Saturday, 25 May 2024

Napa Valley Writers

NAPA VALLEY “I often hear people in the community clamoring for a good lecture series,” commented Anne Evans, managing director of the Napa Valley College Napa Valley Writers’ Conference.

“We have a great one, right here, this summer a series of eight stimulating lectures, from leading novelists and poets, speaking on a wide range of subjects,” Evans said. “They’re bound to appeal whether you’re a writer, a reader, or just passionate about art and ideas.”

The lectures will run Monday, July 28 through Thursday, July 31, at the Napa Valley College’s Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena. (For a full schedule, see

Tickets for the lectures are $25 when reserved in advance or $30 at the door. Advance reservations are recommended.

The prize-winning poets and novelists prepare a lecture about whatever is most compelling to them at the moment. “As a result, the lectures offer a kind of snapshot or Rorschach test of where our culture is at the moment, when it comes to arts and letters,” said Evans.

In the 1990s, Evans explained, the writers seemed to focus more on the craft of writing, whereas lately they have become more engaged in the larger world. Especially since Sept. 11, 2001, writers have become more concerned with their responsibility as chroniclers of social and political injustice and upheaval.

On Thursday, July 31, at 9 a.m., Brenda Hillman will speak on “Reportorial Poetry: Bringing Poetic, Spiritual, and Political Activism Together.” The war in Iraq, African genocide, and the oppression of women have all entered her poems recently.

“I’m going to talk some about the issue of writing ‘politically’ in the past,” Hillman said. “I’ll mention the work of Shelley, George Oppen, Denise Levertov and Robert Duncan, particularly the debate between Levertov and Duncan and how it inspired me. What does a reporter consider when looking at an ‘activity’ and how might the 'stuff' of an activity make it into poetry?”

Hillman is the author of eight books of poetry, most recently “Pieces of Air in the Epic.”

Novelist Lan Samantha Chang will lecture on the well-known short story “The Things They Carried” by Tim O’Brien, from the book of the same title about the author’s experience in Vietnam.

“This book is widely assigned in high school English classes and is a favorite of young people,” said Evans.

Chang is the author of the novel “Inheritance” and is the director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the premier graduate writing program in the nation. Her work has appeared in “Best American Short Stories.” Chang’s lecture is scheduled for Tuesday, July 29 at 1:30 p.m.

Film-lovers will want to attend Ehud Havazelet’s lecture on Thursday, July 31, 1:30 p.m, entitled “Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Point of View.”

“I want to show how masterfully Hitchcock uses point of view to force us into his movie, and then hope we can talk about how point of view works in fiction more generally,” said Havazelet, who will show scenes from the film.

Havazelet’s most recent novel, “Bearing the Body,” was a New York Times Notable Book of 2007.

Rounding out the lecture series are acclaimed poet Mark Doty, speaking on poet Jean Valentine; Ann Packer, author of the bestseller “The Dive From Clausen’s Pier,” on “Character and Consciousness”; Claudia Rankine on “The End of the Line”; Nick Flynn on “Bewilderment: Accessing the Unknown”; and Ron Carlson on “The Author’s Benevolent Ally: Doubt.”

“Ron Carlson is an unfailingly entertaining and inspiring lecturer,” said Dr. Chris McCarthy, president of Napa Valley College and a regular participant at the conference.

Barbara Insel, a marketing researcher in St. Helena, spoke highly of her experience attending lectures at the 2007 conference. “It was refreshing to get away from the every day and use the brain muscles in a slightly different way. Laura Kasishcke’s lecture was funny and insightful. It was about writing but also about everything.”

In addition to the lecture series, the public is welcome to the evening readings, Sunday, July 27, through Wednesday, July 30.

“We give these in wonderful venues, so that they’re meant to celebrate our joy in having so many wonderful literary artists in our midst,” said Evans.

The venues this year include the courtyard at the Upper Valley Campus, St. Supéry Winery, Robert Mondavi Winery and the Napa Valley Opera House.

Each reading is preceded by a wine reception. Tickets for the readings are $8 if reserved in advance and $10 at the door.

For reservations, please email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or phone 707-967-2903.

For complete information, see or call 707-967-2903 to request a brochure.

Schedule of readings and lectures

Sunday, July 27

7:30 p.m.: Readings by Nick Flynn and Lan Samantha Chang. Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

Monday, July 28

9 a.m.: Mark Doty, “Jean Valentine’s Ghost Sonnets.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Ann Packer, “Character and Consciousness.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena.

7:30 p.m.: Readings by Claudia Rankine and Ron Carlson. St. Supéry Winery, Rutherford.

Tuesday, July 29

9 a.m.: Nick Flynn, “Bewilderment: Accessing the Unknown.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Lan Samantha Chang, “What is a Short Story? Structure and ‘The Things They Carried’ by Tim O’Brien.” Upper Valley Campus.

7:30 p.m.: Readings by Brenda Hillman and Ehud Havazelet. Robert Mondavi Winery, Oakville.

Wednesday, July 30

9 a.m.: Claudia Rankine, “The End of the Line.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Ron Carlson: “The Writer’s Benevolent Ally: Doubt.” Upper Valley Campus.

7 p.m.: Readings by Mark Doty and Ann Packer, Napa Valley Opera House, 1021 Main St., Napa. Wine reception hosted by Saintsbury Winery.

Thursday, July 31

9 a.m.: Brenda Hillman, “Reportorial Poetry: Bringing Poetic, Spiritual and Political Activism Together.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave, St. Helena.

1:30 p.m.: Ehud Havazelet, “Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho and Point of View.” Upper Valley Campus, 1088 College Ave., St. Helena.



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