Schedule: 2019 Workshop


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

There will be 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. The Art of Editing a Young Adult Novel, taught by Jessie Hilb. Congratulations — you’ve completed a draft of your YA novel. Now what? In this class we will explore the importance of editing, the editing mindset, how to find a writing community, and critical points to address when self-editing your novel. You’ll leave with tools and a concrete place to start as you embark on making your novel the best possible version of itself.

2. The Essential Memoir Toolkit: 5 Best Practices to Get You Started and Keep You Going, taught by Karen Auvinen. Readers read to go on a journey not hear about one. This workshop outlines key techniques for both the new and experienced memoir writer that will transform your personal story from the simple recounting of events to a riveting excursion, one that breathes life into your story and into your writing.

3. Query Workshop #1: Learn to Write the Perfect Query Letter for Your Novel, taught by Kristin Nelson. Most writers will tell you that writing a good query letter is more difficult than writing the whole manuscript. How do you distill the essence of a 300+ page novel into one pithy pitch paragraph for your query? In this workshop, you’ll learn how to compose a basic four-part letter, and how to write a standout query letter while avoiding common pitfalls.

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. Tips on How to Write Like the Pros. This workshop is a thorough crash course concerning craft, style and voice. We’ll discuss nuts & bolts tips for sentence construction like how to avoid passive tense, how to use vivid language, how to self-edit your own work, how to make your characters memorable, the art of compelling dialogue, and much more.

2. Query Workshop #2: Live Query Letter Reads and Critiques, taught by Kristin Nelson. Have you ever wondered how an agent reads a query letter? What an agent is thinking while reading? What makes an agent stop and what makes an agent read on? If you have ever wished to be a fly on the wall during that process, this workshop is your chance to get the inside scoop without metamorphosing. Literary Agent Kristin Nelson will read attendees’ query letters and give honest feedback as to why she would or would not request more. Bringing a query for review is optional. Attendees interested in possibly getting their query critiqued should bring 3 copies of their letter, and be prepared for blunt and honest feedback / praise / criticism.

3. Amuse Yourself With Murder: How to Write a Thrilling Mystery. Writing a mystery can be a killer — unless you entertain yourself first. Brutal hours of research, writing and revising aren’t manuscript killers. However, tying your stomach in knots over writing your great grand book can be murder. Stephen Mack Jones offers insights for taking the pressure off of yourself and joyfully completing your mystery novel.

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 Sell a Nonfiction Book. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction that is not memoir. So if you are trying to create an awesome nonfiction book proposal, this presentation is for you. With both a writer and agent to instruct and answers questions, the session will talk about platform, identifying your book’s place in the market, effective pitching, and more.

3. Picture Book Intensive: Advice on Selling Your Children’s Book, taught by Madeline Smoot. Picture books are tricky works of art that require a lot to happen in very few words. In this session, we’ll discuss questions to consider before sending a picture book manuscript out in the world.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Talking Author Social Media, Blogging, and Platform. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, everyone could use some helpful guidance on how to effectively market themselves and sell more books. This session includes easy-to-understand advice on social media (Twitter, Facebook, more), blogging, and other simple ways you can market your work online cheaply and easily.

2. The Top 10 Things Movies Can Teach Novelists, taught by Trai Cartwright. It’s no secret that Hollywood has cracked the story structure code, or that they’ve refined some of the most elegant and efficient character-building tools in the storytelling business. What you may not know is that all of these tricks can be (and often are) utilized to conquer fiction writing, too. This workshop presents the Top Ten Master Movie Storytelling Devices via examples from a number of great modern films and shows you how to capitalize on them for your own writing.

3. Keys to Writing Great Young Adult & Middle Grade Fiction. Writing for children isn’t all that different from writing for adults. You still need great characters in interesting situations doing meaningful things. However, there are some genre specific things to keep in mind when crafting books for those readers under 18.

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Ten Keys to Writing Success. Learn 10 things you can be doing right now that will help get your book(s) published and have more control over your writing destiny. This is a general course that addresses commonsense things any writer can do to give their work the best shot at getting published, such as writing the best thing they can, stealing from themselves, and why writing for love and money is a good idea.

2. Writing Thrillers: An Introduction, taught by Carter Wilson. Curious about what it takes to become a thriller writer? Join multiple award-winning and USA Today bestselling author Carter Wilson for a packed informational workshop on the Do’s and Don’ts of this high-stakes genre. Using key learning moments from Carter’s 16-year writing career and specific examples from his work, this class offers a behind-the-scenes look at storytelling, character, point of view, plotting versus outlining, editing your manuscript into a breakneck pace, and essential industry wisdom for aspiring thriller writers.

3. Romance for Today’s Market, taught by Helen Hardt. The publishing world is constantly changing. What worked in romance ten years ago—or even last year—won’t necessarily work today. In this workshop, we’ll cover the essential elements of a successful romance novel in today’s market. This isn’t Jane Austen … or even Janet Dailey. Today’s romance novel features flawed characters, a conflict-heavy plot, heart-pounding emotion, and rapid-fire pacing all tied together with a high concept. Leave this workshop motivated to create the next romance best-seller!


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.