Saturday, July 16-Tuesday, July, 19
Sun Valley Resort
The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference strives to bring together readers, writers, and artists of diverse age, background, and experience to be informed, enlightened, challenged, and inspired by a world-class literary program in the great outdoors.
SVWC 2021 Presenters
Catherine Grace Katz
Admiral James Stavridis
William D. Cohan
Daniel James Brown
Sarah M. Broom
Catherine Grace Katz
CATHERINE GRACE KATZ is a writer and historian from Winnetka, IL. She graduated from Harvard in 2013 with a BA in History and received her MPhil in Modern European History from Christ’s College, University of Cambridge in 2014, where she wrote her dissertation on the origins of modern counterintelligence practices. After graduating, Catherine worked in finance in New York City before a very fortuitous visit to the bookstore in the lobby of her office in Manhattan led her to return to history and writing. She is currently pursuing her JD at Harvard Law School. The Daughters of Yalta is her first book.
Photo Credit: Nina Subin
Admiral James Stavridis
ADMIRAL JAMES STAVRIDIS is Vice Chair, Global Affairs of The Carlyle Group and Chair of the Board of Trustees of the Rockefeller Foundation, following five years as the 12th Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University. A retired 4-star officer in the U.S. Navy, he led the NATO Alliance in global operations from 2009 to 2013 as Supreme Allied Commander with responsibility for Afghanistan, Libya, the Balkans, Syria, counter piracy, and cyber security. He also served as Commander of U.S. Southern Command, with responsibility for all military operations in Latin America from 2006-2009. He earned more than 50 medals, including 28 from foreign nations in his 37-year military career.
Earlier in his military career he commanded the top ship in the Atlantic Fleet, winning the Battenberg Cup, as well as a squadron of destroyers and a carrier strike group – all in combat. In 2016, he was vetted for Vice President by Hillary Clinton and subsequently invited to Trump Tower to discuss a cabinet position in the Trump Administration.
Admiral Stavridis earned a PhD in international relations and has published ten books and hundreds of articles in leading journals around the world, including the recent novel 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, which was a New York Times bestseller. His 2012 TED talk on global security has close to one million views. Admiral Stavridis is a contributing editor for TIME Magazine and Chief International Security Analyst for NBC News.
LEA CARPENTER is a critically acclaimed novelist and screenwriter. Her first book, Eleven Days (Knopf 2013) told the history of America’s special operations forces through the eyes of a young mother, and was hailed by The New York Times Michiko Kakutani as “the debut of an extraordinarily gifted writer.” Her second novel, red white blue (Knopf 2018), is a thriller about CIA’s China Ops Division in the post nine-eleven era, again told from a female point of view. Her first screenplay, Mile 22, about CIA’s Special Activities Division – also known as Ground Branch – was made into a film directed by Peter Berg starring John Malkovich and Mark Wahlberg. In addition to her film and television projects she is currently working on the third novel in her “Terror Wars” trilogy, as well as a new story collection, the most recent of which, “Green Lights Blue Skies” won the 2020 Best Fiction Prize from The Sewanee Review.
Carpenter is a Lecturer in Law at Columbia Law School where she teaches Truth And Story In the Language Of Justice, a seminar she designed with a former federal prosecutor from the SDNY.
Carpenter graduated summa cum laude Phi Beta Kappa from Princeton and has an MBA with honors from Harvard Business School where she was Valedictorian; her speech, “Auden and the Little Things,” addressed the importance of poetry in wartime.
A Delaware native, Lea worked as speechwriter for former Delaware Attorney General, Beau Biden.
She lives in New York city with her two young sons.
Photo Credit: Huger Foote
LARRY DIAMOND is a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University, and founding co-editor of the Journal of Democracy. In addition to his most recent work, Ill Winds: Saving Democracy from Russian Rage, Chinese Ambition, and American Complacency, he is the author of six books and editor or co-editor of more than fifty others on democracy around the world.
Diamond teaches courses on democracy at Stanford University, where he is professor by courtesy of political science and sociology, and has consulted for numerous governmental and non-governmental organizations, including the UN, USAID, the World Bank, the National Endowment for Democracy, and the State Department. In 2004, he served as a senior advisor on governance to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad.
Photo Credit: Rod Searcey
TOBIAS WOLFF’s books include the memoirs This Boy’s Life and In Pharaoh’s Army: Memories of the Lost War; the short novel The Barracks Thief; the novel Old School, and four collections of short stories, In the Garden of the North American Martyrs, Back in the World, The Night in Question, and, most recently, Our Story Begins: New and Selected Stories. He has also edited several anthologies, among them Best American Short Stories 1994, A Doctor’s Visit: The Short Stories of Anton Chekhov, and The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories. His work is translated widely and has received numerous awards, including the PEN/Faulkner Award, The Los Angeles Times Book Prize, both the PEN/Malamud and the Rea Award for Excellence in the Short Story, the Story Prize, and the Academy Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
A Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and the American Academy of Arts and Letters, he is the Ward W. and Priscilla B. Woods Professor of English, Emeritus, at Stanford. In 2015 he received the National Medal of Arts from President Barack Obama.
Photo credit: (c) Marion Ettlinger
JULIA PHILLIPS is the debut author of the internationally bestselling novel Disappearing Earth, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. A Fulbright fellow, Julia has written for The New York Times, The Atlantic, and The Paris Review. She teaches at the Randolph College MFA program and lives in Brooklyn.
Photo Credit: Nina Subin
LAURA SECOR is a journalist and editor who lives in New York. She is the author of Children of Paradise: The Struggle for the Soul of Iran, published by Riverhead Books in February 2016, which was a finalist for the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for Nonfiction and for the Lionel Gelber Prize. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The New York Times Magazine, The New Republic, and other publications.
She is currently the web editor of Foreign Affairs and has in the past been a staff editor at the New York Times Op-ed page, reporter at The Boston Globe, deputy editor of The American Prospect and senior editor at Lingua Franca. A past fellow at the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers and at the American Academy in Berlin, she has taught journalism at New York University, Bard College, and Princeton University.
Photo Credit: Nina Subin
NOAH FELDMAN is the Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law at Harvard Law School and Director of the Julis-Rabinowitz Program on Jewish and Israeli Law. He is the Chairman of the Society of Fellows and a member of the Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is a contributing writer for the Bloomberg View. He served as senior constitutional advisor to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, and advised members of the Iraqi Governing Council on the drafting of the Transitional Administrative Law or interim constitution. He served as a law clerk to Justice David H. Souter of the U.S. Supreme Court (1998 – 1999).
He received his A.B. summa cum laude in Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations from Harvard University in 1992, finishing first in his class. Selected as a Rhodes Scholar, he earned a D. Phil. in Islamic Thought from Oxford University and a J.D. from Yale Law School, serving as Book Reviews Editor of the Yale Law Journal.
He is the author of nine books: Arab Winter: A Tragedy (Princeton University Press, 2020); The Three Lives of James Madison: Genius, Partisan, President (Random House, 2017); Cool War: The Future of Global Competition (Random House, 2013); Scorpions: The Battles and Triumphs of FDR’s Great Supreme Court Justices (Twelve Publishing, 2010); The Fall and Rise of the Islamic State (Princeton University Press, 2008); Divided By God: America’s Church-State Problem and What We Should Do About It (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2005); What We Owe Iraq: War and the Ethics of Nation Building (Princeton University Press, 2004); and After Jihad: America and the Struggle for Islamic Democracy (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003) as well as his new, forthcoming book, The Broken Constitution: Lincoln, Slavery, and the Refounding of America (Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2021). He is also the author of two textbooks with Kathleen Sullivan: Constitutional Law, Twentieth Edition (Foundation Press, 2019) and First Amendment Law, Seventh Edition (Foundation Press, 2019).
Photo Credit: Deborah Feingold
DAVID EAGLEMAN is a Stanford University neuroscientist, an internationally bestselling author, and a Guggenheim Fellow. He is the writer and presenter of The Brain, an Emmy-nominated television series on PBS and BBC. Dr. Eagleman’s areas of research include sensory substitution, time perception, vision, and synesthesia; he also studies the intersection of neuroscience with the legal system, and in that capacity he directs the Center for Science and Law.
Eagleman is the author of many books, including Livewired, The Runaway Species, The Brain, Incognito, and Wednesday is Indigo Blue. He is also the author of a bestselling book of literary fiction, Sum, which has been translated into 32 languages, turned into two operas, and named a Best Book of the Year by Barnes and Noble. Dr. Eagleman writes for The Atlantic, The New York Times, Time, Discover, Slate, Wired, and New Scientist, and appears regularly on National Public Radio and BBC to discuss both science and literature.
He has been a TED speaker, a guest on the Colbert Report, and profiled in The New Yorker magazine. He has spun several companies out of his lab, including Neosensory, a company which uses touch on the skin to pass information to the brain, addressing hearing loss for people around the planet.
Photo Credit: Mark Clark
GEORGE PACKER is a staff writer at The Atlantic. He is the author, most recently, of Our Man: Richard Holbrooke and the End of the American Century, winner of the Hitchens Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. He has published five other works of nonfiction, including The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America, which won the 2013 National Book Award for non-fiction, and The Assassins’ Gate: America in Iraq, a finalist for the 2006 Pulitzer Prize. He is also the author of two novels and a play, Betrayed, based on a New Yorker article, which ran five months Off Broadway in 2008 and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Outstanding Play.
Packer has been a Guggenheim Fellow and twice a fellow at the American Academy in Berlin. In 2016-17 he was a Cullman Fellow at the New York Public Library and a New America Foundation Fellow. His most recent work Last Best Hope: America in Crisis and Renewal will be published in June.
Photo credit: Kris Julien – FSG
William D. Cohan
WILLIAM D. COHAN, a former senior Wall Street M&A investment banker for 17 years at Lazard Frères & Co., Merrill Lynch and JPMorganChase, is the New York Times bestselling author of three non-fiction narratives about Wall Street: Money and Power: How Goldman Sachs Came to Rule the World; House of Cards: A Tale of Hubris and Wretched Excess on Wall Street; and, The Last Tycoons: The Secret History of Lazard Frères & Co., the winner of the 2007 FT/Goldman Sachs Business Book of the Year Award. His book, The Price of Silence, about the Duke lacrosse scandal was published in April 2014 and was also a New York Times bestseller. His book, Why Wall Street Matters, was published by Random House in February 2017. His latest published book, Four Friends, about what happened to four of his friends from Andover, his high school, was published by Flatiron Press, a division of Macmillan Publishers, in July 2019. He is hard at work on Power Failure, his new book about the rise and fall of GE, once the world’s most powerful, valuable and important company.
He is a special correspondent at Vanity Fair and a writer-at-large for Air Mail. He also writes for ProPublica, The Financial Times, The New York Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, The Atlantic, Fast Company, The Nation, Fortune, and Politico and Barron’s. He previously wrote a bi-weekly opinion column for The New York Times, an opinion column for BloombergView, as well as for the Dealbook section of the New York Times. He is a non-staff, on-air contributor to CNBC and also appears on CNN, on MSNBC and the BBC-TV. He has also appeared three times as a guest on the Daily Show, with Jon Stewart, The NewsHour, The Charlie Rose Show, The Tavis Smiley Show, and CBS This Morning as well as on numerous NPR, BBC and Bloomberg radio programs. He was formerly a contributing editor for Bloomberg TV.
He is a graduate of Phillips Academy (Andover), Duke University, Columbia University School of Journalism and the Columbia University Graduate School of Business. He grew up in Worcester, Massachusetts and now lives in New York City with his wife and, occasionally, his two sons.
Photo Credit: Jonno Rattman
DAVID WALLACE-WELLS is deputy editor at New York magazine and the author of The Uninhabitable Earth: Life After Warming, published in 2019. The book explores both the terrifying speed and scope of climate change and its likely transformation of politics and culture, economics and technology. The Times called it both “brilliant” and “the most terrifying book I have ever read,” The Washington Post called it “this generation’s Silent Spring,” the Economist said it was “riveting,” and, the Guardian called it “an epoch-defining book.” Wallace-Wells joined New York magazine as literary editor in 2011, became features director in 2016, and deputy editor in 2017. He writes regularly about science and the near future in addition to his “Life after Warming” articles on global warming and its humanitarian impacts. Wallace-Wells 2017 cover story on worst-case scenarios for climate change quickly became the most widely read story the magazine had ever published. He is a national fellow of the New America Foundation. Wallace-Wells lives in Manhattan with his wife and daughter.
Photo Credit: Beowulf Sheehan
SHERI FINK is the author of the New York Times bestselling book, Five Days at Memorial: Life and Death in a Storm-Ravaged Hospital (Crown, 2013) about choices made in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. She is also an executive producer of the Netflix documentary television series Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak (2020). She is a correspondent at the New York Times, where her and her colleagues’ stories on the West Africa Ebola crisis were recognized with the 2015 Pulitzer Prize for international reporting, the George Polk Award for health reporting, and the Overseas Press Club Hal Boyle Award. Her story “The Deadly Choices at Memorial,” co-published by ProPublica and the New York Times Magazine, received a 2010 Pulitzer Prize for investigative reporting and a National Magazine Award for reporting.
A former relief worker in disaster and conflict zones, Fink received her M.D. and Ph.D. from Stanford University. Her first book, War Hospital: A True Story of Surgery and Survival (PublicAffairs), is about medical professionals under siege during the genocide in Srebrenica, Bosnia-Herzegovina. Five Days at Memorial was the winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award for nonfiction, the PEN/John Kenneth Galbraith Award for nonfiction, the Ridenhour Book Prize, the J. Anthony Lukas Book Prize, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance Book Award, the American Medical Writers Association Medical Book Award, and the NASW Science in Society Journalism Book Award.
Photo Credit: Jen Dessinger
ELLIOT ACKERMAN is the author of the novels 2034, Red Dress In Black and White, Waiting for Eden, Dark at the Crossing, and Green on Blue, as well as the memoir Places and Names: On War, Revolution and Returning. His books have been nominated for the National Book Award, the Andrew Carnegie Medal in both fiction and non-fiction, and the Dayton Literary Peace Prize among others. His writing often appears in Esquire, The New Yorker, and The New York Times where he is a contributing opinion writer, and his stories have been included in The Best American Short Stories and The Best American Travel Writing.
He is both a former White House Fellow and Marine, and served five tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he received the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for Valor, and the Purple Heart. He divides his time between New York City and Washington, D.C.
Photo Credit: Huger Foote
Daniel James Brown
DANIEL JAMES BROWN grew up in the San Francisco Bay Area and attended the University of California at Berkeley and UCLA. He taught writing at San Jose State University and Stanford before becoming a technical writer and editor. He now writes narrative nonfiction books full time. His primary interest as a writer is in bringing compelling historical events to life as vividly and accurately as he can. His most recent work—Facing the Mountain—chronicles the lives of four young Japanese American men during World War Two. His 2013 book—The Boys in the Boat—spent one hundred and thirty-seven weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and is set to be adapted as a major motion picture. His two previous books—Under a Flaming Sky and The Indifferent Stars Above—were both finalists for the Washington State Book Award.
Daniel splits his time between Carmel, California, and the country outside of Seattle, Washington. When he is not writing, he is likely to be birding, gardening, fly-fishing, reading, or chasing bears away from his beehives.
Photo Credit: Robin V. Brown
Iranian-born author, humorist and cultural commentator FIROOZEH DUMAS emigrated to Southern California when she was seven, but only as an adult did she begin to write stories about her Iranian childhood and immigrant family. After September 11, she felt compelled to publish these stories, collecting them in her New York Times bestselling book, Funny in Farsi, which was also a finalist for the PEN/USA award, the Thurber Prize for American Humor, and the Audie Award. Dumas is the author of two other books, the New York Times bestseller, Laughing Without an Accent and an award-winning novel for middle-grade children, It Ain’t so Awful, Falafel. Firoozeh is active on the lecture circuit, traveling around the world to give speeches at conferences and schools, and running storytelling workshops.
LAWRENCE WRIGHT is an author, screenwriter, playwright, and a staff writer for The New Yorker magazine.
He is a graduate of Tulane University, in New Orleans, and the American University in Cairo. He began his writing career at The Race Relations Reporter in Nashville, Tennessee, in 1971. In 1980, Wright went to work for Texas Monthly. He also became a contributing editor to Rolling Stone. In 1992, he joined the staff of The New Yorker, where he was published a number of prize-winning articles, including two National Magazine Awards.
Wright is the co-writer (with director Ed Zwick and Menno Meyjes) of “The Siege” (1998) starring Denzel Washington, Bruce Willis, and Annette Bening. He also wrote the script for the Showtime movie “Noriega: God’s Favorite”(2000) starring Bob Hoskins.
Wright is the author of ten non-fiction books. Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief (Knopf, 2013) was a New York Times bestseller and was made into an HBO documentary, winning three Emmys. His book about the rise of al-Qaeda, The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the Road to 9/11 (Knopf, 2006) was published to immediate and widespread acclaim. It won many awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for General Nonfiction. It has been published in 25 languages. It was made into a series for Hulu in 2018, starring Jeff Daniels, Alec Baldwin, and Tahar Rahim.
In 2006, Wright premiered his one-man play, My Trip to al-Qaeda, at The New Yorker Festival, which then enjoyed a sold-out six-week run at the Culture Project in Soho. It was made into a documentary film of the same name for HBO. Wright also wrote and performed another one-man show, The Human Scale, concerning the standoff between Israel and Hamas over the abduction of an Israeli soldier, Gilad Shalit. The Public Theater produced the play, which ran for a month off-Broadway in 2010 before moving to the Cameri Theater in Tel Aviv.
In addition to his one-man productions, Wright has written five other plays that have enjoyed productions around the country, including Camp David, about the Carter, Begin, and Sadat summit; and Cleo, about the making of the movie “Cleopatra.”
Wright has published two novels. God’s Favorite (Simon & Schuster, 2000), and the bestselling, critically acclaimed The End of October (Knopf, 2020).
Wright is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the Society of American Historians. He also serves as the keyboard player in the Austin-based blues band, WhoDo.
Photo Credit: Kenny Braun
AYAD AKHTAR is a novelist and playwright. His work has been published and performed in over two dozen languages. He is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and an Award in Literature from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.
Ayad is the author of Homeland Elegies (Little, Brown & Co.), which The Washington Post called “a tour de force” and The New York Times selected as a Top 10 Book of 2020, calling it “pitch-perfect…virtuosic.” His first novel, American Dervish (Little, Brown & Co.), was published in over 20 languages. As a playwright, he has written Junk (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Kennedy Prize for American Drama, Tony nomination); Disgraced (Lincoln Center, Broadway; Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony nomination); The Who & The What (Lincoln Center); and The Invisible Hand (NYTW; Obie Award, Outer Critics Circle John Gassner Award, Olivier, and Evening Standard nominations).
Among other honors, Akhtar is the recipient of the Steinberg Playwrighting Award, the Nestroy Award, the Erwin Piscator Award, as well as fellowships from the American Academy in Rome, MacDowell, the Sundance Institute, and Yaddo, where he serves as a Board Director. Additionally, Ayad is a Board Trustee at New York Theatre Workshop and PEN America, where he serves as President.
Photo Credit: Vincent Tullo
MEENAKSHI NARULA AHAMED was born in 1954 in Calcutta, India. After finishing school in India, she obtained an MA from Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in 1978. She has had a varied career as a journalist, and prior to that, as a development consultant.
She has worked at the World Bank in Washington, DC, as well as for the Ashoka Society. In 1989, she moved to London and became the foreign correspondent for New Delhi Television (NDTV). After returning to the US in 1996, she worked as a freelance journalist. Her op-eds and articles have been published in The Asian Age, Seminar, Foreign Policy, The Wall Street Journal and The Washington Post.
She has served on the board of Doctors Without Borders, The Turquoise Mountain Foundation and Drugs for Neglected Diseases. She divides her time between the US and India.
Photo Credit: Tony Powell
New York Times best-selling author, TAYARI JONES, is the author four novels, most recently An American Marriage. Published in 2018, An American Marriage is an Oprah’s Book Club Selection and also appeared on Barack Obama’s summer reading list as well as his end of the year roundup. The novel was awarded the Women’s Prize for Fiction (formerly known as the Orange Prize), Aspen Words Prize and an NAACP Image Award. With over 500,000 copies in print domestically, it has been published in two dozen countries.
Jones, a member of the Fellowship of Southern Writers, has also been a recipient of the Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, United States Artist Fellowship, NEA Fellowship and Radcliffe Institute Bunting Fellowship. Her third novel, Silver Sparrow was added to the NEA Big Read Library of classics in 2016.
Jones is a graduate of Spelman College, University of Iowa, and Arizona State University. She is an A. D. White Professor at Large at Cornell University and a Professor of Creative Writing at Emory University.
Photo Credit: Nina Subin
JOHN LITHGOW has long been regarded as one of America’s most distinguished performers. He has made an indelible impression on audiences with his work in film, television and the theater. Lithgow is a prolific actor with two Tonys, six Emmys, two Golden Globes, three SAG Awards and two Oscar nominations. He has appeared in critically acclaimed films such as All That Jazz, The World According to Garp, Terms of Endearment and Bombshell. He has starred in the hit TV series 3rd Rock from the Sun, Dexter, The Crown, and the recent Perry Mason on HBO, and will soon be seen alongside Jeff Bridges in The Old Man, on FX. On stage, he has appeared in over twenty-five Broadway productions including The Changing Room, M. Butterfly, and the musicals Dirty Rotten Scoundrels and The Sweet Smell of Success.
Mr. Lithgow has written several best-selling children’s picture books for Simon & Schuster and his recordings for kids have landed him four Grammy nominations. He has written an acclaimed memoir, Drama: an Actor’s Education and two books of political humor Dumpty and Trumpty Dumpty Wanted a Crown, both New York Times Bestsellers. In the fall he will publish A Confederacy of Dumptys: American Scoundrels in Verse, completing a trilogy.
Mr. Lithgow also danced the role of the Elephant in Carnival of the Animals with the New York City Ballet and co-created a Times crossword puzzle.
Photo Credit: Robert Zuckerman
DELIA OWENS is the author of the #1 New York Times-bestselling phenomenon, Where the Crawdads Sing, which has sold over 10 million copies globally and was the bestselling book of 2019 and the bestselling novel of 2020. Where the Crawdads Sing held a spot on the New York Times bestsellers list for over two-and-a-half years and holds the record for the most time spent at #1 since 2008. Owens is also the coauthor of three internationally bestselling nonfiction books about her life as a wildlife scientist in Africa, including Cry of the Kalahari and Secrets of the Savanna. She received a Bachelor of Science degree in zoology from the University of Georgia and a Ph.D. in Animal Behavior from the University of California in Davis. Delia has won the John Burroughs Medal for Nature Writing and has been published in Nature, the African Journal of Ecology, and International Wildlife, among many others. She currently lives in North Carolina.
Photo Credit: (c) Dawn Marie Tucker
SUSAN ORLEAN is the author of eight books, including The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup; My Kind of Place; Saturday Night; and Lazy Little Loafers. In 1999, she published The Orchid Thief, a narrative about orchid poachers in Florida, which was made into the Academy Award-winning film “Adaptation” starring Nicolas Cage and Meryl Streep. Her book, Rin Tin Tin: The Life and the Legend, a New York Times Notable book, won the Ohioana Book Award and the Richard Wall Memorial Award. In 2018, she published The Library Book, about the arson fire at the Los Angeles Public Library. It won the California Book Award and the Marfield Prize, was nominated for the Andrew Carnegie Medal, and was a New York Times bestseller and Notable Book of 2018.
Orlean has been a staff writer for The New Yorker since 1992, and has also contributed to Vogue, Rolling Stone, Outside, Esquire, and The New York Times Magazine. She has written about taxidermy, fashion, umbrellas, origami, dogs, chickens, and a wide range of other subjects. She was a 2003 Nieman Fellow at Harvard University, and a 2014 Guggenheim Fellow. She is currently adapting The Library Book for television, and is a writer and associate producer of “How to With John Wilson” on HBO. She lives with her husband and son in Los Angeles.
Photo Credit: Noah Fecks
ISABEL ALLENDE —novelist, feminist, and philanthropist—is one of the most widely-read authors in the world, having sold more than 75 million books. Chilean born in Peru, Isabel won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her first novel, The House of the Spirits, which began as a letter to her dying grandfather. Since then, she has authored more than twenty-five bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including Daughter of Fortune, Island Beneath the Sea, Paula, The Japanese Lover, A Long Petal of the Sea and her most recent memoir, The Soul of a Woman. Translated into more than forty-two languages, Allende’s works entertain and educate readers by interweaving imaginative stories with significant historical events.
In addition to her work as a writer, Allende devotes much of her time to human rights causes. In 1996, following the death of her daughter Paula, she established a charitable foundation in her honor, which has awarded grants to more than 100 nonprofits worldwide, delivering life-changing care to hundreds of thousands of women and girls. More than 8 million have watched her TED Talks on leading a passionate life.
She has received fifteen honorary doctorates, including one from Harvard University, was inducted into the California Hall of Fame, received the PEN Center Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Anisfield-Wolf Lifetime Achievement Award.
In 2014, President Barack Obama awarded Allende the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor, and in 2018 she received the Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters from the National Book Foundation. She lives in California.
Photo Credit: Lori Barra
SARAH SENTILLES is a writer, teacher, critical theorist, scholar of religion, and author of many books, including Stranger Care and Draw Your Weapons, which won the 2018 PEN Award for Creative Nonfiction. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Oprah Magazine, Ms., Religion Dispatches, Oregon ArtsWatch, and the Los Angeles Review of Books, among other publications. She’s had residencies at Hedgebrook and Yaddo. She earned a bachelor’s degree at Yale and master’s and doctoral degrees at Harvard. She is the co-founder of the Alliance of Idaho, which works to protect the human rights of immigrants by engaging in education, outreach, and advocacy at local, state, and national levels.
At the core of her scholarship, writing, and activism is a commitment to investigating the roles language, images, and practices play in oppression, violence, social transformation, and justice movements. She has taught at Pacific Northwest College of Art, Portland State University, California State University Channel Islands, and Willamette University, where she was the Mark and Melody Teppola Presidential Distinguished Visiting Professor. She teaches writing workshops and works one-on-one with clients to help support their art, writing, and creativity.
Photo Credit: Gia Goodrich
RICHARD BLANCO is the fifth presidential inaugural poet in U.S. history—the youngest, first Latino, immigrant, and gay person to serve in such a role. Born in Madrid to Cuban exile parents and raised in Miami, the negotiation of cultural identity and place characterize his body of work.
He is the author of the poetry collections Looking for the Gulf Motel, Directions to the Beach of the Dead, and City of a Hundred Fires; the poetry chapbooks Matters of the Sea, One Today, and Boston Strong; a children’s book of his inaugural poem, “One Today,” illustrated by Dav Pilkey; and Boundaries, a collaboration with photographer Jacob Hessler.
His latest book of poems, How to Love a Country (Beacon Press, 2019), both interrogates the American narrative, past and present, and celebrates the still unkept promise of its ideals. He has also authored the memoirs The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood and For All of Us, One Today: An Inaugural Poet’s Journey. Blanco’s many honors include the Agnes Lynch Starrett Poetry Prize from the University of Pittsburgh Press, the PEN/Beyond Margins Award, the Paterson Poetry Prize, a Lambda Literary Award, and two Maine Literary Awards.
He has been a Woodrow Wilson Visiting Fellow and received honorary doctorates from Macalester College, Colby College, and the University of Rhode Island. He has been featured on CBS Sunday Morning and NPR’s Fresh Air. The Academy of American Poets named him its first Education Ambassador in 2015.
Blanco has continued to write occasional poems for organizations and events such as the re-opening of the U.S. embassy in Havana. He lives with his partner in Bethel, ME.
Photo Credit: Timothy Greenfield-Sanders
Sarah M. Broom
SARAH M. BROOM is the author of The Yellow House, a New York Times bestseller and winner of the 2019 National Book Award for Nonfiction, the National Book Critics Circle John Leonard Prize, and 2021 PEN Awards Finalist. She has contributed to the New Yorker, New York Times Magazine, Oxford American, and O, The Oprah Magazine, among others. She received her Master’s in Journalism from the University of California, Berkeley, and has been awarded fellowships from the Djerassi Resident Artists Program and The MacDowell Colony. She lives in Harlem with her partner, filmmaker Dee Rees, and a tiny brown dog.
Photo Credit: Adam Shemper
“SVWC is everything I love in one place, during one week…I find that the most unique part of the conference is its enormous heart. The conversations and interactions renew me spiritually and make me want to keep reaching, however impractical and distant the goal might be. SVWC is my church.”
– Firoozeh Dumas