History

The Community of Writers was established in 1969 by novelists Blair Fuller and Oakley Hall, who were both residents of the valley. It was originally staffed by a band of San Francisco writers including David Perlman, Walter Ballenger, Barnaby Conrad and John Leggett, the latter two of whom went on to found, respectively, the Santa Barbara Writers Conference and the Napa Valley Writers Conference. The Community of Writers continues to be directed by Brett Jones.

Over the years the community has mounted workshops in Fiction, Nonfiction, Screenwriting, Playwriting, Poetry, and Nature Writing (the Art of the Wild, co-produced by Jack Hicks and University of California at Davis), and Writing the Medical Experience directed by David Watts. Lisa Alvarez and Louis B. Jones now co-direct the Fiction Program and Michael Carlisle directs the nonfiction Program of the Writers Workshop, which were for twenty years directed by Carolyn Doty. Diana Fuller directed the Screenwriters Workshop, founded in 1974 by screenwriters Tom Rickman and Gill Dennis until 2014. Galway Kinnell directed the Poetry Program from 1984-2003, Robert Hass has directed the program from 2004 – 2020. Brenda Hillman who guest-directed the Poetry program every other year, became director in 2021 when Hass retired.

In 2020, due the the COVID-19 pandemic, what was to be the 50th Anniversary session of the Community of Writers was cancelled. However, the Poetry Workshop was moved entirely online, and was very much unchanged from the traditional model save the poet soft-ball game and the jump in the cold Lake Tahoe. The Virtual Valley was born, a venue for Poets and Writers in the community to be able to gather for readings, workshops, individual conferences and more, entirely online. The very large Writers Workshop week couldn’t move online, so two small workshops were mounted online instead. Fiction and Memoir.

The move online into the Virtual Valley, was entirely successful. More offerings were developed for isolated writers and poets during the lockdown and beyond. Weekend intensives, micro-workshops, individual conferences (First Aid), poetry readings, panel discussions on craft and a literary festival which were begun in 2020, continued into 2021.