When one of Sun Valley’s most beloved events was forced to cancel last year, they bounced right back to find new ways to share valuable stories with the community. Organizers and speakers at the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference (SVWC), which is entering its 27th year this summer, pivoted to digital opportunities like podcast episodes, blog posts and video content as COVID-19 halted in-person gatherings. While the conference succeeded in creating digital content for a wide audience, partnering with writers all over the world, they nevertheless missed the one-of-a-kind experience of summers in Sun Valley. This year, however, the Writers’ Conference is back for four days of face-to-face gatherings at the Sun Valley Pavilion.
For this upcoming summer, the Writers’ Conference has been divided into two sessions, one on July 17 and one on July 19. While talks will be held in the Sun Valley Pavilion, they will also be broadcasted to the Pavilion lawn, where attendees can listen for free (with advance registration and assigned seating). For anyone more comfortable watching from home, they can also tune in to the Writers’ Conference website for streamed talks.
This year’s Conference presenters include esteemed authors, journalists and poets like Isabel Allende, George Packer, Delia Owens, John Lithgow and Tayari Jones, among others. Some of these writers have already been featured on the SVWC podcast, “Beyond the Page: The Best of the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference.” Narrated by SVWC Literary Director John Burnham Schwartz and in partnership with LitHub, the podcast delves into past conference talks and interviews speaker alumni, connecting a broader community with the knowledge and inspiration of SVWC presenters.
Over the past year, this theme of accessibility has permeated the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference goals and hopes for the future. Beyond expanding summer talks to the Pavilion lawn for free and broadcasting the talks online, SVWC is also partnering with The Community Library to launch the Summer Speaker Series, which will offer four free writer talks to the community in July. Carrie Lightner, Associate Director of Operations for the Conference, said, “Our summer event in Sun Valley is the pinnacle and is our identity, but we’ve really gotten excited about expanding our social media, our website and our digital offerings so that we can stay in people’s rotation throughout the year.”
Lightner also acknowledges the unique experience that the in-person Conference offers to both writers and attendees. “The place of Sun Valley is so important to our event and our identity that it’s hard to just be online,” she said. Lightner and the rest of the SVWC team are making it work, implementing COVID-19 safety protocol and even exceeding local, state and federal compliance guidelines. For Lightner and many others, a summer conference in Sun Valley is totally worth it. “[There’s] something about being in this setting in July at the stunning Pavilion with Baldy in the background. [We’re] drinking in these inspiring ideas and listening to all the writers talk about their process[…] We’re so lucky to be surrounded by all of the physical, literal beauty in the nature of Sun Valley but also in the creative beauty of the presenters.”
With so much to absorb over the course of the four days at the Sun Valley Writers’ Conference, organizers and speakers hope you will tune in—whether it be in-person at the Pavilion, on the lawn or from your home. With expansive outreach to new and engaged attendees, both virtually and physically, SVWC is poised to have another amazing Sun Valley summer.