The Desert Nights, Rising Stars
Writers Conference

Cute illustration of a comfortable living room with a fireplace, books, carpet, and cat

Conference Faculty

Gracious, generous educators with a passion for community.

Featuring over 25 award-winning writers, editors, agents, educators, and other internationally recognized creative writing professionals, our faculty are here to do more than expand your skill set or open new ways of thinking about your work. They're here to share their experiences, answer questions, and spend time connecting with conference attendees.

Our 2021 faculty include Sally Ball, Mahogany L. Browne, Suyi Davies Okungbowa, Alan Dean Foster, Tod Goldberg, Raquel Gutiérrez, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, Linda Hogan, Jenny Irish, Beverly Jenkins, Kirby Kim, C.B. Lee, Connie J. Mableson, tanner menard, Christopher Morgan, Chantelle Aimée Osman, Cynthia Pelayo, Evan Winter, and Erika T. Wurth. 

To meet our faculty, keep reading.

You can also meet our fellowsview the schedule, or learn more about the conference.

Meet this year's faculty

Photograph of Sally Ball

Sally Ball

Sally Ball is the author of three collections of poems, Hold Sway, Wreck Me and Annus Mirabilis. An associate professor of English at Arizona State University, Ball is also an associate director of Four Way Books. She has been with the press for 23 of its 26 years. She has received fellowships from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, CAMAC Centre d’Art, and elsewhere.

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Photograph of Mahogany L. Browne

Mahogany L. Browne

Mahogany L. Browne is a writer, organizer, and educator. She is the Interim Executive Director of Urban Word NYC & Poetry Coordinator at St. Francis College. Browne has received fellowships from Agnes Gund, Air Serenbe, Cave Canem, Poets House, Mellon Research & Rauschenberg.

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Photograph of Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron

Hallie Ephron ( is the NY Times bestselling author of 17 books including 6 domestic suspense novels reviewers call “deliciously creepy.” Her recent "Careful What You Wish For" (Wm.

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Photograph of Alan Dean Foster

Alan Dean Foster

Born in New York City in 1946, Foster was raised in Los Angeles. After receiving a Bachelor's Degree in Political Science and a Master of Fine Arts in Cinema from UCLA (1968, l969) he spent two years as a copywriter for a small Studio City, Calif. advertising and public relations firm.

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Photograph of Tod Goldberg

Tod Goldberg

Tod Goldberg is the New York Times bestselling author of over a dozen books, including Gangster Nation, Gangsterland, a finalist for the Hammett Prize, The House of Secrets, which he co-authored with Brad Meltzer, Living Dead Girl, a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize, two collections of short stories, and the popular Burn Notice series.

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Photograph of Raquel Gutiérrez

Raquel Gutiérrez

Raquel Gutiérrez is an essayist, arts critic/writer, and poet. An adult child of Mexican and Salvadoran immigrants, Raquel was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently lives in Tucson, Arizona where she/they just completed two MFAs in Poetry and Non-Fiction from the University of Arizona.

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Photograph of Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo

Marcelo Hernandez Castillo is a poet, essayist, translator, and immigration advocate. He is the author of the collection Cenzontle (2018), which won the 2017 A. Poulin Jr. prize, and the chapbook Dulce (2018). His memoir, Children of the Land (2020), is his most recent publication.

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Photograph of Jenny Irish

Jenny Irish

Jenny Irish is from Maine, but lives and teaches in Arizona. She is the author of the collections Common Ancestor and I Am Faithful.

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Photograph of Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins

Beverly Jenkins is the recipient of the 2017 Romance Writers of America Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award, as well as the 2016 Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for historical romance. She has been nominated for the NAACP Image Award in Literature, was featured both in the documentary “Love Between the Covers” and on CBS Sunday Morning.

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Photograph of Hena Khan

Hena Khan

Hena Khan is an award winning Pakistani American children’s author. Her middle grade novel Amina’s Voice was named a Best Book of 2017 by the Washington Post, Kirkus Reviews, NPR, and others. She is the author of the Zayd Saleem Chasing the Dream series and More to the Story, a middle grade novel inspired by Little Women.

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Kirby Kim

A native of Los Angeles, California, Kirby Kim attended Pomona College and got his JD at UC Hastings College of the Law. Kim got his first job in publishing working for Charlotte Sheedy Literary, at that time an affiliate of Sterling Lord Literistic, then moved to Vigliano Associates and WME before joining Janklow & Nesbit Associates.

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Photograph of C.B. Lee

C.B. Lee

C.B. Lee is a Lambda Literary Award nominated writer of young adult science fiction and fantasy. Her works include the Sidekick Squad series (Duet Books), Ben 10 graphic novels (Boom!

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Photograph of Connie J. Mableson

Connie J. Mableson

Connie J. Mableson, Esq., is a nationally recognized attorney with over 37 years of practice in copyright and trademark law with an emphasis in literary law, music law, and Internet and E-Commerce. Connie's clients include Stephanie Meyer, the author of the Twilight vampire book and film series, Allison DuBois, the medium featured on NBC's Emmy award winning prime time program, “Medium,” and many other New York Times’ best-selling authors.

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Photograph of tanner menard

tanner menard

tanner menard is a poet & composer who bends genres into something useful for hypnosis. They are a member of the Atakapa/Ishak Nation & a Louisiana Creole. tanner's experimental sound art has been published internationally & their poetry has twice nominated for a pushcart prize. tanner's work has always been healing adjacent & in their personal life they are dedicated being a complete being.

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Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference Faculty 2019 Patricia Colleen Murphy

Patricia Colleen Murphy

Patricia Colleen Murphy founded Superstition Review at Arizona State University, where she teaches creative writing and magazine production. Her book Bully Love won the 2019 Press 53 Poetry Award.

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Photograph of Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa

Suyi Davies Okungbowa is a Nigerian author of fantasy, science fiction and horror inspired by his West-African origins. His highly-anticipated debut, the godpunk fantasy novel David Mogo, Godhunter (Abaddon, 2019), was hailed as “the subgenre’s platonic deific ideal.” His epic fantasy trilogy, The Nameless Republic, is forthcoming from Orbit in 2021.

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Chantelle Aimée Osman

Chantelle Aimée Osman is the editor of Agora, an award-nominated imprint of Polis Books. Agora focuses on crime novels with a unique social or cultural viewpoint. The former Editor-in-Chief of RT Book Reviews Magazine and a free-lance editor for over 10 years, she also co-hosted the Crime Friction podcast, and has been an instructor at the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, Authors at Large and LitReactor.

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Photograph of Cynthia Pelayo

Cynthia Pelayo

Cynthia “Cina” Pelayo is the author of Loteria, Santa Muerte, The Mission, Poems of My Night, Into the Forest and All the Way Through, and multiple short stories and poems. Her adult horror thriller debut, Children of Chicago by Agora/Polis Books, will be available February 2021. She is an International Latino Book Award winning author and an Elgin Award nominee.

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Photograph of Stephanie Winter

Stephanie Winter

Stephanie Winter is an associate agent at P.S. Literary. She first joined the agency as an intern before becoming the agency’s relations assistant. Stephanie holds a B.A. from the University of Toronto in English Literature and an M.A. in English: Issues in Modern Culture from University College London. She is looking for diverse, inclusive voices in fiction and graphic novels for adults and young readers.

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Photograph of Evan Winter

Evan Winter

Called "Canada’s answer to George R. R. Martin" by the Globe and Mail, Evan Winter, winner of the Reddit/Fantasy Award for Best Debut Fantasy Novel, is a Barnes & Nobles, Amazon, and Locus best selling author of speculative fiction.

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Photograph of Erika T. Wurth

Erika T. Wurth

Erika T. Wurth’s publications include two novels, Crazy Horse’s Girlfriend and You Who Enter Here, two collections of poetry and a collection of short stories, Buckskin Cocaine. A writer of fiction, nonfiction, and poetry, she teaches creative writing at Western Illinois University and has been a guest writer at the Institute of American Indian Arts.

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