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NonfictioNOW 2018 | Nov 1 - 3, Phoenix, AZ

NonfictioNOW 2018

Featuring keynote speakers Melissa Lucashenko, Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Gretel Ehrlich and Francisco Cantú.


November 1 - 3, 2018 in Downtown Phoenix, AZ

The Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at ASU proudly hosted the 2018 NonfictioNOW Conference, November 1 - 3 in Downtown Phoenix, AZ. 

Neither a conventional academic conference nor a writers’ festival, NonfictioNOW is a conversation among peers exploring the past, present, and future of nonfiction. Keynote speakers were Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Gretel Ehrlich, and Francisco Cantú.

To learn more about NonfictioNOW, you can view the information below or visit the conference's website.

About NonfictioNOW

Founded by Robin Hemley at the University of Iowa in 2005, the NonfictioNOW Conference is a regular gathering of over 400 nonfiction writers, teachers, readers and students from around the world in an effort to explore the past, present, and future of nonfiction. NonfictioNOW is unique in being neither a conventional academic conference nor a writers’ festival, but rather a conversation among peers, from well-established writers and artists to those just starting out.
NonfictioNOW gathers leading writers from around the world to share notes with emerging peers and audiences on the intricate challenges and intriguing delights of writing and reading nonfiction NOW.  The growing success of NonfictioNOW highlights the great energy and interest in the art of nonfiction storytelling in all its forms, from literary and political essays and memoir to reality TV. 

Panels and readings highlight the myriad forms of nonfiction, from the video essay and graphic essays, to the memoir, lyric essay, and literary journalism. Past keynote speakers have included Karl Ove Knausgård, Maggie Nelson, Aisha Sabatini Sloan, Alison Bechdel, Rebecca Solnit, Wayne Koestenbaum, Pico Iyer, Margo Jefferson, Richard Rodriguez, and Tim Flannery, among others.

To learn more about NonfictioNOW, visit the conference website.

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Keynote Speakers

Francisco Cantú is a writer, translator, educator, and the author of The Line Becomes a River. From 2008 to 2012 he served as an agent for the United States Border Patrol in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A former Fulbright fellow, he is also the recipient of a 2017 Whiting Award. His essays and translations have been featured on This American Life and in Best American Essays, Harper’s, Guernica, Orion, n+1 and Ploughshares. He lives in Tucson, Arizona.

Gretel Ehrlich is the author of 15 books of nonfiction, fiction, and poetry—including The Solace of Open Spaces, Heart Mountain, This Cold Heaven, and Facing the Wave, which was long-listed for the National Book Award. Her books have won many awards, including the first Henry David Thoreau Award for Nature Writing, the PEN USA Award for Nonfiction, the Harold D. Vurcell Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, a Guggenheim Fellowship, three National Geographic Expedition Grants for travel in the Arctic, a Whiting Award, and an NEA. Her work has appeared in Harper's, the Atlantic, Orion, the New York Times Magazine, and Best Essays of the Century, among many other publications. Her poetry was featured on the PBS NewsHour. Gretel traveled for 20 years in northwestern Greenland by dogsled with subsistence Inuit hunters. In 2007, the National Geographic Expeditions Council sent her around the top of the world to explore with indigenous Arctic people in Alaska, Nunavut, Greenland and Arctic Russia, how their lives were affected by climate change. An updated report from Greenland on climate and Arctic culture appeared in the April, 2015 issue of Harper’s Magazine. She lives with her partner, Neal Conan on a farm in the highlands of the Big Island of Hawai’i, and a cabin in Montana.

Stephanie Elizondo Griest is a globe-trotting author from the Texas-Mexico borderlands. Her books include the travel memoirs Around the Bloc: My Life in Moscow, Beijing, and Havana; Mexican Enough; and All the Agents & Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands as well as the best-selling guidebook 100 Places Every Woman Should Go. She has also written for The New York Times, Washington Post, VQR, The Believer, Orion, and The Oxford American. Distinctions include a Margolis Award for Social Justice Reporting, a Hodder Fellowship at Princeton, and a Lowell Thomas Travel Journalism Gold Prize. She teaches creative nonfiction at UNC-Chapel Hill and can be found at

To learn more about keynote speakers, you can visit the conference website

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Selected Press and Media

Markgraf, Diandra. "NonfictioNOW.Arizona Daily Sun, October 30, 2015.

As a way to break the ice in a roomful of writers, it was original.

“Let’s start stupid,” said essayist and Mets fan Brian Doyle in his native Queens, N.Y., accent before leading the room in a chant of “Yankees suck.”

After the laughter subsided, he added, “Let’s start this conference right and say it’s not about writing, it’s about attendance, witness.”

Cadena Deulen, Danielle. "At the NonfictioNOW Conference in Iceland." Acre Books, June 8, 2017.

Having attended two conferences in a row now, I have to say that I’ve been impressed with the quality of the conference overall. The AWP conference has its advantages (too numerous to name here), but the longer I’m at this writing life, the more I really prefer smaller conferences for the opportunity to meet new writers, have actual conversations at a leisurely pace, and attend thoughtfully composed panels. NonfictioNow has become the standard for me.

Fish Ewan, Rebecca. "The Sagas of NonfictioNow 2017." Brevity, June 6, 2017.

I feel more than ever that nonfiction is becoming alive. Facts used to feel like stone, like the things in life that never breathe, but the deeper I dig into what it means to tell the truth, the more I see that stories sing with facts. The conference also made it clear that the people writing nonfiction today are explorers travelling the far reaches of what can be done on the page.

Babine, Karen, ed. "Assay's Special Conference Issue: NonfictioNow 2015." Assay. See also a myriad of other articles and posts from Assay documenting NonfictioNOW 2015.

2015 was a great year for nonfiction! Over the past few months, we've been party to great conference conversations that reinforce that academic inquiry into the work of nonfiction is not only vital, it is energetic. As we have worked to provide reports of conference panels at AWP and NonfictioNow, it's clear that archiving summaries of the conversations is a good start--but with two conferences (ASLE and NonfictioNow) happening biennially in 2015, as they do, we have an opportunity to do something special. Rather than publishing individual voices, we have brought together four panels from three different conferences to post in their entirety. Each panel contains the paper presented by the panelists. We have chosen panels that discuss topics best considered from multiple viewpoints, from craft to practicality.

Kilberg Cohen, Garnett. "A Collaboration from NonfictioNow, Reykjavik.Punctuate, October 11, 2017.

When I learned the sixth NonFictioNow Conference would be held in Reykjavik, Iceland, it occurred to me that the trip would provide a perfect opportunity for a collaborative travel essay about a country that until recently was not high on tourists’ visiting lists. Who better than accomplished nonfiction writers to describe and explore this spectacular and once seemingly lonely land from outsiders’ points of view? 

Blum, Genia. "My NonfictioNOW 2017—Part 1: Celebrity and Humility.Assay, October 15, 2017. See also Part 2: Celebration and Humiliation.

Three weeks before the start of the NonfictionNOW 2017 conference in Reykjavík, I emailed the keynote speaker, Wayne Koestenbaum—poet, writer, painter, musician, author of several celebrity-based books and a literary celebrity in his own right—with a request for an interview.

Carlin, David, ed. "After Reykjavik: A Chorus of Reports.Essay Daily, June 12, 2018. 

In the case of this Chorus of Reports, it went like this: each of the eight writers was asked to prepare two short pieces to read. The order would be randomly devised; each writer drawing the next speaker’s name out of a hat. No preliminaries, no faff. For the first piece: describe a pivotal moment for you at the Reykjavik conference - something from a panel you gave or attended, a keynote or some other conference event. Choose something that rocked your socks, prompted an epiphany or touched you deeply in whatever way. Try to take us to that moment and have us understand why it mattered. The second piece: (shorter) a creative statement or manifesto or rant or litany or incantation or something else on what nonfiction can do nowThis is roughly what happened on the night.

Sabatini Sloan, Aisha. "The Dangerous Lure of Writing for White Readers in an MFA." Lit Hub, November 28, 2017. Adapted from the keynote at NonfictioNOW in Reykjavik, Iceland, June 2017.

When I found out I was going to be a keynote for this conference I went through all the stages of imposter syndrome. The first stage was a pretty visceral feeling that kind of bloomed in the back of my head and slid down my spine, like when you’d go: “crack an egg on your head, feel the yolk falling down” and then you’d run your fingers down your friend’s back. I saw myself on that keynote page on the website and saw who had been taken off the page and I said: oh yeah, that makes sense. I am replacing the black keynote who couldn’t make it. It’s uncomfortable to say this out loud, but it’s also uncomfortable to have had this experience, so it’s something that feels relevant for me to share with you given what I want to talk about today.

Carlin, David. "After The Flood (or How NonfictioNOW came to Melbourne)." Overland, October 24, 2012.