The 2023 conference theme, “Beginnings: New Approaches in Creative Writing, Literary Studies, and Pedagogy,” looks with hope to possibilities for new voices, ideas, forms, and projects in the literary arts. In addition to panel sessions featuring original creative work and scholarship, the conference will host five featured events, including readings by Zak Sally, Lee Ann Roripaugh, duncan b. barlow, Benjamin Percy, Steven Wingate, and Lisa Fay Coutley.

The conference kicks off with an event featuring Sally, a cartoonist, printmaker, publisher and musician, at the AV Lounge in downtown Vermillion at 8 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 28. Sally has been nominated for two Eisner awards for the third volume of his “Recidivist” series; a fourth volume was published in September 2014. He owns and operates his own award-winning micro-press concern, La Mano, for which he runs the risograph and offset presses. Sally played bass for the indie rock band, Low, and has released several solo records.

Friday, Sept. 29, at 4 p.m. in Farber Hall, will feature a reading by USD faculty members Roripaugh and barlow. Roripaugh, professor of English, is the author of five volumes of poetry and served as South Dakota State Poet Laureate from 2015-2019. barlow, member of the creative writing faculty at USD, is the author of five books, publisher at Astrophil Press, and managing editor of “South Dakota Review.” Before teaching, barlow played in punk and indie bands, releasing over 25 records.

The second featured reading on Friday, Sept. 29, at 8 p.m. in Farber Hall, features Percy, who will give a reading and engage in a question-and-answer session with the audience. Percy is the author of seven novels, three story collections, and a book of essays titled “Thrill Me” that is widely taught in creative writing classrooms. He co-wrote the feature film “Summering” and wrote two seasons of the audio drama “Wolverine.” His latest audio drama – “Old Man Starlord” – is produced by Marvel and SiriusXM/Pandora and stars Chris Elliot, Timothy Busfield, Vanessa Williams, and Danny Glover. He writes “Wolverine,” “X-Force,” and “Ghost Rider” for Marvel Comics.

Percy has also written celebrated runs of “Green Arrow,” “Teen Titans,” “Nightwing”, and “James Bond.” His fiction and nonfiction works have been published in Esquire, GQ, The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, McSweeney's, The Paris Review, and many others. His honors include the Whiting Award, an NEA fellowship, the Plimpton Prize, two Pushcart Prizes, and inclusion in Best American Short Stories, 100 Years of the Best American Short Stories, and Best American Comics. He has lectured at Harvard and taught at the University of Iowa Writers' Workshop.

On Saturday, Sept. 30, at 8 p.m. in Farber Hall, Wingate and Coutley will give readings and participate in a question-and-answer session with the audience. Wingate is the author of the novels “The Leave-Takers” and “Of Fathers and Fire.” His short story collection “Wifeshopping” was selected by Amy Hempel as winner of the 2007 Bakeless Prize in Fiction from Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. His experimental work includes the prose poem collection “Thirty-One Octets” and the digital interactive memoir “daddylabyrinth,” which premiered at the Art/Science Museum of Singapore in 2014. He has taught at the University of Colorado, the College of the Holy Cross, and South Dakota State University, where he is currently a professor of English and coordinator of creative writing.

Coutley is the author of “tether” (winner of the Crab Orchard Series in Poetry Open Competition) and “In the Carnival of Breathing” (winner of the Black River Chapbook Competition). She is also the editor of the forthcoming anthology, “In the Tempered Dark: Contemporary Poets Transcending Elegy.” She’s the recipient of a NEA Literature Fellowship, fellowships and scholarships to the Sewanee and Bread Loaf Writers’ Conferences, an Academy of American Poets Levis Prize (chosen by Dana Levin), and the 2021 Gulf Coast Poetry Prize (selected by Natalie Diaz). Recent prose and poetry appears in or is forthcoming in Academy of American Poets Poem-a-Day, Barrelhouse, Black Warrior Review, Brevity, Copper Nickel, Gulf Coast, and The Massachusetts Review. Coutley is an associate professor of poetry and creative nonfiction in the Writer’s Workshop at the University of Nebraska at Omaha and the chapbook series editor at Black Lawrence Press.

All featured reading events are free and open to the public. To attend the full conference, including panel sessions, please register online. Registration rates for the full conference vary. For more information, including registration forms, conference scheduling, and event locations, visit the conference webpage. Additional questions can be referred to the VWALC Committee at

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