San Francisco’s “Weekend Wanderlust”

SAN FRANCISCO – Three accomplished and well-recognized travel writers recently were tossing around an idea: How good travel writing might employ a new medium here in the Bay Area – personal readings before a live audience. In the words of Lavinia Spalding, “Weekday Wanderlust is the result of many champagne-fueled lunches shared by Kimberley Lovato, Don George and me.”

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Under the charcoal eyes of Edgar Allan Poe, and with his face eerily lit by his iPad, SF Chronicle travel editor Spud Hilton reads from his adventure searching for the grave of Charles Lindbergh on Maui.

All three are prize-winning travel authors and editors, and all three came to the conclusion that well-crafted words about travel that normally appear silently in print or on the web, are simply not enough. They should be spoken aloud, preferably by their authors, in person, and before an appreciative segment of San Franciscans. If they built it, perhaps an audience would come.

I saw this opinion validated in spades on a Monday in September, 2012. With little advance notice, an enthusiastic audience of about 75 showed up in the Salon room of the venerable Rex Hotel, a Sutter Street institution long favored by the literati. The Salon room is decorated by charcoal caricatures of several famous authors. Light refreshments and a cash bar also helped during a get-acquainted period before the program.

Ambitiously enough, it was announced that the Weekday Wanderlust will henceforth be held on a weekday evening every month, probably at the Rex. Organizer Lovato said the project would now be “a reading series that included not only the great writers in our region, but new budding writers who are looking for a safe and supportive environment.”

The first evening’s readers, however, were a quartet of well-known editors, and all four strived to set a high editorial standard with their firm command of experiential travel writing. They were Julia Cosgrove, editor of AFAR, the SF-headquartered national travel magazine, Spud Hilton, travel editor of the SF Chronicle, Don George, Global Travel editor for Lonely Planet Publications, and Larry Habegger, Executive Editor of Travelers’ Tales Publishing and Editor-in-Chief of Triporati, an on-line travel planning company.

Writers, readers, and listeners can keep track of this inspiring new project through its Facebook page, “Weekday Wanderlust” and Twitter handle @sfwanderlusters. Let’s hope this feature will continue indefinitely.

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