24th Annual Writer's Symposium by the Sea

Nnedi Okorafor black and white headshot


Writer’s Symposium by the Sea is an annual event that brings interviews with innovative creators, life stories, examples of great writing, and evocative conversation to PLNU that inspire readers and writers alike. 

The 2019 Writer's Symposium by the Sea will include The Evening Interviews, featuring award winning guest writers and The Writing Workshops, featuring editors and published writers. Join us this year as we explore Writing That Imagines.

See below for this year's Guest Writer list and Workshop information.




Jody Hassett Sanchez Headshot

Jody Hassett Sanchez, More Art Upstairs

Monday, February 18, 2019

7:00pm, Crill Performance Hall

Jody Hassett Sanchez is an award-winning broadcast journalist who now produces documentaries. Her new film, More Art Upstairs, explores what happens when art world pretensions are stripped away and everyday folks get a chance to engage with contemporary art. More Art Upstairs follows four talented East Coast artists as they travel to the Midwest to compete in ArtPrize, where there's half a million dollars in prize money.

Sanchez's previous film, SOLD: Fighting the New Global Slave Trade (2010) has been shown in more than 60 countries and continues to screen around the world.

As a journalist, Sanchez covered religion, culture and education for ABC World News Tonight with Peter Jennings and for ABC Nightline. Prior to ABC News, Sanchez covered international stories for CNN.   

Nnedi Okorafor headshot

Nnedi Okorafor

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

7:00pm, Brown Chapel

More recently known for her Black Panther and Wakanda Forever Marvel Comics, Nnedi Okorafor is an international award-winning novelist of African-based science fiction, fantasy and magical realism for both children and adults. Born in the United States to two Nigerian immigrant parents, Okorafor is known for weaving African culture into creative evocative settings and memorable characters. In a profile of Okorafor's work titled, “Weapons of Mass Creation,” The New York Times called Okorafor's imagination “stunning.”

Game of Thrones author, George R.R. Martin and HBO are currently developing a show based on her World Fantasy Award Winning novel, Who Fears Death. Ta-Nehisi Coates has passed the torch on writing the Black Panther comics to Okorafor, and the women warriors from the mega-hit movie were such fan favorites that Marvel has tasked Nnedi to create a new spinoff comic, Wakanda Forever.

Most often compared to the writer Ursula Le Guinn, Okorafor is sought after from around the globe to speak on Afro-futurism, the African Diaspora in literature. Her Ph.D. gives her academic credibility, but college students treat her like a literary rock star.

E.J. Dionne headshot

E.J. Dionne

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

7:00pm, Crill Performance Hall

E.J. Dionne writes about politics in a twice-weekly column for the Washington Post, and is a government professor at Georgetown University, a visiting professor at Harvard University, a senior fellow in governance studies at the Brookings Institution. He is a frequent commentator on politics for National Public Radio.

Before joining The Post in 1990 as a political reporter, Dionne spent 14 years at The New York Times, where he covered politics and reported from Albany, Washington, Paris, Rome and Beirut. His coverage of the Vatican was described by the Los Angeles Times as the best in two decades. In 2014-2015, Dionne was the vice president of the American Political Science Association.

He is the author of seven books, including One Nation After Trump: A Guide for the Perplexed, the Disillusioned, the Desperate, and the Not-Yet Deported (co-authored with Norman J. Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann, 2017). He also wrote Souled Out: Reclaiming Faith & Politics After the Religious Right; and Why Americans Hate Politics.

He holds a Ph.D. from Oxford University and a B.A. from Harvard.

Christian Wiman headshot

Christian Wiman

Thursday, February 21, 2019

7:00pm, Crill Performance Hall

The former editor of Poetry Magazine, Christian Wiman is both a poet and an essayist who teaches Literature and Religion at Yale Divinity School. In an interview he discussed what he hopes readers might take from his work: “I have no illusions about adding to sophisticated theological thinking. But I think there are a ton of people out there who are what you might call unbelieving believers, people whose consciousness is completely modern and yet who have this strong spiritual hunger in them. I would like to say something helpful to those people.”

His most recent book is He Held Radical Light: The Art of Faith, the Faith of Art, released in 2018. Other books include My Bright Abyss, Ambition and Survival, Every Riven Thing, Hammer is the Prayer, Hard Night, and The Long Home.

His poems, criticism, and personal essays appear widely in such magazines as The Atlantic, Harper’s, The New York Times Book Review, The New Yorker, and The Sewanee Review.




Tuesday, February 12, 2019

7:00pm, Fermanian Conference Center

Featuring Sandy Dijkstra and Breeann Kyte Kirby


Workshop hosted in partnership with San Diego Writers, Ink

San Diego Writers, Ink logo




Wednesday, February 13, 2019

7:00pm, Fermanian Conference Center

Featuring Rebecca Johannsen, Scott McEwen, and George Galdorisi


Workshop hosted in partnership with San Diego Writers, Ink

San Diego Writers, Ink logo


Sandy Dijkstra

Sandy Dijkstra head shot

Sandra Dijkstra founded the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency, based in San Diego, nearly four decades ago. Within her first decade of agenting,Newsweek dubbed her "the best agent in the West," Esquire chose her as one of the nation's "top five literary agents," and the Los Angeles Times proclaimed her an "über-agent" and "the most powerful literary agent on the West Coast."

She proudly represents a wide array of authors whose books have made their mark, including award-winning and bestselling novelists such as Amy Tan, Maxine Hong Kingston, Lisa See, Chitra Divakaruni, and Shobha Rao, as well as Pulitzer-Prize-wining historians such as Eric Foner and Steve Hahn, and key journalists at the LA Times, Wall Street Journal, the Washington Post, and ProPublica.

Quality that sells is the Dijkstra Agency’s trademark, and we champion books that make a difference. The Dijkstra Agency team of associate agents handle nearly every genre. For more information, view their website.

Breeann Kyte Kirby

Breeann Kyte Kirby photo

With a Master’s in English from the University of West Florida, a Master’s in Molecular Biology from San Diego State University, and an MFA in creative writing also from SDSU, Breeann Kyte Kirby is officially a master of all trades and doctor of none.  Firmly grounded in both science and literature, she works in both fields, facilitating collaborations between scientists, writers, and artists.

Breeann writes in all genres and her creative and scientific work has been published both in print and online in places such as the Cityworks Press anthology Sunshine Noir II, The Scientist, City Creatures, Orion magazine’s “Place Where You Live” blog, The Eeel, and Diagram.

Her first non-fiction book is forthcoming from MIT Press Fall 2020.

Rebecca Johannsen

Rebecca Johannsen head shot

Rebecca Johannsen holds a Ph.D. in Theatre from the University of California Irvine and University of California San Diego joint doctoral program. She also holds a Master of Arts Degree in Theatre from San Diego State University. She taught Theatre Studies in the Drama Department of New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, and has taught at Fordham University, Mercy College, California State University Northridge, UC Irvine, and MiraCosta College.

Prior to her academic career, Rebecca was the founder and Artistic Director of Stone Soup Theatre Company, a critically acclaimed San Diego-based company dedicated to producing work that engages in societal change. She co-produced Erik Ehn’s Soulographie: Our Genocides theatrical event, a 17 play cycle about genocide in the 20th century, performed around the world and culminating in two weeks of performance at La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in New York. She has also worked with playwright Janet Sternberg to develop and workshop her play The Fifth String at La MaMa. Rebecca is a member of the Young Vic's Director's Network and has trained in workshops through that programme as well as directing intensives at Shakespeare's Globe in London.

Scott McEwen

Scott McEwen photo

Scott McEwen is a trial attorney in San Diego, California. He grew up in the mountains of Eastern Oregon where he became an Eagle Scout; hiking, fishing, and hunting at every opportunity presented. He obtained his undergraduate degree in Oregon and thereafter studied and worked extensively in London, England. Scott works with and provides support for several military charitable organizations, including the Seal Team Foundation.

Scott McEwen is the #1 New York Times bestselling coauthor of Chris Kyle’s autobiography, American Sniper, which was made into the highest grossing war film of all time, directed by Clint Eastwood and starring Bradley Cooper. He is the coauthor, with Thomas Koloniar, of the national bestselling Sniper Elite series: One-Way Trip, Target America, and The Sniper and the Wolf

Publishers include Harper Collins, Hachette Book Group, Simon and Schuster, St. Martin's Press.

His latest title was released October, 2018 and is entitled City of Death.

George Galdorisi

George Galdorisi photo

George Galdorisi is a career naval aviator whose thirty years of active service included four command tours and five years as a carrier strike group chief of staff. He began his writing career in 1978 with an article in the U.S. Navy’s professional magazine, Naval Institute Proceedings. Coming off four consecutive New York Times best-sellers (Tom Clancy Presents: Act of Valor as well as three Tom Clancy Op-Center thrillers – Out of the Ashes, Into the Fire and Scorched Earth) he has embarked on a new series of Rick Holden thrillers published by Braveship Books.

The first two books, The Coronado Conspiracy and For Duty and Honor were published in 2017 and 2018, respectively, and his next thriller is in production.

Other than writing thrillers, he likes nothing more than connecting with readers. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter, and learn more about his books, blogs and other writing on his website – especially his “Writing Tips” – which offer useful advice for all writers from established authors to future best-selling writers.



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Writer's Symposium Video Archive

View Writer's Symposium by the Sea videos from UCSD-TV.

Parking is free for all events. Please note that campus parking is limited, so we suggest arriving early to locate a parking spot. Parking lots indicated on this campus map.


The San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books 2019

San Diego Union Tribune festival of books logo

The San Diego Union-Tribune Festival of Books

Check out this video about the 2018 Festival of Books

For more information about the event, check out their website.