The 2021 conference theme, “Prospecting: Uncovering New Veins and Voices in Identity, Genre, and Place,” will explore important issues of place, form and representation. Over 70 writers are expected to present their creative and scholarly works with topics ranging from contemporary poetry to Shakespeare. In addition to panels, the conference will host four featured reading events.

On Sept. 17, the featured events will be a reading by USD faculty and a keynote creative reading. The faculty event includes Lee Ann Roripaugh, duncan barlow, Ph.D., and Leah McCormack, Ph.D. Roripaugh is the author of five volumes of poetry and served as South Dakota State Poet Laureate from 2015-2019. barlow is the author of five books, publisher at Astrophil Press and managing editor of South Dakota Review. Before teaching, he played in punk and indie bands, releasing over 25 records. McCormack is the author of “Solve for N,” which has received several accolades, including finalist for the 2019 AWP Prize for the Novel, the 2019 Nilsen Literary Prize for the Novel and a longlist honoree for the 2019 Dzanc Books Fiction contest.

Following the faculty event, the keynote speaker, Mary Gaitskill, will give her reading. Gaitskill is the author of the novels “The Mare, Veronica,” which was nominated for the 2005 National Book Award, National Critic’s Circle Award and L.A. Times Book Award. She is also the author of “Two Girls, Fat and Thin” (1991), “Bad Behavior, Because They Wanted To” (1998), “Don’t Cry” (2009), “Somebody With A Little Hammer” (2017) and “This Is Pleasure” (2019). She has been awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship for fiction and a Cullman Research Fellowship at the New York Public Library.

On Sept. 18, the featured reading events will spotlight four additional guest speakers, including John Domini, Steven Dunn, Karen Salyer McElmurry and Christine Stewart-Nuñez. Domini is the author of “The Archeology of a Good Ragù” and “The Color Inside a Melon.” Domini has taught at Harvard, Northwestern, and elsewhere, and makes his home in Des Moines, Iowa, with the science fiction writer Lettie Prell. Dunn is the author of the novels “Potted Meat” and “water & power.” He was born and raised in West Virginia, and after 10 years in the Navy, he earned a B.A. in Creative Writing from the University of Denver. McElmurry is the author of several award-winning essays and books, including the memoir “Surrendered Child,” which won the AWP Award Series for Creative Nonfiction and was listed as a “notable book” by the National Book Critics Circle. Stewart-Nuñez is a professor of English at South Dakota State University, the author of four books of poetry and the current South Dakota Poet Laureate (2019-2023).

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

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