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Deesha Philyaw

Deesha Philyaw is the author of the debut short story collection, The Secret Lives of Church Ladies, which won the 2021 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, the 2020/2021 Story Prize, the 2020 LA Times Book Prize: The Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and was a finalist for the 2020 National Book Award for Fiction. The Secret Lives of Church Ladiesis being adapted for television by HBO Max with Tessa Thompson executive producing. Deesha is also a Kimbilio Fiction Fellow and a Baldwin for the Arts Fellow. Her debut novel, The True Confessions of First Lady Freeman, is forthcoming from Mariner Books, an imprint of HarperCollins, in 2025.


What's at stake for your characters?

If the stakes are low or unclear, readers are going to wonder, “So what?” And if we want readers to keep reading, we’d better have an answer to that question. So we raise the stakes for our characters. What do they have to lose? What are they trying to gain? What's standing in the way between them and what they want? Is it interesting, unexpected, terrifying, nuanced, subversive, outrageous, disruptive, unusual, surprising, or unpredictable? Through generative writing exercises, attendees will raise stakes for characters from their work-in-progress, or start something new.

Session Time / LOCATION:

  • 10:15 - 11:15 a.m. - Recital Hall (Bldg. 8 - 132)


  • 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. - Evening reading in the DuBow Theatre

  • 8:00 - 8:30 p.m. - Book signing immediately following reading

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