Schedule: 2020 Workshop


8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location. Check in and get comfortable.

There will be 2-3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day. Agent pitches and critique consultations overlap with the sessions below. The schedule of presentation topics below is subject to change and updates:

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. Genres, Tropes, and Word Counts: Knowing What You Write, Who It’s For, and How to Deliver the Goods, taught by Angie Hodapp. Building a career as a fiction writer is just like building a career in any other field: success comes with knowing your customers and delivering a product or experience that exceeds their expectations and keeps them coming back for more. So how do you begin? In this class, we’ll define top-level fiction categories (commercial, upmarket, literary), and then drill down to dozens of genres and subgenres. Why do these labels exist? Does your book really have to fit into a neat little box? What about cross-genre novels or those breakout genre-busters that defy all categorization? Next we’ll examine tropes—familiar character types, settings, situations, and storylines—and talk about how to use them to attract readers without lapsing into cliché or derivation. Finally, we’ll look at target word counts for each major genre. How long should your manuscript be, and why does word count matter so much to agents, editors, publishers, librarians, and booksellers? Whether you’re seeking a traditional publishing deal or planning to publish independently, knowing how to talk about where your work sits on the vast literary landscape will not only help you find readers, it will help readers find you.

2. Creating Compelling Characters, taught by Bailey Cates. Characters inform plot and often drive the entire story. Learn a variety of techniques for developing believable characters from the inside out, from simple exercises to in-depth explorations of their motivations, worldviews, and the stories they tell themselves.

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. So You’ve Written A Book (Or You Want To), Now What? taught by Brenda Hardwick. This class is a quick start for writers who have their words down on paper or are still dancing with them in their heads. This session covers how to get started, the writing process, writing a synopsis, publishing choices, what you need to do to get your writing to print, and process elements that need to be considered, such as editing, your cover, marketing and sales.

2. How to Keep the Readers Turning Pages, taught by Jori Hanna. No matter what genre you’re writing, if you’re telling a story, suspense will play a key part. By learning what aspects help carry suspense throughout the story, fiction, nonfiction, and anything else will be much more entertaining and enjoyable if aspects of suspense are included. This class goes over the main elements of suspense and how to apply them to whatever genre you write.

LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15

Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes. There are lots of options, including onsite restaurants, and nearby places to eat.

BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30

1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest, with participating literary agents and editors. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with attending agents commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first page, and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention. (All attendees are welcome to bring pages to the event for this session, and we will choose pages at random for the workshop for as long as time lasts. All submissions should be novels or memoir—no prescriptive nonfiction or picture books, please. Do not send your pages in advance. You will bring printed copies with you, and instructions will be sent out approximately one week before the event.)

2. How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal, taught by Kerrie Flanagan. A well-crafted book proposal can be the difference between a yes and a no-thank you. It is a strategically composed document that sells your book idea, and yourself as an expert, to an agent or publisher. In this session, you will learn the components that go into an effective book proposal that will make agents and editors sit up and take notice.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Can You Feel the Love? Learn the Fundamentals of Romance Writing, taught by Cindi Madsen. Learn the fundamentals of romance writing. From what beats you need to hit to ratcheting up the romantic tension to making sure your reader falls in love right along with the characters, we’ll talk about how to write a satisfying romance that keeps readers coming back for more.

2. Query Letter Writing, taught by Jamie Raintree. Are you ready to start querying but the idea of catching an agent’s attention in one page or less intimidates you? Have you been querying for a while but have yet to get requests for pages? Come join us as we break down the elements of a successful query, review the query that landed my agent, and write queries of your own. Bring your current query letter if you have one, a notebook, a pen, and the determination to finally take the next step in your writing career!

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Author Panel: Ask Them Anything, with Jamie Raintree, Cindi Madsen, Karye and Brenda Hardwick. Four authors, each writing in different genres, will share their writing journey, how they got their agents, what it was like to get their first book deal and what they’ve learned along the way. It will then open up to a Q&A with the audience.

2. Why Isn’t my Book a Best Seller? taught by Liz Pelletier. Every editor is looking for the next bestseller. You know this, so you’ve studied and practiced your craft; you’ve put your all into your storytelling, and yet you still can’t seem to hit that mark. In justified frustration, you ask yourself time and time again, “Why isn’t my book a bestseller? What are those bestselling authors doing that I’m not?” In this workshop, we will go over the six main reasons a book isn’t a bestseller and how to fix it. By the end of the class, you’ll know what you might have been missing all along, and you’ll have the tools you need to write your next book like a bestseller!


At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s bookstore station for a short while to sign any books for attendees.