Sierra Writers Conference


Getting to the roots of your writing and branching out.

January 31st & February 1st

Social Hashtags: #SierraWritersConference2020, #SWC2020, #SierraWritersConference, #SierraCollegeEvents, #SierraCollege

Grass Valley (NCC)

Saturday, February 1st


Flash Fiction

Historical Fiction

Memoir | Creative Nonfiction


Young Adult

Rocklin | Friday

January 31st

Grass Valley (NCC) | Saturday

February 1st

Click here for a print file of the Grass Valley program

Parking is FREE

Conference Media Coverage

Rocklin Review | SWC 2020 Is All about the Moments

Julia Park Tracey

The 2020 Sierra Writers Conference got off to a solid start Friday, Jan 31., at the Sierra College Rocklin campus. Some 100 attendees enjoyed the main speakers, author Pam Houston and writer Grant Faulkner, as well as several breakout sessions that covered the topics of writing poetry, getting published, doing research, and finding your niche.

Houston spoke with a light and comfortable speaking style, bringing the crowd to laughter many times in her 45-minute talk on “Turning the Physical Stuff of Your Life into Story.” She talked about a concept she calls “glimmers,” which are short insights or bursts of writing to capture a moment. "Glimmers" give Pam Houston a way to write into a story. Otherwise she would avoid writing. "I'm juggling a chainsaw, a toaster, and an apple," she said. That keeps the work playful and surprising. She returned to the word “glimmers” many times, describing how she keeps a file in her computer with random glimmers she has written along the way. Sometimes it takes twenty or thirty years for those glimmers to make their way into a story or essay. But when they do, it’s magical, she said.

In a breakout session on writing poetry, SC instructor and poet Ingrid Keriotis tagged onto the same idea of glimmers with her term, “surprises.” Poetry and prose need surprises to bring them to life, she said. She gave the participants time to write from prompts about food and landscape, bringing in the volta, the turning of the piece where the element of surprise springs forth. “Even if you don't know what [a word] means, or what it's for...Just put it down. It's your ‘glimmer,’" Keriotis said.

A panel discussion after lunch featured Publisher and poet Randy White, poet Rachel Teferet, YA author Kim Culbertson and Keriotis. They fielded questions from the attendees on the writing life and many questions about the writing practice. White, publisher at Blue Oak Press, talked about not knowing when the Muse will surprise you, and Rachel Teferet said if you write every day, then "Magic shit happens." The pursuit of the Muse kept the conversation lively. In summary, the panelists agreed that art is not self-indulgent. Creativity touches people's lives in important ways. Even if the work never leaves your desk, if you're following your bliss by creating, that's a good thing.

After another round of breakout sessions, attendees gathered in the lecture hall again to hear Faulkner, executive director of NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) and founder of a website called 100-word stories, speak on “The Art of Brevity: Less Can Be More.” Flash fiction was the topic and talk again turned to “finding moments” or catching at vignettes with a whisper of plot and character. He explained the types of very short prose, from flash fiction to the 6-word novel. He led the conference in a writing exercise based on a painting by Edward Hopper, and one of the writers created a perfect little nugget just 25 words long.

The remaining day is scheduled for Feb. 1, at Sierra College’s Grass Valley location. Saturday’s speakers include the return of Grant Faulkner and Pam Houston, with breakout sessions led by Kim Culbertson, Dimitri Keriotis, Sands Hall, Kim Bateman, Erika Mailman and Carolyn Crane. Individual critique sessions follow the breakout sessions.

To follow along, find the hashtags #swc2020 and #sierracollege on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram.

Julia Park Tracey is Alameda’s poet laureate emeritus, a seasoned journalist and social media duchess, if not queen. She recently bought a falling-down Victorian in Grass Valley and is in the process of renovating it. She’s happy to join the local writing community.

Grass Valley Conference Special Room Rates

provided by Gold Miners Inn

Check in Thursday night, 1/30 for a discounted rate of $134, plus tax and stay Friday and Saturday nights for a discounted rate of $155, plus tax per night.

Reservations include a full hot breakfast in the morning and 2 complimentary beverages per night, per guest at our manager’s reception, which is nightly from 5pm-7pm.

Make room reservations now.

Rooms reserved for conference attendees are only available through January 14th.

Guests can either call the hotel directly at 530-477-1700, ext 2, follow the prompts and identify with the Sierra Writers Conference for the special discount OR click here.