The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference (SVWC) began with a conversation among four friends – journalist Reva B. Tooley, Sun Valley Community School leaders Jon and Leslie Maksik, and venture capitalist Gordon Russell, who sat around a kitchen table in 1994 and fantasized about starting a writers’ conference. One year later, SVWC held its first event in a tent at Sun Valley Community School, featuring 12 writers, 108 attendees, and an opening talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, David Halberstam.
Propelled by the vision of Reva Tooley, SVWC’s Executive Director for the first 20 years, the initial group was joined by Mary Anne Dolan and Brandon Stoddard, Linda Sherwood, Barbara and Ethan Canin, Anne and Karl Fleming, Barbi Reed, Diane Peavey, and Van Gordon Sauter and Kathleen Brown, as well as a growing Founders Circle that included Helen and Peter Bing and Julie Wrigley, among other supporters and friends. Three Pulitzer Prize winners – memoirist Frank McCourt, U.S. Poet Laureate W. S. Merwin, and journalist David Halberstam – went on to serve for many years as literary advisors.
The Conference became a 501 (c)(3) Idaho nonprofit corporation with a small board of directors who provide guidance and direction. It grew dramatically over a short period of time and eventually decamped for the breathtaking venues at the Sun Valley Resort.
By the start of SVWC’s third decade, a young management team had moved into the leadership role. Robin Eidsmo, Executive Director since 2014, provides leadership and heads up a professional staff. Working alongside Robin, novelist John Burnham Schwartz, essayist Anne Taylor Fleming, and Pulitzer Prize winner Liaquat Ahamed have shaped the programs that have enriched the lives of thousands of attendees over the years, including Idaho scholars, students, teachers, and librarians who now attend the annual event as our guests.
The SVWC Experience
“SVWC is my touchstone, the place I come for renewal to restore the true north. I love the audience as much as I love the presenters, the writers. I come to find my people and they are all around.”
– Abraham Verghese
Stanford physician and author of CUTTING FOR STONE
“That was definitely one of the coolest experiences I’ve had . . . TED was neat . . . but it had nothing like the intimacy, honesty, and depth of the talks in Sun Valley . . . and not even to mention that the best part was getting to meet other writers. It was just an invigorating experience.”
– David Epstein
author of THE SPORTS GENE: INSIDE THE SCIENCE OF
EXTRAORDINARY ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE
“As advertised – it was the informal, shared experience with so many interesting and all-around wonderful people that made this a very special gathering.”
– Jeffrey Brown
PBS NEWSHOUR chief correspondent for arts, culture and society