By the time I get to Phoenix…

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.’

dnrs-title-banner_2This 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?

About Angela Savage

Angela Savage is a Melbourne writer, who has lived and travelled extensively in Asia. She won the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an unpublished manuscript, and the Scarlet Stiletto Award short story award. Her latest novel, Mother of Pearl, is published by Transit Lounge. Angela holds a PhD in Creative Writing, is former CEO of Writers Victoria, and currently works as CEO of Public Libraries Victoria.
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12 Responses to By the time I get to Phoenix…

  1. Margot Kinberg says:

    I hope you’ll have a wonderful trip, Angela. You’re heading to one of the US’s most naturally beautiful places – the Arizona desert – and I hope you’ll get a chance to see a bit of it. The conference sounds wonderful, too, and I know you’ll do a fine job on the panel.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks Margot. I’m really excited to be visiting this particular part of the USA. Those Arizona desertscapes look amazing. I just hope they’re not covered in snow for the duration of my visit!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. FictionFan says:

    Ooh, sounds wonderful, Angela! As someone who’s never been to the States, somehow I always think of desert country as the “real” America – probably too much exposure to cowboy films in my youth! Have a great time, both at the conference and as a tourist! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m with you, FF. I can’t wait to see the places where some of my favourite Westerns were filmed. ‘John Ford Point’ is a stop on the Monument Valley tour, while Sedona, where I plan to stay, is where ‘Johnny Guitar’ among others, was shot (no pun intended!).

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sounds fantastic, Angela! Will you get a chance to get your kicks on route 66?

    or the old fogey Rolling Stones version:

    Liked by 1 person

  4. kathy d says:

    How great for you to go to Arizona to go to a conference focused on writing. Right up your alley.
    I would not miss the opportunity to visit The Poisoned Pen bookstore in Scottsdale. It is famous. They have events with authors every week and plenty of readers show up. The store also has a publishing arm and produces a lot of mysteries. Maybe you could even bring your books or talk to the owners about speaking there.
    Cathy Cole who has a blog called Kittling Books lives in Phoenix and knows everything about Arizona, its sights and sites, and about The Poisoned Pen. She visits it often and writes up reviews of the authors’ evenings. One place she writes about is the Desert Botanical Gardens, which has much flora and fauna — and a cafe.
    Wish I were going, too. Sounds like a lot of fun in addition to being educational.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey Kathy, belated thanks for these tips. I’ve been in touch with Barbara Peters at Poison Pen Press (she publishes my dear friend Sulari Gentill) and hope to meet up with her during my visit. I will also look up Cathy Cole. Funny you should mention the Desert Botanical Gardens: that’s also on my list of places to visit, based on my brief survey so far.
      Strange time to be visiting the USA, but I’m looking forward to it.


  5. Jodie Lavallee says:

    Wow, This is the closest you have ever been! I want to get on a plane and come see you. When are you in Arizona?
    Jodie McKee Lavallee

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jodie, I arrive in Phoenix on Valentine’s Day, and I’m occupied with a conference through to Sat 18 Feb inclusive. After that, I’m heading to Sedona to do some sight-seeing (Monument Valley, Grand Canyon); I fly out of Phoenix on Sat 25 Feb. Come meet me! I would so love to see you xxx


  6. How did I miss this, given I read your article? I must have come at it from another link – Twitter straight to the article methinks. Anyhow, you will have a ball – Phoenix, Sedona, the gorgeous Monument Valley. The Apache Trail drive (east of Phoenix if I remember correctly) is wonderful and of course doing whatever you can of Route 66 – stopping at the towns along the way. Tucson’s Barrio Historico is gorgeous. Oh, I could on and on and on. Mid-Feb to March should be a great time weather wise – well, better than mid-summer anyhow.

    Edward Abbey’s Desert solitaire (though it’s about Utah’s deserts – Arches in particular) is a great read. And, though I haven’t read it myself (have always meant to), there’s Zane Grey’s Riders of the purple sage set in southern Utah.

    Anyhow, have a wonderful time Angela.

    Liked by 1 person

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