Poems, photocopiers, poetry elves, vegan muffins, handmade tablecloths, softball games, nature walks past roaring snowmelt waterfalls, quaking aspen trees, a live-streamed Benefit Poetry Reading, boxes and boxes of manuscripts, masks! masks! masks!, wild flower-festooned pinecones, the Paul Radin Memorial Dream Wagon, musicians, shade tents and buckets of sand, a dock at Lake Tahoe, recitations under the stars, a staged reading! What a joy it was to return to our beautiful valley in person.
This year in particular stood out among many wonderful sessions. In addition to it being our first year back in the Valley in three years, the joy of being together again in person in this beautiful place, the high caliber of the work, and the deep commitment to community, made this session particularly memorable.
We are grateful to our generous teaching staff members in Poetry, Fiction and Nonfiction who make the summer workshops an unforgettable and productive experience. Thanks to our program directors: Lisa Alvarez, Michael Carlisle, Sands Hall, Brenda Hillman, and Louis B. Jones. And thanks in particular to Sands for her leadership and for organizing the fabulous Follies! Thanks as well to Gary Giddens, husband of participant Beth Giddens, who skillfully ran the sound for the Follies.
Our Special Guests deserve a shout out for the gift of their presence in the Valley: Meg Waite Clayton, Frances Dinkelspiel, Karen Joy Fowler, Andrew Nicholls, Kris O’Shee, Julia Flynn Siler, Jordan Fisher Smith, Caridwen Irvine Spatz, Amy Tan and Dora Wang, who, as a physician, served as an unofficial advice-giver and comfort regarding all things COVID.
Patricia K. Meyer and Megan Fay Raveneau joined us again this summer to teach their special class “The Alchemy of Adaptation.” A big thank you to Diana Fuller, who founded and shepherded this program from a full screenwriting program to an adaptation program for fiction and nonfiction writers.
Andrew Tonkovich was essential every step of the way: from the management of all the manuscripts during registration, to moderating panels, he was central to it all.
We mourned the loss of one of our beloved friends this summer: Al Young. Many thanks to Lisa Alvarez for organizing the event, as well as Andrew Tonkovich and Louis B. Jones for their tributes, and thanks to longtime participant and friend of the community Joe Heinrich, whose tribute was read by fellow participant and boy-camper of the week, Jordan Brown.
Many thanks to Ashlyn Hardie, Katherine Plocharzyk and L Tonkovich, who worked our pop-up bookstore in the Dream Wagon during the Poetry and Writers Workshops weeks. Thanks to our friend Siig of Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema for helping us move the Dream Wagon. And thanks to Dashiell Jones and Kat Feiling for creating a bit of home in our humble snack bar. And thanks to Kaitlin Klaussen and Audrey Rawson for help with housing and registration day!
Our Elves (and all-around helpers) were Kat Feiling, Antonia Fuller, Lindsey Gordon, Ashlyn Hardie, Dashiell Jones, Michaela Korn, Katherine Plocharzyk, and L Tonkovich. With high energy and good spirits, they all made things happen seamlessly.
L helped us record events and will soon be putting them on our website as podcasts. Lindsey, Hunter and Eva organized the Poetry Picnic this year at Skylandia Beach, with help from all the elves.
A big thank you to all of our work-waivers, especially Gauri Awasthi, Luz Casquejo Johnston, Loisa Fenichell, Katarina Lapoll, Natasha Rao, Mark Spero, and Martha Yates for their help all week.
The Benefit Poetry Reading took place in Olympic Valley in June, on the Thursday evening during Poetry Week, and many thanks are in order, to Hunter Jones who made real my hope to create our first-ever live-streamed benefit. Sands Hall who emceed the event, as well as the seven participating poets: Camille Dungy, Robert Hass, Brenda Hillman, Major Jackson, Ada Limón, Sharon Olds and Matthew Zapruder. A heartfelt thanks especially to Jared and Julia Drake of Wildbound Media for all of their brilliant work producing the event and immersing our virtual audience in our mountain community. To view the video, click here. Thanks as well to our sponsors of this event: Tahoe Art Haus and Cinema, Word After Word Books, and PUBS WHO DONATED!! This event benefits our Poetry Scholarship Fund, which we look to expand each year in the face of rising costs. We have tremendous gratitude to everyone who came to the event in person or online to support this project. Donations welcome.
We were delighted to welcome back published alums to read from their new work: Caroline Frost, Gail Reitano, Katherine Seligman. Thank you for making the trek out here to share your work with us!
Due to last minute, COVID-related staff cancelations, we would like to thank all of the Writers Workshop teaching staff who stepped in and volunteered to cover gaps in the schedule of events and workshop schedule, in order to create a seamless experience for our participants. You know who you are! Special thanks to Karen Joy Fowler for stepping in to give a brilliant Opening Talk, Rachel Howard who drove up from Nevada City to lead a morning workshop, and to Amy Tan who stepped in at the last minute and gave a stunning reading from her book Where the Past Begins: A Writer’s Memoir.
We would like to acknowledge our friends who have been tremendously generous with their time and local support over the years: Mimi Miller, Eddy & Osvaldo Ancinas, and Amy Tan & Lou Demattei. Thanks also to alum and friend Bob Austin for his generous wine donation.
Many thanks to the Board of Directors: a person in my position couldn’t ask for a more responsive, generous and wise Board, especially president Carlin Naify. Thanks as well to board members Jim Naify, Nancy and Fred Teichert, and Julia Flynn Siler, for digging in and helping with various events. Deep gratitude to our literary committee led by board vice president Alex Espinoza, along with Lisa Alvarez, Dana Johnson, Louis B. Jones, Michelle Latiolais, Margaret Wilkerson Sexton, and Oscar Villalon, for helping us create a more inclusive and responsive community.
I want to thank my year-round colleagues Hunter Jones and Eva Melas who did so much to make these workshops shine. As well as her usual duties, Eva managed our pop-up bookshop as well as deftly organizing the lodging for all the participants and staff. Hunter took on a myriad of roles too numerous to name but which included planning for our first-ever pandemic onsite conference and all that entails including safe and pleasant outdoor spaces, sound system, creating the hybrid benefit event, and so much more. They deserve a restful vacation soon!
We are deeply grateful to our participants and staff. You showed respect and care for one another by following our COVID protocols. We are so glad to have had a safe and healthy summer. We want to thank you for your patience through all the site challenges; from ski-area construction noise to wildfire smoke to windblown roaming tents and, in June, rain and snowfall—all of you made these workshops memorable through your warmth and good will. We at the Community of Writers can only do so much to create the circumstances of a good workshop session, but ultimately it is our teaching staff and participants who make the week so wonderful.
And to our Donors: What a community this is! Your support is essential to this thing we do.
With love and gratitude,
-Brett Hall Jones