A half century strong: Community of Writers workshop returns to Squaw

For more than a half century the Truckee-Tahoe area has hosted a gathering of renowned writers for workshops and other events aimed at propelling the careers of novelists, poets, screenwriters and others.

Entering its 51st year in the area, Community of Writers Fiction Workshop returns Saturday to Olympic Valley with Festival Day. Several authors will give lectures, readings, and other discussions during a daylong event.

The Community of Writers Fiction Workshop, formerly called the Squaw Valley Writers Institute, was launched in 1969 by novelists Blair Fuller and Oakley Hall, whose novel “Warlock” was a finalist for the 1958 Pulitzer Prize. Hall settled in Squaw Valley in the late 1950s and the location inspired some of his works such as “Downhill Racers.”

This year’s Festival Day, which is largely virtual, will start Saturday at The Village at Squaw Valley at 8:30 a.m. and will run until 7 p.m.

Writers being highlighted this year include Amy Tan, who has several New York Times bestsellers, including “The Joy Luck Club.” Tan, along with actress Anna Deavere Smith, will be the marquee event, joining together for a conversation.

“Decades after attending the workshop as participants, the two are reunited in support of our 50-year-old summer writing workshops,” said organizers in a news release.

Additionally, Will Richardson, of the Tahoe Institute for Natural Science, will take guests on a virtual nature walk in Paige Meadows. Bestselling novelist Janet Fitch opens the event with a talk titled “Writing with the Senses.” She is then followed by talks on how nonprofits overcame the challenges of the past year. Also featured will be a celebration of the late screenwriter Gill Dennis.

The “Finding the Story” workshop, a talk by novelist Michelle Latiolais, will examine fiction, nonfiction and screenwriting techniques, and include staff reading from their own work. Tom Barbash will lead a “Deep Dive into a Short Story.”

The festival will conclude with a special reading by former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass, and music by the CE Trio, as well as Louis B. Jones, Sands Hall, Caridwen Irvine-Spatz and Greg Spatz.

The event is free to the public, but a $35 donation is suggested.

Justin Scacco is a reporter for the Sierra Sun. Contact him at or 530-550-2643


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