Desert Nights, Rising Stars

This month I had the chance to attend the Desert Nights, Rising Stars writing conference and had an amazing time. I met with fellow writers, listened to speakers, and learned a lot. Some highlights include:

  • A worldbuilding session with Tracy Baptiste where we got into pairs and discussed different ways of measuring time. The ways characters measure time reveals the kind of world they live in. Tracy used the example of a child measuring time by how many skips it takes to get to the corner store from her house. It was a very interesting discussion. My favorites of the ones we came up with are: 
    • how long your hair has grown 
    • how long it takes for a hot cup of coffee to get to room temperature
    • how long it takes for a banana to rot. 
  • In the same worldbuilding session we read the first few pages of Dread Nation by Justina Ireland and I was hooked immediately. It is about zombies during the American Reconstruction. It’s horror fiction, which I almost never read, but the world sounds fascinating.
  • I attended a panel of creating characters and came away with some great tips to find the voice of your characters that I can’t wait to try out. 
    • Try “interviewing” your characters for their role in the story. How would they act in such a setting, and why would they get the role?
    • Steal characteristics from real people. This one resonated with me because I feel like my strongest characters were the ones that were based off of people I knew. We can’t just copy/paste people into our novel, but we can find inspiration through interactions with others.
    • Consider what the goals of each character are and why they aren’t there yet.
  • I discovered Solarpunk. It’s a genre similar to cyberpunk but greener, both literally and figuratively. It was made to show what a sustainable future looks like and get people dreaming in that direction. It’s not a utopia—there can still be problems in this sustainable future, but I just think it looks like the coolest thing ever. It’s beautiful!

My favorite part of the conference was connecting with the other writers there. Everyone was really friendly. People would just turn to each other and start talking in between sessions. I ate lunch with people who saw I had a conference name tag and invited me to sit with them. It was great talking to people who are passionate about the same thing you are and it was easily the best part of the conference.

Why I love words

My love of words began as soon as I learned how to read. I remember sitting on the porch swing outside and reading In a People’s House by Dr. Seuss. The challenges my local library set up during the summer to keep kids reading while they weren’t in school were never a problem for me. The only problem was figuring out how long I had been sitting there, absorbed in another world.

When I write, I can harness the power of words. I can bring others into the world of my imagination—a world previously limited to a population of one. I can educate others, or persuade them to my point of view. With the written word, I can organize my thoughts and articulate them better than it sounded in my head.

When I edit, I can help others do the same. Together, the story is better than before. The essay is clearer than before. The article is more persuasive than before. Words have power, and helping others discover that is as good as harnessing it myself.