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Rancho Mirage Writers Festival transforms local library into literary powerhouse

Rancho Mirage Writers Festival Day One

A breathtaking lineup of literary and political bellwethers spoke at day one of the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival on Wednesday, with topics ranging from food to history to literature.

After a years-long pandemic break, the ninth iteration of the festival is welcoming back attendees with the theme "Brave New World: The Future is Now." Organizers said the festival is meant to foster spirited but civil discourse in light of the current political animosity. 

"We really felt like the way the nation was going -- we just felt like having good conversations about the world as it was," said Aaron Espinosa, the executive director of the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival. 

More than a dozen Pulitzer Prize-winning writers are a part of this year's festival, including novelist Anthony Doerr, columnist Maureen Dowd, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin, and presidential biographer Jon Meacham.

"Remember, democracies are fragile enterprises because they are human enterprises," said Meacham during his session, referring to the theme of the festival.

Other speakers include Karl Rove, journalist Judy Woodruff, Congressman Joseph Kennedy III, Outlander author Diana Gabaldon, and more.

For all the big names in the Rancho Mirage Library and Observatory building, the festival is considered to be intimate for its size; only 1,100 attendees are expected during this three-day event, with just four rooms available for the sessions. For some writers, one of the draws of this festival is that it's inside a library (which can only hold so many people before it becomes a fire hazard), and nowhere more apt to celebrate the written word is the library — something Doerr explores in his latest novel "Cloud Cuckoo Land."

"To access the accumulated wisdom of the human species is such a gift, and I think, really, my whole life -- I'm almost 50 years old -- I took that for granted. My mom would take us to library, and I just assumed every community, every person had access to these things. And they don't," said Anthony Doerr, a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist.

Festival organizers said it is why supporting local libraries is crucial.

"Many of our authors are sitting here, going, 'I want to be here, specifically because it's in a library,'" said Espinosa.

For the first time in festival history, an outdoor pavilion has been set up to stream the sessions.

Tickets to the Rancho Mirage Writers Festival are highly coveted, usually selling out in about 10 minutes.

If you would like to attend in 2024, ticket sales open March 1.

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Angela Chen

Angela comes to the Coachella Valley as KESQ’s morning anchor after teaching graduate school classes at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism and Communication. Learn more about Angela here.


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