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Each year, the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference features numerous talks, workshops, panels, presentations, interviews and other sessions related to literary craft, the writing life, the business of publishing, and more.
To view past schedules, use the menu below to select a year and click apply. You can also search by faculty name, day, genre, and type. To learn more about this year's schedule, click here.
Writing sound-driven poems can allow us a way into writing about that which feels hard to say or express. In this session, we will consider how sound effects meaning in a few poems, attending to what Robert Pinsky calls a poem’s “audible web.” Then, we will do a writing exercise where you will have a chance to experiment with sound, letting it be your guide as you explore a subject matter that you’re struggling to tackle.
The tools of the trade remain relatively the same, but the size of the package—when it comes to writing “flash”—forces us to distill our stories into palatable, 750-word bites. Think of them as appetizers for your longer works, parts/chapters of a longer whole, or simply an exercise in brevity and lyrical concision. In this session, we’ll discuss the features of the form as well as a few recent flashes from Brevity magazine.
In this session, we will focus on selected examples from the works from Henri Michaux and Anais Nin, writers whose sense of erotic distance and aesthetic distance is instructive. We will focus upon selections from Henri Michaux, Selected Writings (New Directions, paperback) and Anais Nin, Under a Glass Bell (Swallow Press / Ohio University Press).
An in-depth look at narrative structure and how to make each section stand on its own and function in the larger story.
In this discussion-based session, learn about one author’s views and perspectives on graphic nonfiction, including recommendations for writers pursuing the genre, how releasing the first graphic novel has impacted the author’s life, and how the worlds of art director and author meld/don’t meld together as a career.
We live in a time of hybrid forms when creative writers are exploring lyric prose in striking ways. In this session, poet and memoirist Stephen Kuusisto will share examples drawn from lyric essays that not only bridge the gap between poetry and prose, but also demonstrate how the writer finds new imaginative ground. Writing prompts will also be shared.
From the absences of Sappho to the specters of Henry James, the idea of haunting presents itself in many forms throughout literature. In this session we'll explore haunting as narrative driver and resonance builder. Whether you're interested in building a traditional ghost story, a tale of unrequited love or lingering grief, or lacing your work with outside influences, this session will help anyone looking for ways of building theme and image-based collateral in a variety of genres.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A survey of philosophy, poetry, nature writing, climate fiction and eco-fabulism engaging the concept of the Anthropocene.
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?
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.
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.
The Dispossessed - Ursula K. Le Guin
The Yiddish Policeman's Union - Michael Chabon
An Excess Male - Maggie Shen King
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.
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.
A talk about American regionalism, the Western, and reading and writing the American West today.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
“Style and structure are the essence of a book; great ideas are hogwash.” –Nabokov.
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).
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.
Starting a novel is hard. Finishing a novel seems nearly impossible. And the middle, well, the middle is a thousand years long. But! But! There are things you can do to turn walls into doorways and keep you moving forward. Join award winning novelist, Ramona Ausubel, in a course on discussing strategies for survival in writing your novel and for keeping the process fun, inventive and full of life. This workshop consists of both moments of lecture and exercises, so be prepared to learn, talk, engage, and put your thoughts and ideas on the page!
How do you approach creative writing in a multilingual landscape? Join critically acclaimed author, translator, and educator, Achy Obejas, to explore how authors use codeswitching, bilingualism and multiple languages in the same text to highlight culture, the necessity of home languages, and to demonstrate new creative paths for their writing. When and how do we codeswitch? To what to end do we use codeswitching in our art? What does it mean for our single language readers when these techniques are employed?
How do we summon creative power in the face of our personal and/or global demons? How can we speak of beauty when our world seems full of loss, grief, climate change, and political turmoil? Thich Nhat Hanh says that the work of meditation is to transform “compost into flowers”; that is also the work of poetry. This generative workshop will help you to re-see your demons as a form of poetic compost.
We too often rely on a “good/bad” binary to shape our characters and considerations in our stories. How do our complexities as human beings find their way to the page? In this generative workshop, join poet, essayist, and cultural critic, Hanif Abdurraqib, on an exploration on empathy and the dynamics of character in popular culture. The group will use an empathy tree in which participants figure out which characters in popular culture they find empathetic or non-empathetic.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
"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.
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.
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.
“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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
More information about this session is coming soon.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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.
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?
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?
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.
In this generative poetry writing workshop, we will attempt to enter the creative space by removing ourselves from the written work, thus allowing the poetic image to speak for itself. In this way, we can get outside our drives for individual gain and into areas of articulation that may help us discover something that binds us together.
Join New York Times bestselling author, Tracey Baptiste for an in-depth workshop designed to generate deeper characters, find their unique voice, discover what their motivations are within the story, and see how they interact with other story characters. Designed for writers who are having difficulty with a current draft, or connecting to their characters in a way that enhances the plot.
Instead of only turning to Trans, Non-binary, and Queer+ (TNBQ+) writing to learn something about being TNBQ+, in this generative, experiential workshop, we’ll push further to consider and practice a variety of craft choices while immersing ourselves in the vast brilliance of TNBQ+ poetry. Come to read, write, and build community. And expect to be challenged and filled with delight.
How can we encourage our work to unspool in unpredictable, organic ways? To welcome what surprises and disturbs us? To harness wildness without domesticating its energies? To embrace what we only dimly perceive? In Cultivating Chaos, we'll discuss strategies for coaxing the strange, ineluctable, jagged-edged power of the wonderfully, dangerously unexpected into making a lasting, vivid difference in our writing.
What does an image do? How do images move or surprise us? In this writing workshop, we will examine how images shift, transform, and ultimately, move a reader. We will take our “go-to” images and explode them, looking at etymology, mythology, context and association. Finally, through writing prompts & workshop, we will read, write, and workshop poems that use recurring imagery to create tension and surprise.
Get to know your fellow conference attendees and the Piper Center team as we recognize our 2020 Desert Nights, Rising Stars Fellows and welcome you to this year’s Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.
As Leslie Feinberg said, “Gender is the poetry each of us makes out of the language we are taught.” As writers and readers, how do we engage with writing as the queer practice of possibility, imagining, and un/remaking the world? Listen to panelists as they discuss questions of creation, the queerness of writing, and the way queerness subverts the known and expected, changing the literary landscape itself.
Join memoirist, educator, and writer, Andrea Avery in an exploration on the processes in which we write about our own family. As a participant, you will use writing exercises focused on empathy, point of view, and personal truth to tell your family stories from your own perspectives. What happens 'after' a creative nonfiction book about your family comes to life in a public realm?
The experience of fiction as truth, as a representation of Truth (with a capital T!), is its singularly most impressive goal. To achieve this, an author must convince through the senses, says Flannery O'Connor in her essay, "Writing Short Fiction." Sensory details are at the core of writer's ability to show versus tell.
This panel will center on the poetic work of Mexican Poet Judith Santopietro, highlighting her political commitment to including indigenous languages in European language texts and contexts. We will discuss both the original Spanish and the poetic translation in English, by Professor Ilana Luna (ASU) of Santopietro’s most recent book Tiawanaku: Poemas de la madre coqa / Poems from the Mother Coqa (Orca Libros, 2019).
The term for magical realism in Spanish is “lo real maravilloso,” or the marvelous real. The emphasis in this phrasing is on the real, though when hearing the expression in English we immediately jump to the magical. In this talk, I’ll address magical realism generally, as well as the culture and writers who have defined it, along with the magical, the marvelous, the real, and the imaginary. I will welcome participants’ experiences and questions about this largely misunderstood literary and arts effort.
What industry generates over a billion dollars a year and is run for women by women? Would you be surprised to learn that it's the romance industry? This session examines preconceived ideas about romance writing and seeks to illustrate how opinions on the romance industry have been misshaped by the patriarchy, are rooted in puritanical shame, and have been propagated throughout the centuries as dirty and shame-filled. Come with your inquiries and learn how this thriving and important genre defies preconceived notions, and how this exciting industry might be right for you!
This session will demonstrate new methods of looking at the ideas you generate: Where you had one idea, your time here will allow you to expand it into several viable forms. The techniques you'll learn in this session will help you to generate everything from article ideas to essays; panel proposals to teaching ideas, from the one or two things that might be currently rattling around in your brainpan.
What makes for a good mystery? How can perspective and character be used to create suspenseful scenes and great reveals? What can lyric essays, poetry, and literary fiction learn from the plot structures of crime fiction and noir? In this panel, join authors from the Sisters in Crime Desert Sleuths for a practical discussion on the craft of mysteries.
In this session, we'll discuss the importance of worldbuilding in various formats and genres. We'll examine several key aspects of effective worldbuilding as well as techniques for revealing your created world to your readers.
This session will explore the current applications of poetry in medical settings via the body of work produced by healthcare providers and patients. Additionally, we'll explore the value of poetic therapy‚ from its American inceptions to its modern-day appropriation by medical schools, clinical facilities, and holistic healing practitioners‚ as well as the methodologies available to anyone interested in self-care and healing.
Does the white gaze cause us to compromise or be less thorough in investigations of character and narrative? Do we curate ourselves when writing about suffering or trauma? As readers, do we come to marginalized or underrepresented literature with expectations? This session will bring Identity and Race into Watkins' investigation of audience, power, and white heteronormative supremacy.
When we write about ourselves, in memoir and autofiction, it is easy to weigh down the reader with the darkness and drama in our lives. Humor is a way to create balance in tone. In this generative session, join essayist and short story writer, Natalie Lima, on an exploration of ways to use humor in our stories, particularly when writing about tough subject matter. This group will use prompts and short readings from contemporary funny writers to see the diversity of ways to add levity to our work.
Hear work from undergraduate and graduate students participating in the Piper Center's creative writing mentoring program during the lunch break.
Hear work from veteran writers during the lunch break
Hear work from fellow conference attendees (or even read some yourself) at an open-mic style reading during the lunch break. Please note: as space is limited, sign-ups for the open reading are first-come, first-served. Sign-up will open at 12:15 p.m. Participants should prepare to read no more than 5 minutes of material.
Three successful KidLit professionals share their many years of experience in children's publishing, from the start of a story, through the ups and downs of revision and submission, and ultimately to publishng and marketing.
This session will provide an overview of funding sources for your writing, including excerpts of successful project proposals and personal statements for artist funding opportunities and suggestions of how to make the most of your time during and after your fellowship/writers residency/or other creative space, whether it's one week or one year.
In the Indigenous Nation and the Navajo/Dine worldview, everything is in motion and is reflected in language that is verb-based and imagistic. This session focuses on images that speak for themselves and that open up to poetic interpretations on urgent environmental issues. How can poetic images convey the urgency of the issues that confront you on a level that comes from personal self-reflection and how does it resonate to other beings that inhabit the earth?
How do we mine our darkest moments for story, and how do we sit in that place and get the story onto the page while maintaining our mental health? In this session, we will talk about how we as writers explore our own traumas in ways that allow us to be vulnerable and open, share the experience so that others can feel what we felt, and still keep ourselves separate enough to function in real life.
Join literary agent Kirby Kim, founder of rinky dink press and The Revolution (Relaunch), Rosemarie Dombrowski, and Associate Director of Four Way Books, Sally Ball, in a discussion about the intricate dimensions of publishing including acquiring an agent, working with small presses, and what to expect once your manuscript has been selected for publication. Panelists will demystify the submission process, advise on how to best research what types of writing and manuscripts publishers are looking for, and how to submit to local presses or presses with specific genre focuses.
Ecopoetry incorporates aspects of ecology into poetic practice. In particular, through both content and form, ecopoetry often examines the relationship between built and natural environments. In this experimental session, participants will explore the idea of eco-architecture as it applies to a poem's form and shape. The discussion will especially consider how an attentive experience of place and space affects our sense of that place, and explore how that sense can be recreated in poetry.
This session investigates or states the effects of having one's social identity (mis)represented by a popular media franchise. Poets like Morgan Parker are in conversation with media franchises, expressing how these popular icons influence one's social identity. Her collection, There Are Things More Beautiful Than Beyoncé, explores her complicated feelings towards Beyoncé as a symbol of Black women's strength and objectification.
Throughout literary history, the notion of story has been communicated through linear narrative carried to fruition by a traditional arc. Contemporary hybrid texts reject the idea that this formula is necessary to organize story and communicate meaning. When linear narrative is stripped away, what holds the story together? In this session, we'll explore the universality of the body and its sensory perceptions as an organizational mechanism to organize story and orient and impact the reader.
In this session, we will analyze the structure of the ensemble cast, using examples from film and literature. Through visual approaches, we will imagine methodologies for utilizing, manipulating, and breaking the form of the ensemble cast. How can we wield a multiplicity of voices to build and release tension, develop a narrative, and deconstruct the expectations of the form?
In this generative session, we will examine how the constraints and limitations of the page affect form and content to produce work that expands beyond traditional scale and presentation. The session provides poets the chance to experiment with form and scale in order to generate work that centers their own narrative and desire for the freedom of movement that we're allowed once we stretch beyond the page and physically enter and reclaim space. The session will also provide poets with examples of contemporary work currently in conversation with the session.
First-time memoirists and essayists often assume a direct translation between the person they are in real life and the life they make for themselves on the page. But an under-discussed truth about personal narrative is that our "I" must be invented each time, much in the same way that we recreate ourselves for different ages or situations: the classroom, the bedroom, parenthood, sleep.
We’ve all heard the advice, Know your character better than yourself. How do we build characters who are strong or fragile, bold or shy, fully round, fully complex, and well-developed instead of flat, two-dimensional representations? How do we use our imaginations to the fullest in creating relatable, strange, interesting, and compelling characters? In this panel, writers representing a range of speculative fiction will share tips and tricks for creating and building characters we all want to know, read, and have a conversation with.
Ghosts have been inescapable in our lives, whether they be reminders of trauma or versions of our lives that are now long gone. How do we ask questions about these ghosts in our writing? This session will look at how memoirists construct ghosts on the page and how they connect the concept of haunting to their lives and experiences. We will then discuss how participants might be haunted and how to bring their ghosts to life on the page.
From our dinner plates to Netflix specials like Ugly Delicious, food is everywhere. We care about food not only because it nourishes our bodies, but also because it allows us to access intimate parts of our lives and memories: our childhood, family, culture, community, and politics. Food is an important part of storytelling and vital to how we understand ourselves and our communities—that's why shows like Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown are so popular.
Much writing guidance advises us to just sit down and write. But that sage advice doesn't always deal with the reality of what prevents us from writing. It's often not as simple as a butt not being in the chair. Rather, the anxiety that permeates us when we sit down to write is what prevents us from approaching the blank page. In this session, we will focus on writing through our fear and the negative emotions that too often thwart us. We will utilize goal-setting, journaling, and outlining, among other strategies, to write in spite of the dread that shows up at our writing desk.
This session will explore the intersections between the human, nonhuman, and the environment in a changing landscape. We'll discuss the weird history of our engagement with nature, science, climate, and the nonhuman as well as the proximity of this engagement to cultural and historical sites. This session will also provide generative exercises for discovering connections between the human/nonhuman and the environment.
Enjoy light refreshments and the company of fellow attendees as we celebrate another year of the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference.
Novelist Ingrid Rojas Contreras comes from a lineage of curanderos—healers who used herbs, dreams, stories, and exorcisms to treat illness and suffering. Women were not allowed into this lineage, until Rojas Contreras’ mother created a space for herself in this male-dominated tradition. Join Rojas Contreras as she presents the keynote on the enforced silence of women, memory, and the power of story in recasting the world around us.
Writing often describes work other than the work of writing to build narratives, images, and/or metaphors. For example, what do the chapters dedicated to whaling in Moby-Dick do? The making of chutney in Midnight's Children? The preparation of lengua in Laurie Ann Guerrero's "Preparing the Tongue"‚ the cutting of greens in Lucille Clifton "cutting greens," the building of a Ford engine in Middlesex? Writing can document the process of other forms for creative purposes, certainly, but how far can this go and to what end?
We are told "show, don't tell." And while this is a useful adage, just where does it come from? What does it prevent us from saying? What political inquiry is shut down as a result? In this session, we will look at the power of statement in poetry.
Poet and playwright Sharon Bridgforth says of her work, "like most things that I do, it started inside of my own bone marrow and blood memories." In what ways do we write our memories as People of Color and Queer people? How do we survive in literary traditions and forms beyond those, like the literary canon, embedded in heteronormativity and white supremacy? This session will explore how we disrupt and transform narratives of "normal" in our writing to include narratives and experiences of disability, race, gender, and/or class.
Writing is an act that takes place in the dark cave of the imagination. We have to fight for what we can see. So how can we take the abstract and make it visualizable? How might we think of the drafting process as say, shaping a bowl on a pottery wheel? This talk offers up a selection of artistic principles and practical techniques from painters, photographers, potters, cooks, and sewers for the writer to borrow or steal.
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.
For industry newcomers, the process of getting your book agented and working with that agent to get it edited and picked up can be mysterious and daunting. What are agents looking for and what do they want from a client? What do you want from your agent, once you get one? And what should your working relationship look like? In this session, particiants explore the process of landing an agent and working with them once you have an agent.
What is lost and what is gained in translating creative work on the page? How do we keep the spirit of the original written work even as the words change and the nuance is sometimes lost between cultures? Authors and translators Alberto Ríos, Laura Tohe, and Ryka Aoki speak to the intricacies of working with multiple languages as a translative art form.
Romance is a great mix with paranormal, suspense, thrillers and mysteries. You see it in movies and on television. But making it happen on the page? Not that easy. Your job is to make the mix believable and seamless, keep the pacing tight but give room for the romance to breathe. We’ll discuss strategies on how to make that happen.
This session explores broad approaches to identifying and developing new writing projects based on our personal histories. Which moments are rife with raw material and exploding with potential? How does one excavate facts, details, and meaning from everyday experiences? A blend of lecture and generative exercises, this session will help writers identify which personal experiences might tell a good story while structuring the events for maximum clarity and emotional impact.
Writing is not only deeply personal but cultural. What better place to discover the nuances of cultural experience than within your own family? Our parents, grandparents, aunts, and cousins are great sources of knowledge. In this generative seminar, we'll explore the complications of and uses for conducting family interviews to enrich your writing as well as contemplate when we should expand on a familial experience to craft more compelling stories. We'll brainstorm potential interviewees and questions we may put to them.
Framed around three stories of violence and death on the border, we will look at the various ways a story can be told—as a song, a poem, an oral history, a video, or a short story. In this way we will not only question how genre bending can influence how we write violence, but how the modes we choose as writers can serve to ask poignant questions or to fetishize.
Unarcheology is a queer, anticolonial orientation that asks us to examine how texts, objects, artifacts, bodies, and histories have been dug up and narrated in service of particular, oppressive ideologies—what we might understand as a form of archeology. Informed by queer, anticolonial aesthetic practices like collage and autoethnography, unarcheology asks that we intentionally engage our poetics in service of putting back‚ or reburying, restoring complexity and dignity to those texts and subverting those oppressive ideologies.
Hear work from the graduate students of ASU’s Creative Writing program during the lunch break.
Wherever we write, more often than not we’re stuck in our own head. How do we get unstuck? How can we find a good person to talk to about writing? How can we be that good person to talk to? That’s exactly is why we have developed a board game to give us some practice. Based in part on the renga—a Japanese form of collaborative poetry—this game places writers into groups in guided cross-pollinating writing activities.
What does it mean to write about the body, land, culture, or socioeconomic infrastructure in today’s social and political landscapes? When does writing become politicized? Is there ever a time when writing about our bodies or land can be separated from the political? This panel focuses on questions around writing as a political act and expression.
This talk is about the dislocations of exile(s) and immigration, the fresh eyes on culture it produces, and how it informs and, ultimately, changes both exiles and culture.
Our bodies are vessels for storytelling. Our eyes whisper truth, our lungs scream sorrow, our feet voyage between the past and the present. This generative writing session, led by Peggy Robles-Alvarado and open to all genres and writing levels, pulls at the memories we carry in our bodies and calls on the muse that lives in our muscles, freckles, bones, and scars.
The sonnet is a poetic form that writers have turned to for centuries, and it endures thanks to its incredible malleability. In this session, we will talk about the sonnet not as experts, but as writers who are attempting to contribute to the "sonnet conversation" that poets have atttempted to weigh in on for so long, focusing specifically on the vehicle of the American Sonnet in our work.
You’ve written your first manuscript. Read it. Read it a hundred more times. Probably reread it until your eyes ache and the words blur on the page. You know every page by heart. Now what? Join authors Ivelisse Rodriguez, Vanessa Hua, and Andrea Avery as they talk about what to do with your first book, what to expect in looking for a publisher, and how to get started on your second manuscript.
E-readers and increased time demands have shifted how many readers consume stories. Shorter fiction (from flash fiction to novellas) is more manageable for writers and readers, quicker to publication and often more profitable than longer works. New York Times bestselling author Michael A. Stackpole has written in many series, and produced works of all lengths. In this session, he'll show you how to plot a series, provide some basic structures to use, and point out ways that your shorter fiction can create a new audience for your longer-form fiction.
The more specific the story, the more universal its reach‚ or so the adage goes. As queer people of color, however, the people we write for and about are rarely in the workshop or on the masthead. How do we write the stories only we can tell when educational and editorial spaces do not reflect us? In this session, participants will discuss notions of audience that nourish our work; craft decisions that de-center a white straight gaze; and strategies for navigating feedback from people we're not legible to, especially when they hold power.
Don Mee Choi’s Hardly War (Wave Books, 2016) is an intense embodiment of some of the most challenging values in contemporary American poetry: she uses archival photographs of the wars in Korea and Vietnam (many taken by her father, a photojournalist and a central figure in the book), her own childhood drawings, Korean words in ideograms, Korean words in transliterated English spellings (to mean what they mean in Korean and/or what their transliterations mean in English), nursery rhymes, librettos with stage directions, advertisements, newsreel voiceovers, and more.
Writing in dialect or vernacular can be tricky. At its best, is can give one's writing an organic sense of place and perspective. When mishandled, however, dialect can offend readers, seem reductive, and cover lazy storytelling. This workshop covers dialect—why and how one might choose to incorporate it, the choices one has to make when using it, and how to self-check against exploitation and stereotyping.
In this generative session, we will pinpoint the places where magic resides in autobiographical poetry. Through personal exploration and group discussion, we will find places where truth and magic touch, will discover how magic renders truth truer, begets an attentiveness in the reader, and locates moments more deeply in the experiential. All this opens narrative poetics to new possibilities of phantasmagoria and wonder. We will briefly examine contemporary poems containing some of these elements.
Explore the possibilities of self publishing or starting your own small press. What does DIY look like? What resources are available to someone looking to make a zine, chapbook, or more traditional book? Let's talk software, art, and the benefits of choosing to take total control of your work!
Everyone’s a critic. In this digital age, criticism can be loud, painful, or downright vicious. It is imperative that writers exercise resilience when taking on critique. How do you know what’s helpful and what’s harmful? What critiques should catch our eyes and ears when it comes to revision of the manuscript, versus those we can cast aside as not helpful? Panelists will talk about how to cut through the noise of trolls and remain centered on genuine improvement in your work.
How do we make our poetry personal? How do we make it political? What techniques can we use to make our poetry bridge the gap between these modes? In this session, participants will explore the intersection between the two, examining how poetry can bear witness to history, document our time, and imagine new futures. We will explore how to use mythology and the speculative, the recurring image, the collective voice, and the intersection between image and text to make our poems both intimate and politically powerful.
Camus once said, "the purpose of a writer is to keep civilization from destroying itself." Over sixty years later, we would not be remiss in thinking of ourselves as tasked with the same momentous duty. So how do we defend humanity with the might of our pens?