2019 Writer’s Symposium by the Sea

One of the top journalists in Washington, a Christian poet, and a new voice in the Marvel Black Panther Universe – three writers with very different backgrounds and styles, all sharing their insight into the art of putting pen to paper. Join founder Dean Nelson as he welcomes E.J. Dionne, Christian Wiman and Nnedi Okorafor to the 2019 Writer’s Symposium by the Sea at Point Loma Nazarene University in San Diego.

Nnedi Okorafor (https://www.uctv.tv/shows/33945)

International award-winning novelist Nnedi Okorafor discusses her wide-ranging work, including Black Panther comic books, young adult fiction, and her novel “Who Fears Death” which is being made into an HBO series produced by George R.R. Martin of “Game of Thrones” fame. She delves into her unique upbringing, what sparked her interest in African-based science fiction, and how a surgery gone wrong played a pivotal role in her becoming an author.

E.J. Dionne (https://www.uctv.tv/shows/33946)

Veteran journalist E.J. Dionne has spent decades reporting on American politics. He worked at the New York Times before joining the Washington Post, where he writes a twice-weekly column. His books include the 1991 release, “Why Americans Hate Politics” and his most recent effort, “One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported.” Dionne discusses the changing landscape of journalism and why it is more important now than ever to talk politics with those with whom we disagree.

Christian Wiman (https://www.uctv.tv/shows/33947)

The former editor of Poetry Magazine, Christian Wiman is both a poet and an essayist who teaches Literature and Religion at Yale Divinity School. Wiman discusses his books including, “He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art,” and “My Bright Abyss.” He opens up about a three-year writing drought when he felt poetry was taken away from him and he was diagnosed with cancer. He explains how falling in love and a random visit to the corner church turned his life around.

Browse past seasons of Writer’s Symposium by the Sea to watch interviews with Joyce Carol Oates, Tracy Kidder, Billy Collins, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and more!

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An Evening With Luis Alberto Urrea

In many respects the life and work of Luis Alberto Urrea represent the fulfillment of the fabled American Dream. Born in Tijuana to an American mother and Mexican father, Urrea was raised in the Barrio Logan and Clairemont neighborhoods of San Diego. Often confined indoors because of poor health, the young Luis developed an avid interest in reading that was encouraged by his parents, though it didn’t occur to him then that he could be a professional writer.

As an undergraduate Urrea attended UC San Diego, which, in his words, “opened the door to a whole new world,” a world of Latin-American literature populated by Fuentes, Garcia Marquez, Borges, Llosa, Neruda, and others. Spurred on by their example, and encouraged by his professors and by noted author Ursula K. LeGuin, Urrea embarked on a prolific career as a writer. Indeed, not merely a writer but a true man of letters: poet, novelist, essayist, columnist, journalist, scholar, and educator.

Though not strictly autobiographical, much of Urrea’s work is inspired by his own experiences and those of his family. In the spirit of “write what you know,” he has often based characters on his relatives and other people he has encountered. Urrea is perhaps best known for his writings about the US-Mexico border region, but he points out that his true subject is not that physical border but “the borders that run between us, all of us.” Whatever his subjects or their source, Urrea’s work is marked by his distinctive voice, combining keen observation, rigorous research, fine attention to detail, an ear for the vernacular, a strong sense of social justice, a wry sense of humor, and, above all, a love for the real persons and invented characters about whom he writes.

While recounting his personal journey in his “Dinner in the Library” appearance, Urrea stresses the vital importance of education in shaping his worldview and guiding his career development. He believes that his work as an educator, currently as Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago, enables him to celebrate his social and literary legacy while hopefully serving as inspiration for new generations of aspiring writers. By encouraging his students to mine their own heritage for source material, Urrea honors those who supported him at key points in his life.

Watch An Evening with Luis Alberto Urrea – Dinner in the Library 2018

Ann Patchett

Contributed by John Menier

8232Listed by Time magazine as one of the world’s 100 most influential people in 2012, Ann Patchett is a true woman of letters: novelist, essayist, anthologist, and co-owner of Parnassus Books in Nashville. Patchett is also a frequent and accomplished public speaker, noted for her anecdotes about the literary life, her insights into the creative process, and her wry wit.

One of Patchett’s favorite topics is the ever-changing relationship between readers and books. As an example she cites her own evolution reading (and re-reading) the works of John Updike, Leo Tolstoy, Pearl Buck, Ta-Nehisi Coates, and others, noting that “the books don’t change, but we do.” Put another way, the reader’s evaluation of a particular book is shaped as much by the reader’s life experience and circumstances as by the work’s innate qualities. As such our appreciation (or lack thereof) for a particular title may change over time, but the consistent commonality among the books we treasure is that they never fail to evoke a strong response. Patchett believes the writer’s primary task is to elicit that response by inviting the reader to become an active participant in their story.

Patchett’s approach to the reading public is refreshingly un-elitist. She stresses the importance of what she calls “gateway drugs,” books of dubious literary worth that may encourage readers to explore other authors and genres. She applauds the success of “trashy” pop novels such as “Fifty Shades of Gray” and “Twilight,” no matter their pedigree, for their role in re-vitalizing book sales and energizing the publishing community. What matters most to Patchett as both author and bookstore owner is that the reading habit is fostered and encouraged, and in that endeavor, there’s no place for snobbery.

Click here to watch An Evening with Ann Patchett

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Writer’s Symposium By The Sea 2017

8232Join host Dean Nelson as he welcomes three writers to this year’s Writer’s Symposium by the Sea. This annual event at Point Loma Nazarene University presents an evening of interviews conducted by symposium founder Dean Nelson, featuring lively conversations about the inspiration behind the authors’ works. Enjoy cutting edge creators, life stories, examples of great writing, and evocative conversation that will inspire the reader and writer alike.

8232An Evening with Tracy Kidder
Pulitzer Prize-winning author Tracy Kidder reveals his reporting strengths as he describes how he earned the trust of the people he has featured in books such as “Mountains Beyond Mountains,” “House,” “A Truck Full of Money,” “Old Friends,” and “Strength in What Remains.” Kidder shares the joys and doubts of a career in writing with veteran journalist and host Dean Nelson.

8232An Evening with Robert Pinsky
Former Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky describes himself as a “composer” who considers poetry to be first and foremost a vocal art, and his work seeks to blur the distinctions between language and music by emphasizing the rhythms and innate physicality of recited verse in a jazz context. In this performance, Pinsky’s reading is accompanied by a talented trio of PLNU students. The music – a blend of rehearsed and improvised – employs a variety of jazz styles, sometimes sympathetic and sometimes in playful counterpoint, but always responsive to the poet’s distinctive voice.

8232An Evening with Shauna Niequist
This far-reaching conversation with best-selling author Shauna Niequist offers an honest account of her journey of becoming and evolving as a writer. She shares her love of storytelling and her goal of living life to the fullest, and offers tips for aspiring writers. Niequist’s newest release is “Present Over Perfect: Leaving Behind Frantic For A Simpler, More Soulful Way Of Living.”

Browse past seasons of Writer’s Symposium by the Sea to watch interviews with Joyce Carol Oates, Anne Lamott, Billy Collins, Mary Karr, and more!

The Art of Nature

8232Renowned musician Steven Schick and award-winning environmentalist/author Barry Lopez may seem like an unlikely pairing until you consider the long history of nature’s influence on art, including music. From Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons” through Beethoven’s “Pastoral” Symphony and Debussy’s “La Mer” to the works of Vaughan Williams, Olivier Messiaen, and John Cage (to name but a few), contemplation of the natural environment has provided inspiration to generations of composers.

In Music and Nature, musician Schick and environmentalist Lopez consider the myriad ways our shared natural milieu has shaped the arts, and how the arts may in turn heighten awareness of environmental issues. They reference as an example John Luther Adams, a contemporary American composer whose works routinely incorporate natural sounds and/or allude to the environment. (His Pulitzer Prize-winning orchestral composition “Become Ocean” is based on the premise that if sea levels continue to rise, we will inevitably and quite literally “become ocean.”)

In the course of their talk the two men are able to cross the interstice that lays between their backgrounds – Schick’s as an Iowa farm boy and Lopez’s as the product of a New York upbringing – to find common ground in a philosophy that rejects an elitist or isolationist view of art, instead placing it firmly in the context of broader worldly concerns (e.g., climate change). This philosophy is reflected in the movement in educational circles from STEM – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – to STEAM, the previous disciplines combined with Art/Design. It also plays a role in the renewed recognition that a liberal arts education has advantages in today’s workplace.

An hour in the company of Steven Schick and Barry Lopez will stimulate ideas and conversations of your own – and that’s an hour well-spent.

Watch Music and Nature with Barry Lopez and Steve Schick

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Contributed by Arts & Humanities Producer, John Menier