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Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellows Reading

Date(s): Wednesday, January 15, 2020, 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.
Crescent Ballroom, Lounge, 308 N 2nd Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003
Genre and Form(s): Essays, Fantasy, Fiction, Historical Fiction, Poetry, Romance, Science Fiction, Short Stories
Cost: Free

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About this Event

Sean Avery. Andrew Hudson. Rogelio Juárez. Natalie Lima. Susan Nguyen. Gionni Ponce. Joel Salcido. Willow Sanders. Judith Starkston. Fargo Tbakhi. Ten incredible writers living in Arizona who are Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference fellows. Multiple genres. One reading.

Celebrate our local Desert Nights, Rising Stars fellows with the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellows Reading, Wednesday, January 15, 2020 from 6:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. in the lounge at Crescent Ballroom (308 N 2nd Ave, Phoenix, AZ 85003). Readings will start around 6:30 p.m. 

Please note: all RSVPs are purely for the purposes of monitoring attendance, gauging interest, and sending information and reminders ahead of the event. You do not need to RSVP or register to attend this event. This event is open to the public and free.

About the Fellows

Photograph of Sean Avery

Sean Avery (pronouns he/they) is a rapper, poet and teaching artist from Avondale, Arizona. Their work integrates Hip-Hop music, poetry, and theater to explore how Black masculinity is projected onto their body. They strive for an authentic performance of self, hoping to inspire others to examine their own identities.

Avery's work has been featured on Afropunk, Blavity, the 2015-2016 Wisconsin Film Festival, the 2020 Tucson Poetry Festival, Write on Downtown, and the 2018-2019 Chicago Hip-Hop Theater Festival. They've shared the stage with performers such as Saul Williams, Lemon Anderson, and J. Ivy.

Currently, Avery teaches throughout the Phoenix area at schools and nonprofits. Their album and play skinnyblk, and all of their work, can be found at

Photograph of Andrew Hudson

Andrew Dana Hudson is an award-winning speculative fiction writer. His fiction won the Imagination and Climate Futures Climate Fiction Contest, was runner up in the Writing the Future health sci-fi contest, and has appeared in Terraform, Little Blue Marble with work forthcoming in Slate Future Tense and LIGHTSPEED magazine He studies sustainability at ASU and is a fellow in the Imaginary College at the Center for Science and the Imagination. His nonfiction writing has appeared in Slate, among others. He serves as associate editor of Oasis, a Phoenix-based journal of anticapitalist thought.

Photograph of Rogelio Juarez

Rogelio Juárez is a Phoenix-based writer, a graduate of the VONA/Voices of Our Nation and Tin House workshops, a grandson of Braceros and son of an immigrant and a marine. His writing can be found in J Journal: New Writing on Justice, The James Franco Review, and Zócalo Public Square.

Photograph of Natalie Lima

Natalie Lima is a 2016 PEN America Emerging Voices Fellow and a VONA/Voices alum. She is 2019 alum of the winter Tin House Workshops and will be attending the summer workshop in July. She is a first-generation college graduate of Northwestern University and an MFA candidate in creative nonfiction at the University of Arizona, where she teaches introduction to fiction writing and freshman composition. Her essays and fiction have been published or are forthcoming in Longreads, Catapult, Brevity, The Offing, and elsewhere. She is currently writing a dark humor memoir-in-essays about the absurdities of living in a body.

Photograph of Susan Nguyen

Susan Nguyen hails from Virginia but currently lives and writes in Arizona. She received her MFA in poetry from Arziona State University. She is the recipient of fellowships from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and the Aleida Rodriguez Memorial Award. In 2018, she was featured on PBS NewsHour as "one of three women poets to watch" and she was a finalist for the Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Her work has appeared in Tin House, diagram, and others. You can find her at

Photograph of Gionni Ponce

Gionni Ponce is a Macondista prose writer currently based in Tempe, Arizona. She aims to create literary space for traditionally marginalized stories in her writing as well as in her work. She is the former associate director of the IU Writers' Conference. Her work is published in Kenyon Review Online, CRED Philly, The MFA Years, TakePart, and La Vida Magazine. To learn more, follow her on Twitter: @GPisMe

Photograph of Joel Salcido wearing a pigeon mask

Joel Salcido was born in the San Fernando Valley and raised in West Phoenix. He is the son of Mexican immigrants, a first-generation college graduate, a husband, and father of three sons. Salcido characterizes his work as hood magical realism—a navigation between the grief & ecstasy of place & experience. His poetry and prose are not simply written to or about his culture and community—but from it. His work has been featured or is forthcoming in [PANK] Magazine, Winter Tangerine, YesPoetry, PidgeonHoles, Write On: Downtown, Public Pool, and Acentos Review among others. He is the recipient of a Virginia G. Piper Creative Research Fellowship and a Winter Tangerine workshop alum. Salcido holds an MFA in Poetry from Arizona State University. 

Photograph of Willow Sanders

A marketer by day, and author by night, Willow Sanders writes sweet with heat Contemporary Romance and Romantic Suspense. Her debut novel, Dirty Little Secret won Breakout Author of the Year in 2012 from and was the Book Buzz PR - Romance Novel of the year. She has been a municipal liaison for National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) since 2004, both in Chicago and in Phoenix, is the Publicity Chair for Valley of the Sun RWA, the President of Desert Rose RWA, and also was named a 40 Under 40 Marketer by Connect Association last year. When not writing you can find her torn between her loyalty to the Fighting Illini and her husband's loyalty to Michigan State, bemoaning traffic, feeding her caffeine addiction at the Green Mermaid (otherwise known as Starbucks) and trying to find the connection between her and the Gilmore Girls--because she is certain she is a long-lost family member.

Photograph of Judith Starkston

Judith Starkston writes historical fantasy set in the Bronze Age world of Hittites and Greeks. She holds degrees in Classics, from University of California, Santa Cruz (BA) and Cornell University (MA). She taught high-school English, Latin and humanities. Her debut novel, Hand of Fire, was a semi-finalist for the prestigious M.M. Bennett’s Award for Historical Fiction. Her second novel, Priestess of Ishana won the San Diego State University Conference Choice Award. She is represented by Richard Curtis.

Photograph of Fargo Tbakhi

Fargo Tbakhi (he/him) is a queer Palestinian-american writer and performer from Phoenix, Arizona. He is the winner of the 2018 Ghassan Kanafani Resistance Arts Scholarship and the 2017 Kristin Valentine Scholarship in Performance Studies. He is a Pushcart nominee, and his work can be found in Cotton Xenomorph, Mizna, Cosmonauts Avenue, Glass: a Journal of Poetry, Peach Mag, and elsewhere.

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