Writers Conference set for late March

For the past 45 years, the UND Writers Conference has brought big names to Grand Forks, and the 46th Annual UND Writers Conference, set to take place March 25-27, is no exception. For the first time in 42 years, the conference will exclusively feature women authors and artists.

Assistant Professor of English and Director of the Writers Conference Crystal Alberts, along with former co-director Heidi Czerwiec, began planning the 2015 conference about 19 months ago. They decided to play a role in boosting the percentage of women’s voices that are heard in the literary realm.

Although roughly fifty percent of the world’s population is women, the VIDA Count project, which tabulates the appearances in major literary publications of writing and reviews of and by women, has shown there to be a definite imbalance between genders.

“The goal with this year’s theme is to complicate the discussion of ‘women’s writing’ by demonstrating the multiple facets their work addresses,” Alberts said.


Alberts said on average around 2,000 people usually attend the conference, which is free and open to the public again this year.

The funding for the 2014 conference was about half the amount it was in 2013, forcing the director to book the event for only three days instead of the usual five, but despite this obstacle, the attendance remained the same, even with fewer overall events to attend.

The funding for this year’s conference is the same as it was in 2014.

Alberts also said a myriad of other factors affects the turnout, including sports, weather and author popularity.

Current English graduate student Paul Murphy hopes the turnout is even better this year than it’s been in the past.

“For student attendance, there are events that really fill up, and you look around surprised at the number of people able to even fit into the space, but I really think each and every event put on by the Writers Conference should struggle to find room for everyone,” Murphy said. “It’s that important. In my mind, it’s one of those things that makes UND really special and encapsulates what makes the university experience so significant.”

This year will be Murphy’s third in a row attending the event.

Meet the Authors

The six authors attending this year’s conference are Roxane Gay, who  is currently No. 4 on Bookaholic’s list of top contenders for 2015 Pulitzer Prize predictions with her most recent book, “An Untamed State”, along with Gish Jen, Bonnie Jo Campbell, Carol Muske-Dukes, Tara Betts and Alexandra Grant. Like many of the past conferences, this year brings together a group of women with varying levels of experience who together cover a broad range of genres and mediums and come from an assortment of backgrounds.

The Schedule

In order to familiarize and prepare locals for the event, the UND Bookstore or Fergusen Books and Media will take turns hosting the five different discussions about the attending authors. The first Writers Conference 101 discussion will be held at the UND Bookstore Sunday February 8 at 3 pm.

The conference itself will take place in the Memorial Union Ballroom and will start each day with public readings, after which the panels will meet. There will also be Community Writers Workshops, which will be held in the Memorial Union.

“The UND Writers Conference is an absolutely unique opportunity to interact with some of the most influential writers of our time,” Alberts said. “I’ve lost track of how many students and alumni have come up to me to share their stories about what happened when they attended the UND Writers Conference.”

Marie Monson is a staff writer for The Dakota Student. She can be reached at [email protected].