Author Laura van Prooyen reads at Viva Tacoland for Gemini Ink. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.
Author Laura van Prooyen reads at Viva Tacoland for Gemini Ink. Credit: Courtesy / Gemini Ink

Gemini Ink, a local literary arts nonprofit, will host its first ever Writers Conference at the historic El Tropicano Riverwalk Hotel from July 21-24. The conference will feature a host of passionate readers and writers from across the nation.

The conference will kick off on Thursday, July 21, with a welcome reception at 5:30 p.m. and will be followed by a weekend of unique and varied panels, workshops, readings, and a book fair – all focused on the state of the book in our rapidly evolving literary landscape.

Tickets for the event – which cost $75 for students, $100 for Gemini Ink members, and $150 for nonmembers – are still available and can be purchased here. Click here to read a full schedule of events.

(Read more: Gemini Ink Writer’s Conference to Unite Local, National Talent)

Sheila Black, Gemini Ink executive director, said that the inspiration for the conference came from the ever-changing nature of the literary world.

“The gatekeepers are falling away,” Black said. “How do you navigate the literary terrain when there are so many options for publishing?”

Fortunately, conference attendees will gain wisdom on how to traverse the ever-changing literary world imparted on them by five featured authors, who will each lead a workshop during the conference.

Learn more about each of the authors below.

Reyna Grande

Author Reyna Grande. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.
Author Reyna Grande. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.

Author Reyna Grande has received numerous awards for her work as a novelist and memoirist, including an American Book Award, the El Premio Aztlán Literary Award, and the Latino Book Award. Grande received her bachelor’s degree in creative writing and film and video from the University of California, Santa Cruz and went on to receive her Master of Fine Arts in creative writing from Antioch University.

However, Grande is primarily a fiction writer, and her most recent book, The Distance Between Us: A Memoir, captures her journey as an undocumented child immigrant who came to the United States after being born into poverty in the city of Iguala, in the state of Guerrero, Mexico.

Her memoir has been critically acclaimed, warranting responses from trailblazing authors such as Sandra Cisneros.

“What makes Grande’s beautiful memoir all the more extraordinary is that, through this hero’s journey, she speaks for millions of immigrants whose voices have gone unheard,” Cisneros said.

On Saturday, July 23, Grande will teach a workshop for registered conference attendees titled “The Art of Scene-Making in Novel and Memoir.” Her workshop will teach participants how to “lay down each scene, brick by brick, to build the house of (their) novel or memoir.”

Tim Z. Hernandez

Author Tim Z Hernandez. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.
Author Tim Z. Hernandez. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.

Tim Z. Hernandez, an award winning poet, novelist, and performance artist, has published numerous novels and collections of poetry, his most recent being Natural Takeover of Small Things and Mañana Means Heaven, both of which were published in 2013.

He received his bachelor’s degree from Naropa University and his Master of Fine Arts from Bennington College. Today, he is an assistant professor for the bilingual Master of Fine Arts creative writing program at University of Texas at El Paso. Part of Hernandez’s signature as an artist is his interest in performance art and theater.

In an interview with editor Dini Karasik of literary journal OriginsHernandez said he was inspired by a poetry recitation contest in the San Joaquin Valley that catered to elementary school students, a program he participated in during the early 1980s.

“So, from very early on I was exposed to the idea that poetry and performance went hand in hand,” Hernandez said. “When a poem was recited it had to capture the audience.”

Hernandez will join Gemini Ink on Friday, July 22, to teach a workshop titled “Writing from Research: Tools, Techniques, and Resources to See a Compelling Book-Length Project to Fruition.” The workshop will examine and demystify the research process in an attempt to teach participants “how to use research to amplify and deepen (their) creative vision.”

Janet Kaplan

Author Janet Kaplan. Photo by Silvia Sanza
Author Janet Kaplan. Photo by Silvia Sanza

Poet Janet Kaplan is the author of three books, The Groundnote, The Glazier’s Country, and Dreamlife of a Philanthropist: Prose Poems and Prose Sonnets, all of which have received great praise.

Poet Molly Peacock wrote about Kaplan’s work and said that “passion and intelligence” are hallmarks of Janet Kaplan’s poetry and “rank her among the leading poets of the newest generation of American writers.”

Kaplan’s work has received numerous awards, including the 2011 Ernest Sandeen Prize in Poetry, the 2005 New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and the 2003 Poets Out Loud Prize. She received her Master of Fine Arts from Sarah Lawrence College and is currently teaching creative writing and poetry at Hofstra University.

Kaplan will teach an intensive poetry workshop titled “Serious Play for Poets and Other Grown-Ups.” Her workshop will look at pieces from Neruda, Harryette, Mullen, and others, and will incorporate various exercises that will ultimately “come together to find language that’s fresh and unusual and write poems that contain elements of surprise and chance.”

John Phillip Santos

Author John Santos. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.
Author John Santos. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.

San Antonio native John Phillip Santos is the first Mexican American Rhodes Scholar whose awards include the Academy of American Poets’ Prize at Notre Dame, the Oxford Prize for fiction, and the Berlin Prize, among others.

He is the author of three books, the most recent being a memoir titled Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation, which was regarded by Wendy Smith as a “book that restores to memory the drama not just of a single family but of an entire people whose past is more closely entwined with that of the United States than some Americans care to remember.”

Additionally, Santos has written and produced more than 40 documentaries for CBS and PBS and has been nominated for two Emmy Awards. Santos will join the other featured writers and teach a workshop titled “The Power of the Unintended: Using Inadvertency in Your Creative Process as a Writer.”

Santos’ unique workshop is certain to expand participants’ literary horizons by “exploring strategies of dérive and psychogeography, journaling, and textual revision as means for inviting the inadvertent into the process of literary creation.”

Tim Seibles

Author Tim Seibles. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.
Author Tim Seibles. Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.

The workshops will be rounded out by Tim Seibles, the author of several collections of poetry, including Body Moves, Hurdy-Gurdy, Hammerlock, Buffalo Head Solos, and Fast Anima. Seibles has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Provincetown Fine Arts Work Center and was the recipient of an Open Voice Award from the National Writers Voice Project.

Seibles graduated from Southern Methodist University with a bachelor’s degree and taught high school English for 10 years in Dallas before getting his Master of Fine Arts in creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Seibles is currently an English professor at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Va., and teaches at the Stonecoast Master of Fine Arts program for creative writing.

Seibles’ attention to detail is key to his creative process. In an interview with Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum for, Seibles claimed that the specificity of language is important because “finding language that seems both accurate (with regard to the subject) and inviting to a reader” is crucial to writing accessible poetry.

This specificity will be at the center of Seibles’ poetry workshop titled “It’s All in the Details,” which he will lead on Saturday, July 23. His workshop will focus on the importance of detail in writing, including “the particulars, the images, and the exacting figurative gestures that provide the fuel for gripping poetry.”

Alexandra van de Kamp, program director for creative writing classes at Gemini Ink, explained that in addition to hosting diverse authors, she believes the workshops will address the diversity of the evolving state of the book.

“The world of the book is changing in so many ways,” van de Kamp said. “Authors are collaborating with visual artists, eBooks are growing in popularity, social media and zines are becoming more significant, (and) there is a new movement in chapbooks.”

Black and van de Kamp agree that although it is difficult to predict the future of the state of the book, the writers conference will provide a forum for emerging and established writers and avid readers to discuss and celebrate the wide spectrum of literary possibilities available to them.

To learn more, visit Gemini Ink’s website here.

Top image: Author Laura van Prooyen reads at Viva Tacoland for Gemini Ink.  Photo courtesy of Gemini Ink.

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Allyson Mackender. Photo courtesy of Allyson Mackender

Allyson Mackender

Allyson Mackender is a rising senior at Trinity University majoring in English. She is the communications and special events intern at Gemini Ink, a local literary arts nonprofit. Additionally, she is...