The Virginia G. Piper
Center for Creative Writing

Picture of Piper Center Artistic Director Alberto Álvaro Ríos speaking at Desert Nights, Rising Stars

Piper Center Artistic Director and Arizona inaugural Poet Laureate Alberto Álvaro Ríos speaking at the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference in 2018. Photo by Kevin S Moul.

From the Director

A letter from Alberto Ríos

Welcome writers.  Welcome readers.  Welcome possibilities.

             Wild days.  I know.  We all know.  Hostility, brutality.  Covid 19, social distancing.  The economy.  The border, in all things.  The lifespan of Supreme Court justices.  The aches and pains of everyday life.  Loneliness.  Mosquito bites.  Horror and bad dreams and imagination.  Boredom.  Rain.  No rain.  Presidents.  The list starts big, but immediately leads to the live-a-day mundane, things no less real or important in the actual experiencing of our daily lives.  All this and some happiness, too.

            We are here and the moment is ours to meet.  Our actions, in a very real way, will be the pathway to whatever future awaits us.  The world simply will not be the same as it was.  But what will be changed is up to us.  In that strangeness, I still think there’s a little bit of magic out there.  It’s shy, though, and you have to look for it.  With so much loud in the world, there seems to be no room for it.

            Understanding that what writers imagine is then passed from them to the page makes the human magic in all books far more reachable, more touchable, more palpable, and more possible than we suppose.  Writers think a world into being.  So curiously, these wild days may actually help us—press us!—to find and make meaningful and necessary words for the world outside our door.  In what might seem like an apparent still life, we writers may indeed sit—but nothing is still: we are compulsive reactors to the provoked imagination, thinkers of odd connection, and wranglers of the wild idea.  Even quiet, we writers are Tasmanian devils dancing on the bridge of dreams.

            Go on, writer, go on, thinker, go on, story maker: go out onto the wild, wild page.  Find your words—writing, reading, singing.  Find your words.

            For 17 years, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing has offered this conference to connect writers to each other, to the larger conversations on creative writing, and to support the individual journey that you are on as a reader, writer, and thinker.  We do it this year in extraordinary circumstance.  But this conference exists because we continue to believe that gathered voices hold strength, we believe that education takes place within community, and we believe our combined voices, as writers and human beings both, are the necessary catalyst for thoughtful change and a bettering of our fierce, fierce times.

            Our fine faculty writers were thoughtfully selected for not only their work as artists and educators but also their involvement in their communities. Our conference continues to evolve in ways that allow for more access and more engagement for everyone, from writer to reader. Thank you for being an integral part of this year’s conference.

            Welcome to the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference 2021!

 Alberto Ríos


Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing