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May 19-20, 2010

The First Annual Wizard Academy
Writers Conference

I promise you'll get an armload of tips and receive some incredible advice.

It's not going to be a class exactly; more like a group of friends hanging out together for a couple of days and nights.

We're going to sit in a big circle and discuss things with our celebrity authors, ask them whatever questions pop into our heads, share our own thoughts with them and each other, walk around the campus a little and tour the almost-completed tower (for which this event is a fundraiser.) We'll eat good food and, of course, sample the best beers and wines.

We intend to have 3 or 4 accomplished authors for you to hang out with at our First Annual Writers Conference but it would be worth flying to Austin just to spend 2 days with Tom Miller.

Tom is known internationally for his travel literature. His 10 books include The Panama Hat Trail, On the Border, Trading With the Enemy, and Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink, for which he won the Lowell Thomas award in 2001. (Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink will soon be re-released as Revenge of the Saguaro: Offbeat Travels Through America's Southwest. Register for this Writers Conference before February 7 and I'll ship you an extinct, hardback copy of Tom's original Jack Ruby's Kitchen Sink published by The National Geographic Society in 2001. Read it, then bring it with you for Tom to sign.)

Along with his 10 wonderful books, Tom has written articles for the The New Yorker, The Smithsonian, Natural History, Rolling Stone, Life, and many other magazines as well as the New York Times and Washington Post newspapers.

His travelogue, The Panama Hat Trail (1986) follows the production of a Panama hat from the straw fields of Ecuador, its weaving by Indian peasants, to its finishing in a North American hat factory, and finally the sale to a San Diego retail store. 

Yes, Tom Miller is charming, eloquent and our brand of crazy.

Here's Tom's advice about how to gather information for a story:

"No camera, no recording device, no laptop, none of this palm pilot nonsense or a cell phone. Paper and pencil, a book, maybe a bilingual dictionary. Anything beyond that (a) can be stolen, and (b) intimidates people you encounter. The more double-A batteries you carry, the more you distance yourself from the people you're writing about."

Tom's fascinating and insightful style is a weird mixture of James Michener and Tom Robbins. I like it.

The following is an book review of Jack Ruby’s Kitchen Sink:

The American southwest embodies a mythical place in my head. I suppose it's because whenever I fly to Nevada or California (via a short layover in Phoenix, which I never get to explore), I'm awed at how much of this country is truly and utterly empty. Which of course makes me want to 1) learn all about it; and 2) move there pronto. Barring the latter, as Ohio is not yet done sucking the life out of me, I've had to settle for the former.

This is some serious southwest - not the midwestern housewife's dream once she's realized she'd rather be doing something else, something involving crystals and flowy clothes (a la Taos, NM). This is the southwest where the border with Mexico is just a vague idea, and people eek out a meager living in the middle of the freakin' desert.

Miller writes with Edward Abbey's fondness for this last American frontier, and even includes his own meetings with Abbey in the narrative. Where Miller differs though is that he writes about the people of the southwest, and their intimate relationship with the land, and each other (the section on Bisbee is particularly engaging).

I couldn't put this book down, and after completing it, the American southwest is still a mystery in some ways - something that can only be experienced first hand. Though I did learn the likely origin of the dreaded black velvet painting.

Dionne A. Wood
Parma Heights, Ohio

Donate $1,000 to help Wizard Academy finish its landmark tower and your invitation will be sent immediately.  Be one of the first 10 to donate and you'll receive a free room in Engelbrecht House for 2 days and 3 nights. Want to know if any rooms are still available? Just as Becke (Becky) at (512) 295-5700.

Because this is a fundraiser rather than a class, there is no alumni discount. Sorry.

Wizard Academy is a 501c3 nonprofit educational organization so your gift is tax deductible in the US. This event is just our way of saying THANK YOU.

Come. You're going to love Tom Miller and the other authors and you're going to learn a lot from them. We'll howl at the moon together. Aroooooo!

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