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 Saturday'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 or visit the registration page.

Saturday, February 23

Time and Narrative: How We Add Weight to Our Stories
Warren Glynn

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

When we think of narrative, we typically think of a series of events that chain together and ultimately lead to a conclusion: A leads to B which finally concludes at C. But how much time should we spend on points A, B, and C? How do we determine where (and when!) to invest our narrative attention? In this session, we will examine how various authors use time to give their story elements emotional and narrative weight. Through our exploration, we will begin to develop a philosophy of time that helps us make these kinds of choices in our own stories.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Craft Talk, Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Short Stories

Queerness in Creative Writing
Achy Obejas, Terry Galloway, TC Tolbert, Piper J. Daniels

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

In an article for Lambda Literary, writer Marcie Bianco ask the following question to authors who identified as being queer about the nature of queer writing in its relation to identity politics: “What makes writing ‘queer’?” How does queer writing move counter to heteronormative literary traditions and forms? How does this disruption reshape current trajectories? This panel will explore queer writing in this country and how it may be impacted by gender fluid politics and the intersectional influences of other identities like disability, race and/or class.

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

Establishing the Terms: Story and Novel Openings as Contracts
Jennine Capó Crucet

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

One could argue that the first few paragraphs of any work of short fiction establish a contract with the reader: they telegraph tone, character, and even—when exceptionally on point—the trajectory of the story's action.

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

We Are All Storytellers
Fernanda Santos

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

"You're not going to believe what happened at the party!" Who hasn't said that (or some version of it)? The truth is, we're all storytellers, but it's when we put our writer's hat on that telling stories gets complicated. In this interactive session, we'll use live storytelling to identify the key elements of narrative, decode the process we all engage in to tell everyday stories, and explore strategies to help us incorporate such process into our writing.  

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Performative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Fiction, Mixed Genre, Storytelling

Setting as a Character: Using Sensory Details to Write a Place that Propels Narrative
Yohanca Delgado

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

Setting is an often untapped source of power in narrative writing. In this session, we'll discuss ways to build a setting that calls on the five senses and helps propel narrative momentum by influencing character action. Generative prompts will include: writing from the perspective of place, writing across the five senses to generate description, writing object lists that can fuel character thought and action.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre

Mining Your Life for Fiction
Yi Shun Lai

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m.

“Truth is stranger than fiction,” says the old adage, but how do we write successfully in the area between “write what you know” and work that requires suspension of disbelief? In this workshop, participants will learn to use techniques that will allow them to tell the emotional truth without losing their readers to side-eye. Drawing on years of experience editing and writing fiction, author and editor, Yi Shun Lai, will share with participants the techniques she's learned, as well as examples of work that pass the test of verisimilitude, and make for compelling fiction.

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

The Exploration and Exploitation of Poetic Bodies
Maritza N Estrada, Erin Noehre

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

In this session, we will dive into a deeper understanding of the poetic and imagined body by looking deeper into our own definitions of exploitation and exploration. Part of the session will press on language often used in connection to the body to explore the presence of emotion internally and how that may manifest externally. We will try to focus on the visualization of the poetic body and discuss its formation in poems from the perspectives of different writers.

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

The Hidden Lives of Books: Publication Ins and Outs
Natashia Deón, Matt Bell, Ramona Ausubel, Jonathan Danielson

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

A book is more than just an end of one journey, it’s the beginning of another. A book is an artistic expression, but also a product, and putting a book together is a production. Before it ever hits the hands of readers, a book has already lived a life all its own. In this panel, novelists Ramona Ausubel, Matt Bell, and Natashia Deón share their publication journeys, advice on what to anticipate in the publication process, author platforms, and author commitments once the book hits the shelves. How do you find a publisher?

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

Creating a Mixed-Genre Family Memoir
Deborah Miranda

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

This session will demonstrate ways to create richly layered memoir via multiple genres and visual storytelling. Our lives and those of our ancestors leave traces in the human archive that include much more than photographs. Documents like immigration records, religious institutions, letters, newspaper clippings, government forms, song lyrics, even fingerprints, prison records, school assignments, local histories or ethnographic notes—can all be “mined” for creative inspiration, expanding and enriching the narrative of your family.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Experimental, Fiction, Hybrid, Memoir, Mixed Genre, Multi-genre, Poetry, Research, Short Stories

The Art of Persona: Condensing Social Distance Between Poet and Mask
Jabari Jawan Allen

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

How does privilege affect authors’ renderings of the masks they employ? What exactly, for example, makes Anders Carlson-Wee’s “How To” poem, which recently appeared in The Nation, minstrelsy instead of persona? How does one avoid falling into stereotypical and indolent writing practices while engaging with persona?

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation
Genre: Poetry

Fairy Tales for Truth and Justice
Sarah Rafael García

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

In this writing workshop, we’ll discuss SanTana's Fairy Tales and blend Mexican folklore and folktales with themes such as gentrification & xenophobia to present stories with Mexican, Chicanx & white characters. Get ready to incorporate a historical character profile and social justice topic with the structure of a contemporary fairy tale.

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Fiction, Human Rights, Mixed Genre, Short Stories, Social Justice

What About Love?
Bill Konigsberg

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 10:15 a.m. - 11:15 a.m.

How do we write about love in new ways? What new is there to say about the world’s oldest subject? In this session, we will talk about how to create a riveting relationship and a novel readers can’t put down—because if they do, their hearts will explode. What are some the pitfalls of writing in the romance genre—instalove, clichés, writing sex scenes, and how can we empower ourselves to push the boundaries of the romance genre?

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

Community Reading

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 11:30 a.m. - 12:30 p.m

More information about this session is coming soon.

Location: Farnsworth Terrace, Old Main
Type: Community Event, Performance, Reading
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry

The Art of Contemporary Nonfiction Panel
Fernanda Santos, Yvette Johnson, Mike Conklin, Walonda Williams

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

In a world where the boundaries between fact and fiction are constantly blurred, where does creative nonfiction fit in at this moment in history? How do writers bring the story of the individual to life? What are the intricacies of writing characters who are real people? How does writing the factual impact the creative process? Spanning journalism, memoir, research, and essays, Fernanda Santos, Yvette Johnson, and Mike Conklin will discuss the unique challenges, complexities, and ultimate rewards of writing the real.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Journalism

Seeing is Believing: Drafting the Lasting Image
Nicole Sealey

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

In The Poet’s Companion, Kim Addonizio and Dorianne Laux argue that images should “produce a bit of magic, a reality so real it is ‘like being alive twice.’” As we know, images are closely linked to memory. As poets, after mining our respective memories, how do we deepen a reader’s experience with the poem via the image? How does one draft a lasting image—an image readers will remember? This craft talk will explore the image, its implications, as more than mere scenery.

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

The Agent Journey: From Landing an Agent to Publication
Kirby Kim

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

What does working with an agent look like? Join agent, Kirby Kim, as he pulls back the curtain from the agent-writer journey, starting with at the moment a writer gets an agent. He'll speak to the important processes of: pre-submission editing, how the agent puts together an editor list, how they sell, then post sale and what to expect in the deal, how writers work with an editor, marketing and publicity, getting blurbs, selling your book, book signings, writing pieces in support of your book, and how you get friends to help. 

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

Ambiguity: Challenging Gender Stereotypes In Literary Fiction
Sarah Leamy

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Is there such a thing as a genderless narrator? Why is it so instinctive to place and categorize each other by sex (female/ male) and gender roles (masculine or feminine attributes)? How do we read fiction when these socially constructed markers are missing? And why should we? To be inclusive? To allow gender-nonconforming readers to be represented in literature? To focus on the common experiences without the social constraints of gender roles?

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, LGBTQIA Studies, Mixed Genre

Interrogating Empathy
Jabari Jawan Allen, Maritza N. Estrada, Joel Salcido, Elliot Rose Winter

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

Join four poets/ writers as they discuss the merits and shortcomings of the concept of empathy. These poets will focus on empathy as it functions in creative writing, pedagogy, performance, and currency to interrogate how these aspects affect othered bodies. How does the idea of empathy create a market for trauma? How are the performances of traumas used to placate the white gaze? Can there be new possibilities to describe and employ an empathy that is active and engaged in works, rather than the passive "feeling" of empathy that often functions only to benefit the empathizer?

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Panel
Genre: Community, Pedagogy, Poetry

Subverting Biological Essentialism in Nature Writing
Halee Kirkwood

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 1:45 p.m. - 2:45 p.m.

In this generative session, we’ll look at amazing examples in animal and plant life that exhibit unique biological, sexual, and familial structures. We’ll discuss how these creatures might subvert traditionally heterosexual and cisgender conceptions of biology, sex, and family, using these examples as a mirror to write about our own relationships to these topics.

Location: Traditions, University Club
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: LGBTQIA Studies, Mixed Genre

Hip-hop and Poetry: A Conversation on Intersections of Race, Class, Gender, and Representation
Hanif Abdurraqib, Douglas Manuel

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Music and other forms of art have impacted poetry through historical, social and cultural intersections. In this intimate discussion between poet, essayist, and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib, and poet and editor, Douglas Manuel, the authors will explore how hip-hop sensibilities and aesthetics have influenced contemporary poetry, and how both art forms continue to shape and reshape the futures of social, racial, and gender representation.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Conversation, Panel
Genre: African American Studies, Poetry

The Private in Public Art
Alberto Álvaro Ríos

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

Public art at its best moves us from where we’re standing to what we’re feeling, from communal showiness and placement to personal, abiding sentiment. In this session, I’ll discuss some successful public art projects of mine in the Valley, with lean toward their secret sense of underlying story, their context from the artist’s point of view. In contemporary life, art in public is out of context and, therefore, surprising: a mural making us feel something about an otherwise plain wall, a few words in stone around a lake helping us, in that moment, to see water differently.

Location: Heritage, University Club
Type: Craft Talk, Presentation
Genre: Community, Social Practice, Visual Art

Free-Range Writers
James Sallis

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The challenge and wonder of writing freely—of not allowing oneself to be defined by or confined by any notions of genre, but of letting the imagination roam freely. The most popular song in the U.S. on novelist, musician, poet, editor, James Sallis’ birth year was "Don't Fence Me In."  He’s lived his writing life by that. Science fiction? Poetry? Literary fiction? Translation? Crime novels? Yes please! Learn how your writing is limitless in all directions. 

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation, Talk
Genre: Crime Fiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Poetry, Science Fiction, Translation

The Direct Address of Objects
Sally Ball

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

An epistolary form offers intimacy and a sense of composure: the reader as voyeur, and the writer in charge, addressing a potential interlocutor, but one who will not, we all know, talk back—at least for now. There’s a sub-genre of the direct-address poem, one that might be both safer and stranger as a forum in which to work out a difficult idea: poems that talk to objects, poems that talk to some non-sentience. Why do we do it? To be freer of our own consciousness? To honor the ‘otherness’ we know must exist?

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

Did That Really Happen?: Writing Characters So Real, They Walk Right off the Page
Kirstin Chen

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

This session explores how writers can strategically use details from their lives to craft vivid fictional characters and to tell resonant stories. Beginning—and even more experienced—writers sometimes feel the need to hide that parts of their fiction are rooted in reality. But the use of autobiography is a fictional strategy like any other, such as choosing a particular point-of-view or a particular structure.

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

Shifting Through Cultural Memory
haydée (hr) souffrant

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 3:00 p.m. - 4:00 p.m.

The current trends in contemporary literature reflect a deep sense of using personal narrative and/or cultural history as both text and sites of investigating some of the following questions: How do I heal what's been forced upon my body, my cultural and social communities? How do I use myself as an archive to resolve personal and social conflict? This workshop will ask participants to sift through cultural memories, stories and personal histories to generate poetic text as a form of self-healing.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation, Workshop
Genre: Memoir, Mixed Genre, Poetry, Social Justice

Climate Fiction, Eco-Fabulism, and The New Weird: Writing Fiction for the Future
Matt Bell

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

In this session, we'll explore some of the storytelling tactics used by writers such as Ursula K. Le Guin, Jeff Vandermeer, Paolo Bacigalupi, China Mieville, and N.K. Jemison to depict and confront climate change and its attendant ecological, economic, and political challenges, as well as the often uncanny nature of life in the twenty-first century. 

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

Is Happiness Interesting?: The Craft of Writing Joy
Annie Vitalsey

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

Why is it so hard to write about happiness? Are happy characters boring? Where is the conflict in joy? In this session we’ll explore the pitfalls of writing joyful stories and characters, and discuss why as writers we often shy away from writing the happy. With an eye toward the craft of character development and narrative structure, as well as lenses from ancient and modern philosophy, we’ll dissect diverse examples of “happy” stories and figure out what makes them work.

Location: Tooker, Old Main
Type: Craft Talk, Presentation
Genre: Creative Nonfiction, Fiction, Mixed Genre, Short Stories

Image, Form & Intersections of Identity in Poetry
Nicole Sealey, Bojan Louis, Carmen Giménez Smith, Justin Petropoulos

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

How do our identities intersect with our writing? How do the concepts of identity manifest themselves in poetry? How does the page represent both the art, itself, and the artist? How does the writing of identity intersect with the political and cultural? What are the interconnections between the technical elements of poetry in consideration with identity?

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

Backstory: Moving Forward, Looking Back
Natashia Deón

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

Backstories help to create the world of your story. It tells us what’s driving your protagonist (and antagonist) to take the action, to attain a goal, and what your protagonist feels about passionately. Layering the characterization with these histories show us who they are today and will help you avoid writing stereotypes. The aim of this workshop is to address backstory and to get your creative juices flowing in writing scenes (the past affecting the present) and relevant history details.

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

The Futurists: Writing for the Network Society
Leah Bailly

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

How does the global village tell stories? How does the digital age change our thinking and our writing? Thanks to the internet, we are now used to events being broadcast instantly and simultaneously. Plural voices report on every issue, and text is always accompanied by video, sound and image. As we delve further into the digital age, we are increasingly comfortable with hyperlinks and hybrid forms and multiple narrators infiltrating our narration. But do we forsake a certain intimacy in our literature? Are we growing accustomed to the isolation of constant connectivity?

Location: Thoren, University Club
Type: Presentation, Seminar
Genre: Experimental, Fiction, Hybrid, Interdisciplinary, Mixed Genre, Science Fiction

Writing the Dead
Kirk Wisland

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 4:15 p.m. - 5:15 p.m.

This session explores the ethics, challenges, and diverse approaches to writing about the dead. Wisland will discuss the ways in which several writers (essayists, memoirists, journalists) have tackled narratives that require new and alternative approaches to their writing. Based on his own work and that of Adriana E. Ramirez, Tommy, and Maggie Messitt, Kirk Wisland will explore difficult questions: What do we do with the unanswerable and what does it mean to crowdsource the narrative of a life?

Location: Basha, Old Main
Type: Generative Workshop, Presentation
Genre: Essays, Journalism, Memoir, Mixed Genre

Fellowship Recognition

Saturday, February 23, 2019, 7:00 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.

More information about this session is coming soon.

Location: Carson Ballroom, Old Main
Type: Ceremony
Genre: n/a