It has always been our goal to create, out of our summer meetings, a community that nourishes and supports a diversity of writers and poets at all stages of their development. We are a seasonal gathering, each member belonging to other home communities, aligned with other institutions. There, many of us are deeply engaged in the classrooms, streets, community centers, the halls of government and, of course, as we are writers, on the page.
Part of our mission has been to erase obstacles for emerging writers of color to attend a workshop such as ours. We are proud of the wide range of voices and stories which populate our alumni pages.
We have always felt that what we were doing addressed the multicultural life of this country in deep ways and we have reason to be proud of the stories, poems, essays, and films that have been produced over fifty years by the staff and participants in this community, including work by some of our most gifted Asian-American, Black, Latinx, disabled and LGBTQ+ writers.
This last painful year has made it clear that what we have been doing has not been enough. New behaviors require new visions.
Our Board of Directors and leadership has been taking a deep look at our policies and practices, formal and informal, in order to strengthen these efforts. This process has been humbling, enlightening, and has revealed that we still have a way to go. We have examined how our Community’s culture has allowed for some participants to experience exclusion, disrespect, and microaggressions during the workshops.
We want to give you an update on our anti-racist goals, to tell you what we have accomplished, and what we continue to work on.
- Our Board of Directors continues the important work of giving diverse leaders representation and leadership roles on our Board of Directors. Our literary committee continues to identify and seek to hire more diverse staff writers, agents and editors, and to increase our outreach and scholarships to attract more writers from underrepresented communities.
- We changed the name of our workshop by dropping the long-used common place name. We recognize this name has been a painful and derogatory legacy which has been disrespectful to the Native American community and goes against everything we stand for. We will now be known as the Community of Writers. We are pleased to report that the resort where we have our workshops announced this fall that they will also be dropping that name from their organization and marketing materials. For now, we will call the place Olympic Valley or just the Valley.
- Through consultations with the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California Historic Preservation Office and Cultural Resources Office, we have developed a Native American Land-Use Statement. In addition, we are writing a brief History of the Valley to educate our visitors about the indigenous Americans who lived and found a living here in the Valley.
- We are deeply committed to building new, and sustaining current, essential partnerships which will help us reach deeper into underserved communities to find poets and writers with voices that contribute to the diversification of the country’s narrative. We continue to work to establish and nourish a wide-range of scholarships.
- We are developing materials for participants, as well as training staff on sensitivity, inclusion, and other issues, including best practices for workshop leaders.
- We are developing policies to assist participants at the workshop to report negative experiences in real-time. Participants are encouraged to use several available ways to give us feedback. We are also developing policies for dealing with those issues as they arise. We want to listen, in order to make our workshops fruitful, enjoyable and safe for all our participants. We know these mechanisms can’t solve every issue that arises, but they will help us learn how to make these issues less likely.
We will continue to do what we have done that has worked – raise funds to support writers of color, and work to further diversify our board and staff. We will continue to listen, and keep learning and adapting to make the workshop experience positive, fruitful and inclusive for all our participants.
—The Community of Writers