29th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea

Writer's Symposium stage

The 29th Annual Writer's Symposium will bring another year of captivating conversation about writing and inspiration with award-winning writers from diverse perspectives and genres.


  • February 20 - Paulette Jiles (Hosted by PLNU Honors Program)

  • February 21 - Judy Woodruff

  • February 22 - Elizabeth Gilbert at Balboa Theatre (Hosted by San Diego Theatres)

  • February 23 - Nick Hornby and Susan Orlean

See below for more about this year's guest writers. Additional event details coming soon. 

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Driftwood Student Short Film Festival

PLNU's Student Short Film Festival is an annual event featuring the winning student films submitted to Driftwood's contest. Event to also feature a director or screenwriter, more info TBD.

Festival hosted in partnership with Driftwood, Department of Communication Studies, and Department of Literature, Journalism, Writing, and Languages.

Paulette Jiles headshot

Paulette Jiles, February 20

Paulette Jiles is a novelist, poet, and memoirist. Her newest book, Chenneville will be published in September 2023. She is known for her books Enemy Women Stormy Weather, The Color of Lightning, Lighthouse Island, and News of the World, which was a finalist for the 2016 National Book Award.

This interview will be conducted by Dr. Ben Cater, director of the PLNU Honors Program.

Judy Woodruff headshot

Judy Woodruff, February 21

Broadcast journalist Judy Woodruff is the Senior Correspondent for the PBS NewsHour after serving for 11 years as its Anchor and Managing Editor. She has covered politics and other news for over four decades at CNN, NBC, and PBS. In 2023 and 2024, she is undertaking a reporting project, “America at a Crossroads,” to better understand the country’s political divide.

For 12 years, Woodruff served as anchor and senior Correspondent for CNN, where her duties included anchoring the weekday program, Inside Politics. At PBS from 1983 to 1993, she was the chief Washington correspondent for The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour. From 1984-1990, she also anchored PBS’ award-winning weekly documentary series, Frontline with Judy Woodruff. In 2011, Woodruff was the principal reporter for the PBS documentary Nancy Reagan: The Role of a Lifetime. And in 2007, she completed an extensive project for PBS, and other news outlets on the views of young Americans called Generation Next: Speak Up. Be Heard. From 2006-2013, she anchored a monthly program for Bloomberg Television, Conversations with Judy Woodruff. Woodruff was a White House correspondent at NBC News from 1977 to 1982. For one year after that, she served as NBC’s Today show chief Washington correspondent. She wrote the book, This is Judy Woodruff at the White House, published in 1982 by Addison-Wesley.

The recipient of numerous awards, including the Peabody Journalistic Integrity Award, the Poynter Medal, an Emmy for Lifetime Achievement, and the Radcliffe Medal, she and the late Gwen Ifill were together awarded Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism after Woodruff and Ifill were named co-anchors of the PBS NewsHour in 2013, marking the first time an American national news broadcast would be co-anchored by two women.

Elizabeth Gilbert headshot

Elizabeth Gilbert, February 22

Elizabeth Gilbert is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the novels City of Girls, The Signature of All Things, and Stern Men; the story collection Pilgrims; and the nonfiction books Big Magic, Eat Pray Love, Committed, and The Last American Man. A finalist for the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the PEN/Hemingway Award, Gilbert began her career as a journalist.

Event Format: Elizabeth Gilbert will speak for approximately 45 minutes followed by 20-25 minutes of Q&A with Dr. Dean Nelson, Director of Writer's Symposium By The Sea. 

This event is managed by San Diego Theatres in partnership with the Writer's Symposium by the Sea. Event is at the historic Balboa Theatre.

Nick Hornby headshot

Nick Hornby, February 23

Nick Hornby is an award-winning author and Oscar-nominated screenwriter whose stories explore human connection with a catchy blend of snappily observed humor and unsentimental emotion. His books, which have sold over 5 million copies, include the bestselling novels High Fidelity, About A Boy, How to Be Good, Juliet Naked, and 2020’s Just Like You. His latest nonfiction book is Dickens and Prince: A Particular Kind of Genius. 

Hornby was awarded the E. M. Forster Award by the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1999. Other notable non-fiction titles include 31 Songs, The Complete Polysyllabic Spree, Shakespeare Wrote for Money and Stuff I’ve Been Reading—collected from the bi-monthly column of the same name which he continues to write in The Believer magazine—and his breakout book, Fever Pitch. A masterful screenwriter himself, Hornby’s screenplay credits includes the adaptation of Colm Tóibín’s novel Brooklyn. Praised as a top film of 2015, it received three Oscar nominations, landing Hornby a Best Adapted Screenplay nod, and was awarded BAFTA’s Outstanding British Film. Hornby also received Oscar and BAFTA nominations for his adaption of Lynn Barber’s memoir An Education

In 2010, Hornby co-founded the children’s writing charity The Ministry of Stories, originally located in East London and now expanding to other UK cities.

Susan Orlean headshot

Susan Orlean, February 23

Susan Orlean has been a staff writer at The New Yorker since 1992. She is the New York Times bestselling author of seven books, including The Library Book, Rin Tin Tin, Saturday Night, and The Orchid Thief, which was made into the Academy Award–winning film Adaptation. Her most recent book is On Animals.

New York Times bestselling author Susan Orlean has been called “a national treasure” by the Washington Post and “a latter-day Tocqueville” by the New York Times. Her deeply moving explorations of American stories both familiar and obscure have earned her a reputation as one of America’s most distinctive journalistic voices. A staff writer for The New Yorker for over thirty years and a former contributing editor at Rolling Stone and Vogue, she has been praised as “an exceptional essayist” (Publishers Weekly) and a writer who “approaches her subjects with intense curiosity and fairness” (Bookmarks).

In a career spanning more than three decades, Orlean has also written for Outside, Esquire, The Boston Globe, and more.  Orlean has served as an editor for Best American Essays and Best American Travel Writing, and her journalism has been compiled into two collections: The Bullfighter Checks Her Makeup: My Encounters with Extraordinary People and My Kind of Place: Travel Stories from a Woman Who’s Been Everywhere. Currently, she writes the Afterword column for The New Yorker, an obituary column that pays homage to people, places, and things we’ve lost.


Thanks to donors who support the Writer's Symposium by the Sea with their financial contributions.

PLNU Honors Program
PLNU Center for Justice & Reconciliation
PLNU Office of Diversity & Black Student Union
Mery Olive Bangs Endowment
San Diego Pro Chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists
Ron & Kathleen Lauderbach
Lawrence and Suzanne Hess
Daniel K. O'Neill
Lori & John Dedic
The Tom and Melanie Gillette Trust, in memory of Tom Gillette
Bob and Jo Birdsell
The Rasak Family
Drs. Kathryn & Michael McConnell
Dr. David & Elizabeth Ostrander
David & Elinor Vandegrift
Phyllis Skidgel
Department of Communication Studies
PLNU Department of Literature, Journalism, Writing, & Languages

Interested in supporting the Writer's Symposium? To maintain the symposium's high-quality programming, we need your help to meet our yearly donation goal of $60,000. Please consider partnering with Writer's Symposium by the Sea by giving an ongoing or one-time, tax-deductible donation. Every gift allows us to provide these inspiring events to PLNU students and the community.





Thanks to our partnership with UCSD-TV, you can watch previous interviews from Writer's Symposium by the Sea.




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