And the 2011 Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference commences!

I never miss the Writers Conference (and when I say never, I really mean it). As a high school student I had my mother call me out sick so I could attend the full four days. As a university student I cut classes to attend panels and volunteer – “No, don’t worry about scheduling conflicts. I’m not going to class.” And last year, as a study abroad student in Japan, I was secretly just a tad bit delighted that the Writers Conference wasn’t being held…because I didn’t miss out on anything. As a high school freshman DNRS was overwhelming and enchanting, as a high school senior it was what prompted me to pursue a Creative Writing degree at ASU, and now as a university student and a Piper House intern, it is a doorway to a career. It is always a joy to be here, always a thrill. (Addicted? Obsessed? In love? Why, yes, I am.)

This is my seventh DNRS Writers Conference. I'm ridiculously happy to be back.

It is so refreshing to return to the Writers Conference. It is relaxing. It is uplifting. It is hectic and busy and non-stop, but I can finally breathe again. I can finally stop being a student and I can return to being a writer. That's what the Writers Conference is to me, it is a renewal, it is inspiration. Desert Nights Rising Stars – the classes, the community, the atmosphere – fuels me, it feeds me, it fills me until I am confident again that I am a writer and until I can no longer hold prose in my head and must release it onto pages and sticky notes and corners of napkins.

Today...T.M. McNally emphasized the importance and existence of truth in fiction in his class entitled “A Matter of Soul (Not Character).” The life you write will save your own, and in saving your own life, you will save the lives of others. “I am not creating characters,” McNally said. “A character is false, inhuman. I am God. I create souls.” In her class “Maps for Storytellers,” Tara Ison broke down the basic structure of a story and analyzed the process of collisions and obstacles and need that drive conflict and move your character across the page.

In his keynote address “Invisible Borders,” Alberto Ríos spoke of the falseness of invisible lines and the fascinating depth of words... There are no borders between countries; the lines between cultures are only illusions. What difference is there between a green parrot and a green salad? A pen functions on so many different levels when it is una pluma. Literature is a power that transcends the invisible borders. A pencil holds enough graphite to write approximately 50,000 words, and you/I/we have the power to release those words.

I am refreshed. I am inspired. I am ready to write.

If you're here, at this revival of the Desert Nights Rising Stars Writers Conference, I hope you're enjoying everything as much as I am. If you're not here, I hope to see you next year. I'll be back.