2018 Keynote Speaker

Each spring, undergraduate writers at USC from disciplines across the University convene to share their work, compete for substantial cash prizes, and enjoy themselves at a celebratory banquet.  Last year, more than 380 students—in majors from Neuroscience to Music—participated in four categories:  Analytical Essay, Researched Essay, Professional Writing, and Creative Works.

If you’re a USC undergraduate, we encourage you to come join the fun!  You’ve already written a dynamite essay—now reap your reward.  Submission deadline is 11:59 PM on Friday, March 2nd.  Click here to submit your work.

This year’s keynote speaker for the 2018 Undergraduate Writers’ Conference is ALEX ESPINOZA, author, professor, and Chair of the department of Chicana(o) and Latina(o) Studies at California State University, Los Angeles.

Alex Espinoza was born in Tijuana, Mexico, but grew up in Los Angeles when his family moved here at the age of two. He is the author of two novels, Still Water Saints (Random House, 2007) and The Five Acts of Diego León (Random House, 2013) and the recipient of numerous awards, including a 2014 Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and a 2014 American Book Award for The Five Acts of Diego León.

Espinoza began writing when he was a student at the University of California, Riverside. He received his MFA from University of California, Irvine’s Program in Writing. His first novel, Still Water Saints, was simultaneously published in English and Spanish. In addition, his short fiction and other work has been published in numerous anthologies and venues including Inlandia: A Literary Journey Through California’s Inland EmpireLatinos in Lotusland, The Southern California Review, the Virginia Quarterly Review, Salon.com, and the New York Times Magazine.

In his fiction, Espinoza explores the complexities of California’s immigrant communities. His writing has been described as “fresh, magical, beautiful, evocative” by Lisa See, another writes whose work examines the many ways the immigrant experience has shaped California. His first novel is set in the fictional Agua Mansa, a mostly Latinx town, and the Botánica Oshún, which serves as the community’s center. His novel draws on his own upbringing in a Southern California that exists alongside its more glamorous coastal counterpart: “my Southern California is different. It’s oriented eastward, toward the desert…. My goal in this book, and for much of my writing, was to look at this “other” Southern California, the one I grew up in and live in, the oftentimes misunderstood and misrepresented Southern California.” In The Five Acts of Diego León, Espinoza takes on that other, more glitzy side of Southern California experience with a novel set in the Mexican Revolution and Hollywood’s silent film era in order to bring out the stories of Hollywood that too often go untold. One reviewer describes the book as “A story undertaken with gusto, imagined with daring.”

In addition to his teaching duties, Espinoza is working on his third novel.

Questions or comments? Email Professor Norah Ashe-McNalley, Conference Director:  ashe@usc.edu