Workshop for Native American writers on Nov. 5

October 28, 2011

The Tucson Pima Arts Council offers a free professional development workshop Nov. 5 for Native American Writers, featuring eight acclaimed writers and educators, curated by award winning poet Sherwin Bitsui.

The “Claiming Ground: Native Voices on the Practice and the Future of Native Writing”  professional development workshop is designed to support writers from Southern Arizona’s Native American Communities.

A diverse group of Native American writers will participate as panelists and share their insights with the attendees on various topics regarding the writing life.

Through personal dialogue with successful literary figures such as MacArthur “Genius” Fellows Leslie Marmon Silko and Ofelia Zepeda, participants will gain an understanding of the practical and pragmatic dimensions within the writing world. The discussions will range from inspiration, productivity, editorial concerns, new directions in writing, and possibilities for sharing story in the 21st century.

The free all-day Claiming Ground workshop will take place from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Nov. 5 at the Tucson Pima Arts Council, 100 N. Stone Avenue, Suite 109) on Saturday, November, 5, 2011. Lunch will be provided.

Interested candidates please RSVP to

Workshop Details

Curator: Sherwin Bitsui is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation.

He is the author of Shapeshift (University of Arizona Press 2003) and Flood Song (Copper Canyon Press 2009), for which he received a 2010 PEN Open Book Award and an American Book Award. His other honors include a Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship, 2006 Whiting Writers¹ Award, and a 2008 Tucson MOCA Local Genius Award. He holds a BA from University of Arizona.

Entering Story: Panelists will discuss the topic of inspiration, their thoughts and concerns as Indigenous writers writing in the 21st century, their reasons for coming into story. Speakers include:

Leslie Marmon Silko is an acclaimed Laguna novelist, poet, and essayist. Her novels include “Ceremony,” “Almanac of the Dead and Garden of the Dunes.” The Turquoise Ledge is her most recent publication.  She is a recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as the genius award.

Layli Long Soldier is a two-time recipient of the Truman Capote Creative Writing Fellowship and authored a chapbook of poetry titled, ”Chromosomory” (Q Ave Press, 2010), Recently, she is guest editor of a forthcoming issue of poetics from Native American women for the online poetry journal, “Drunken Boat”. She currently resides in Tsaile, AZ and teaches at Dine’ College.

Natalie Diaz is Mojave and Pima and grew up in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California. She played professional basketball in Europe and Asia for several years before completing her MFA at Old Dominion University. Her work has appeared in Prairie Schooner, Iowa Review, North American Review, Crab Orchard and others. “When My Brother Was An Aztec,” her first book of poetry, is forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2012

Finding Ground: A Panel of Editors: This panel will explore practical directions for writers. Topics will vary from submitting one’s written work to publishing houses, print and web-based journals. The editors will also share their insights on literary presses’ business and editorial concerns. Speakers include:

Dr. Ofelia Zepeda is a Regents’ Professor at the University of Arizona and recipient of a MacArthur Fellowship. She is a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and has three books of poetry, “Ocean Power: Poems from the Desert,” “Jewed I-hoi/Earth Movements” and “Where Clouds are Formed,” and is the co-editor of “Home Places.” She is one of a small handful of writers writing in their native language. Ofelia is the series editor of Sun Tracks, a book series publishing Native American writers at the University of Arizona Press.

Allison Adelle Hedge Coke’s books include “Dog Road Woman” (American Book Award); “Off-Season City Pipe,” “Rock, Ghost, Willow, Deer,” “Blood Run,” and eight edited volumes. She is the editor of the groundbreaking new anthology of Indigenous poetry from all the Americas “Sing: Poetry from the Indigenous Americas.”

New Landscapes/New Traditions: This panel will showcase how new media and interdisciplinary collaboration projects are helping contemporary Native writers shape their creative work. Panelists have found a way to connect their work with performance collaborations and digital visual media in such a way that it provides a new forum for dialogue and continuity within the spectrum of Native American Literature. They will broaden definitions of where writing is and where it can be taken. Panelists include:

Orlando White is the author of Bone Light and he teaches at Diné College in Tsaile, Arizona. His poems have appeared in The Kenyon Review, Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetics, American Indian Culture And Research Journal and elsewhere. He is is Diné of the Naaneesht’ézhi Tábaahí and born for Naakai Diné’e.

Laura Tohe is Diné, Sleepy Rock People clan, and born for the Bitter Water clan. Her books include “Making Friends with Water,” “No Parole Today,” and “Tseyi, Deep in the Rock”, which won the 2007 Glyph award for Best Poetry and Best Book by the Arizona Book Association. Her commissioned libretto, Enemy Slayer, A Navajo Oratorio, written for the Phoenix Symphony Orchestra, made its world premiere in 2008.  Her current book is an oral history book on the Navajo Code Talkers. She is a Professor of English at ASU.

Kade L. Twist is a writer and multidisciplinary artist working with installation, video, two-dimensional media, text, and sound. Twist’s written and visual work explores how dominant economic systems impact Indigenous and intercultural sensibilities. A member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, Twist has exhibited his work nationally and internationally, including the Art Gallery of Ontario, the Smithsonian National Museum of the American Indian and the Arizona State University Art Museum. He is a member of Postcommodity, an interdisciplinary American Indian arts collective that focuses on the contemporary realities of globalism and neoliberalism. Twist received the 2007 Native Writers’ Circle of the Americas First Book Award for his poetry manuscript, Amazing Grace.