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55th Annual UND Writers Conference is March 20-22

‘Horizons of Knowledge’ will feature panels, workshops and readings featuring six award-winning authors, artists

Writers conference logo

The 55th Annual UND Writers Conference will be held Wednesday through Friday, March 20-22, at the Memorial Union and online. All events will be free and open to the public.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Horizons of Knowledge,” and will examine how global practices of storytelling and artistry contribute to and inspire humanity’s pursuit of knowledge.

“I think interdependence is key for discussions of knowledge,” said Crystal Alberts, co-director of the UND Writers Conference and professor of English, who worked with co-director Patrick Henry, assistant professor of English, on the concept of this year’s conference.

Alberts explained that storytellers, artists and humanists play a vital role in both imparting knowledge and contributing to its creation, emphasizing art as an important factor in the discovery of new ideas and technologies.

“Some want a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer, but artists and authors usually live in the in between,” she said. “They revel in the ambiguity and are always pushing the accepted boundaries to see what’s coming up on the horizon. This helps us create new things and to see what stories we can tell about the world around us.”

Six award-winning authors and artists will be on campus to discuss these topics and more in workshops, panels and readings over the course of the three-day event.


Ava ChinAva Chin  is the author of the narrative nonfiction book, “MOTT STREET: A Chinese American Family’s Story of Exclusion and Homecoming,” an intimate portrayal of the impact of the Chinese Exclusion Act laws on four generations of her family, and the award-winning book “Eating Wildly.” The Huffington Post named her one of “Nine Contemporary Authors You Should be Reading.” As a journalist, Chin has served as the Urban Forager columnist for the New York Times and has written for the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The Village Voice, among others. Chin is a professor of creative nonfiction and journalism at the CUNY Graduate Center and the College of Staten Island. She is a fifth-generation Chinese American living in Manhattan.

Terrance HayesTerrance Hayes is a poet and MacArthur Fellow born in Columbia, SC. He is the author of “Lighthead,” which won the National Book Award in 2010 and “American Sonnets for My Past and Future Assassin,” which was a finalist for the National Book Award and the National Book Critics Circle Award. Last year, he released his two newest poetry books, “So to Speak” and “Watch your Language” His essay collection, “To Float in The Space Between: Drawings and Essays in Conversation with Etheridge Knight” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award. Hayes served as the 2017-2018 poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine and teaches at New York University.

Sterling HolyWhiteMountain

Sterling HolyWhiteMountain is a fiction writer and essayist who grew up on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana and whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic and The Paris Review. He is the Jones Lecturer at Stanford University, where he formerly held a Stegner Fellowship and is an unrecognized citizen of the Blackfeet Nation.

Marie Myung-Ok LeeMarie Myung-Ok Lee is a Korean-American author born and raised in Hibbing, Minn. She is the author of the novels “Somebody’s Daughter,” “The Evening Hero,” and the YA novel “Hurt You.” Her stories and essays have been published in The Atlantic, The New York Times, Slate, Salon, Guernica and The Guardian, among other outlets. She was the first Fulbright Scholar to Korea in creative writing and has been a Yaddo and MacDowell Colony fellow. She is a founder of the Asian American Writers’ Workshop and was an Our Word Writer in Residence for the Columbia MFA program.

Laura MarrisLaura Marris is a writer and translator whose work has appeared in The New York Times, The Believer, The Point, The Paris Review Daily and The Yale Review, among other outlets. Her first solo-authored book, “The Age of Loneliness,” is forthcoming from Graywolf in 2024. Her translations include Albert Camus’s “The Plague,” Louis Guilloux’s “Blood Dark,” and Christophe Boltanski’s “Safe House,” among others. Books she has translated have been shortlisted for the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize, the Scott Moncrieff Prize and more. She is a Visiting Assistant Professor of creative writing at the University at Buffalo and a Teaching Artist at the Just Buffalo Literary Center.

Ariann RousuAriann Rousu is a multimedia artist from the White Earth Ojibwe Reservation in Minnesota and a graduate of the University of North Dakota’s fine arts program. She began a photography business after receiving a digital imaging and photography certificate and has serviced White Earth and the surrounding area for 10 years while continuing her education. She now works for UND’s Computational Research Center as a 3D technician and Native Heritage Artist. Her role consists of training others in the use of 3D technologies and developing content for The Native Dancer Metaverse Project. The project is envisioned to become a video game series based on Native American Powwow dancing and will train other indigenous students who are interested in careers related to 3D technology. A demo of the project can be viewed on YouTube.

Full bios for each author can be found at the UND Writers Conference webpage.


All events are free and open to the public. Some events are hybrid (in other words, open to audiences both in-person and online), but all will be available via livestreaming unless otherwise noted. In-person events will take place in the Memorial Union.

Each Zoom event has a separate registration. Register for online access via Zoom. Please visit the conference schedule website for the latest listings and registration links for UND Writers Conference activities.

Wednesday, March 20

  • Noon: Panel, “Homes & Histories,” Ava Chin, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, Laura Marris, & Ariann Rousu. Moderated by Sarah Heitkamp.
  • 2 p.m.: Community Workshop, Creative non-fiction with Ava Chin (in person only, registration required)
  • 4 p.m.: Presentation, Ariann Rousu
  • 6 p.m.: Community Reading
  • 8 p.m.: Reading, Ava Chin

Thursday, March 21

  • Noon: Panel, “Ways of Seeing,” Laura Marris, Marie Myung-Ok Lee, and Sterling HolyWhiteMountain. Moderated by Lucian Stone.
  • 2 p.m.: Community Workshop, Creative non-fiction with Laura Marris (in person only, registration required)
  • 4 p.m.: Reading, Sterling HolyWhiteMountain
  • 6 p.m.:  Reading, Voices of the Valley
  • 8p.m.: Reading, Marie Myung-Ok Lee

Friday, March 22

  • Noon: Panel “Beyond Boundaries,” Terrance Hayes and Sterling HolyWhiteMountain. Moderated by Anna Kinney.
  • 2 p.m.: Community Workshop, Poetry with Terrance Hayes (in person only, registration required)
  • 4 p.m.:  Reading, Laura Marris
  • 6 p.m.: Community Reading
  • 8 p.m.: Reading, Terrance Hayes


The UND Writers Conference has paid for its guests to use the 4th and 5th floors of the parking ramp located at the corner of University Avenue and Columbia Road for this year’s event. Visitors may enter the parking ramp and park in any free space on those floors.

If you require ADA access, please also feel free to utilize any open ADA space within the parking ramp or directly in front of the Memorial Union.

About “Horizons of Knowledge” and the 55th Annual UND Writers Conference

In the 20th and 21st centuries, the pursuit of knowledge has directed humankind to new horizons — the ocean depths, the infinite reach of space, and the hidden secrets of cells and microbes.

The language of discovery has infused most disciplines, whether one speaks of public health “moonshots” to end cancer or the effort to “chart” the human genome. Yet, these endeavors coexist with other vessels for knowledge, which bring history to bear on the present. Readers and critics of what has been called postcolonial literatures have observed that religion, folklore, and art preserve cultural knowledge across generations. Similarly, architects and designers have argued that physical spaces—from the hearthside or kitchen table, to archives and libraries—drive what knowledge has been passed on, and how. In cultural traditions across the globe, storytellers, artists, and musicians have used their craft to explore and imagine the limits and the scope of knowledge, with the aim of bringing those insights to their communities.

The 55th Annual UND Writers Conference, “Horizons of Knowledge,” will feature authors and artists whose work considers the role of the arts in exploring and charting our shared past, our present, and our uncertain future. They will discuss how storytelling, aesthetics, and the arts facilitate an understanding of these horizons, while fostering community and discovery.