Free Lawn Talks

We are pleased to invite the community to join us for our series of free 2024 Pavilion Lawn Talks.



We want our local community to enjoy all that SVWC has to offer, which is why we have opened up select Pavilion Talks for FREE seating on the lawn of the Sun Valley Pavilion. Bring a picnic, blanket, and low-back chair and join us July 20-22 to hear from some of our country’s most inspiring minds.


Select presentations will be broadcast live to the large jumbotron on the Pavilion lawn. Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis—no ticketing or registration is required. You can browse our Bookstore Tent to purchase books by each author and join us for book signings following the talk. If you would prefer to watch the talk from inside the Sun Valley Pavilion, we have single event tickets available (SOLD OUT for 2024). We recommend signing up for our email newsletter to receive important updates and information about these events.

See below for a complete schedule of available talks.

Saturday, July 20

Paul Muldoon


3:30 – 4:45 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

There has never been a time when the poet’s voice was more necessary, to offer wisdom, whimsy, and balm for our sorrows, especially if such a voice belongs to the celebrated Irish-born poet PAUL MULDOON. Described as “the most significant English-language poet born since the Second World War” and “one of the great poets of the past hundred years,” he has won myriad awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize. With his magical range and musical ear, Muldoon has written about hedgehogs and cauliflowers, about birth and death, and he will inaugurate our festival with a reading of some of his most beloved poems, including selections from his upcoming collection, Joy in Service on Rue Tagore. Welcome to the poetic launch of SVWC 2024.

Margaret Atwood


5:15 – 6:15 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

MARGARET ATWOOD, author of more than 60 books in almost every conceivable genre and recipient of more than 100 literary prizes from around the world, is a global icon. Like Kafka and Orwell before her, she and her writing have become part of the public discourse, wherever we live and whatever our age. Atwood’s intelligence is that vital and exacting, her wit that mischievous, her concerns— from birds to the human condition, from environmentalism to feminism, from the lessons of history to social justice—that urgently relevant. She has quoted a Polish resistance fighter from the Second World War who once told her: “Pray that you will never have the occasion to be a hero.” As it has turned out, Atwood has indeed had the occasion, not just once, and never has she failed to rise to its challenges. She is our hero. After receiving the 2024 SVWC Writer in the World Prize, Atwood will talk to Pulitzer Prize-winning writer AYAD AKHTAR about her life, her work, and some of the many wonders and terrors of the world we are living in.

Sunday, July 21

Kristin Hannah, Ayana Mathis & Abraham Verghese with Pamela Paul


9:00 – 10:00 AM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

Hilary Mantel once wrote, “The writer of history is a walking anachronism, using today’s techniques to try to know things about yesterday that yesterday didn’t know itself. She must try to work authentically, hearing the words of the past, but communicating in a language the present understands. I start to practice my trade at the point where the satisfactions of the official story break down.” Three of our most incisive and successful contemporary novelists whose work often engages with history—KRISTIN HANNAH, AYANA MATHIS, and ABRAHAM VERGHESE—will sit down with New York Times columnist and former Book Review editor PAMELA PAUL for a frank discussion about Mantel’s observations, their own books, and how and why they write what they do.

Judy Blume


2:30 AM – 3:30 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

There are writers who continue to feel bold, and magical, and necessary decade after decade. So it is with the legendary JUDY BLUME, the author of 25 books for young readers and four novels for adults that have sold more than 90 million copies in 40 languages. Her cherished, groundbreaking young adult novel, Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret, has captivated and enlightened girls (and their parents) from 1970, the year it was published, right through last year, when the adaptation of that book hit movie screens. In a warm, wide-ranging conversation with her friend JEFFREY BROWN of the PBS NewsHour, Blume will talk about her life and work.

Niall Ferguson


4:00 – 5:00 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

No U.S. secretary of state ever achieved such celebrity while in office as Henry Kissinger; immersed in the philosophy of Kant and the diplomacy of Metternich, he was hailed as one of the most important strategic thinkers America has ever produced. Yet no former secretary of state has been more vehemently criticized, most notably for sins of omission and commission in countries such as Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chile, and East Timor. Renowned historian NIALL FERGUSON, now completing the second of his two-volume biography of Kissinger, talks to journalist EVAN OSNOS about his subject’s complicated legacy and, casting a hard eye at current crises around the world, considers what Kissinger might have made of our current foreign policy landscape.

Erik Larson


5:15 – 6:15 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

How does a guy who swore repeatedly that he would never write about the Civil War end up writing a book about the Civil War? ERIK LARSON, a master of narrative nonfiction, will talk about how, contrary to his own conviction, he ended up writing The Demon of Unrest, his enthralling account of the chaotic months between Lincoln’s election and the Confederacy’s shelling of Fort Sumter—a period marked by tragic errors and miscommunications, enflamed egos and craven ambitions, personal tragedies and betrayals. The book is a political horror story that captures the forces that led America to the brink—a dark reminder that we often don’t see a cataclysm coming until it’s too late.

Monday, July 22

Padma Lakshmi & Ruth Reichl


9:30 AM – 10:30 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

Join two celebrated food storytellers, PADMA LAKSHMI and RUTH REICHL, as they talk about their love of food and how that love has defined their professional lives and informed their memories. They will tell us why they decided to write about food and share the details of memorable meals that they prepared or shared—with parents, children, lovers, or friends—and how those meals shaped their lives (with one disastrous meal thrown in for humorous measure). In conversation with their fellow food writer ALEKSANDRA CRAPANZANO, they will talk about their foodcentric memoirs and the creative intersection between writing and cooking, and they will give us a list of their favorite cookbooks. If you love to eat and you love to read, you will love this literary meal.

Niall Ferguson, David Miliband & Clarissa Ward with Jeffrey Goldberg


3:00 – 4:00 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

There are many days now when parts of the world order seem to be well and fully coming apart at the seams. Join four of our most engaged and perceptive thinkers: historian NIALL FERGUSON, author of Doom: The Politics of Catastrophe; JEFFREY GOLDBERG, editor in chief of The Atlantic; DAVID MILIBAND, President and CEO of the International Rescue Committee; and CLARISSA WARD, CNN’s chief international correspondent for an honest and illuminating conversation about the root causes of recent wars in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the humanitarian crises that they have sparked, and what the West should and can do to relieve them.

Anne Lamott


4:30 – 5:30 PM
Sun Valley Pavilion Lawn

We close our 30th anniversary gathering with the singular voice of ANNE LAMOTT, giving the 2024 Frank McCourt Memorial Lecture an appropriate grace note as both were beloved foundational members of this Conference. Over the past decades, Lamott’s many fiction and nonfiction books have touched on faith and family and loss and love, moving millions with their signature humor and honesty. She will reflect on what books, poetry, and good writing have meant to all of us, and their essential place in our lives, offering salvation and community, the very reason we are here together in Sun Valley.


  • Seating is available on a first-come, first-served basis.
  • Please no high-backed chairs.
  • In the unlikely event that extreme weather necessitates a change in talk location, lawn access will not be available.