The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Conference Schedule 2018

Conference Schedule 2018

Saturday, Feb 24, 2018

What American Regionalism Means to Me
Claire Vaye Watkins

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

A talk about American regionalism, the Western, and reading and writing the American West today.

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

Error & Accident: Using Found Materials
Ander Monson

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

This session explores the usefulness of error in research. Often in researching, the thing that's really important isn't the thing we're looking for, but the thing right next to it. We'll discuss the use of found forms and materials in essays, poems, and stories.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Essays, Fiction, Hybrid, Mixed Genre, Poetry, Research

Mining the Poetic Unconscious
Kaveh Akbar

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Transcendent American poet Max Ritvo wrote that if the world outside a poet’s head is more interesting than the world inside their head, they might as well become a journalist. His point: it’s what’s inside the poet’s mind, what (or who) is hooting or singing or moaning or gagging inside the poet’s own totally unique psychic ecosystem that allows the poet access to a singular voice.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Poetry

Writing for Sequential Art and the Quest for Silence
Cecil Castellucci

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

We will explore writing for comics, the golden age of which is currently unfolding around us. What are the advantages and disadvantages of telling your story sequentially? And how does one make full use of the medium? How do we write stories for a visual medium? What are some options for using the visual in our stories? And how do we find the quiet spaces in our narratives?

Location: Thoren, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Comics, Fiction, Graphic Novels

Lyrical Resistance: The Power of Ethnographic Poetry
Rosemarie Dombrowski

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Arts-Based Research has been gaining traction in the social sciences, specifically regarding the use of personal poetry as a means of recording the stories of the marginalized, as well as the use of ethnographic poetry as a means of inscribing the cultural record. This session will explore the ways in which poetry can simultaneously act as cultural document and vehicle for social transformation.

Location: Thoren, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Poetry

The Direction of Contemporary Fiction
Emily Bell, Ander Monson, Rayhané Sanders

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

What is the current pulse of contemporary creative writing in the United States? Where is fiction right now? What predictions can we make for the literary future from the present moment? What trends, blends of genres, and literary techniques do we witness emerging from new authors and veterans of the craft? In this panel, editors Emily Bell, Ander Monson, and literary agent Rayhané Sanders share their perspectives on the landscape and trajectory of contemporary literature: what they’re excited about, what major issues are arising, current challenges for fiction writers, and more.

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

False Starts: Finding Where Your Story Really Begins
Amy K. Nichols

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Of all the revising that happens when crafting a novel, perhaps the most effort goes into writing (and rewriting, and rewriting…) the beginning. Finding the right opening can be difficult, and it’s easy to become blind to your own work. In this interactive session, we’ll discuss how to find where your story really starts, and help willing participants identify the real beginnings of their stories. Bring the first page of your novel if you want to participate in this impromptu session.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre, Short Stories

The Same Thing, But Different: Writing Series Fiction, Sequels, and Connected Stories
Tod Goldberg

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Creating a character, a world, and a central conflict that can be sustained over several years is the key to writing series fiction and sequels and connected short stories. In this session, we'll examine prize-winning works of literature, genre fiction, and short fiction to learn how everyone from Richard Ford to James Lee Burke to Alice Munro, among many others, have crafted works that they can return to, time and again.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre, Short Stories

How to Freeze Time
Jenny Johnson

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 9:45 to 10:45 a.m.

Ever wished your sentences could warp a reader's sense of time like a high-speed camera slowing motion? We will be looking at sentences in poems and prose that impact our perception of time. This session will include a rich discussion of a few examples and a writing exercise.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Craft Class, Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry

Memoir as Two-Way Mirror
Andrea Avery

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

Have you ever set down to write about your own life and felt like you were howling maniacally about yourself, to yourself, in a locked room? Or have you felt like you were standing coolly apart from your own exciting life, clinically reporting on it? If so, consider the idea of the two-way mirror as a metaphor for memoir writing. We have all seen two-way mirrors on hardboiled cop shows—the suspect sees only him or herself, but the unseen observers on the other side see everything.

Location: Thoren, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Memoir

Writer in the World: Publishing and Author Platforms
Kaveh Akbar, Emily Bell, Nina McConigley, Daniel José Older

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

In today’s publishing industry, author promotion lies in the hands of the individual author as much as the publisher. With the increasing number of small and varied presses, a writer’s understanding of their role during and after the publication process is crucial. How do you build networks, find reviews, obtain interviews, and help get the word out about your work? Join authors Daniel José Older, Kaveh Akbar and Nina McConigley as they discuss what it means to involve yourself in publishing and the ways contemporary writers work with their publishers to shape and market their books.

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

Car Crashes, Escape Hatches, and Hobbit Helmets: Where Did Your Suspense Go?
Matt Bell

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

In this session, we'll explore ways to generate and maintain suspense, tension, and excitement in fiction and other modes of storytelling. We'll look at some of the most common mistakes that cost scenes their chance to be truly exciting or terrifying or thrilling, as well as study successful examples of how master storytellers keep us glued to the page, extracting practical tips and techniques we can put to use in our own stories.

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

Genres and Their Place in Your Work
Charlie Jane Anders

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 11:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m.

What are genres? Why do we have them? How do genres reflect real-life events? And most importantly, when you decide to write about zombies or spaceships, what are you committing yourself to? What do these things usually mean, and what do they mean to you personally? In this session, we will discuss how to use genres mindfully, and create stories that make good use of them.

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

Lunch

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 12:15 to 1:15 p.m.

More information coming soon

Location: Farnsworth Terrace, Old Main
Type: Lunch
Genre: n/a

Travel Writing: Going There
Roy Kesey

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

For millennia, both fiction and nonfiction have used travel experiences as raw material. This session will focus on ways to get the most out of your time away, and on the most dangerous pitfalls to avoid along the way.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Travel Writing

Animals and the Imagination
Stephen Kuusisto

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

We will explore how animals can infuse the literary imagination with dramatic and comic irony. Poets as diverse as D.H. Lawrence, Mary Oliver, W.S. Merwin, and Mark Doty (just to name some noted examples) express both the ambitions and limits of human "knowing" by acknowledging the ways that animals (both domestic and wild) often lead us away from custom.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Mixed Genre, Poetry

Who's Allowed to Write LGBTQ?
Bill Konigsberg

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

This session will focus on the #ownvoices movement, which stresses the importance of getting diverse stories from those from who are members of marginalized groups. We will discuss the somewhat difficult topics of writing across ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. While encouraging participants to write the stories they know, we will also discuss tools that authors can use if they choose to write across various identities, as well as some of the possible difficulties they may face.

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

Considering the Body
Natalie Diaz, Wanda Dalla Costa

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 1:30 to 2:30 p.m.

More information coming soon

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Discussion
Genre: Mixed Genre, Poetry

Structure of Collections
Ander Monson

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

A good collection must become more than the sum of its disparate parts, which requires some thought as to architectures and resonances. Yet structures in literary collections are rarely discussed or theorized or talked about. So we'll discuss fruitful ways to use architectures in collections—of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Editing, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry

Query Letters
Rayhané Sanders

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

Manuscript in hand, but don’t know how to start the submission process? A strong query letter showcases your work to any agent. This session explores the DOs and DON'Ts of the query letter. Sample query letters will be explored along with a Q&A.

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

Maps for Storytellers
Tara Ison

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

“Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.” –Nabokov.

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

Poetics of Witness Workshop
Cynthia Hogue

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 2:45 to 3:45 p.m.

This hour-long poetry session will introduce you to four kinds of poetry of witness through examples. After brief discussion, participants will undertake two exercises designed to explore the act of witnessing as a creative approach (one among many) to the practice of poetry (poesis).

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Poetry

Re-Visioning: Revising the Manuscript and Conference Wrap-up
Kevin McIlvoy, Claire Vaye Watkins, Alix Ohlin

Saturday, February 24, 2018, 4:00 to 5:00 p.m.

Revision is an ongoing part of any writer’s processes. While each draft is a huge accomplishment, how do you move your draft into the revision process? How do you elevate your writing to the next level? Authors Kevin McIlvoy, Claire Vaye Watkins and Alix Ohlin share hands-on approaches to the techniques of revision, personal strategies that work for them, how to see revision as a creative act., the habits of revision, and more.  

After this panel, the conference will conclude with a few words from the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

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