Sierra College Hosts the 2021 Virtual Sierra Writers Conference: Empowering Voices

January 21, 2021

On Friday and Saturday, February 5-6, 2021, Sierra College and Sierra Writers will host the 2021 Virtual Sierra Writers Conference, which features well-known writer James McBride, educator and activist Dr. Bettina Love, Ian Hadley of 916 Ink, a creative writing non-profit that empowers youth, and an amazing group of writers whose workshops focus on various elements of writing and voice.  

“This event comes during unprecedented times: the world is experiencing a pandemic, our country struggles to maintain democracy, and elements of our culture continue to propagate social and environmental injustice,” says Sabrina Pape, Dean of Library and Learning Resource Center, who oversees the event. “The arts, particularly writing, can act as impetus for social change. The 2021 Sierra Writers Conference is all about potential, listening to others express their truth and empowering educators, students, and writers to claim and use their voices. It gives me great pleasure to know that Sierra College is serving as an inspirational and intellectual center for that coming together.”  

Empowering Keynote Voices

James McBride, award-winning author, musician, and screenwriter,  will present his keynote on writing and voice. His landmark memoir, The Color of Water, rested on the New York Times bestseller list for two years and explored McBride’s search for identity as the son of a white, Jewish woman and a black man. It is considered an American classic and is read in schools and universities across the United States. His debut novel, Miracle at St. Anna was translated into a major motion picture, directed by American film icon Spike Lee. His novel, Song Yet Sung, was released in paperback in January 2009. His novel The Good Lord Bird, about American revolutionary John Brown, is the winner of the 2013 National Book Award for Fiction and has been adapted by Ethan Hawke and Jason Blum into a Showtime series bearing the same name. McBride’s latest novel Deacon King Kong tells the story of a 1969 shooting in Brooklyn and the strange intersections of the lives of the characters involved in the shooting. Early reviews rave “deeply felt, beautifully written, and profoundly humane” (New York Times Book Review) and “this generous, achingly funny novel will delight and move readers” (Publishers Weekly starred review). 

Dr. Bettina Love will also present a keynote and speak to the power of writing. She is an award-winning author and the Athletic Association Endowed Professor at the University of Georgia. She is one of the field’s most esteemed educational researchers. Her writing, research, teaching, and activism meet at the intersection of race, education, abolition, and Black joy. Dr. Love is concerned with how educators working with parents and communities can build communal, civically engaged schools rooted in Abolitionist Teaching with the goal of intersectional social justice for equitable classrooms that love and affirm Black and Brown children. Dr. Love is a sought-after public speaker on a range of topics, including: Abolitionist Teaching, anti-racism, Hip Hop education, Black girlhood, queer youth, Hip Hop feminism, art-based education to foster youth civic engagement, and issues of diversity and inclusion. She is the creator of the Hip Hop civics curriculum.   

Workshops and Sessions 

In addition to showcasing these two dynamic personalities, each with powerful and timely messages, the conference will open with Ian Hadley of 916 Ink. 916 Ink’s core values are “empathy, empowerment, equity, and ‘octopus’ creativity, bravery, and risk-taking.” Mr. Hadley will discuss 916 Ink’s method of teaching youth about writing in order to help them develop self-confidence, literacy, and social skills. The conference also features an array of workshops and critique sessions provided by writers Devi Laskar, Michelle Johnson, Kim Culbertson, Catharine Bramkamp, Ben Preston, Lisa Dominguez Abraham, Rachel Teferet, Jen Vernon, Chris Hall, and Sands Hall. Each workshop addresses the craft of writing with special emphasis on empowering voice, whether it is the voice of the writer, the voice of characters, voice in publishing, or empowering others.    

Whether you just love to read, you are a beginning writer, or you are a pro, the 2021 Sierra Writers Conference has something for you. Engage virtually with a community of writers and powerful presenters whose works and workshops focus on equity, social justice, writing, and creativity. Come develop your voice and be transformed.  

Schedule of Events

Friday, Feb. 5Saturday, Feb. 6
Ian Hadley – 916 Ink “Ink Method for Young Writers”
Bettina Love “Writing for Social Justice”
11:10am – 12:20pm
Devi Laskar “Sustainable Writing”
11:10am – 12:20pm
Jen Vernon “Doing Documentary Poetry”
Michelle Johnson “Writing through Social Injustice”
Chris Hall “Finding the Planetary in the Personal”
Kim Culbertson “The World You Build for Them”
Sands Hall “Empowering Your Characters”
Catharine Bramkamp “Authentic Promotion”
James McBride “Writing as an Empowerment of Voice”
Critique Sessions

Registration and conference information are available at Sierra Writers Conference 2021 ( to find out more. Tickets for the two-day event are $30, and current Sierra College students and staff attend for free. Those who cannot attend are encouraged to follow on social media using the hashtag #SierraWriters

About Sierra College

Sierra College District is rising to the needs of our community. Sierra College serves 3200 square miles of Northern CA with campuses in Roseville, Rocklin, Grass Valley, and Truckee. With approximately 125 degree and certificate programs, Sierra College is ranked first in Northern California (Sacramento north) for transfers to four-year universities, offers career/technical training, and classes for upgrading job skills.  Sierra graduates can be found in businesses and industries throughout the region. More information at