Pebble Beach Authors & Ideas Festival: A Return to the Area’s Bohemian Roots

The Monterey Peninsula has long been a provocative hotbed of epiphanies and inspiration. After the 1906 San Francisco Earthquake and Fire, many leading poets and writers retreated to Carmel-by-the-Sea, where a burgeoning Bohemian art community was forming.

By 1910, The Los Angeles Times had noticed, writing a Sunday front-page feature titled, “Carmel in California, Where Author and Artist Folk Are Establishing the Most Amazing Colony on Earth.The San Francisco Chronicle also reported the same year that 60 percent of Carmel’s quaint and charismatic homes were built by residents who were “devoting their lives to work connected to the aesthetic arts.”

Literary luminaries who have emerged enlightened from the Monterey Peninsula include Walter Colton, William Brewer and Robert Louis Stevenson in the 19th century, and Robinson Jeffers, Jack London, John Steinbeck and Salvador Dali in the 20th century.

That soul-searching spirit of the Monterey Peninsula still lives on, and is reignited every September at the Pebble Beach Authors & Ideas Festival. Now in its 11th entertaining and illuminating year (Sept. 22-24, 2017), Authors & Ideas taps into more than 30 thought-provoking experts throughout its perspective-challenging three-day celebration of big thinking.

Many speakers are New York Times Best Sellers, while others have won Pulitzers and Nobel prizes.

But celebrity and marketability are never the invitation criteria.

“I’m looking for, ‘I just heard the greatest talk at this festival’ people,” says 
Jim McGillen, who founded the festival 11 years ago with his wife Cynthia.

Those people have also included some of today’s most admired minds, such as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, former CIA Director Leon Panetta, 18-time New York Times Best Seller Carl Hiaasen, marine archaeologist and Titanic discoverer Bob Ballard, esteemed presidential biographer Doris Kearns Goodwin and Pulitzer Prize-winning humor columnist Dave Barry, plus many more.

“We spend the entire year screening and looking for the 25 to 30 best speakers who convey amazing and interesting ideas in an entertaining manner,” says Jim McGillen. “When we started, the publishers in New York wouldn’t return our calls. Now they are calling us to suggest writers.”

Originally energized and invigorated after attending the Aspen Ideas Festival, the McGillens have built this event from scratch, recruiting amazing and interesting ideas from world leaders, astronauts, neuroscientists, mathematicians…and even jugglers.

Click here for a sneak preview of this year’s group of geniuses, and to learn more about the 11th Annual Pebble Beach Authors & Ideas Festival.


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