The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Conference Schedule 2020

Saturday, February 22, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.

Where to Begin: The Art of Starting Your Story with Matt Bell, Peter Twal, Sarah Viren, Justin Nogan

Date(s): Saturday, February 22, 2020, 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 a.m.
Carson Ballroom, Old Main (view map)
Genre and Form(s): Fiction, Novels, Short Stories, Writing Process

About the Session

The ominous beginning; the leap that starts it all; the moment of breath before your characters hit the page. Sometimes the start is the hardest of all. How does a writer dive into a beginning? Some writers outline the story arc, each character’s decision plotted to a point, down to the detailed minutia, while others meet the empty page with zest and vigor knowing they can and will fill in the gaps later. Writers often doubt their beginnings, no matter how advanced they are in their craft. Hear from published authors about how they got started and kept their momentum going on their first book, and what happened after.

Meet the Presenter(s)

Picture of Matt Bell

Matt Bell is the author of the novels Scrapper and In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods, as well as the short story collection A Tree or a Person or a Wall, a non-fiction book about the classic video game Baldur's Gate II, and several other titles. A native of Michigan, he teaches in the Creative Writing Program at Arizona State University.

Photograph of Peter Twal

Peter Twal is a Jordanian American, an electrical engineer, and the author of Our Earliest Tattoos, winner of the Etel Adnan Poetry Prize (University of Arkansas Press). His poems have appeared in The Believer, Poem-a-Day, Best New Poets, Kenyon Review Online, West Branch Wired, Gulf Coast, Ninth Letter Online, DIAGRAM, and elsewhere. Twal earned his MFA at the University of Notre Dame, where he was awarded the Samuel and Mary Anne Hazo Poetry Award for his work. He lives in Phoenix, AZ with his wife and son. 

Photograph of Sarah Viren

Sarah Viren is author of Mine, an essay collection that won the River Teeth Book Prize and the GLCA New Writers Award, and was longlisted or a finalist for the Pen Art of the Essay Award, a Foreword Indies Award, and a Lambda Literary Award. Sarah’s creative work has been supported by an NEA Fellowship and a Kerouac House Writing Residency, and her writing appears in or is forthcoming from the New York Times Magazine, the Oxford AmericanTexas Monthly, and elsewhere.

Justin Noga is a fiction writer from Akron, Ohio. He holds an MFA from Arizona State University, where he taught Composition and Creative Writing. In 2019 he received a fellowship at Vermont Studio Center. His work is published in Conjunctions and Witness. He lives in Tempe, Arizona. IG: