The Napa Valley Writers’ Conference is a summer writers’ conference that began over 40 years ago as a poetry conference, begun by Napa Valley College professor Dave Evans and continued for many years under the leadership of Jack Leggett. The current director is fiction writer Angela Pneuman. It now offers poetry and fiction workshops over six days (Sunday to Friday, with Monday through Friday being workshop days) every summer at the end of July/beginning of August. We are a program of Napa Valley College, and the workshops and craft talks take place at the college’s Upper Valley Campus in St. Helena, California. Evening readings are held at various wineries and public event spaces around the Napa Valley.
The poetry workshops focus on the production of new poems, and admission to the workshops is competitive. Not highly competitive–we encourage beginning writers to apply and we routinely admit writers without, for example, publication credits–but every year we also regretfully turn away some writers who we know would benefit from, and contribute to, the workshops. We encourage people who have been disappointed once to reapply and, if they do, to remind us that we weren’t able to offer them admission in a previous year.
I have worked on the conference since 2002, succeeding Mark Wunderlich as Poetry Director, and now work closely with poet Iris Dunkle on the poetry workshops. Our top priorities are to hire excellent faculty who are among the most vital and interesting poets working today; to wisely distribute our small scholarship fund in order to make the conference accessible to a diverse group of talented writers who would otherwise not have the opportunity; and to ensure that our four faculty poets and our fifty-two poetry participants have a productive and memorable experience.
In poetry, we are fortunate to have two faculty poets who have a long association with the conference: Jane Hirshfield, who normally teaches for us in odd-numbered years, and Brenda Hillman, who normally teaches for us in even-numbered years. Our plan for 2021 is to bring the faculty we’d planned to have in 2020: Brenda Hillman, Victoria Chang, Brian Teare, and Matthew Zapruder. Our faculty in poetry since 2003 have included Elizabeth Alexander, Mary Jo Bang, Eavan Boland, Mark Doty, Camille Dungy, Stephen Dunn, Nick Flynn, Forrest Gander, Major Jackson, Brigit Pegeen Kelly, Ada Limón, J.D. McClatchy, Harryette Mullen, D.A. Powell, Claudia Rankine, David St. John, Arthur Sze, Brian Teare, C.D. Wright, C. Dale Young, and Matthew Zapruder.
If you have any questions that aren’t answered by the conference website, please email me at nvwcpoetry at gmail dot com.