2019-2020 Freelance Council Candidates


Karen Berger

I’ve been a member of SATW for 19 years, during which I have seen our industry change dramatically. During that time, I have served as First Vice Chair for the Freelance Council for four years, and organized professional development for meetings in Israel, Mexico, Peru, Fort Lauderdale, and Atlantic City. I also served as acting Freelance Council chair at the Mexico and Peru meetings, as well as at a meeting of the Board of Directors.

One of the challenges SATW currently faces is that our industry is changing so fast that our roles as communicators are constantly in flux.  I bring an understanding of virtually all the roles Freelance Council represents: Book author, blogger, online writer, photographer, and traditional magazine journalist. The PD topics I organized represent this: they ranged from videography to story-telling to editor panels to photography to blogging to SEO.

The combination of my long membership in SATW, my experience in all the types of work Freelance Council members do, and four years of experience as Freelance Council Vice Chair mean that that I can represent all members of FLC, from traditional journalists to photographers to bloggers and influencers. My priorities would be: keeping SATW relevant to all members with appropriate an accessible PD, reaching out to increasingly diversity our membership, and keeping qualification and requalification standards current with market realities. I think that SATW needs to keep up with changes in market and industry realities, while continuing to maintain its historic leadership position in the travel space.

Christine Loomis

loomis resize

I’m honored to have been asked to run for Freelance Council Chair. Like you, I’m a longtime independent journalist; the needs and concerns of freelancers matter to me.


During four years on the Society board as Western Chapter Chair, I advocated passionately on behalf of members, particularly for easing the financial burden for freelancers and providing greater benefits to make SATW membership a good return on investment for all.


As traditional writers began using platforms that require photography as well as words, I helped create PD opportunities for writers to increase photography skills, and we offered that at many Western Chapter meetings, including this year’s. But our work continues to change.


Better PD is essential, whether that be sessions on social media, website creation, drone use, monetizing content or connection with editors who actually buy freelance stories. As publishing evolves, access to meaningful professional development is an increasingly important benefit of SATW membership. We’ve improved, but we can do better—perhaps especially in meeting the needs of website owners and bloggers. More on that in a minute.


I believe strongly in keeping councils and chapters. Freelancers need to network and connect just as all members do, yet for many, annual conventions have often been financially prohibitive. Not every member will attend council or chapter meetings, but the choiceto attend these more affordable, more intimate meetings should be available to those who want them.


Much important work began when I was on the Society board, and if given the opportunity to represent the Freelance Council I’ll continue that work on behalf of all Actives. As anyone on the board can tell you, I speak out clearly when I believe we can and should do something different to support members.


One critical issue we’re facing is how to make website owners and bloggers feel more part of SATW and how to provide the ROI to make their membership the value proposition it can be. I believe that SATW—and all of us together—can drive that forward successfully.


I hope to receive your vote.  If elected, I’ll reach out to hear directly what you want and need. Being Chair isn’t about my thoughts; it’s about representing you—regardless of what platform you work on, what areas of the world you cover or where your content is published. I’ll bring your voices to the board to ensure that your concerns are heard.

Mary Jo Manzanares

Mary Jo

I joined SATW in 2014, first sitting on the sidelines watching how things worked, and eventually getting involved with the Professional Development committee and co-chairing the PD committee for the El Paso Convention. As I watched the ebbs and flows of the organization, I knew I wanted to become more involved.


I believe there are many opportunities for the FLC, its leadership, and management team to be of better service to our membership, expanding on successful initiatives and coming up with new ideas and practices where past success has been questionable. We need to remove barriers from membership involvement, provide opportunities for new members to become involved, and tap into the strength of our diversity. Whether we work in print or online, whether we’ve been at this for decades or are newer to the profession, we have a common goal in sustaining successful travel communication careers and businesses. Our road maps might be different, but our destination is the same.


I also believe this is the right time to take a fresh approach to council business and goals. It’s time to recognize “that’s the way we’ve always done it” no longer serves us well. It’s time to find a way to cherish our traditions while welcoming the inevitable changes that keep us “inspiring travel through responsible journalism.”


I welcome the chance to help steer the Council through an ever-changing professional landscape, finding creative ways to successfully deal with the opportunities and challenges facing our members. Rest assured, I am not afraid to make a decision nor am I afraid to change my mind when presented with new information.


I’ve been publishing my own websites since 2006. I worked as the Travel Editor for b5media until it was acquired and then for PlanetEye Travel until it, too, was acquired. After two acquisitions, I decided to control my own destiny and I now self publish several travel sites.


I have served in leadership roles in various organizations, both professional and community, and understand that it takes a team to make an organization work well – a team of leaders, volunteers, members, and even naysayers. Working together we can find new ways to meet the diverse needs of current members while maintaining a strong, thriving organization for members of tomorrow.


I welcome questions at any time and respectfully ask for your support and vote as your next FLC Chair.

1st Vice Chair

Terri Colby

When I got the call about being nominated for the freelance council’s first vice chair position responsible for professional development I was honored but a bit reticent. It’s been ages since I’ve run for any kind of office. But I got to thinking that I might indeed have something to contribute to SATW.


I’ve been a professional journalist for more than 25 years, working for what was once called the world’s largest news-gathering organization (The Associated Press) and one of the U.S.’s largest newspapers (The Chicago Tribune), among others. The Tribune was nearly run into the ground by real estate billionaire Sam Zell. But I guess it was his purchase of the Tribune, and my subsequent dismissal as he gutted the editorial department, that pushed me into the freelance world. I wasn’t happy about leaving, but trading hard news and a staff editor’s position for travel writing has taken me all around the world, an experience I’ve cherished.


I’ve learned along the way that my journalism background and training as an editor prepped me well for travel writing. But I’ve also discovered that running a small business as a freelancer is really hard work. The things I know along with those things I’m still trying to learn would inform my contribution into the kinds of professional development we need.


Expanded, in-depth PD, either free or at reduced cost, would be a great additional benefit for SATW members. I’ve attended writing workshops at the Poynter Institute in Florida, and believe similar sessions are worth considering. Also, I know many members are interested in boosting their video capabilities, but that’s not the kind of thing that you can really learn much about in an hour or two tacked onto a meeting. Perhaps we look at a 2-day seminar on video production for websites.


I would also like to see expanded online PD, especially when it comes to topics that fit into shorter learning sessions. Opportunities for a combination of in-depth and shorter-term PD sessions and online classes, are what we all want.


As an editor and a university journalism instructor (Northwestern and DePaul) I’ve mentored other writers (experienced as well as newbies) and helped them on their way with concrete advice and suggestions for improvements. I guess that’s what this role comes down to; finding ways for us to do our best work in a transforming industry. I welcome your consideration.

David DeVoss

The First Vice Chair is in charge off Professional Development and toward that end I’d like to continue the effort put forward by Terry Gardner and the current FLC leadership. My initial feeling is that perhaps we need to fine tune our programs to meet the needs of self publishing bloggers as well as print journalists.


We are for-profit content providers who need to have a serious conversation about the type of information we need to maximize revenue. Meeting travel magazine editors is always helpful, but we also need detailed lessons on Google Analytics, advanced photo editing and Search Engine Optimization. Council members should state their preferences so we can achieve consensus.

2nd Vice Chair

David Lang

I am running for my second term as the 2nd Vice Chair – Sites for the Freelance Council. During my first term I successfully organized great meetings on a Holland America cruise to the Caribbean, a meeting in Mammoth Lakes in northern California and one in Columbus, Ohio. More potential meeting sites with great story ideas are in the pipeline so please stay tuned!


In my role I have also helped organize several press trips to China, one of which resulted in the publication of a book by our members. I will continue to share other travel opportunities to lessor known but tremendously interesting destinations with all of you. I would be honored to have your vote!


Debi Lander

I am a firm believer that participation brings the rewards of membership. Therefore, I have tried to be an active member since joining SATW in 2011. I have attended many Freelance Council meetings, Eastern Chapter events and annual conventions. I follow our Facebook page and comment when appropriate.


Previously I served as Second VP for the Eastern Chapter and was SATW Auction Chair for five years. When called, I responded with a yes to serve as secretary.


I work as a freelance writer who sells stories and photos to magazines and online publications. I maintain a website and blog at: bylandersea.com. I strive to keep informed on what’s happening in the travel sphere and to changes in social media.


I am open to listening to members’ concerns, and if elected, will share those concerns with others on the Freelance Council or the SATW Board. I hope to see Professional Development opportunities expanded, such as more online courses, webinars and recordings of events. Otherwise, I have no specific agenda, just a desire to see SATW become a leading voice in the travel industry and a willingness to participate and get involved.

Michael Snell

I have been a photographer member of SATW since 2002 and am currently Chair of the Photographers Sub-Council. I served as Freelance Council Chair from 2009 to 2011 and have previously served as the Second Vice Chair of the Central States Chapter and as Active-at-Large on the SATW Board. In the past I have also been active on the Branding Committee, Marketing Committee, and four Annual Convention committees: Professional Development for New Zealand, and Pre- and Post-Tours for both the Mississippi Gulf Coast and Iceland conventions, and I Co-Chaired the Wenzhou convention along with David Lang and Stan Wawer.


I became self-employed in 1997 after a 13-year year career in advertising and marketing. My early years as an art director for a string of advertising agencies and working in publication design have greatly informed my photography career and continue to serve me well as I develop materials to market myself and explore the world of self-publishing and digital media. I have also put my marketing skills to use for SATW in the past though my committee work, and — most recently — by working on the Society’s recently completed re-branding project.


I enjoyed my term as FLC Chair and would love to return to the FLC Board as your Secretary. I would like to use my past experiences with SATW to continue to help move the organization forward, and I would appreciate the opportunity to be a representative of all our photographer members in this FLC Board position.


I hope you will give me the opportunity to represent you on the SATW FLC Board once more. Thank you and I hope to see you all in soon!


Julie Bielenberg

Julie also contributes over 75 travel stories per year to various outlets including: AAA, Family Vacation Critic, USA Today 10 Best, 5280, Westword, Mountain Town Magazine, Hunting Life, Mile High Mamas, Colorado & Mountain Meetings + Events, Mountain Meetings, Moment Magazine and many more. She is the Colorado’s #1 agritourism writer, covering more ground and events and publishing in more outlets than any other Coloradan journalist. Julie travels in search of fields, farms, families and more. Sometimes she finds herself in often uncovered, or understated locales, and that has become her niche.


Julie is an active editorial member and one of the most passionate traveling moms with three children ten years old and under in the organization. Julie also holds the limbo champion title from the Freelance Council Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago from September 2016. Through SATW, Bielenberg travels with some of North America’s most accomplished and inspiring travel writers and photographers.


Julie brings enthusiasm, dedication and follow-through to the SATW Freelance Board and is honored to be a part of the prestigious travel association and would like to run for reelection of Treasurer for the FLC Board. Julie hopes her continued role on the board would provide for a legacy of wonderful adventure and long-lasting, meaningful relationships.

Chelle Koster Walton

I hope, by running for the position of Freelance Council Treasurer, to contribute to SATW and my council in a real way. And what’s more real to us than money?! I’ve served, during my 27 years as an SATW member, on the Membership Committee (until its dissolution) and in various temporary positions for meetings and conferences. I’d like to become more integral in a concrete, constant way and feel I can best begin assisting the Board of Directors and membership in this position.


Despite its direct opposition to the writing side of my brain, finances and I have solid background together. I have, in  past lives, been a bookkeeper for a teachers credit union and for my husband’s business, not to mention my own. (Is not tackling a Schedule C qualification in itself?) Some of you may remember an SATW splinter organization some years ago called GuidebookWriters.com. As one of the organizers of that website-driven cooperative, I served as treasurer.


I am an avid member of the FLC, having attended a number of our meetings whenever feasible, and hope to attend more in the position of treasurer. You are my peeps! I still work fulltime as a freelance writer, at least 85 percent of that dedicated to travel and food. This is my livelihood, so naturally I am interested in keeping the council’s livelihood pumping. Thanks for considering me as your council treasurer, I’d be honored to serve you.