The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Conference Schedule

Over 50 craft talks, panels, presentations, and more

Featuring over 50 craft talks, workshops, panels, and presentations, our conference is eclectic, comprehensive, balanced, and diverse.

As a conference focused on literary craft and technique, we cover all major genres and forms, including fiction, creative nonfiction, poetry, memoir, young adult, and genre fiction. Sessions also touch on editing, publishing, the business of writing, and the writing life. We also highlight special topics like travel writing, climate change, graphic novels, translation, disability studies, hybrid forms, social justice, and more. 

Beyond regular sessions, we also offer advanced workshops with selected conference faculty on Thursday before the conference begins.

To learn more, you can view this year's schedule below. You can also view past schedules or download last year's program

To learn more about the Conference, you can meet our faculty or visit the registration page.

Conference Schedule 2019

How to Survive Your Novel
Ramona Ausubel

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 9:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Starting a novel is hard. Finishing a novel seems nearly impossible. And the middle, well, the middle is a thousand years long. But! But! There are things you can do to turn walls into doorways and keep you moving forward. Join award winning novelist, Ramona Ausubel, in a course on discussing strategies for survival in writing your novel and for keeping the process fun, inventive and full of life. This workshop consists of both moments of lecture and exercises, so be prepared to learn, talk, engage, and put your thoughts and ideas on the page!

Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Generative Workshop, Lecture, Workshop
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Hybrid, Novels

Writing Away from a Good/Evil Binary
Hanif Abdurraqib

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

We too often rely on a “good/bad” binary to shape our characters and considerations in our stories. How do our complexities as human beings find their way to the page? In this generative workshop, join poet, essayist, and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib, on an exploration on empathy and the dynamics of character in popular culture. The group will use an empathy tree in which participants figure out which characters in popular culture they find empathetic or non-empathetic.

Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Advanced Workshop, Generative Workshop, Workshop
Genre: Poetry

Writing Down the Demons
Deborah Miranda

Thursday, February 21, 2019, 12:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m.

How do we summon creative power in the face of our personal and/or global demons? How can we speak of beauty when our world seems full of loss, grief, climate change, and political turmoil?  Thich Nhat Hanh says that the work of meditation is to transform “compost into flowers”; that is also the work of poetry.  This generative workshop will help you to re-see your demons as a form of poetic compost.

Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Advanced Workshop, Generative Workshop, Workshop
Genre: Poetry

Conference Welcome

Friday, February 22, 2019, 8:00 a.m. - 8:45 a.m.

More information about this session is coming soon

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Community Event, Networking
Genre: n/a

Writing for Change
Yvette Johnson

Friday, February 22, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Throughout the world people are trying to figure out how to connect, how to talk about things that matter without having those conversations devolve into chaos. Many are turning to the written word. But, how do we write about provocative topics without sounding like we're standing on a soapbox or shouting through a bullhorn? This session will provide a framework for how to write about controversial issues in ways that open the hearts and minds of your readers and that may even lead to true healing and change. 

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Lecture, Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Human Rights, Mixed Genre, Social Justice

Writing Personal Essays for Newspapers
Jane Marcellus

Friday, February 22, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Aimed at nonfiction writers, this workshop deals with publication opportunities that have emerged in recent years on the border between journalism and literary nonfiction. Arguably hybrid, these columns differ both from news-focused op-ed pieces and the work found in literary journals and magazines, often calling for different skills in the submission and editing processes.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Business of Writing, Creative Nonfiction, Essays, Hybrid, Journalism

Resist the Erasure of Our [Im]Migrant Roots
María Luisa Arroyo

Friday, February 22, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Every single poet has complex roots – whether his/her/their family has lived in the States for generations or arrived here recently. This session provides poets the space and freedom to generate material that examines their cultural and linguistic identities in a safe environment. This workshop gives us permission to write about our roots, to learn more about how to use code-switching, and to become mindful of the musical friction and affinities between our English accents and Standard American English.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop
Genre: Experimental, Hybrid, Mixed Genre, Poetry, Regional Literature, Translation, World Literature

Speaking Their Language: The Voice of the Modern Teen
Erin Jade Lange

Friday, February 22, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

If you open a book to find the word “groovy,” you are instantly transported to the 1960s and 1970s. If all the characters are “mad” for life and calling each other “Daddy-O,” they are probably straight out of the 1950s. But what vernacular belongs to today’s teens? In this session, we will explore how modern technology has impacted our lingo and how to capture the voice of contemporary teens, when there is no slang to define their generation. Attendees should come prepared to write.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Lecture, Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Genre Fiction, Young Adult Literature

Writers Relationship to Reading
Tara Ison, Deborah Miranda, Patricia Colleen Murphy

Friday, February 22, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

More information about this session is coming soon.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel

Eight Drafts in Search of a Story
Ramona Ausubel

Friday, February 22, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

Writers are always talking about revision, but what exactly do they mean? I will offer eight of my favorite exercises and strategies for taking a story into bigger, wilder realms. Each draft will open your work up and and reignite your imagination. 

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre, Novels, Short Stories