Every once in a while it is good to learn a little about the craft. I took advantage of a chance to attend the North American Travel Journalist Association’s (lovingly called NATJA) annual conference held in beautiful and historic Oxnard California along the Pacific central Coast. What’s not to love about an organization that combines a bit of great classes with side trips and socials in places like Oxnard’s Heritage Square where the town father’s moved historic buildings onto the square and they now use them for business purposes. One is a lovely church, another a vineyard and this Italian restaurant to name a few.
Writing is often a solitary endeavor. True you are out and about gathering as Sgt Joe Friday, played by Jack Webb used to say on Dragnet, “Just the fact, Ma’am”, but at the end of the day most writer’s are at home or holed up in a room downloading media and picking out a story – alone-. So when the opportunity to meet up with like minds arises and in a place with unparalleled beauty and it is affordable, the answer is yes.
I think there are times when we all need a chance to recharge our batteries and learn about something we are passionate about, expanding horizons, that sort of thing. The event was surely an educational event for me. Before I went, I joined in a Twitter party that required me to tackle some uncomfortable social media skills. The party not only was fun, but I won a cool prize trying out a new skill, so that was a win, win.
The trip offered a chance to coordinate a rental car and side trips with my friend who traveled with me. Together the two of us took on the LA freeway. Steppenwolf had nothing on us, racing down highway 101 with the hills on one side and the ocean on another we fit the middle aged version of “Born to be wild!”
During the conference I learned about cyber security, the rise and fall of the lima beans that gave way to strawberries in the surrounding farm acreage. Spanish missions that brought change which, whether it was good or bad, depended on who you were talking to.
I learned that editors are looking more at your social standing and latest clips than resumes and that clips from years ago no longer hold much worth. One powerful editor suggested that print does still matter in this digital age and he really hit us hard when he asked us whether we as writers were more proud of something we had in print or online. That got to me and made me realize that the web sometimes is too quick a work. This was a nice reminder that time needs to be taken, facts checked and double checked and grammar adhered to no matter what the media. While I have no hopes of becoming a John Stienbeck, I do have hopes of becoming a better me.
Oh, and yes, I learned that next year’s event will be held in Chapel Hill North Carolina! Yes, I learned a lot.