Session Archives

Miss a session?

Want to see your favorite conversation again?

Your free registration to the Sonoma Valley Author’s Festival includes access to the video archive of every live session.

with moderator Dr. Roy Curry

Robert Theleen was one of the first foreign directors of a major Chinese State-owned industry, the prestigious Beijing Enterprises. He was the first foreigner to be appointed to the Government’s financial reform task force in 2007 and he was three-times elected Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai. He currently chairs the Shanghai President’s Roundtable, consisting of 62 CEOs of US and European multinational companies in China.

Bob lived and worked in China for more than 35 years. He does not just observe China, he has lived it and participated in China’s economic rise since its inception in the late 70s. He has worked with China’s senior leadership, launched the first Venture Capital fund in China with his Chinese wife in 1981 and was a pioneer investor in key industries all through these years.

with moderator Joyce Mikal-Flynn

Damon West‘s memoir The Change Agent: How a Former College QB Sentenced to Life in Prison Transformed His World tells the harrowing story of his sentence to 65 years in a Texas prison after being convicted of drug-related crimes after a lifetime of addiction, and the heartwarming story of his recovery. His second book, The Coffee Bean, co-authored with best-selling author Jon Gordon, became an instant bestseller.

While working on Wall Street, Damon was introduced to methamphetamine. Inevitably, he was arrested on drug-related charges. Or, as he refers to it, he was not “arrested” so much as he was “rescued.” During his 7-year stint behind bars, Damon vowed to turn his life around. He earned an MS in Criminal Justice and works for a law firm in Texas. He regularly speaks to students and athletes about the dangers of drugs and the consequences of bad decisions. His story has been featured both nationally and globally.

in conversation with Wendy Gorton

Daniel M. Russell‘s book, The Joy of Search: A Google Insider’s Guide to Going Beyond the Basics, explains how to frame search queries so they will yield information and describes the best ways to use such resources as Google Earth, Google Scholar, Wikipedia, and Wikimedia. It was published by MIT Press in September 2019.

Dan is Google’s Senior Research Scientist for Search Quality and User Happiness in Mountain View, CA. His day job is understanding how people search for information, and the ways they come to learn about the world through Google.

with moderator Chuck Williamson

Wade DavisInto the Silence: The Great War, Mallory, and the Conquest of Everest is the definitive story of the British adventurers who survived the trenches of World War I and went on to risk their lives climbing Mount Everest.

Wade is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University.  His many books have been translated into sixteen languages. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including: The Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club (2011), the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (2009), the 2002 Lowell Thomas Medal (The Explorer’s Club) and the 2002 Lannan Foundation $125,000 prize for literary non-fiction.

in conversation with Emilie Lygren

Naomi Shihab Nye is the author and/or editor of more than 30 volumes. Her books of poetry for adults and children include 19 Varieties of Gazelle: Poems of the Middle East (a finalist for the National Book Award), A Maze Me: Poems for GirlsRed SuitcaseWords Under the WordsFuel,  TransferYou & Yours (a best-selling poetry book of 2006), Mint Snowball,  Voices in the Air: Poems for ListenersCome with Me: Poems for a Journey, and Honeybee (awarded the 2008 Arab American Book Award in the Children’s/Young Adult category), and The Tiny Journalist.

Naomi describes herself as a “wandering poet.” She has spent 40 years traveling the country and the world to lead writing workshops and inspiring students of all ages. Nye was born to a Palestinian father and an American mother and grew up in St. Louis, Jerusalem, and San Antonio. Drawing on her Palestinian-American heritage, the cultural diversity of her home in Texas, and her experiences traveling in Asia, Europe, Canada, Mexico, and the Middle East, she uses her writing to attest to our shared humanity.

with moderator Jeff Balash

Jordan Blashek and Chris Haugh‘s just released Union: A Democrat, a Republican, and a Search for Common Ground is the story of the two friends’ three-year journey across America. One a Republican and one a Democrat, they traveled together through 44 states and along 20,000 miles of road to find out exactly where the American experiment stands at the close of the second decade of the 21st Century.

Jordan is a military veteran and businessman from Los Angeles. Chris attended UC Berkeley and Oxford University and started speechwriting as an intern in the Obama White House. He went on to join the U.S. Department of State’s Policy Planning Staff where he served as a speechwriter to the Secretary. In 2018, he graduated from Yale Law School where he was a Yale Journalism Scholar. He is based in the San Francisco Bay Area and New York.

in conversation with Sam Wasson

Hawk Koch‘s Magic Time: My Life in Hollywood, is his personal, entertaining, retelling of his long and important career making and celebrating motion pictures.

Hawk is a veteran movie producer, intimately involved with the making of more than 60 major motion pictures among them such classics as Chinatown, Heaven Can Wait, Wayne’s World, Primal Fear, Marathon Man, The Way We Were, Peggy Sue Got Married, and Rosemary’s Baby.

with moderator James Strock

Michael Shellenberger’s just released Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All has been called, “an extremely important book,” by none other than historian Richard Rhodes, who won the Pulitzer Prize for The Making of the Atomic Bomb. A studied examination of up-to-the-minute environmental issues, Apocalypse Never integrates science and lived experience to rescue a subject drowning in misunderstanding and partisanship.

Michael is a Time magazine “Hero of the Environment”; the winner of the 2008 Green Book Award from the Stevens Institute of Technology’s Center for Science Writings; and an invited expert reviewer of the next Assessment Report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). He has written on energy and the environment for the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, Nature Energy, and other publications for two decades. He is the founder and president of Environmental Progress, an independent, nonpartisan research organization based in Berkeley, California.

with moderator Laura Zimmerman

Dr. Ramon Resa’s memoir Out of the Fields: My Journey from Farmworker Boy to Pediatrician shares how Ramon found the courage to pursue his vision of becoming a doctor, a healer who could save others from much of the misery that he had experienced. His is the story of human potential and the ways we can keep it alive inside ourselves, even when there is no visible evidence that our dreams can come true

Ramon was raised by his grandparents, one of 15 children, in the tiny community of Goshen, CA in the central valley. His childhood was one of poverty, neglect, abuse, and total disregard for education. He struggled with low self-esteem, a speech impediment, recurring depression, and prejudice.

His world turned around when his second-grade teacher noticed how much he loved to read, and opened his eyes to the idea of becoming a doctor. He was the first one in his family to attend college. Upon completing his medical education, Dr. Resa returned to the San Joaquin Valley to open his pediatric practice in Porterville, CA, where he has spent the last three decades working with poor and under-served children, much like the child he was.

with moderator David Freeman

John “Mac” McQuown is a self-described anarchist, a legend in the finance industry, an environmentalist, entrepreneur, philanthropist and creator of the Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma.

According to Mac, “The environment is just a problem of figuring out what’s going on. And then when you figure it out, solving it. And you know damn well the government’s not going to solve it. You don’t have to be an anarchist to come to that conclusion”.

“Mac” is a true legend in the finance industry having started the first index fund at Wells Fargo and worked to introduce the first retail index fund in the 1970’s. In 1981, Mac became a founding member of Board of Directors at Dimensional Fund Advisors, furthering his belief in the power of quantitative analysis to measure risk and return.

Mac’s interests and influence extend well beyond the world of finance. In 2004, he and his wife Leslie established Stone Edge Farm Estate Vineyards and Winery in Sonoma, which produces world-class Cabernet Sauvignon wine.  But Stone Edge is no ordinary winery. It is also a unique microgrid, a self-sustaining property with energy supplied by solar panels, hydrogen generated by a solar-powered electrolyzer, and a triple-redundant mini-gas turbine, all funneling power into onsite batteries. The complex control system is flawlessly designed to pull power at any given moment from the most efficient and sustainable source.

Mac will discuss the journey he and Leslie have taken with Stone Edge, where it is today and where it is headed. As for the future of power generation, according to Mac, “There aren’t going to be any utilities by the time your grandkids are full-grown. There will be no utility grids”.

in conversation with Robert Franklin

J. Douglas Holladay is the author of Rethinking Success: Eight Essential Practices for Finding Meaning in Work and Life in which he shares how to find meaning, balance, and purpose throughout your career while reaching the highest levels of professional achievement—how to do well without losing yourself.

Douglas’ career trajectory of has been a unique and varied blend of public service, finance and business, non-profit work, and more recently, teaching and journalism. Formerly a senior officer at Goldman, Sachs and Co., he is a co-founder of private equity partnerships and funds, with a current focus on advising non-profit organizations. He also teaches at Georgetown University in the MBA program. He holds degrees from the University of North Carolina, Princeton Theological Seminary, and Oxford University.

Wade Davis’ captivating Magdalena: River of Dreams: A Story of Colombiawhich brings to life the story of the great Río Magdalena and illuminates Colombia’s complex past, present, and future is set for release September 15th.

Wade is an Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society. Named by the NGS as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, he has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, he holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University.  His many books have been translated into sixteen languages. He is also the recipient of numerous awards including: The Explorers Medal, the highest award of the Explorers Club (2011), the Gold Medal of the Royal Canadian Geographical Society (2009), the 2002 Lowell Thomas Medal (The Explorer’s Club) and the 2002 Lannan Foundation $125,000 prize for literary non-fiction.

in conversation with Isabel Allende

Adam Hochschild‘s latest release, Rebel Cinderella: From Rags to Riches to Radical, tells the astonishing but forgotten story of an immigrant sweatshop worker who married an heir to a great American fortune and became one of the most charismatic radical leaders of her time.

Adam is the author of ten books, mostly on the subject of human rights, including King Leopold’s Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa and The Mirror at Midnight: A South African Journey. His book, Bury the Chains: Prophets and Rebels in the Fight to Free an Empire’s Slaves, was a finalist for the National Book Award and was also long listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize. In addition, he has consulted for the BBC and taught writing workshops for working journalists in the U.S., Britain, Zambia, South Africa and India.

in conversation with David Evans

Alex Filippenko has produced five astronomy video courses with The Great Courses, co-authored an award-winning astronomy textbook (five editions), and appears in more than 120 television documentaries.

Alex a renowned astrophysicist and professor of astronomy at UC Berkeley. He was the only person to have been a member of the two teams that revealed the accelerating expansion of the universe and the implied existence of dark energy.  The discovery was voted the top science breakthrough of 1998 by Science magazine and resulted in the 2011 Nobel Prize for Physics being awarded to the leaders of the two project teams, as well as the 2007 Gruber Cosmology Prize and the 2015 Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics to all team members.

in conversation with Douglas Holladay

Dr. Robert Michael Franklin, Jr. is the author of three books: Crisis in the Village: Restoring Hope in African American Communities (2007); Another Day’s Journey: Black Churches Confronting the American Crisis (1997); and Liberating Visions: Human Fulfillment and Social Justice in African American Thought (1990). He has co-authored (Don S. Browning, et. al.) a volume titled, From Culture Wars to Common Ground: Religion and the American Family Debate (2001). He also penned the foreword to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s, Letter from Birmingham Jail, reprinted by Trinity Forum in 2012.

Robert is the James T. and Berta R. Laney Professor of Moral Leadership at Emory University (Atlanta) and Director of the Religion Department of the Chautauqua Institution. In 2014, he served as Senior Advisor for Community and Diversity, Emory University (Atlanta).  In 2013, he was a Visiting Scholar in Residence at Stanford University’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Research and Education Institute. He is president emeritus of Morehouse College where he served as the tenth president of the nation’s largest private, four-year liberal arts college for men from 2007 through 2012.

in conversation with James Strock

General H.R. McMaster‘s much-anticipated new work, Battlegrounds – which covers his time in the service and the White House – is slated for release September 15th. He is also the author of the award-winning book Dereliction of Duty: Lyndon Johnson, Robert McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Lies that Led to Vietnam.

With thirty-four years of experience as an officer in the US Army commanding troops in Afghanistan, Iraq, Kuwait, and during Desert Storm, followed by a position as National Security Advisor in the White House, and professorships at Stanford University and the Hoover Institution, General McMaster brings us his well-qualified viewpoint of the geopolitical landscape and decades of first-hand knowledge of the global stage today.

in conversation with Naomi Shihab Nye

Billy Collins is the author of twelve collections of poetry including The Rain in Portugal, Aimless Love, Horoscopes for the Dead, Ballistics, The Trouble with Poetry, Nine Horses, Sailing Alone Around the Room, Questions About Angels, The Art of Drowning, and Picnic, Lightning. He is also the editor of Poetry 180: A Turning Back to Poetry, 180 More: Extraordinary Poems for Every Day, and Bright Wings: An Illustrated Anthology of Poems About Birds.

A former Distinguished Professor at Lehman College of the City University of New York, Billy served as Poet Laureate of the United States from 2001 to 2003 and as New York State Poet from 2004 to 2006. In 2016 he was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He lives in Florida with his wife Suzannah.

Colin O’Brady

Colin O’Brady‘s New York Times bestseller The Impossible First: From Fire to Ice – Crossing Antarctica Alone is his story of how he solo-walked 932 miles across Antarctica pulling a sled filled with food that started out weighing 375 pounds. He survived sub-zero temperatures, whiteouts, and two months all alone in the wilderness.

If there is a mountain that needs climbing, a massive slab of ice that needs crossing, or a dangerous water passage to traverse, Colin O’Brady is your guy.

in conversation with Bill Petrocelli

Andy Weinberger is the author of the Amos Parisman mysteries – An Old Man’s Game and the forthcoming Reason to Kill – and a long time bookseller who owns and runs Readers’ Books in Sonoma, California.  Reader’s celebrated its 25th anniversary in 2019 and is “an anchor of the community.”

Born in New York, Andy grew up in Pasadena and Hollywood, where he fell under the spell of writers like Raymond Chandler and James M. Cain.

with moderator James Strock

Jeffrey Rosen is the author of seven books including, most recently, Conversations with RBG: Ruth Bader Ginsburg on Life, Love, Liberty, and the Law. His other books include a biography of William Howard Taft, published as part of the American Presidents Series; Louis D. Brandeis: American Prophet; The Supreme Court: The Personalities and Rivalries that Defined America; The Most Democratic Branch: How the Courts Serve America; The Naked Crowd: Reclaiming Security and Freedom in an Anxious Age; and The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America.

Jeffrey is President and CEO of the National Constitution Center, a law professor at George Washington University, and a contributing editor for The Atlantic. He holds bachelor’s degrees from Harvard and Oxford and a law degree from Yale. Previously he was legal affairs editor of The New Republic and a staff writer for The New Yorker. He is a nonresident senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, where he speaks and writes about technology and the future of democracy. He often appears as a guest on National Public Radio and is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Magazine.

with moderator Robert (Bob) Obana

Julia Flynn Siler is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist whose latest book, The White Devil’s Daughters: The Women Who Fought Against Slavery in San Francisco’s Chinatown, was named an “Editors’ Choice” title by the New York Times. In recognition of the work, Julia has also been named a finalist in the non-fiction category for the 89th annual California Book Awards.

As a veteran correspondent for the Wall Street Journal and BusinessWeek magazine, Julia spent more than two decades in Europe and the United States, reporting from a dozen countries. She has covered fields as varied as biotechnology, cult wines, puppy breeding, and a princess’s quest to restore a Hawaiian palace’s lost treasures. She has also appeared as a commentator on the BBC, CBS, CNBC, NPR, and has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, and the Los Angeles Times.

Anthony Ray Hinton‘s memoir The Sun Does Shine: How I Found Life and Freedom on Death Row (2018) is an extraordinary journey through the traumas of imprisonment, the loss of freedom, and the power of hope.

On April 3, 2015,  Anthony walked out of the Jefferson County Jail a free man after 30 years on death row for a crime he did not commit. He was one of the longest serving death row prisoners in Alabama history. He is also among the longest serving condemned prisoners to be freed after presenting evidence of innocence.

in conversation with Don George

Isabel Allende has authored more than twenty-three bestselling and critically acclaimed books, including her most recent novel, A Long Petal of the Sea.

A novelist and philanthropist, Isabel is one of the most widely read authors in the world and has sold more than 74 million books. Born in Peru and raised in Chile, she won worldwide acclaim in 1982 with the publication of her hugely popular first novel, The House of the Spirits.

Min Jin Lee

in conversation with Julia Flynn Siler

Min Jin Lee’s Pachinko is an epic story that follows a Korean family who migrates to Japan; it is the first novel written for an adult, English-speaking audience about the Korean Japanese people.

Min is a writer whose award-winning fiction explores the intersection of race, ethnicity, immigration, class, religion, gender, and identity of a diasporic people. She is a recipient of fiction fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the Radcliffe Institute of Advanced Study at Harvard, and the New York Foundation for the Arts.