Thursday, June 24, 2021
Sun Valley Writers’ Conference Announces a Unique Format
Lawn talks will offer an additional way for more people to hear what authors have to say as the Sun Valley Writers Conference practices safe protocols. PHOTO: Nils Ribi/Sun Valley Writers Conference
Tuesday, April 20, 2021


The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference will hold two smaller conferences this summer, rather than its usual big one.

And it will broadcast all Pavilion talks to the lawn, which will be open to the public at no charge.

Twenty writers will be presenting at both conferences, including actor John Lithgow, “The Boys in the Boat” author Daniel James Brown and Isabel Allende, author of “City of Beasts.”

Other authors include George Packer, who authored “The Unwinding: An Inner History of the New America;” Delia Owens, author of the No. 1 New York Times bestseller “Where the Crawdads Sing;” Sheri Fink, executive producer of the Netflix documentary “Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak;” Tayari Jones, author of Oprah’s Book Club selection “An American Marriage,” and Elizabeth Kolbert, author of “The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History.”

The long-running conference, which was tabled last year due to the COVID pandemic, will hold its first conference Saturday and Sunday, July 17-18. The second will be Monday and Tuesday, July 19-20.

Larger presentations will take place in the Sun Valley Pavilion and smaller break-out sessions in open-air tents on the Pavilion lawn.

Pass sales will be limited due to spaced seating, currently estimated to range between 350 and 375 guests for each conference. Organizers are currently accepting donor pledges and evaluating venue capacity. Those who are interested in joining the donors’ list are invited to visit the Support page at

If any passes remain after the donor pledge period has closed in mid-May, those passes will be sold via a lottery system for $600 each in early June.

The conference’s medical consultants—Dr. Abraham Verghese and Dr. Jack Stapleton—have helped craft conservative COVID-19 protocols that will be followed throughout the two conferences. Face masks will be mandatory and social distancing rules will be followed. All attendees, presenters, staff and volunteers will be asked to sign a COVID-19 waiver/consent form and provide proof of vaccination or consent to rapid testing prior to the events.

Regulations of the Centers for Disease Control, State of Idaho, Blaine County and City of Sun Valley will apply.

Each of the six Pavilion talks per conference will be broadcast to the lawn and open to the public at no charge with advance registration and assigned seating. Self-assessment and temperature checks will be required upon entry.

The Pavilion talks will also be streamed online, and all Pavilion talks and breakout sessions will be recorded and available for listening via the conference website.

In addition, the conference is partnering with Ketchum’s Community Library to hold four free outdoor evening talks in July.

They include Rebecca Makkai, author of “The Great Believers,” on July 1; Susan Orlean, author of “The Orchid Thief,” on July 15; Tobias Wolff, author of “This Boy’s Life,” on July 21, and Patrick Radden Keefe, author of “Say Nothing,” on July 28.

The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference is a nonprofit organization that has featured 50 Pulitzer Prize winners, 22 National Book Award winners and six winners of the elite Mann Booker Prize given in Great Britain over the years. Organizers admit Wood River Valley teachers, students and librarians free to all Pavilion talks as space and conditions permit.

For more information, visit



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