto which I had to Tetris my disproportionately heavy suitcase, and then there was a long plane ride. Then a series of days with my Long Island-dwelling family, part of that spent waiting in the patchwork-pastel-curtained cardiac ward, holding someone else’s purse and fielding phone calls on a magenta flip phone until finally we the news we’d hoped for: you may go, and don’t come back.

Later I took a purple lights-on-the-inside plane across the country to San Francisco, falling asleep before takeoff and cursing my decision to bring chopsticks to eat my made-at-home couscous. After luggage pickup, my spread-armed sleepy-eyed nephew squeezed me in a hug turned up high, and gave me a squeaky stuffed salmon-colored duck as a gift, which may or may not actually be a dog toy.

Days later, after trampolining with my pink-haired niece and then watching her pull money to pay for a snack from a wallet that lives in a purse that she wears on her ten-year-old shoulder, I took another plane. Later than it should have, it took off and landed, while the man with the broad shoulders in the seat beside me clasped his hands across his middle, allowing me nearly total armrest access.

Then there was a late night pickup to a midnight breakfast of yogurt and granola with a friend I wouldn’t know if it weren’t for travel blogging, and who I’ve seen far north of the Tropic of Cancer, and far south of the Tropic of Capricorn. Post breakfast I slept a fabulous sleep under a mama-sewn quilt with squares of deep maroon on white.

A car ride through a tunnel and over a border that barely slowed us and we were in Vancouver, a city I haven’t seen since before I left my home country to my adopted one, where I am more than 6500 miles from home. Later I will reverse this journey, heading away from these wide-armed family hugs, these pastel-curtained hospitals, these pinks and purples and maroons and salmon-colored squeaky ducks and mama-sewn quilts.

But first, I will walk into TBEX’11, a conference of 600 people, none of whom second guess or even blink at my story, because this is what we do.


This weekend I was at TBEX, a weekend long conference for travel bloggers. There were 600 of us (including industry), and a series of different talks given by some of the travel blogging bigwigs. I admit to using most of the conference as a buzzy background to other stuff I was doing. I’d probably have gotten more out of it if I hadn’t been doing that, but hey, I got Bearshapedsphere’s Facebook fan page out of it, and that’s been on my whiteboard so long it’s no longer dry-erasable.

The section I enjoyed the most was a narrative writing workshop, run by Andrew Evans, Don George and Pam Mandel. The first session was talking about writing good narrative, and then we were left with a prompt. I think there were about 60 people in the first session, and a brave 30 came through to the second session, about 2/3 of whom who had done the assignment. We split into small groups, talked a bit, read our work out loud and listened to each other and our instructors talk about what worked for them, and what didn’t.

I’d like to thank my fellow bloggers who made up my workshop, those who did the homework and shared their work in front of an audience (sometimes for the first time), and those who gave feedback to me and to others. In writing so often for people I never see face-to-face, I miss the valuable facial expressions and explanations that make up criticism. It can be hard, but it makes one a better writer. We had a pretty easy (read: nonscathing) session, and I think we all got a lot of valuable comments re: word choice, flow, what we wished we’d learned, what we thought was excessive. My group changed the ending of what I wrote, and while I hate to part ways with some of my precious words, I know that sometimes it’s necessary.

I’m inviting the rest of my group to post their pieces as well, and as they do, we’ll exchange links so you can see how the same prompt generated totally distinct pieces from different people.

As time goes on, I’d like to find more ways to workshop with people, online or in-person, because more than anything, I just really like good writing. Though that squeaky duck isn’t too bad, either.

Update: Aaron from Aaron’s Worldwide Adventure has posted his narrative piece here. Go and give it some love. He talks about Seattle, and also about TBEX.