About Sonoma County Writers Camp

2018 Dates

April 25 – 29, 2018 | Compelling Characters: Bringing People to Life on the Page

Characters are at the heart of all our stories. Readers fall in love with our characters, and it’s through that emotional connection that they’re moved by our stories. All of us have a marvelous laboratory with which to explore what it means to be a human being: ourselves and the people around us. Yet getting characters to fully inhabit our stories can be a challenge. This camp session will explore approaches to writing that will bring your characters–invented or remembered–to dynamic, compelling life.

August 8 – 12, 2018 | Beg, Borrow, Steal: What We Can Learn from Different Genres

Baffling mysteries, chilling tales of horror, alternate universes, speculative futures, heart-pattering romance, heart-thumping thrillers, wrenching tragedy, biting satire, magical realism. All of these offer insights into the magic of story that we can use to propel our own stories in unexpected ways. There may be sections of the bookstore you gravitate towards, genres you loved early that shaped who you are, forms that drive your own writing. The great writers beg, borrow and steal from everything that intrigues them–and in this camp we are going to do the same.

October 10 – 14, 2018 | Scene Making: The Essence of Storytelling

Scene is what hooks us: what happened? Who did that? Scene makes the reader lean into the story, refuse to put down the book, dream the tale we put on the page. We know this and yet opening the images and ideas of our stories into wonderful, fleshed-out, vivid scenes challenges all of us. This camp will explore what “show, don’t tell” really means in the books we love–and in our own writing. Create unforgettable scenes that pull your reader into the story and don’t let go.

Published Authors

author photo 2010 hi resE HeadshotnewEllen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark, both acclaimed authors and writing teachers, have put together two wonderful four day events, now offered in the spring and the summer. Held in the gorgeous setting–gardens, pond, meadow and woods–of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, just 70 miles from both San Francisco and Oakland, from April 25 – 29, August 8 – 12, or October 10 – 14, these are intimate, inspiring, enormously creative and productive adventures.

Agents, Editors and Authors

Late afternoons will feature special panels including a Q & A and dinner with agents/ editors looking for new talent, a session and dinner with guest authors publishing in today’s industry, and a third panel that will address productivity, creativity and process with writing coaches and guides.

Previous Presenters:
Agents Laurie Fox, BJ Robbins and Jennifer Soloway
Authors Natalie Baszile, Peter Coyote, Nina Schuyler, Caille Millner and Sere Halverson Prince

Meditative Dream Writing

We will begin each day with an optional “From Where You Dream” writing and meditation space-no talking, just sitting together to write and meditate before breakfast. (Or sleep in–it’s your vacation!)

After-lunch Free Time & Optional Exercise

Take time to write, read, swim, hike or relax, take a sauna or a hot tub, enjoy the beauty of the retreat. Each afternoon will also feature an optional physical activity: a Pilates class, a yoga class and a guided hike. Or you can wander and wonder on your own.


A first evening welcome party with wine and treats will be followed on subsequent evenings by readings and creative social activites and events. Dinners will be eaten all together, and will include our guests of the day-agents/ editors, authors, coaches and Ellen and Elizabeth, so we will have the chance for great conversation and connection between faculty and students not always available at larger conferences.