Sierra College hosts the 2021 Virtual Sierra Writers Conference – Empowering Voices


While writing may be viewed as a solitary endeavor by some, there is much to be learned by listening to and learning from those who have experienced success with the craft. In support of such endeavors, Sierra College, in partnership with Sierra Writers, and sponsored by Sierra Press, will host the Virtual Sierra Writers Conference this weekend. The conference is being held online Friday, Feb. 5 and Saturday, Feb. 6 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. each day and promises to inspire, inform and empower those who attend.

While some interaction and networking opportunities are limited in online conferencing, one benefit is the ability to bring world renowned authors to the participants. Lynette Vrooman, Professor of English at Sierra College, Nevada County Campus, is the conference coordinator. She said this year the theme of the conference is Empowering Voices.

“Each workshop is designed to address that topic in some way,” said Vrooman. “The Friday lineup really addresses issues with writing, while Saturday features additional workshops along with two keynote speakers we are very proud of and feel very fortunate to be able to offer to the community because they are pretty big names.”

Those names are best-selling author, musician and screenwriter James McBride, whose memoir, “The Color of Water,” was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years; and Dr. Bettina Love who is an award-winning author, researcher, teacher and activist.

Best-selling author, musician and screenwriter James McBride, whose memoir, “The Color of Water,” was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years, will speak at the virtual Writers Conference.
Provided photo
Award-winning author, researcher, teacher and activist Dr. Bettina Love.
Photo by Tiffany M. Stubbs

The conference kicks off Friday with Ian Hadley of 916 Ink.

Ian Hadley of 916 Ink.
Provided photo

“This is a local group in the Sacramento area that works with youth to empower them through writing,” explained Vrooman. “Because we know that people who are good communicators, people who have the ability to communicate well through writing or in conversation, are empowered. They tend to do better in school and better overall, so the goal of 916 Ink is to empower youth through writing activities. We are excited to have them.”

Other workshops are presented by area writers who have a variety of experiences and gifts to offer attendees. Vrooman said a combination of writers will speak on a variety of topics — from establishing voice and a sustainable writing practice to how to promote your work.


About the conference

Started in 2016 as a collaboration between Sierra College and the local group, Sierra Writers, the conference has been a fixture in the local writing scene since. Vrooman was teaching a creative writing class that included then president of Sierra Writers as a student. Together they developed the conference, now in its sixth year. She said the conference is reasonably priced and free for some.

“Current Sierra College students and staff can attend for free but community members to have to pay a fee. Friday is $10 and Saturday is $20.”


For a complete list of workshops, conference schedule and other information go to

Sign up at for each day and to submit work for the critique workshops.

To open the day Saturday morning, Dr. Bettina Love will be joining the conference from Georgia. Vrooman said she will speak to the audience about writing for social justice.

Closing the conference from New York, James McBride will be speaking on the topic of writing as an empowerment of voice Saturday afternoon. Of McBride, Vrooman said, “His memoir is about his experiences of growing up without money in a mixed-race family and the difficulties therein. But he also has written books that help us laugh through difficult situations. “

While she feels each workshop is a “not-to-be-missed” opportunity, Vrooman is especially excited about critique sessions that are also being offered.

“The conference has workshops where people will be able to listen to the writers speak and they will be able to ask questions of the writers, but the critique sessions offered Friday afternoon are for people who wish to work with a professional writer to improve their personal writing.”

Different from the conference, these critique sessions are limited to five people. During each session a writer works with a professional on their work specifically for a separate fee. Vrooman said different professionals will tackle specific genres.

“We have memoir, fiction, flash fiction and poetry. We have amazing writers: Sands Hall, Catharine Bramkampf, Rachel Rose Teferet, Ben Preston, Lisa Dominguez Abraham and Kim Culbertson who will work with writers, specifically on their writing. For $30, this is an amazing price.”

Sands Hall
Catharine Bramkampf
Rachel Rose Teferet
Ben Preston
Kim Culbertson
Lisa Dominguez Abraham

According to Vrooman, one of the goals of the Sierra Writers Conference is to make these types of activities accessible to more people.

“To make it inexpensive, unlike other conferences there is no vetting process, people get to participate, you don’t have to submit work to attend, that sort of thing. This is really a community of writers.”

For a complete list of workshops, conference schedule and other information go to

Hollie Grimaldi Flores is a Nevada County resident and freelance writer for hire, as well as a podcaster at HollieGrams. You can hear her episodes at She can be reached at holliesallwrite@


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