Having been to the Community of Writers twice now, I can say that my morning workshops proved to be challenging, stimulating, instructive and fun, while the afternoon sessions offered a treasury of craft insights. Best of all, the openness of the writers, editors, agents and staff was a joy to experience.
The poetry scholarship fund has been instrumental to my growth as a poet and human. I first attended in 1995, and then again this past year, 2019. The work being done here, the fluidity of kindnesses, the careful attention, and gentle edits...all of it—have been significant contributions to my life lessons.
A wonderfully-intensive and rich week of writing workshops, discussions, panels, readings, and social events, all of which continues to resonate as I now return to the writing desk. The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley offers an inspiring and nurturing atmosphere for writers of diverse genres and voices; its imprint within the writing world is both unique and indelible.
Attending the Community of Writers workshop proved to be a foundational and significant cornerstone in my development as a writer. I can trace back to the exact date in that valley high in the Sierra, when I came to recognize myself as a writer, surrounded by poets who would later become some of my closest friends. It was there where I realized the importance of building community and where I cemented my identity as a writer. The community of writers is indeed a community and over the years, it has felt like family. I’ve grown tremendously and I owe a lot of the credit for my first three books to that community in the valley. Maybe it’s the mountain air that makes that place so special, that rejuvenates me with a renewed vigor to keep writing. I know I will keep coming back for many years to come.
Squaw Valley affirmed all three parts of what I consider my own writing life: the writing life itself, the research, and the reading. My proudest moment to date took place at Squaw, where my new friend approached me, teary-eyed, and said she now understood her own daughter’s mind more closely, after having read my work. Squaw Valley has given me the confidence and stamina to write nonfiction—and to own it, as a genre.
For all my schooling, it's clear the impossibility of articulating the exact measure of my gratitude for such a life-altering experience as Squaw Valley. Forget exact: even approximation would require language that still seems inadequate. I'm going to carry Squaw in my heart the whole of my life.
"As a recipient of the Lucille Clifton Memorial Scholarship, I was able to make the long journey from New York to California to encounter an incredible faculty whose poems had already nurtured my poetic life. The workshops were humanizing in a way that’s difficult to explain. I was inspired by the community and the landscape. I wrote poems that otherwise may have never been unearthed. It was truly a blessing."
A life-changing week on the mountain... Now that I'm back in
the real world, I find myself wishing I had another week just to sit with my
notes and thoughts and reflect upon all that happened. I know that I will continue to unpack it, in small ways, over time and use it when needed to guide me through my writing life for years to come.
As a new mother, the reality of leaving my toddler for the first time was anxious-making, but thanks to the Ancinas Scholarship, which not only afforded me the opportunity, but also provided much needed validation, I learned so much from my fellow writers, the faculty, and staff, who are each profoundly dedicated to writing. To put to words everything I gained during those six days, living, breathing, dialoging a writer’s life, would require an excavation of heart, soul, and mind. My time in the Sierras re-calibrated my artist's compass, renewed my commitment to the craft, and widened my writing and reading consciousness. It was difficult to part from my home and family, but CoW proved I can be a loved and loving member of multiple families.
"I had the opportunity to learn from inspiring writers and to meet industry experts. I was able to receive feedback from a group of exceptional writers, probably the most talented group with whom I’ve had the privilege to work. Throughout the week, standards were high, and each writer I met showed an uncommon dedication to his or her craft. I have never felt more at home."
"I really appreciate the hard work, dedication, and love that the Community of Writers put into the workshop. It’s no overstatement to say that it changed my life. I could see the thought and care that went into each event, and I’m grateful to have been a part of this experience."
The panels were stellar and workshop taught me so much. But I think what surprised me was the genuine, positive and happy people in the office and behind the podium. The atmosphere was informal and comfortable, and all this made the Community of Writers feel like a separate space from the world outside of Squaw.
"It was a week that can only be described as magical! I was inspired every second of every day during my time with the Community of Writers. The general vibe of this workshop is both warm and motivating, full of love and confidence, building both our art and our business. When describing my week to my family in San Diego the following Tuesday, I said simply ‘It was the best week of my life."
"I was truly humbled by the company of such talented, giving writers in which I was included. Squaw is a truly special place of beauty in every sense of the word."
The opportunity to gather with seventy other poets to write—and celebrate writing in community—was powerfully transformative. To witness other would-be-conscious souls negotiate and find voice amidst the flood of impressions coming in from our tumultuous and violent landscape (politically and socially), was deeply inspirational, and even healing. […] my week within the Community of Writers was one of the poetically richest of my life. My belief in the vitality and necessity of poetry in our world is stronger than ever.
True to its name, the Community of Writers offers a sense of camaraderie with other writers that I have never experienced anywhere else. Our workshop leaders were thoughtful and constructive, offering sensitive, insightful comments while maintain a warm and nurturing tone throughout. The challenge of writing a new poem every day could have been isolating; at the Community of Writers, however, it felt exhilarating. Inspired by the level of talent and the solidarity I felt with my classmates, I was empowered to take creative risks and let my work grow in new directions.
Every day during the Poetry week, I risked something, and every day my poems opened into something I didn't know was possible. The most important thing is that they were not only creative risks, but deep, emotional ones as well.
"Quite simply, it was one of the most inspiring and educational times of my writing life. The staff set such a loving, positive tone for the week, and the entire writing faculty followed suit. And to me, this was the central message: Writing is important, vital work."
Upon being accepted into the Community of Writers you actually do become part of a community. Of necessity writing is solitary work, but once embraced by the Community of Writers one need not feel that daunting sense of being alone. CW continues to reach out and send posts about members of the community and there are so many new contacts from the experience that you come away with a vast pool of new resources for seemingly all aspects of your own work. The Community is a special gift to yourself as a serious writer.
Some months after participating in the Community of Writers, I can say I am still filled with a new generative energy. Some days, I think back and feel that hot dry air of the Squaw Valley lingering in my nose and lungs, a place in my center opens up a little. The day, the work, feels a little more possible. It is a testament to the love and support, creative encouragement and inspiration I felt there.
"Squaw is wonderfully open and free of all that hierarchy business. At Squaw, we are all writers."
“I can’t tell you what a wonderful time I had. It was such an open, generous, heartfelt week and I’m very grateful to have been part of it.”
As promised, ‘community’ was the keyword of the week. I cannot remember another professional event in which I felt as welcomed and encouraged by everyone I met. The experience at Squaw Valley was immeasurably beneficial not only to my writing but also to my growth as a reader, listener, and community member. That is, it left me a better human.
As a biracial daughter of a Mexican immigrant, my writing explores themes of loneliness, alienation, and longing for an imagined future. Thanks to the support of the Ancinas Family Scholarship I have made new friends, formed a new reading and critique group, and regained confidence in my craft. I know I will continue to learn and grow from the connections I've made at the Community of Writers.
"I felt like I received an intense MFA in one week."
As a serious writer I’ve been to good workshops and great workshops. The Community of Writers at Squaw Valley is exceptional. There, in addition to having intense learning experiences in workshops with my own work, I met agents, editors, well known authors, all there for the express purpose of helping us, the writers. These opportunities were golden. They ratcheted me up to the next level, a place I had not been able to attain on my own.
"It was an enormously inspiring and encouraging week, from which I continue to draw energy and insight. Though the word 'community' gets bandied about a lot, in Squaw Valley it felt like more than a word. I could feel the real bonds of friendship, collegiality, and affection that both hold this community together and attract kindred spirits."
Poets are often isolated from each other. To interact with so many of them, to be able to talk about problems of language that ordinarily people just roll their eyes at was like coming home after a long absence. The experience created a communion that stays with me still, providing a vital antidote to that isolation.
"By far, the best writing workshop I've ever been to — from the beautiful surroundings and my great housemates to the craft lectures that inspired me and the workshops that taught me so much about poetry and poetics. The housing, the facilities, the straightforward manner of how you cared for us — and all the other details were a perfect foundation for me to focus on my own writing and creativity. The workshop renewed my writing life."
My heart is full from the generosity that I experienced from so many talented authors, who spent so much time considering my writing and sharing so candidly. From my individual conference, to my workshop leaders, to the nonfiction workshop participants, to my housemate, I consistently felt that thought and tremendous care had been placed into all the partnerships I encountered. It was also the first time I experienced a conference where the workshop leaders changed daily, and although at first I was uncertain about such a format, I was so pleased at how much every facilitator brought to the table each day that was uniquely their own, and how precisely each addressed a different need of the group. The level of engagement of every staff person I worked with was inspiring and encouraged everyone to similarly give in their readings and participation. I came away with so many notes and reading lists that I know will carry my work forward for many months to come, but also with a solid group of writers (a community!) I know I can call on and whose opinion I trust--and this is priceless.
"I couldn’t have been luckier in finding the Squaw Valley community. The opportunity to work with some of the best poets writing in the English language, their guidance, support, and the uniquely nurturing environment of this workshop have been a sustaining force in my work for over two decades."
"I think of my time at the Community of Writers with such fondness --- the ways in which my poems cracked open there, new breath, new light.”
If you would like to send us a testimonial, we would welcome that!