The Sonoma Valley Authors Festival returns next weekend with a star-studded lineup


Next weekend, Pulitzer Prize winners, poet laureates and dozens of New York Times best-selling authors will gather in Sonoma for the fifth annual Sonoma Valley Author Festival, to be held this year at Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

The three-day event, August 26-28, features 25 authors and speakers spanning a range of genres, from poetry and fiction to astrophysics and technology. The price for a three-day pass is $1,250, but entry to the Authors on the Plaza event on August 27 is free.

Festival founders David and Ginny Freeman launched the event in 2018 with a mission to “ignite the minds and nourish the souls of readers”.

“I wouldn’t even call myself an avid reader – I’m an avid learner!” Ginny said. To enjoy the weekend, attendees just need to buy a ticket and get ready to expand their minds, she said.

The Freemans created the festival after attending several other lecture series and literary events. Both of their mothers were voracious readers and learners, and the couple decided to honor them with a weekend that combined the best aspects of the events they had attended.

The founders aim to have “something for everyone” over the weekend. Find the full list of speakers at Highlights include:

  • Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law”
  • Chris Gardner, New York Times and Washington Post #1 bestselling author for his book “The Pursuit of Happyness”
  • Amor Towles, author of the Washington Post Book of the Year — “The Lincoln Highway”
  • Tracy K. Smith, 22nd Poet Laureate of the United States and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for her book of poetry “Life on Mars”
  • Dr. David Eagleman, CEO and Co-Founder of Neosensory and Assistant Professor of Neuroscience at Stanford University
  • Nikki Erlick, author of New York Times bestseller “The Measure”

Erlick is also one of eight speakers participating in Student Day, part of the festival designed for Sonoma students on Friday, August 26. To inspire young readers, the authors will be giving talks to different groups of students from schools across the county that day. .

As a 26-year-old author, Erlick has a unique perspective to share with young people. She remembers wanting to be a writer when she was in high school, and if there’s anyone in the audience with that dream, she hopes to inspire them with her speech. She plans to talk about her struggle with anxiety and how the themes of her novel reflect her personal challenges.

“Finding other readers who resonate with this message has been amazing,” Erlick said. She plans to share her journey, from losing her job during the pandemic to surrounding herself with people who help her maintain her confidence through the writing process.

This year’s event includes talks and breakout sessions, lectures, interviews and signings. New this year will be evening events, featuring a fireside poetry reading with Smith and Jeffrey Brown on Friday, August 26, and stargazing with astrophysicist Alex Filippenko on Saturday, August 27.

Also on the program is Writers in the Plaza, a free event for the local community, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday, August 27. This family event will feature Dave Barry, Roach and Towles all giving talks in Sonoma Place. The festival will have folding chairs, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own seats and food.

Registration for the free event is requested, and those who automatically register will be entered into a raffle to win free books. Register at

COVID-19 regulations for the event will be in accordance with Sonoma County guidelines, and all festival staff will be required to show proof of vaccination prior to attending the event.

After registering over 3,500 people for their free virtual festival in 2020, the Freemans have decided to offer a recording of the festival for purchase each year. This year’s taping will feature nearly every event in the program. It should be available on the website in early September and will cost $59.

Contact reporter Rebecca Wolff at [email protected]

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