The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

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Conference Schedule 2019

Conference Schedule 2019

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

To view Friday's schedule, use the side menu or the view below. You can also view the full schedule for this year. 

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

For more information, you can meet our faculty ovisit the registration page.

Friday, February 22

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

Demystifying the Creative Process: Rituals, Self-Care, and Habits for Writers
Elizabeth Charles

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

Maya Angelou rented a motel room and took down all the wall art. Truman Capote wrote in bed and never started or finished something on a Friday. Charles Dickens, Virginia Woolf, Henry David Thoreau, and many others took long, rambling walks. Writers have been trying to hack creativity since quill and parchment existed, but for most people the act of sitting down to write a story or novel feels like an act shrouded in mystery.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Discussion, Seminar, Talk
Genre: Writing Life

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

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

Many of us come to writing through a love of reading: the strike of literary lightning, a certain line or phrase that stays with us for years. As we continue to grow as writers and participate in the community, our creative process evolves, being shaped and informed by the relationships we have with the works of others.

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

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

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

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. Please note: while this session will take place in person, the fellow will be presenting through Zoom.

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

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

Compositional Improvisation
TC Tolbert

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

In this fully embodied, experiential session, we will study, inhabit, and practice the art of Compositional Improvisation – composing (individually and collaboratively) (with movement, text, sound, and space) in the moment to create dynamic, rigorous, complex, and fully realized “pieces” without rehearsal or planning. This session will allow writers a chance to work from and with their bodies and unique subject positions while demanding acute attention to choice-making and the elements of composition on and off the page.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Performance
Genre: Experimental, Hybrid, Interdisciplinary, LGBTQIA Studies, Mixed Genre, Poetry

The Job of Culture and Storytelling for The Resistance
Anna Flores

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

The current atmosphere of sensational opinion and clickbait headlines obsessed with a chaos-driven president has created a national eruption of misinformed dissent. In Arizona, artists and activists have seen a microcosm of present dangerous policies, electoral/resistance strategies. After the passing of SB1070, we gathered our truths to culturally and historically inform the present rhetoric of problem-solving. In this session, we will discuss how storytelling can and should function in the political sphere.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Human Rights, Mixed Genre, Social Justice, Storytelling

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

Fun and Freedom in Writing
Susanne Brent

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

Do you need to re-energize your writing? Looking for a fun and generative way to get your artistic momentum flowing? In this session, we’ll discuss how short, timed writing prompts can stimulate creativity, and demonstrate how individuals may express themselves through creative writing in ways they never believed possible. Many people are drawn to using this technique and find that they are able to move pen to paper with ease, even after gaps and breaks within their writing. We will put this technique into action to rediscover, wonder, and harness our creativity together.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop
Genre: Mixed Genre, Writing Life, Writing Process

Poet as Bandleader
Hanif Abdurraqib

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

Using sound and explorations of sound to better define the shapes of our poems. For example, what can the use of sampling tell a writer about the different modes their familiar language can be in? Or, what can percussive sounds tell a writer about their word selections, and how the language they select fills out the poem, and gives it a wave of sonic delights. 

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Poetry

In Search of the Inciting Incident: Novel Plot and Structure
Matthew Salesses

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

Have a great idea for a novel but don't know how to start it? Stuck in the middle of novel-drafting and stalling out? Much of writing a novel through to its end is about what is set up by its premise. A novel, a great writer once said, is a structural machine. That structure begins at the beginning. Agents and editors want to see the first 50 pages of the novel for a reason--a lot has to happen in those 50 pages to sustain a book-length work of fiction. What exactly makes an inciting incident, though? Exploring that question will help the writer set the groundwork for a novel.

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

ASU MFA Reading

Friday, February 22, 2019, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m.

Join the Piper Center for short readings of poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction from graduate students in the Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University.

Free and open to the public.

Location: Farnsworth Terrace, Old Main
Type: Reading
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Flash, Hybrid, Mixed Genre, Poetry, Short Stories

Actual Lives: Writing and Performing Disability
Terry Galloway

Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

What does it mean to explore the actual lives of others? What do we know of disability and how do we write about it? How do we preform disability? Join writer, director, and performer, Terry Galloway in exploring disability in creative writing and performance. In this session participants will spend fifteen minutes writing as frankly as they can about the subject, using as prompts either their experiences with disability or their impressions of disability.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Disability Studies, Drama, Mixed Genre

Electricity & The Service Panel
Bojan Louis

Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

This session will explore the basics of an electrical circuit as the foundation for creating tercets and other stanzas comprised of multiples of three. Participants will compose a poem using the methodology and building codes for a residential service panel. The group will examine poems that speak to, or are written by, poets with working class backgrounds in skilled trades and factory work. 

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Lecture, Presentation
Genre: Experimental, Poetry

Trends in Literary Magazine Publishing
Patricia Colleen Murphy

Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

The diverse world of literary publishing is changing more rapidly than ever. We will examine several top markets, identifying trends in design, editorial preferences, leadership, and technology. We will also discuss methods for managing submissions in a fast-paced publishing environment. 

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Business of Writing, Editing, Publishing

Beyond Genre: How to Tell Unforgettable Science Fiction Stories
Malik Toms

Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Science fiction, climate fiction and more all represent molds into which we pour our stories. However, genre alone is not what make stories memorable. The heavyweights of genre fiction all know this one secret: You must create characters worth following. In this workshop we will discuss what makes a character story worthy. We will peel back the layers of genre convention and uncover how to place your character in a situation compelling enough to keep the reader turning pages until the end.

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

The Family Saga: History and the Multi-Generational Novel
Joseph Han

Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

This session explores the role of history in contemporary novels—of colonialism, war, and diaspora—as events and periods become catalysts for narrative and character movement through time. It will provide an overview of the “family saga” as a narrative structure: its merits and challenges from both a reading and writing perspective. What gaps are irreconcilable or inevitable in a novel’s spanning across time and through generations of characters?

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Discussion, Presentation, Seminar
Genre: Fiction, Novels

Writing the Body in Health and Illness
Laura Maher

Friday, February 22, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

What is the language of your body? What are the ways the language distances or connects you to your body? How do we write challenging physical experiences creatively and lyrically? This session will explore the ways in which language can shape our experiences of our bodies and our health outcomes.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Discussion, Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Disability Studies, Mixed Genre

Building a City of Stories
Justin Noga, Noah Trammell

Friday, February 22, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

In fairy tales, there are royalty and dragons, wolves and goblins, knights and millers—but think of the world they occupy. Who are the characters on the margins of society and where are they during the events of the narrative? In this collaborative writing session, we’ll pry open a single fairy tale to discover those hidden characters. After sharing our work, we’ll pry open our own free-writes to spot our characters’ tangly relationships and use these discoveries to further our narratives.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Craft Talk, Workshop
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre

Literary Citizenship Panel: Craft as Culture
Kirstin Chen, Bill Konigsberg, Jennine Capó Crucet, Matthew Salesses, Jake Friedman

Friday, February 22, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

We often think about mass media and journalism in the context of social responsibility: what and how news is covered, as well as accuracy and objectivity. What about literature? Do writers have a responsibility to engage with critical societal issues or movements? What brings a writer to feel compelled to use their art as social commentary or activism? How do race, class, and other social categories affect our lives and lead us toward certain subject matter or genre? Can creativity even be obligated at all?

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Community, Social Justice, Social Practice, Writing Life

Imagination and the War on Cliché
James Sallis

Friday, February 22, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Martin Amis said that all writing is a war on cliche -- not only cliches of expression, but cliches of setting, character, even narrative style. Tim O'Brien wrote that what he finds lacking in so much of today's writing is simple imagination. We'll talk about rejecting the first streams of what comes to mind, about digging deeper: seeing, visualizing, recreating. 

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation, Seminar
Genre: Creative Practice, Mixed Genre, Writing Life, Writing Practice, Writing Process

Healing through Creative Writing
Briyana D Clarel

Friday, February 22, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Do you have stories to unravel and unpack? Process-focused writing is a powerful tool for healing. This interactive session will focus on creative writing as an accessible tool for healing, self-care, and wellness, particularly in community settings. Participants will engage in a supportive, creative truth-sharing process and learn how to implement such activities in other settings. This session is ideal for writers on their own healing journeys, as well as educators, activists, and justice oriented artists aiming to better support their communities.

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Discussion, Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Mixed Genre, Social Justice, Teaching

Making Facts Matter
Mike Conklin

Friday, February 22, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Join career journalist, Mike Conklin, on his approach to writing creative nonfiction with a focus on the basics: establish the narrative, match it with an intended audience and medium, collect facts, and, depending on length, construct your storytelling with an organized, clear pathway. The structure of sentences, paragraphs and relative details carry the reader. Sounds simple and journalistic, but nonfiction writing is about facts---their use and non-use. Let them tell the story, and the writer provides segues.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Journalism

Talking Back to Dominant Narratives
Douglas Manuel

Friday, February 22, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

In this session, we will examine poems by people of color that directly speak back to/are in conversation with previous poets of the dominant culture. By exploring poems by Robert Frost and Thylias Moss, Allen Ginsberg and Craig Santos Perez, Maggie Smith and Natalie Scenters-Zapico, we will seek to discover why poets of color often feel the impulse to remix/revise/clap back at older canonized poems.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Lecture, Presentation
Genre: African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Indigenous Studies, Latinx Studies, Poetry, Social Justice

Getting Down to Business: Publishing and You
Erin Jade Lange, Kirby Kim, Sally Ball, Katie Berta

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

What are the realities of publishing in today’s creative writing market? Do you have a work or a manuscript ready for the world to see? What is your plan for submitting your work to publishers and publications? Is your query letter ready to go? Have you inquired about an agent? Are you looking to learn the details of starting the publication process? How does a writer prepare for the next step in the journey of professional writing?

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

Conflict as Heart and Engine of Story
Achy Obejas

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

In this workshop, we will have a laser-like focus on one thing: conflict. Without conflict, stories are flat or meandering. Conflict is the engine, the heart, ground zero of a story, whether it’s a blaster or a 900 page novel. But what is conflict, exactly? How do we set it up? How do we set it up so it’s not terribly obvious or cliché? And how do we use conflict to advance our story?  Participants will be guided through a quick checklist approach to building conflict in stories. 

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

Fact into Fiction
Tara Ison

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

This session will examine how seemingly dry facts and figures can be transformed into the stuff of fiction. How can raw data - historical, scientific, or technical information - create drama, inspire metaphor, drive character? And how, from a practical craft perspective, can and should we use such information in the service of story?

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

Writers of Color in a White Man's Literary World
Rashaad Thomas

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

What is it like to be a poet of color in a literary world dominated by white men? What does it mean to be a writer of color without an MFA walking the hallways of the academy’s ivory tower that continue to colonize spaces of color? Writers of color will engage in a discussion exploring questions that are common while existing in a white man’s literary world. Participants will look at two poems and one essay that showcases how writers of color historically have nurtured their authentic voice and given a voice for the silenced.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Discussion
Genre: African American Studies, Asian American Studies, Indigenous Studies, Latinx Studies, Writing Life

The Big Fat World: Fiction for All Sizes
Kelly deVos

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

In the U.S., upwards of 40% of the population is currently classified as overweight and there is a growing cultural awareness of the body positive and fat positive movements. It is becoming increasingly important for fiction writers to fill their worlds with people of a variety of body types. This session will discuss how and why to incorporate people of all sizes into fiction as well as how to deal with and/or eliminate fat stereotypes.

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

Writing Sex Fearlessly
Kalani Pickhart

Friday, February 22, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

Sex is one of the basest of human driving behaviors and yet remains one of the most challenging topics to write. Whether we are describing love, intimacy, the act of sex, sexual violence, or simply describing the body, how do we navigate sex in our work without slipping into cliché, detached language, or tonal discord? In this session, we will look at examples of writers in fiction, nonfiction, and poetry who have written sex fearlessly and we will discuss how these authors’ approaches are effective.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Craft Talk, Discussion, Seminar
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry

Small Group Check Ins

Friday, February 22, 2019, 5:30 p.m. - 6:15 p.m.

More information about small group check ins is coming soon.

Location: Piper Writers House, 450 E Tyler Mall, Tempe, AZ 85281
Type: Community Event, Conversation
Genre: n/a

Keynote: Topography of the Self
Carmen Giménez Smith, Letras Latinas

Friday, February 22, 2019, 7:00 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

Gloria Anzaldua referred to her groundbreaking book Borderlands as an autohistoria-teoria, an epistemological autobiography. She conceived of the liminal space, El Mundo Zurdo, where becoming and thinking converge for radical acts of decolonization, and posited the possibility that writing is the praxis where activism, aesthetics, and scholarship converge.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Keynote, Reception, Talk
Genre: Autobiography, Human Rights, Pedagogy, Social Justice, Social Practice