Mission & History

Stimulating the minds and nurturing the souls of readers

The Mission – To Stimulate the Minds and Nurture the Souls of Readers

The Sonoma Valley Authors Festival is an annual 3-day weekend lecture series that brings people together to hear authors from a variety of literary genres. Using a “TED Talk” style format that includes “main tent” and breakout sessions, speakers discuss their latest works as well as advances being made in science, technology, medicine, and current issues. At a time when the art of listening seems to be disappearing, the need for civil discourse has never been greater. With so many voices vying for our attention, people are receptive to well-informed speakers and eager for thoughtful conversation and discussion of ideas. The Festival attracts people who are committed to lifelong learning; many are at a stage in life where experiences are of more value than things and they enjoy vacations with a purpose.

Enrich Students through Exposure to Great Authors and Leaders in Science, Technology, and Medicine

Equally important, a second goal is to inspire middle and high school students in the Sonoma Valley to read and explore thought-provoking ideas and discoveries by providing them with the opportunity to personally engage with some of today’s most extraordinary writers and thinkers. Copies of the presenting authors’ books are purchased with donations and distributed free to thousands of students. Each book has a bookplate where the students can write their own name and ask the author to sign it. In four years of hosting Students Day, we have given an average of 4,000 books to Sonoma Valley students each year.

Authors on the Historic Sonoma Plaza, a Free Event for the Sonoma Community

From the beginning, the Founders wanted to make the Festival authors and speakers as accessible to as many people as possible in the community, while maintaining the quality of the experience for everyone. 

On Saturday evening, May 4, 2019, Authors on the Plaza debuted at the historic Sonoma Plaza. Thanks to generous underwriting by Cathy and Chuck Williamson, this free family-oriented event proved to be an overwhelming success. Enjoying music by Philip Claypool and Carlos Reyes, over 500 people heard two-time U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins and best-selling author Roger McNamee give memorable presentations. We were unable to host a live event in 2020 due to COVID, however we were back on the plaza in August 2021 and have entertained more than a thousand attendees each year since.

The History

The inaugural Sonoma Valley Authors Festival was launched May 4, 2018. The 550-person audience spent a 3-day weekend at The Lodge at the Renaissance Resort & Spa in Sonoma being informed and transformed by 35 speakers. Festival presenters covered a wide range of topics in a combination of “main tent” sessions with keynote speakers and breakout sessions.

Building upon the success of the first Festival, the 2nd annual Authors Festival was held again at The Lodge on May 3-5, 2019, with a similar number of attendees, speakers, and format.

Due to COVID, the 3rd Annual Festival was held virtually from July 13-27, 2020 with 24 inspiring authors and speakers participating. We were pleased that 3,500 registered for the Virtual Festival with 11,500 views.

Since 2021 the Festival has been held at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn. Featuring a climate-controlled Pavilion for main tent presentations, white tablecloth service for breakfast and lunch served on the lawn, and a beautiful indoor-outdoor setting for the dinner honoring our sponsors, authors and speakers, the venue evokes the charm of Old California while providing guests with an experience to remember.