Come Write With Us At NonfictioNow! Call for Guest Bloggers–Thursday

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Going to the 2018 NonfictioNow conference in Phoenix?

We’re looking for guest bloggers to write up reports on the panels, because, as always, we expect our cloning abilities to malfunction. 

Check out Thursday’s schedule of panels and if you’d like to claim a panel to write about, let us know in the comments (and we’ll cross it off our list here). We’re looking for summary of the panel/panelists, poignant quotes, and personal reactions–aim for 500-700 words. The goal is to give those who aren’t there a good idea of what went on. These reports are also a way that we include writers, teachers, and readers who may not be able to attend the conference. It’s a wonderful act of literary citizenship, and in advance, we’re grateful for your time.

Once your blog post is ready, use Submittable to send it to us, along with a one or two line bio and we’ll post them ASAP. Be sure to include the original panel information, so we can include that with your post. We want to post these on a rolling basis as the conference is going on. Please finish up your panel submissions no later than a week following the conference. Deadline for conference reports: Saturday, November 10.

Make sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter so we can tag you when it’s published!

Thursday, Nov 1

9:30 am- 10:45 am

On Collections
Venita Blackburn, Chen Chen, Angela Morales, Sarah Viren, & Elissa Washuta

What is a collection? What can we learn from thinking about other physical collections—of stamps, coins, baseball cards, shoes? And what can writers of different genres learn from talking to each other about their process of writing, and organizing, a collection of their work? In this panel three nonfiction writers of recent essay collections will talk with a short story writer and poet about the intuition and calculations that go into collecting one’s work into a book. Panelists will discuss practical things like structure, transitions, titles, and form, as well sillier things like collections in popular media and whether a poem is more like a stamp and an essay like a shoe.

11:00 am to 12:15 pm

From Memoir to #MeToo
Janice Gary, Reyna Grande, Karen Salyer McElmurray, & Sue William Silverman

In the 1990’s, a curious phenomenon appeared on bookshelves: memoirs written by women. These ordinary stories of ordinary lives were extraordinary in that they told the truth of what it was like to be a woman in a patriarchal world. Subjects previously off limits – rape, domestic violence, sexual harassment, mental and physical illness – were now exposed to the page. The predominantly male literary establishment pushed back, dismissing the work as “navel-gazing” and “whining.” “Whatever happened to the lost art of shutting up?” asked a NYT reviewer. What happened was that women writers of literary nonfiction refused to be silenced or shamed and kept writing, breaking through the barriers that suppressed female voices for centuries. On this panel, writers who have experienced the struggles and strengths of writing “confessional” memoir will discuss the role the form has played in one of the most significant social movements of our time.

Alternate Histories
Erik Anderson, Mary-Kim Arnold, J’Lyn Chapman, Angela Pelster, & Michael Steinberg

This panel takes its inspiration from the question posed by Rilke’s protagonist in The Notebooks of Malte Laurids Brigge: “Is it possible that the whole history of the world has been misunderstood?” In this passage, Malte questions whether history has incorrectly paid its attention to the masses instead of to “the one person they were standing around because he was a stranger and was dying.” While this supposition about history’s making is not new—we see it reflected in Aristotle’s privileging of poetry over history—this panel proposes that not only can imaginative interpretations better help us to understand the past, they can also recover voices and perspectives that have been subsumed in grand narratives that perpetuate notions of the universal subject. In this panel, we will consider how creative nonfiction can treat the past as both contingent and knowable through imaginative interventions and innovations in form.

Digital Textiles
Sarah Minor, Kascha Semonovitch, Lyrae Van Clief-Stefanon, Christine Wilks, & Cori A. Winrock

Textiles offer us a rich history and a language for writing that surpasses the restrictions of a page. As more writers explore the opportunities of digital space, the digital textile becomes a site that combines a diversity of material fragments to create a lyric, narrative, and visual texture. Like quilts, digital textiles often rely on stitching and “piecing”—they speak, tell jokes, and embroider arguments by joining family stories, sections of code, and historic references with images. Like their historic counterparts, digital textiles also offer a space for outsider voices. On this panel, five writers will showcase the opportunities of making textile essays and discuss the historic textures, structures, and theories that inform their work.

Sub/urban Environmental Writing
Taylor Brorby, Simmons Buntin, Lisa Couturier, Maya L. Kapoor, & Nick Neely

Even now, there is a dearth of environmental nonfiction about the places where most of us live: cities and suburbs. To some extent, this cultural and artistic blind spot is a matter of categorization, and we simply need to reimagine writing about the built landscape, social justice, and more as “environmental.” Yet most environmental or “nature” writers still dwell on (if not in) wilderness, its pastoral edges, and other traditional themes. How can we train ourselves to better see wildness and ecology in the city? What are some solid examples of urban environmental writing and techniques for pulling it off? These nonfictioners and editors have all taken a crack at writing about the earth downtown or down the block and they’re here to share some concrete discoveries.\

Assaying the Work of Nonfiction Studies
Karen Babine, Christine Cusick, Amy Monticello, & Julija Šukys

Assay: A Journal of Nonfiction Studies takes its name from the scientific term which means to test, a natural linguistic play on our beloved essay. In our first five years, we have tested deep craft analysis alongside precise theoretical lenses with intense explorations of nonfiction pedagogy. We have expanded beyond the journal to host the Best American Essays database, In the Classroom blog series, and the Assay Interview Project in the spirit of literary citizenship.

The Peripatetic Panel
Mary Cappello, Peta Murray, Francesca Rendle-Short, & Peggy Shinner

“I am totally with Virginia Woolf in wanting to create a new form of colloquy, to move with others and across affiliations in the collective formation of ideas – to converse – to arrive at a dwelling in common where real discussion can be had…” declares Mary Cappello in her lecture on a lecture.

This unpanelled panel proposes a new form within the poetics of nonfiction: creative collaboration by promenade. Given that the etymology of promenade – now cast as a leisurely walk – points to the less leisurely endeavour of driving animals forth (pro) with shouts or menace (minari) – might we not do the same with ideas? Nonfiction-as-encounter. A queer promenade-as-nonfiction. Stations of the (Very) Cross. Can this peripatetic panel inscribe a generative and embodied process of collaboration across the space that is nonfiction towards the meeting of minds, and/or new form of colloquy?

1:30 pm to 2:45 pm

Real True Crime
L.M. Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Lacy M. Johnson, Alexandria Marzano-Lesnevich, José Orduña, & Sarah Viren

We live in a culture saturated with true crime stories, most of which follow a predictable narrative arc: there is a victim, a perpetrator, an investigation, and the satisfaction at the end that justice has been served. Occasionally, however, writers use crime stories as a means of exploring messier metaphysical, political, and social questions. Like: is it criminal to enforce border policies that result in hundreds of deaths each year? Or: how do victims of violent crimes reconstruct their narratives in ways that feel “true”? In this panel, we will reframe true crime to include topics, approaches, and voices outside of the traditional “whodunit” narrative. Panelists include those writing about political violence, border policy, and environmental crimes and writing from immigrant, queer, and feminist perspectives. Interactive and collaborative, this panel will ask audience members and panelists to push beyond what we normally think of as both “true” and “crime.”

Writing Bilingually
Luis Avila, Giancarlo Huapaya, & Ofelia Montelongo

Latin American writers, Huapaya, Ávila, and Montelongo, have been working amongst the literary community in Phoenix for a few years, developing the art of writing bilingually with classes and workshops. In this panel, they will talk about their experience contributing to the Latinx and Chicanx community and the impact and change that have created. Also, they will address how we can all contribute to expanding our spaces of dialogue and the importance of doing so.

The Nonfiction Maker as Emotional Sculptor
Amaryllis Gacioppo, Stephanie Milsom, Wil Polson, Dorian Rolston, & Stayci Taylor

“Entanglements are not unities. They do not erase differences; on the contrary, entanglings entail differentiatings, differentiatings entail entanglings. One move –cutting together-apart.”   – Karen Barad, Diffracting Diffraction: Cutting Together-Apart, P176

When we begin to interrogate notions of ‘self’ it quickly begins to unravel. Space and time become skewed and the linearity of nonfiction narrative is challenged. Look closer at the ‘I’ of the essay. How was it made? From what materials was it constructed? This panel explores the complexities of translating personal narrative through the materialities of nonfiction practice. How does the ‘self’ behave as it passes through a lens to become a photographic self-portrait? How might computational metadata inform and translate personal narrative? How might a practice that combines urban wandering, historical research, family myth and personal diary be used to interrogate notions of cultural identity? In this panel, each panelist will discuss their own use of interdisciplinary/nontraditional methods to approach the issue of subjectivity within their creative practice. This panel re-conceptualizes the nonfiction maker as an emotional sculptor exploring interdisciplinary and inter-materiality practices in an attempt to ‘cut together-apart’ the entanglement of the ‘self’.

“Just Be Yourself and Teach Us”
Meg Day, Lisa Glatt, Jackie Hymes, Emily Rapp Black, & Jillian Weise

One of the most common workshop responses to nonfiction written by people with disabilities is, “Wow, I didn’t know your life was like this!” Given that every person living in a body, i.e., every single reader — is an accident, an illness, or a decade away from disability, it’s remarkable how much literary airtime writers with disabilities are pressured to devote to education. This panel brings together disabled & Deaf writers to discuss the imposition of repeatedly teaching Disability 101 in our nonfiction; encounters we’ve had with literary and editorial ableism; and techniques we use in memoir, essay and video art to subvert what’s expected of disabled and Deaf writing. Citing the groundbreaking scholarly and literary work of Rosemarie Garland-Thomsen, Laura Hershey, and others, panelists will discuss their artistic development within the larger history and culture of disability, inviting others to see themselves as part of this centuries-old cultural tradition.

Race, Gender, Politics, and the American Dream
Ann Cummins, Jennifer Denetdale, Andrew Levy, Annette McGivney, & Shaniya Smith

How do narratives of youth become intertwined nationally with narratives of race, gender and culture, each shaping the other? How do ideas about race, gender and culture turn into national policies – i.e. manifest destiny, the removal of Native Americans from national parks, and the marginalization of various American groups such as people of color and LGBTQ communities? How do these racially charged, gender-biased policies in turn impact the destinies of individuals, families and cultures, threatening to obliterate traditional cultures, to systemically ghettoize African-American cultures, and to repress LGBTQ people?

Writing Water
Tim Corballis, Ingrid Horrocks, Susan Olding, Jen Palmares Meadows, & Beth Peterson

What might immersive personal forms of nonfiction offer in linking the water in our streams, harbours and glaciers with the wide social and environmental issues it connects to? What written forms or structures does water – and altered waterscapes – invite? And how might experiments with water writing build new cognitive maps and understandings of the world – from how we comprehend climate change, to global migration and the legacies of colonialism?

Join this international group of writers in the desert to think together about, writing droughts, buried rivers, underwater cities, melting glaciers, and disappearing lakes in California, Toronto, Michigan, Europe, and Aotearoa New Zealand. Flowing from local and specific narratives to wider comparative thoughts, the discussion will explore what is shared and what is distinct about water in different human contexts, how it affects us and how we seek to control it.

3:00 pm to 4:00 pm

Hauntings in Nonfiction
Philip Graham, Kate McCahill, Michele Morano, Audrey Petty, & Mimi Schwartz

“Show, don’t tell” is the classic adage of creative writing advice, and yet while attention to detail is important, often what one experiences is fueled by what one cannot track so easily.  People are daily haunted by invisible forces, which include the presence of others who are not present in their lives, either by geography or time.  But people can also be haunted by the weight of place and history, memory’s maze, and even past selves or hidden inner lives.  Each of us contains within an invisible —and personalized—cloud of ghosts and hauntings.  How can nonfiction writers best honor the physicality of the world while at the same time uncover the hidden influences and motivations behind those we struggle to understand, what are the strategies we can use to make visible these invisibilities, and in so doing reveal the larger hidden forces in the world around us?

What We Talk About When We Talk About Guns
Heidi Czerwiec, Lee Hancock, Sue Repko, Jo Scott-Coe, & Julija Šukys

How can we—as journalists, essayists, creative nonfiction writers, academics—respond to the violence being wreaked upon our communities? How can we find new ways to write about the marketing and fetishization of military-grade guns and counter the narrative of fear perpetrated by the gun lobby? These panelists have researched and written extensively on mass shootings at the University of Texas, Umpqua Community College, Virginia Tech, Ft. Hood, and elsewhere. Join them in conversation about how these events are memorialized, revised over time, exploited, or forgotten. Whose narratives are elevated and whose are buried? What are we saying, or not saying, about the culture of fear and the cult of the gun at the root of this violence? This panel will challenge attendees to hone and deploy their words, ideas, and experiences, on all sides of gun violence, to re-take the national conversation in order to effect change.

Data’s Mine in the Data Mines
Sophie Langley, Stephanie Milsom, Kim Munro, Mandy L. Rose, Scott Russell Morris, & Stayci Taylor

“Everyday narrative practices,” write Elinor Ochs and Lisa Capps, “confront interlocutors with unanticipated emotions and ideas and ultimately with unanticipated selves” (1996). Examining such processes and outcomes, this panel probes the depths of the ‘diary’ as both source and method in creative writing and research practice. Stephanie Milsom interrogates automated diary keeping, and the diarist’s shifting position when apps and machines collect her information. Scott Morris discusses his experience of ‘essaying’ his food diaries, and using diary-keeping in his PhD dissertation, as inspired by Karl Klaus’ Weathering Winter. Sophie Langley, Kim Munro, and Stayci Taylor introduce The Symphony of Awkward, an ongoing practice-based investigation into the act of publicly performing one’s juvenilia. Poet and essayist Mandy Rose discusses her own legal and medical documents as a form of diary, as well as the dictionary as confession, and how both inform her own writing practice.

Intersecting with the Aphorism
Zara Bell, Elisa Gabbert, Lance Larsen, David Lazar, & James Lough

Ambrose Bierce ironically defined aphorisms as predigested wisdom. Certainly pithy wit is a trademark of aphorisms, but they can also flourish as lightning illuminations, slashing revisions, resonant fragments, or surgical probes. This panel of aphorists will consider the aphorism not only as a brilliant standalone but as a mode that promiscuously informs and counterpoints braided essays, ekphrastic critique, lyric poetry, and surrealist collage.  Aphorisms also serve as fantastic skill-builders in class.  We’ll share successful writing prompts and discuss how aphorisms encourage compression, juxtaposition, syntactic deftness, and irony.  Perhaps more than any other form, aphorisms embody Blake’s dictum to recognize analogy everywhere: “To see a World in a Grain of Sand / And a Heaven in a Wild Flower / Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand / And Eternity in an hour.”

Beyond the Event
 Catina Bacote, Kathleen Blackburn, Daisy Hernández, & Cecilia Villarruel

Hurricanes, invasive species, infectious disease, shootings, oil spills – too often these violences are cast as disastrous events that eschew the intersection of geography, race, class, and infrastructure. How do the forms of nonfiction push against the hegemony of the “event” to tell a longer, slower story of disruption across the nexus of time and space? How can we defamiliarize the aesthetics of extraction, commodity flow, climate change, and borders? Our panelists will discuss writing on abject landscapes and communities traditionally excluded from hegemonic narratives. We will offer approaches for rendering displaced communities visible, reversing myths of settler colonialism, and representing diasporic identities.

March Shredness
Hanif Abdurraqib, Steven Church, Berry Grass, Ander Monson, & Beth (Bich Minh) Nguyen

What if, instead of starting and publishing yet another literary magazine publishing the usual range of “emerging and new” voices and blah blah blah, we instead ran a literary tournament, March Madness-style, in which we invited writers and musicians to choose a song and write an essay about it: what it means to them, what it means to us, or straight up what it means or what it tells us about us? And what if we played off that 64-essay tournament each year, pitting one song and essay against another and allowing readers and listeners to read and listen and watch and determine which song and essay moved forward, until we crowned a champion? What might we learn about music and memory and our shared culture and ourselves from writing about terrible songs like Warrant’s “Cherry Pie” or Chumbawamba’s “Tubthumping”? These five writers will show you what.


  1. I realize you sill might hear from others interested in blogging. If you still need someone to cover these Friday sessions, please consider me for “On Collections” at 9:30 and either “Writing Bilingually” or “Just Be Yourself and Teach Us” at 1:30 (torn about which one to attend). Thank you!


    • Hi, Melissa. We do have coverage for that panel. Let us know about any other panels you’d like to cover–thanks for your offer!


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