In the words of Dr. Dean Nelson, PLNU’s journalism program founder and director, and founder of the Writers Symposium, the event is intended to “encourage people to think deeper and live bigger.” He hopes it will inspire people to “take up their own pen… and create something beautiful.”
Nelson also conducts the interviews with the symposium’s guests, who in the past have included Ray Bradbury, Donald Miller, Anne Lamott, Philip Yancey and others. This year’s symposium will run from Monday, Feb. 19 through Friday, Feb. 23, making it the biggest one yet.
The itinerary for the week includes interviews between Nelson and six guests. The week will begin with New York Times bestselling author Deepak Chopra, in partnership with Warwick’s Books; then move on to Pulitzer Prize winning author Jane Smiley, co-sponsored with La Playa Books; and Peabody Award-winning author and host of the podcast “On Being,” Krista Tippett.
Melanie Wolf, director of Discipleship Ministries at PLNU, introduced Nelson to the idea of inviting Tippett to speak.
“The way that she…seeks to offer opportunities for us to learn from a wide range of voices and backgrounds and stories,” says Wolf, “I think that has a tremendous amount to offer really anyone who’s just alive in the world today.”
On Thursday, co-sponsored by both the Society of Professional Journalists and the Council on American-Islamic Relations, former NBA star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar will be interviewed. Though he is easily recognized for his basketball career, it’s for his work in print, not his work on the court, that he was invited to the Writers Symposium.
“I promise you,” said Nelson, “we are not interested in talking about basketball.”
Abdul-Jabbar is a highly-acclaimed author. His writing covers a wide range of topics, from race and equality to religion and sports. Additionally, he is a columnist for both The Washington Post and Time magazine.
The interview sessions for the week will close with Patrick Gray and PLNU alumnus Justin Skeesuck, co-authors of the book “I’ll Push You: A Journey of 500 Miles, Two Best Friends, and One Wheelchair.” The book is paired with its documentary film, described by Nelson as being “maybe one of the most inspiring films you’ll ever see,” which will be screened at the event.
“It’s this range of body and spirit and culture and inspiration,” says Nelson, about the Writers Symposium as a whole, “that I think it covers a breadth of the human experience bigger than any symposium we’ve done before.”
Each interview session will close with a book signing.
Also included in the Writers Symposium itinerary is a writing workshop on Thursday afternoon, which will connect military and war experiences with writing.
Audience members will have the opportunity to hear from Al Letson, Brooke King, Kelly McEvers and Jean Guerrero, all of whom have written about war from a personal or close-up perspective.
Considering the substantial military presence in San Diego, Nelson feels that the workshop will be an important aspect of the symposium.
“I think that’s an untapped area for our culture, to really encourage people to write about what they experienced, what they saw,” says Nelson.
For more information on the Writers Symposium by the Sea, visit pointloma.edu.
Writers Symposium by the Sea
Where: Point Loma Nazarene University, 3900 Lomaland Drive.
When: Feb. 19-23.
Info: pointloma.edu, 619-849-2200.