November 5-7, 2020

Maaza Mengiste

“I think a writer’s identity is that of someone who has pledged allegiance to seeking and challenging truths. If I’m writing as I should, I am in exile from my own identity, I am challenging my own comfort zones.”

—Maaza Mengiste

Maaza Mengiste is a novelist and essayist whose work examines the individual lives at stake during migration, war, and exile, and considers the intersections of photography and violence. Beneath the Lion’s Gaze, her critically acclaimed debut novel, was selected by The Guardian as one of the 10 best contemporary African books and was named one of the best books of 2010 by The Christian Science Monitor, The Boston Globe, and other publications.

Photo Credit: Nina Subin

Beneath the Lion’s Gaze is set in Ethiopia in the 1970s and revisits the last days of the Ethiopian monarchy and the brutal beginnings of the Derg, the socialist military junta that replaced it. The story focuses on the Hailu family as they struggle to make difficult choices within a political climate that grows increasingly complex and dangerous. Kirkus calls Beneath the Lion’s Gaze “an arresting, powerful novel that works on both personal and political levels.”

“What is profound about fiction is that it creates a place where we can imagine the possible futures of these kinds of movements. Those are the kinds of questions we have to ask as writers.”

—Maaza Mengiste

Her second novel, The Shadow King, called a “lyrical, remarkable new novel” by The New York Times takes readers to 1935 Ethiopia during Mussolini’s invasion, in what many consider the first real conflict of World War II. It revolves around an army of ordinary women, since left out of the historical record, who join the front lines to fight against the fascists. Through complicated characters who face no easy answers, The Shadow King explores what it means to be a woman at war. In their starred review, Publisher’s Weekly praised Mengiste for “break[ing] new ground in this evocative, mesmerizing account of the role of women during wartime—not just as caregivers, but as bold warriors defending their country.” The Shadow King, called “one of the most beautiful novels of the year” by NPR, was a finalist for The Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction and is longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. A film adaptation is in the works to be directed by Kasi Lemmons (Eve’s Bayou, Harriet).

“The Shadow King is a novel about war and history, both epic in scope and intimate in detail…Maaza Mengiste has a gift for rendering everyone in this story, resister and invader alike, with great nuance and complexity, leaving us with no room for easy judgment. A wonderful book.”

—Laila Lalami, author of The Other Americans

The winner of the 2020 Literature Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Mengiste’s honors include the Creative Capital Award, a Fulbright Scholarship, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and Puterbaugh Festival of International Literature & Culture. She was a Runner-Up for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize for Beneath the Lion’s Gaze. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Guardian, The New York Times, Rolling Stone, BBC Radio, and Lettre International, among other places.

Mengiste was also a writer on the documentary films The Invisible City: Kakuma, about a refugee camp in the middle of the Turkana desert in Kenya that has become the region’s fastest-growing community; and Girl Rising, which tells the stories of nine girls from developing nations around the world overcoming obstacles to education and security. Girl Rising, which features the voices of Meryl Streep, Liam Neeson, and Cate Blanchett, is part of the Girl Rising project, a global action campaign for girls’ education and empowerment.

Mengiste was born in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and lived in Nigeria and Kenya before moving to the United States. She currently serves on the boards of Words Without Borders and Warscapes, and lectures on creative writing at Princeton. Mengiste is a member of Black Artists for Freedom. Her next book is A Brief Portrait of Small Deaths, a novel set in Berlin during the interwar years.

For more information on Maaza Mengiste, please visit her on FacebookInstagramTwitter, and at


Viet Thanh Nguyen

“Compares favorably with masters like Conrad, Greene, and le Carré.” —New York Times

Viet Thanh Nguyen’s writing is bold, elegant, and fiercely honest. His remarkable debut novel, The Sympathizer, won the Pulitzer Prize, was a Dayton Literary Peace Prize winner, and made the finalist list for the PEN/Faulkner award.

Viet and his family came to the United States as refugees during the Vietnam War in 1975. As he grew up in America, he began to notice that most movies and books about the war focused on Americans while the Vietnamese were silenced and erased. He was inspired by this lack of representation to write about the war from a Vietnamese perspective, globally reimagining what we thought we knew about the conflict. The New York Times says that his novel, The Sympathizer, “fills a void…giving voice to the previously voiceless while it compels the rest of us to look at the events of forty years ago in a new light.” His voice is refreshing and powerful as he urges readers to examine the legacy of that tumultuous time and its aftermath from a new perspective. The audacious novel has also been described by The Guardian as having a “Whitman- like multiplicity” as it “reads like the absolute opposite of Tim O’Brien’s The Things They Carried.”

Viet’s book Nothing Ever Dies: Vietnam and the Memory of War was a finalist for the National Book Award. Author Ari Kelman praises Nothing Ever Dies saying it, “provides the fullest and best explanation of how the Vietnam War has become so deeply inscribed into national memory.” His collection of short stories, The Refugees, explores questions of immigration, identity, love, and family. In 2018, Viet called on 17 fellow refugee writers from across the globe to shed light on their experiences, and the result is The Displaced, a powerful dispatch from the individual lives behind current headlines, with proceeds to support the International Rescue Committee.

Viet was the recipient of a MacArthur “Genius” Grant. The MacArthur foundation noted that Viet’s work “not only offers insight into the experiences of refugees past and present, but also poses profound questions about how we might more accurately and conscientiously portray victims and adversaries of other wars.” Along with teaching at the University of Southern California, he works as a cultural critic-at-large for The Los Angeles Times. Viet lives in LA with his wife and son, Ellison.

Learn more about Viet Thanh Nguyen on his website and follow him on Facebook or Twitter.


Chris Bohjalian

“As much as I love writing (the verb), I probably love writing (the noun) even more. I doubt anyone becomes a serious novelist who doesn’t love reading: savoring paragraphs that precisely capture longing or dread or desire. Being riveted by a plot twist that is utterly surprising but, you realize, perfect, because it was inevitable.”

—Chris Bohjalian

Critically acclaimed novelist Chris Bohjalian uses his gripping fiction to explore contemporary social issues and how they play out in the lives of ordinary people, as well as to shed light on some of the most important moments in history. His writing delves into such topics as domestic violence, global climate change, gender identity, genocide, adultery, animal rights, adoption, homelessness, mental illness, and human trafficking with equal facility. He is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of 20 books, and his work has been translated into over 35 languages.

Midwives, an Oprah’s Book Club selection and a #1 New York Times bestseller, is a contemporary classic whose central questions of individual and societal responsibility remain just as pressing today as when the book was first published. Among Bohjalian’s many standout titles since then have been the New York Times bestsellers The Guest RoomThe Sleepwalkerand The Sandcastle Girls, in which Bohjalian tackles the weighty topic of the Armenian genocide in an “intricately nuanced romance” that Julie Kane of Library Journal called “simply astounding.”

Another bestseller, Bohjalian’s novel The Flight Attendant came out in 2018 to rave reviews. In this “expertly turned thriller” (USA Today), a flight attendant wakes up in the wrong hotel, in the wrong bed, next to a dead manwith no idea what happened. The Washington Post, which named it one of the ten best thrillers and mysteries of the year, said, “Filled with turbulence and sudden plunges in altitude, The Flight Attendant is a very rare thriller whose penultimate chapter made me think to myself, ‘I didn’t see that coming.’” A television adaptation of The Flight Attendant starring Kaley Cuoco is in development as an original series for HBO Max.

In his forthcoming novel, The Red Lotus, Bohjalian tells the story of a Manhattan ER doctor whose boyfriend vanishes while the couple vacations in Vietnam. In a twisting story of love and deceit she must uncover a series of strange revelations, forcing her to confront the fact that much of what she knew about her boyfriend was a lie. The Red Lotus is out in spring 2020.

Bohjalian’s masterful plotting evokes a magician who distracts his audience to look this way, not that way… Fans of Bohjalian know to expect the unexpected and, thanks to his creativity and cunning, readers usually get walloped by one heck of a plot twist by book’s end.

—USA Today

Bohjalian is also a playwright and screenwriter. His first play, Grounded, premiered at the 59 East 59th Theatres in New York City directed by Academy Award winner Alexander Dinelaris, and was released as the Ebook Wingspan by Vintage. He is currently adapting his novel The Sleepwalker for film with Scott Simonsen of Fresh Pond Productions, as well as a stage production of Midwives, which will premiere at the George Street Playhouse in early 2020.

Bohjalian’s books have been chosen as Best Books of the Year by The Washington PostThe St. Louis Post-DispatchThe Hartford CourantThe Milwaukee Journal SentinelPublishers WeeklyLibrary JournalKirkusBookpage, and Salon. Bohjalian has written for The New York TimesThe Washington PostCosmopolitanReader’s Digest, and The Boston Globe Sunday Magazine. He was a weekly columnist in Vermont for The Burlington Free Press from 1992 to 2015.

His awards include the New England Book Award, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Freedom Award for his work educating Americans about the Armenian genocide, the ANCA Arts and Letters Award for The Sandcastle Girls, and other honors. He is a Fellow of the Vermont Academy of Arts and Sciences.

Bohjalian graduated from Amherst College and lives in Vermont with his wife, the photographer Victoria Blewer.

For more information about Chris Bohjalian, please visit him on FacebookInstagramTwitter, or at

Personal Essay Essentials: How to Break Into Print with First-Person Writing

This exclusive pre-conference workshop kicks off the 2020 Writer’s Digest Annual Conference weekend on Thursday, August 13th. Seats are limited, so register today!

In this full-day workshop, Windy Lynn Harris—founder of Market Coaching for Creative Writers and author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published—will teach you how to find publication success in the coveted literary magazine market by crafting and selling short personal essays. Packed with practical advice, this class includes:

  • Personal essay writing defined in detail.
  • A step-by-step guide to crafting personal essays.
  • A revision plan for short creative prose.
  • An overview of literary magazines and how they impact your career.
  • Finding the right magazine for each of your essays.
  • Submitting your work professionally.
  • Making authentic connections with literary magazine editors.
  • Essay chapbooks and full-length collections—other opportunities for your essays.
  • Copyright, contracts, and the rights you sell.

Bonus: Are you writing a memoir? Having essay bylines on your resume are impressive to literary agents, build your pre-publication platform, and can be an essential part of your marketing efforts once your book is in print. In this session, Windy will also cover how to take a chapter from your memoir and revise it into an essay while keeping the rights of the larger project intact. 

Who this session is for

  • Writers of all levels who want to explore essay writing
  • All memoir writers
  • Essayists who want to get published
  • Bloggers who want to expand into literary magazines


Windy Lynn Harris writes personal essays, short stories, flash, nonfiction, and novels from her desk in sunny Phoenix, Arizona. She is the author of Writing & Selling Short Stories & Personal Essays: The Essential Guide to Getting Your Work Published and a frequent speaker at literary events around the country. Her work has been published across the US and Canada in places like The Literary Review, 34th Parallel, Pithead Chapel, The Sunlight PressLiterary Mama, Sasee, and Chahoots, and many other journals. Learn more about Windy at her website:

#WDC20 and COVID-19

25 June 2020

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference 2020 is going VIRTUAL!

New Dates: November 5 –7, 2020

The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference—NEW DATES: November 5-7, 2020—is going virtual for the safety of our attendees, speakers, staff, exhibitors, and partners. We did not come to this decision lightly but feel it is the best course of action for all parties involved.

Now, on to the fun part! What can you expect from the virtual #WDC20? The best writing instruction, inspiration, and publishing advice possible all from the comfort of your own home with flexibility to view sessions when it works for you! We’ve done a lot of research and have partnered with an exciting virtual event platform called Intrado. While the platform is easy to use, it will not be your run-of-the-mill Zoom or GoToWebinar virtual experience.

Registration is now open and we’re working on some exciting surprises. We’ll be providing more information on what to expect, the new platform, and everything #WDC20 in the coming weeks. Be on the lookout for announcements on our website and on Twitter and Facebook. In the meantime, keep writing and stay healthy!

– The WD Team


12 May 2020 

Dear #WDC20 Attendees, 

We are now about three months away from the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. The situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic is changing rapidly with new and different regulations state to state. Our thoughts are with everyone affected by the virus, especially those who are considered essential to keeping us safe, healthy, and well-fed.  

We’re still working on our go-forward plan for the conference but we’re getting closer and expect to have an official update for you in a few weeks. We continue to work on an awesome program and will start sending out programming announcements once we have an official update.  

Keep checking this page and rest assured we will email you when we have concrete information to share. 

Stay well and be safe. 

-The WD Team 

Useful Resources 


27 March 2020

Dear #WDC20 Attendees,

We are now about four and a half months away from the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference. The situation surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic has changed dramatically in recent weeks and our thoughts are with everyone affected by the virus, especially those who are considered essential to keeping us safe, healthy, and well-fed. 

Because we’re a hopeful group, we still believe we’ll be able to safely gather together in August to celebrate writing and writers. That said, we are considering alternatives should the situation dictate such a response. But, because we don’t anticipate having enough information to make those decisions for several weeks yet, we will be taking a hiatus from sending event emails. We don’t feel it’s appropriate to announce new programming or keynotes at this time, and we don’t want to clog your inboxes with the same COVID-19 message each week. 

Keep checking this page and rest assured we will email you when we have concrete information to share.

Stay well and be safe.

-The WD Team

Useful Resources


13 March 2020

Dear #WDC20 Attendees,

Although our Annual Conference in New York City is still more than 5 months away, we know concerns about COVID-19 are growing and we want to reassure you that we are closely monitoring the situation.

Many places in the U.S. now encourage social distancing and the minimization of large gatherings over the next several weeks in order to reduce the spread of the novel coronavirus. We remain hopeful that these measures will work and that our conference will go on as planned.

We’re still looking forward to offering you the best writing instruction, inspiration, and publishing advice on August 13-16, 2020 at the Hilton Midtown in New York City, but we’ll also be developing contingency plans over the next several weeks should the situation necessitate an alternative approach.

If necessary, you’ll be able to cancel your reservation without penalty by June 30, 2020 by which time we’ll all have a much better sense of what’s happening.

For the most current updates, keep an eye out for future emails, follow @WritersDigest on Twitter, and bookmark this page which we’ll be updating regularly.

– The WD Team

Useful Resources