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
“It was nice to remember for a few days what thoughtfulness and intelligence and generosity of spirit – as well as the company of good people – can do for the soul.”
– Alice McDermott, National Book Award-winning author of CHARMING BILLY and Professor of Humanities at Johns Hopkins University
“It was a magical experience, being there — surrounded by so many brilliant people all working and speaking at the top of their game. I made new friends, saw old ones, and left feeling reconnected to my intellectual life and creativity.”
– Dani Shapiro, Bestselling Author of INHERITANCE
“I have to say that the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference is the best writers’ conference I’ve ever been to . . . I came away from the Conference with new friendships and remarkable offers of future collaboration. In short, I came home lit up.”
– Barry Lopez, National Book Award-winning author of ARCTIC DREAMS