The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Conference Schedule 2018

Conference Schedule 2018

Friday, Feb 23, 2018

Frame Work
Jac Jemc

Friday, February 23, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

In his essay, “The Perception of Reality,” William James posed the question, “Under what circumstances do we think things are real?” We’ll use this question as a jumping off point to examine how it is we generate feelings of authenticity in our fiction using different frameworks. How can voice be used to indicate truth? How can stories within stories aid the attempt at making meaning? How can a structure that supports multiple levels of fact or fiction strengthen the overall effect of the narrative and serve as a platform for the objective of the piece?

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction

Working with Agents
Rayhané Sanders

Friday, February 23, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Learn an overview of an agent’s job and role in working with authors throughout the process—from signing to the publishing deal and beyond. This session opens for Q&A from the audience and is intended to be conversational, so bring your questions.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation, Q&A
Genre: Agents, Business of Writing, Publishing

Writing in the Visual Medium
Kristen Radtke, Cecil Castellucci

Friday, February 23, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

What is the intersection of image and text? What does it mean to be a writer in today’s graphic medium? Join Cecil Castellucci and Kristen Radkte for an intimate conversation exploring their respective journeys as graphic novelists, how writing graphic novels differs from traditional narratives in fiction and nonfiction, their different approaches to the medium—practicing the art form versus collaborating with artists—and a survey of the field and art in contemporary society.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Conversation, Panel
Genre: Comics, Graphic Novels, Mixed Genre

Research for Writers
Derek Palacio

Friday, February 23, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

This session will explore broad approaches and philosophies to incorporating research into fiction writing. What are the goals of research? How can research be employed in fiction writing beyond ambiguous ideas of "authenticity"? How does one mine facts and histories for rich narrative discovery? A mixture of lecture and exercises, this session will ask participants to think differently on how we research fiction, and how to better employ acquired knowledge and expertise.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Lecture, Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Research

From Acquisition to Publication
Emily Bell

Friday, February 23, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Here's the "what you need to know" about publication. We will discuss the publication process—every step that goes into getting your manuscript published by a major publishing house and all of the people who would be working with you throughout the process.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Editing, Publishing

Representing Foreign Territories in Fiction
Nina McConigley

Friday, February 23, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

This session discusses the issues that arise when authors represent foreign spaces in fiction—such as other countries, cities, states, and landscapes—they themselves have not traveled to or are not originally from. We will look to what extent a writer can “know” a place they did not grow up in; we will discuss/write how to deal with the social and factual issues innate to representing unfamiliar territories, sharing observations from our own work and experience.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction

The Craft of Character: From the Charismatic to the Anti-Hero
Tod Goldberg, Roy Kesey, Alix Ohlin

Friday, February 23, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

What makes a character memorable? How do you design a character that drives story? Great characters are not perfect. Some great characters are not even likable. At times, it’s character’s meanness, cynicism, and wretchedness that draws a reader to them and makes the plot matter. Great characters are complex, flawed, unique human beings—just like their writers and readers.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre

Putting the Science in Science Fiction
Amy K. Nichols

Friday, February 23, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

It’s one thing to imagine a space battle; it’s quite another to write one in such a way it slips easily through the reader’s believability filter. This session will explore research and writing techniques for incorporating scientific fact in your fiction. Participants will gain practical knowledge of scientific resources for writers, as well as tips for crafting science fiction that is both compelling and believable.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Research, Science Fiction

Memoir and the Body
Rosemarie Dombrowski, Stephen Kuusisto, Andrea Avery

Friday, February 23, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

How do we conceptualize the body in narrative? How does society enable or disable certain modes of being? What kinds of physical assumptions do we bring to a text? Join authors Andrea Avery, Rosemarie Dombrowski, and Stephen Kuusisto as they explore the role of ability in text: where personal narratives intersect with social constructions of health and illness, how these stories can be given power through the vehicle of memoir, and how the body can serve as a site of lyrical resistance.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Panel
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Memoir

Narrative Fundamentals
Daniel José Older

Friday, February 23, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

In this session, we will examine four fundamental elements of narrative and how they fit together to craft a story that readers won't want to put down.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction

Believable Characters in Unbelievable Situations
Charlie Jane Anders

Friday, February 23, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Nowadays lot of the most interesting Science Fiction and literary fiction feature ludicrous and unreal situations—everyone from George Saunders to George R.R. Martin has some wild storylines where ordinary reality goes out the window. So how do you keep your characters feeling like people the reader could meet on the subway, while putting them in surreal worlds? We will discuss some ideas about how to write characters with believable inner lives and worlds, even when everything around them is crazy.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fantasy, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Science Fiction

Temporality
Kevin McIlvoy

Friday, February 23, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

We will focus upon the complex matters of temporal experience writers reckon with as they compose and as they revise. Participants should come prepared for an active discussion ranging over broad concepts and specific approaches.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Discussion, Presentation
Genre: Mixed Genre, Writing Life

Lunch

Friday, February 23, 2018, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

More information coming soon

Location: Farnsworth Terrace, Patio, Old Main
Type: Lunch
Genre:

Writing the New American West: Postfrontier Literature
Nina McConigley

Friday, February 23, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Writing about the American West has moved well beyond literature of American Old West/Frontier narratives that were typically set from the late eighteenth to the late nineteenth century. A new understanding of contemporary western writing is emerging. Sometimes referred to as Postfrontier literature, the more recent literary output of the region tends to engage in a reinterpretation of the region, calling into question the ways in which it has been defined in the past.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre

Writing Life: Balancing Word and World
Derek Palacio, Malka Older, Jenny Johnson

Friday, February 23, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

How do we, as writers, make creative space and find a balance in our hectic lives? How do we manage competing attentions, desires, deadlines and responsibilities? How do we remain wholly writer and wholly human? In this panel discussion, authors Derek Palacio, Malka Older, and Jenny Johnson discuss the challenges of balancing an active writing practice with the rest of life’s demands and share insights on how writing doesn’t have to be a disconnected side project, but an integrated part of an individual’s life.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Panel
Genre: Writing Life

Reliably Unreliable: Writing Unreliable Narrators
Tod Goldberg

Friday, February 23, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Some of the most iconic narrators in the history of literature have been nothing short of abject liars. Huckleberry Finn? Totally unreliable. Nick Carraway? Delusional. Briony Tallis? Humbert Humbert? Both Nick AND Amy Dunne? Con artists, one and all. In this session, we'll examine the art of deception, how writers can make their narrators—in any point of view—unreliable without alienating their readers in the process.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre

Where Poetry Comes From
Alberto Álvaro Ríos

Friday, February 23, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

Where does poetry come from? This is an impossible question to answer, of course, and it’s different for everybody—still, it comes from somewhere. This is one person’s exploration of the journey, moving from border kid to poet laureate of the state. The markers that lead beyond poetry toward a greater poetics of understanding are complex but unmistakable, and this session will explore the makings of what matters to us as poets.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Poetry, Writing Life

The First Book: Publishing and You
Kaveh Akbar, Andrea Avery, Derek Palacio, Kristen Radtke

Friday, February 23, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

Publication is an exciting and daunting aspect of being a writer. You’ve put in an enormous amount of work in a manuscript and you’re ready for publishers to take a look. Now what? What do you need to know in the process to be prepared for a first book publication? Join Kristen Radtke, Andrea Avery, Dereck Palacio, and Kaveh Akbar in this mixed-genre session designed to help you navigate the journey of what to expect during the first book publication process.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Business of Writing, Publishing

Writing the Anthropocene
Claire Vaye Watkins

Friday, February 23, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

A survey of philosophy, poetry, nature writing, climate fiction and eco-fabulism engaging the concept of the Anthropocene.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry, Research

Pardon My Youth: Don't Be Afraid of the Dark
Cecil Castellucci

Friday, February 23, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

This session will examine whether there is a difference between writing for young people and writing about young people and the unique challenges of writing stories for both adolescent readers and adults. Many stories star young protagonists who live in and encounter the same mature world that adults do. Whether realistic or fantastical, it's a world filled with darkness and light. But just because a young character is front and center doesn't necessarily mean that the book is geared towards kids. What makes a book a book specifically for young people?

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult Literature

Contested Memories
Roy Kesey

Friday, February 23, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

In this generative session, we will be exploring the notion of contested memories, and the ways in which they can be used to build scenes in memoir, creative nonfiction, and fiction.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Memoir

Making Beautiful Sentences
Alix Ohlin

Friday, Febuary 23, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

What makes a sentence so powerful and enduring that it will stick in your mind forever? In this session, we’ll take a look at some beautiful sentences and try to figure out exactly what makes them work, what distinguishes a writer’s style at the syntax level, and where the music of prose resides. We’ll talk about the sentence as the unit of composition in fiction, and take a look at some examples of revised sentences from published writers to see how they made their words sing. You’ll be asked to respond to these examples critically and creatively.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre

The Art of Dialogue
Tara Ison

Friday, February 23, 2018, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

You reach a crucial moment in your short story, novel, or essay; do you employ dialogue or narrative prose? When do we want the reader to eavesdrop on a scene in real time . . . and when do we want to simply "fill in the blanks" on what happened? We'll explore the nature of dialogue, its use and misuse, and its relationship to story and character.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Essays, Fiction

Finding Your Inner Teen
Bill Konigsberg

Friday, February 23, 2018, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Perhaps the hardest—and most crucial—aspect of young adult writing is nailing the voice of a teen protagonist. Young readers are nearly impossible to fool; if your protagonist is a 45-year-old woman masquerading as a teen, they'll let you know! In this session, we will discuss several tools for getting in touch with our own inner teen voice. By the end of this session, students will have several exercises in hand that they can use to bring out that voice and sharpen it into authenticity.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Young Adult Literature

Future Present: Writing Speculative Fiction about the Here and Now
Malka Older

Friday, February 23, 2018, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Ursula K. Le Guin wrote that "Science fiction is not predictive; it is descriptive." This session will explore how science fiction can connect to the present, reflecting current concerns through a futuristic lens.

Recommended Reading:
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon
An Excess Male - Maggie Shen King

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Science Fiction