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PLNU prepares for Writer’s Symposium by the Sea

Tickets to the event can be purchased and more information can be found online at

PLNU is hosting its 22nd annual Writer’s Symposium by the Sea next week, February 21-23. The event will feature American poet Robert Pinsky, author and blogger Shauna Niequist and American nonfiction novelist Tracy Kidder.

In preparation for the panel Dr. Dean Nelson, the host and founder, shared a few insider hints as to what goes on behind the Symposium and what will take place at the event.

One of the most unique factors of the Writer’s Symposium are the prominent authors who give their time and advice in public interviews. Dr. Nelson doesn’t just get anyone. This year will feature Shauna Niequist, who will focus on women’s studies and writers, Robert Pinsky, Poet Laureate 1997, and Tracy Kidder, a Pulitzer Prize winner in 1981.

Dr. Nelson said that the Symposium speakers he looks for are those “whom we can hold up to our students and say, ‘this is a model of great writing over the years, and you can learn and be inspired by this person.’”

Some writers from previous years include Philip Yancey, Amy Tan and Ray Bradbury. While it may seem intimidating to contact such big names, the process is fairly simple.

Most writers work through an agency and a few e-mail exchanges with the right person there can set up the engagement. However, since the Writer’s Symposium has been strong in the San Diego community for over two decades, Dr. Nelson finds some writers’ agencies reaching out to him, asking if they can send their authors. “They’re contacting us,” said Dr. Nelson.

As for the Symposium itself, there are many exciting and exclusive opportunities for students to connect with the authors.

“Each of them will do an afternoon forum…we’re sending Pinsky some student poetry, and he’s going to critique it and workshop it when he’s here in the afternoon,” said Dr. Nelson.

Pinsky will also be performing with PLNU’s Jazz Band in the evening session for a poetry and jazz night.

Women’s Studies students will get to hear Shauna Niequist and Kidder will be talking about Point of View as an aspect of writing, Dr. Nelson said, “The afternoon session is primarily where the students and the writers will have the most interaction.”

There, students will get a Q&A with the authors. Students are encouraged to bring questions about poetry, writing or the creative process to ask and engage with the writers, and also to familiarize themselves with either a poem or blog of one of the speakers.

The evening events will be opened up to the greater San Diego writing community. There Dr. Nelson will host an interview with each of the speakers. The interview will be about their work, about their approach to writing and about writing in general, Dr. Nelson said. He also confirmed that all three authors would do a book signing after the evening event.

The Writer’s Symposium will be on February 21, 22 and 23. The afternoon sessions are at 3p.m. and are free and exclusively for PLNU students. The evening sessions will be at 7p.m. on-campus in Crill Hall in the Cooper Music Building. The evening events are $5 for PLNU students and $10 for the general public.


Natalie Hoover and Dana Williams contributed to this report.


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