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

Big names will speak at Saturday’s free community event, along with presentations for local students and ticketholders.|

Sonoma Valley Authors Festival

When: Aug. 26 to 28

Where: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma

Tickets: $1,250 for a 3-day pass

More information and tickets: svauthorsfest.org

Free event: Authors on the Plaza, with humorist Dave Barry and authors Mary Roach and Amor Towles. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. Northwest lawn of the Plaza, Sonoma. Free, but registration requested at bit.ly/3Au89Fk.

Next weekend, Pulitzer Prize winners, poet laureates and dozens of New York Times bestselling authors will convene in Sonoma for the fifth annual Sonoma Valley Authors Festival, held this year at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn.

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

Festival founders David and Ginny Freeman first launched the event in 2018 with a mission to “stimulate the minds and nurture 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 come 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’d attended.

The founders aim to have “something for everyone” over the course of the weekend. Find the complete list of speakers at svauthorsfest.org/festivalyear/2022. Highlights include:

  • Mary Roach, New York Times bestselling author of “Fuzz: When Nature Breaks the Law”
  • Chris Gardner, New York Times and Washington Post No. 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 Pulitzer Prize winner for her poetry book “Life on Mars”
  • Dr. David Eagleman, CEO and co-founder of Neosensory and adjunct neuroscience professor at Stanford University
  • Nikki Erlick, author of New York Times bestseller “The Measure”

Erlick is also one of eight speakers participating in Students Day, a part of the festival designed for Sonoma students, on Friday, Aug. 26. To inspire younger readers, authors will give talks to different groups of students from schools around the county that day.

As a 26-year-old breakout author, Erlick has a unique perspective to share with youth. 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 talk. She plans to open up about her struggle with anxiety and how themes in her novel reflect her personal challenges.

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

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

Authors on the Plaza, a free event for the local community, is also on the schedule, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. This family-friendly event will feature Dave Barry, Roach and Towles all giving talks in the Sonoma Plaza. The festival will have some folding chairs, but attendees are encouraged to bring their own seating and food.

Registration for the free event is requested, and those who register automatically will be entered in a raffle to win free books. Register at svauthorsfest.org/festivalyear/2022.

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

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

Contact reporter Rebecca Wolff at rebecca.wolff@sonomanews.com.

Sonoma Valley Authors Festival

When: Aug. 26 to 28

Where: Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn, 100 Boyes Blvd., Sonoma

Tickets: $1,250 for a 3-day pass

More information and tickets: svauthorsfest.org

Free event: Authors on the Plaza, with humorist Dave Barry and authors Mary Roach and Amor Towles. 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 27. Northwest lawn of the Plaza, Sonoma. Free, but registration requested at bit.ly/3Au89Fk.

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