The 28th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea is just around the corner.
The Symposium by the Sea will be extra special this year, featuring Pulitzer-winning writers William Finnegan, Anthony Doerr, Maria Hinojosa, and N. Scott Momaday. San Diego Writers Festival organizers had the pleasure of talking with Dean Nelson, Ph. D., director of the Journalism Program at Point Loma Nazarene University and the director of the Writer's Symposium by the Sea, to learn about this year's show!
SD Writers Festival — Five-Question Interview
1) When did the Symposium begin? What led to you saying, "Hey, I think I want to do this!"
When I was in grad school at Ohio University, the school had a week where they brought back significant writers, journalists, and filmmakers. So I wanted to try to do something similar. The first year, 1995, we brought in local writers to talk about craft. But what really launched the format we use now, where I interview the writer, was when I asked local writer Joseph Wambaugh to come give a talk. He said no, but then said he would come if someone just wanted to ask him questions. That event was such a success that I thought we had landed on a formula that could work from year to year. Thanks, Joe! All of the interviews have been recorded and televised by UCSD-TV, and they've been viewed more than five million times.
2) Can you tell us a little about this year's program; Who are your guests?
This year every one of our writers has won a Pulitzer Prize.
Anthony Doerr, whose book All The Light We Cannot See is one of the most highly praised books in recent history. It is being made into an HBO series. Personally, I think his most recent book, Cloud Cuckoo Land, is even more stunning.
Bill Finnegan is a long-time writer for the New Yorker, and his book Barbarian Days is about surfing. We have a built-in audience right there!
Maria Hinojosa can do everything. Her work on NPR's Latino USA is brilliant, and so is her podcast Suave (which won the Pulitzer this year), and so is her reporting about the border and immigration. Plus, she's an entrepreneur, plus she's written books that are quite moving.
N. Scott Momaday is one of the most celebrated Native American writers in the U.S. I started reading his work when I was in high school. He's still a phenomenal storyteller, and his stories about our connection to our land and heritage are more poignant now than ever.
Can you tell how stoked I am about these writers?
3) What makes you most excited about this program?
I love engaging writers in discussions about craft. These aren't readings — they're in-depth conversations about their work and the importance of storytelling. I love it when audiences leave these events inspired to become storytellers themselves. And I PROMISE you that you'll be inspired as writers. That's what gets me excited. Plus, they're all really interesting people. You'll see a side to them that you don't necessarily get in the curated settings.
4) Can you share a little bit of the behind the scenes; How do you approach and create each year's program?
First of all, I approach each writer with an invitation that shows them how this Symposium is different from most writers' conferences and workshops. Each event is a celebration in storytelling. I prepare by trying to read every book the writer has written, in the order the books appeared, so I can get a sense of that writer's evolution. I look for big themes and insights. What we'll be celebrating at our next Symposium is creativity, heritage, diversity, and STORIES!
5) Do you have any tips on how to best enjoy the Symposium? (When to arrive, places to eat, or any other tips?)
The PLNU campus is so beautiful. There are many open spaces, such as our Greek Amphitheater, where you can come in the late afternoon, have a picnic, and watch the sun set over the ocean. Or you can just walk the campus and enjoy the scenery and our friendly students. Several writers groups come in the afternoon and have their meeting here, then go to the interview together. Parking is always an issue, so I recommend being on campus by 6, which is when the auditorium doors open. We have special music for each of the nights, so when you come early, you get the additional benefit of hearing great music.
Dates for the event are Monday, February 20-Friday, February 24, 2023.
Tickets are on sale at https://www.pointloma.edu/events/28th-annual-writers-symposium-sea
Dr. Dean Nelson is a past Odin Award recipient and a long-time members of the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild.