Conference faculty and staff, 1983
The Napa Valley Writers’ Conference began in the summer of 1981 when Dave Evans, a professor of English at Napa Valley College, assembled a group of distinguished Berkeley poets and a small group of students in the quiet beauty of the Napa Valley to share their knowledge and perfect their craft.
The program has flourished ever since, growing in size and reputation with each passing year. In 1986, Dave met John Leggett, recently retired from directing the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, at the Napa post office, and the two decided to add fiction workshops to the young conference. After Dave died suddenly during the 1987 conference, faculty and staff have carried on the tradition he began. Napa Valley college, one of only two community colleges in the U.S. to host a writers’ conference, has been steadfast in its sponsorship. So has the valley community: Twenty percent of the conference’s budget comes from local supporters.
As we look back on the last three decades, we’re struck by the relationships and sense of community that have developed in our midst over time. Pulitzers and National Book Awards have been won by our faculty; established writers have mentored new, uncertain ones; alumni have published their own works, enrolled in MFA programs, and started publications and workshops of their own; friendships and writing partnerships have been formed; stories, poems and books have been written.
Remembering John Leggett (1917-2015)
Director Emeritus Anne Evans authored this tribute.
John Leggett, or Jack as we all knew him, was co-founder and Program Director of the Napa Valley Writers’ Conference from 1987 until his passing last Sunday at age 97.
Jack loved to tell the story of meeting Dave Evans at the Napa Post Office in 1987, manuscripts in hand, ready to send to publishers. Dave was a poet and teacher at Napa Valley College, and he had recently founded the Napa Valley Poetry Conference. Jack himself had recently retired to Napa after serving as the Director of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop for eighteen years. Before leaving the Post Office that day, these two gregarious and forwarding-thinking men agreed to add a week of fiction to the poetry conference and to run it together.