Next month I will visit the USA to attend the Desert Nights, Rising Stars Writers Conference at the Arizona State University in Phoenix. As the conference website blurb says, Desert Nights, Rising Stars ‘brings together writers, readers, and lovers of literature for three days of instruction, inspiration, and community. By creating an intimate and accessible space where conference-goers can make real, personal connections with award-winning authors, industry experts, and the larger community of peers, attendees gain practical tools to develop their craft, professional knowledge to further their careers, and determination and purpose to move their writing forward.’
This amazing opportunity came about through my PhD supervisor, Dr Chandani Lokugé, and when it did, I felt the urge to grab it with both hands. I mean, just look at the conference logo (left) — how could anyone resist? And it’s called Desert Nights, Rising Stars for heaven’s sake (no pun intended).
As part of the conference program, I will be taking a one hour class I’m calling ‘Never Just Description: How Setting Can Enhance Your Story’. To give potential participants a taster, I wrote a blog post for the conference website:
My novels are set in Thailand, and readers often comment on their strong sense of place. But this wasn’t always the case. In a rejection letter for an early draft of my manuscript, later published as Behind the Night Bazaar, the reader commented, “I didn’t really feel that I had been taken to Thailand… I think there needs to be more of a sense of the sights and smells of Thailand, of being taken to a different land.”
At the time, I was writing straight off the back of six years in Southeast Asia, including 18 months in Thailand. In retrospect, I realise I was too close to the environment I was writing about. I had to take a step back, remember what it was like when I first arrived, try to conjure the little things that made the place unique…
Read the rest of the article here.
I’ll also be appearing on a panel with crime writer Kwei Quartey to discuss ‘Writing Culture for Other Cultures’. I’m currently reading the first in Quartey’s Darko Dawson series, Wife of the Gods, set in Ghana — not only a great read, but it’s taking me to a country I know nothing about.
As a conference participant, I’m looking forward to attending sessions with Malinda Lo (Writing with Diversity: How to & Why Not), Goldie Goldbloom, Dominic Smith, Adrienne Celt, Alissa Nutting, Elizabeth Evans and Benjamin Percy — to name a few. My biggest task will be choosing which of the great sessions on offer to attend.
This will also be my first ever trip to the USA; somehow, I’ve managed to visit Central and South America, but never the United States. As it’s taken me 50 years to get there, I plan to make the most of it and stay on for a week afterwards to do some sight-seeing. I will visit the town of Sedona, in addition to Phoenix. And weather permitting, I hope to get to both Monument Valley and the Grand Canyon — or ‘Thelma and Louise country’, as I like to think of it (though I intend to avoid going over any cliffs for the duration of my stay).
In addition to Kwei Quartey’s novels, I’m also planning to read Tony Hillerman’s Navajo Tribal Police series in preparation for my trip.
What about you? Have you ever been to Arizona? Do you have any tips or recommendations for my trip? Pre-reading for me? Songs for my playlist?