The Writing Room: My Idea of a Good Time — A Week in the Mountains with a Bunch of Other Writers

Sharon Olds gives a craft talk at Squaw. Photo by Tracy Hall.

By Barbara Falconer Newhall

Want to meet a poet? Like say, Kazim Ali, Forrest Gander, Brenda Hillman, Evie Shockley or Dean Young?

Or maybe your more into prose, and you’d like to get a close-up look at people like Mark Childress (Crazy in Alabama), Glen David Gould (Carter Beats the Devil), Sands Hall (Catching Heaven), Teresa Jordan (Riding the White Horse Home), ZZ Packer (Drinking Coffee Elsewhere) Luis Albert Urrea (The Hummingbird’s Daughter), Diane Johnson (Le Divorce), Alice Sebold (The Lovely Bones), Amy Tan (The Joy Luck Club), and former California Poet Laureate Al Young.

Then think about applying to attend one of the conferences held every summer in the Sierra mountains by the Community of Writers at Squaw Valley.

I’ve attended the Squaw writers workshops three different summers and loved every moment. Mornings are devoted to workshops, afternoons and evenings to readings and very useful panels on craft, choosing an agent, publishing in literary magazines, and the like.

Squaw is a great place to work on your writing skills, pitch your book project to agents and editors and, best of all, talk writing all the day long with other writers. Two of those three summers I came away with wonderful new friends who formed two different writing groups that have given me terrific feedback on my own projects over the years.

The really good thing about Squaw is how darned friendly everybody is, including the writers and presenters. I can remember a workshop with Alice Sebold’s agent, Henry Dunow; waiting in line for coffee with Anne Lamott; pelting a panel of agents with questions, and watching scenes from “I Walk the Line” with live commentary from the screenwriter Gil Denis.

You have to submit a manuscript and be accepted to attend Squaw. The application deadlines are in the spring.


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