Presenters and Instructors

This page will be updated as more faculty members are
confirmed for the 2017 Atlanta Writing Workshop.


Screen Shot 2016-10-28 at 9.12.52 PM.pngHollis Gillespie (see her website here) is a comedian, an award-winning humor writer, novelist, travel columnist, NPR commentator, travel expert for NBC’s “Today” show, and guest on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” (“A very funny lady,” says Leno).

At the 2017 workshop, she is teaching “How to Write & Pitch Your Memoir” as well as “How to Self-Publish Your Book and Do It Right.”

In 1989 she moved to Atlanta and wrote feature and investigative pieces for Creative Loafing, then the fourth largest alternative publication in the nation. Her celebrated humor column, “Mood Swing,” first appeared in Poets, Artists & Madmen in 1996 and moved to Creative Loafing in 2000, where she was voted the city’s “best columnist” six out of the next eight years. Atlanta magazine picked up the column in 2007, where it appeared until October, 2014.

Gillespie founded the Shocking Real Life Writing Academy in 2007. Since then it has grown into the largest independent writing school in the Southeast.

Gillespie’s work has been optioned by Sony Pictures and Paramount, and she has collaborated with Hollywood hard hitters like Mitch Hurwitz, the creator of “Arrested Development,” Eric and Kim Tannenbaum, producers of “Two and a Half Men,” and Amy Palladino, creator of “Gilmore Girls.”


Screen-Shot-2014-01-08-at-1.09.19-PMChuck Sambuchino (, @chucksambuchino) is the former longtime editor of Guide to Literary Agents as well as the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (both Writer’s Digest Books). His authored books include Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript; Create Your Writer Platform, which was praised by; and How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, which was optioned for film by Sony. During his past time at WD Books (through 2017), he oversaw one of the biggest blogs in publishing: the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. He is a freelance editor who has seen dozens of his clients get agents and/or book deals, and he has presented at more than 140 writing conferences and events over the past eleven years.

At the workshop, Chuck will be presenting the session, “Everything You Need to Know about Agents, Pitching, and Queries,” “Your Publishing Options Today,” and more. He is doing query letter critiques over e-mail prior to the event.


Screen Shot 2016-10-21 at 4.28.50 PM.pngRicki Schultz is an author and freelance editor. Her debut women’s fiction novel, Mr. Right Swipe, will be released from Grand Central Publishing in 2017. See her website here.

At the workshop, she is teaching the sessions “The Art of Voice: How to Make Your Writing Come to Life,” and “Revision and Self-Editing: How to Tighten Your Work Before You Submit.”

She is also critiquing manuscript pages as an add-on element of the day. The genres she will critique are literary fiction, upmarket fiction, mainstream fiction, and women’s fiction.


Screen Shot 2015-07-27 at 12.53.46 PMEric Smith is a literary agent with P.S. Literary.

In addition to taking pitches throughout the day, Eric will also be teaching the session “Awesome Speculative Fiction: Tips on Writing (and Selling) Fantasy and Science Fiction.”

Eric began his publishing career at Quirk Books in Philadelphia, working social media and marketing on numerous books he absolutely adored. Eric completed his BA in English at Kean University, and his MA in English at Arcadia University. A frequent blogger, his ramblings about books appear on BookRiot, The Huffington Post, Barnes & Noble’s Teen Reads blog, Paste Magazine’s Books section, and more. A published author with Quirk Books and Bloomsbury, he seeks to give his authors the same amount of love his writing has received. Follow him on Twitter: @ericsmithrocks

Eric is seeking: Eric is eagerly acquiring fiction and nonfiction projects. He’s actively seeking out new, diverse voices in Young Adult (particularly sci-fi and fantasy), New Adult, and Literary and Commercial Fiction (again, loves sci-fi and fantasy, but also thrillers and mysteries). In terms of nonfiction, he’s interested in Cookbooks, Pop Culture, Humor, essay collections, and blog to book ideas.


Screen Shot 2016-10-17 at 12.41.26 PM.pngLatoya C. Smith is a literary agent with L. Perkins Agency.

In addition to taking pitches throughout the day, she is teaching the session “How to Write and Pitch Romance in Today’s Market.”

Before joining the L. Perkins Agency, Latoya was an editor for over thirteen years working at publishing houses such as Kensington Publishing, Hachette Book Group, and Samhain Publishing. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Latoya started her editorial career as an administrative assistant to New York Times bestselling author, Teri Woods, while pursuing her Bachelor’s Degree at Temple University. In 2006, Latoya joined Grand Central Publishing, an imprint at Hachette Book Group, where she acquired a variety of titles from Hardcover fiction and non-fiction, to digital romance and erotica. In 2014, Latoya was Executive Editor at Samhain Publishing where she acquired short and long form romance as well as erotic fiction. She was also the winner of the 2012 RWA Golden Apple for Editor of the Year.

She is seeking: Latoya is seeking romance, erotica, erotic fiction, women’s fiction, women’s thriller, LGBTQ romance and erotic fiction, along with advice/how-to/memoir submissions. Latoya tends to shy away from YA, sci-fi/fantasy, historical, steampunk, and urban fantasy, however if she happens to fall in with projects within those genres, she is happy to represent them.


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Madeline Smoot is the publisher of CBAY Books and former editorial director for children’s books of Blooming Tree Press. She runs the Buried in the Slush Pile blog.

At the workshop, Madeline will be presenting the session, “How to Write Amazing Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction” and well as “How to Write and Sell Picture Books for Children.”

She is critiquing young adult and middle grade submissions as an add-on element for attendees.

Madeline lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, son, two cats, a dog, and more books than should fit in any normal person’s house. Visit her website here.


Screen Shot 2017-01-26 at 12.42.32 PM.pngRona Simmons is an author, freelance writer, and Huffington Post Blogger.

Rona is the author of the contemporary suspense novel The Martyr’s Brother and two works of historical fiction, The Quiet Room and Postcards from Wonderland, published by Deeds Publishing in Athens, Georgia. She is also a freelance writer and blogs about women in the creative arts on “Women at Word,” local authors and bookstores on “From Acworth to Zebulon,” and for The Huffington Post Blog.

Rona is active in promotion of her works and those of other Georgia authors. She formed and manages both The Book Widows and The Killers Next Door, groups of Georgia authors that speak at bookstores, libraries, and festivals.

Her articles and interviews have been published in Deep South Magazine, Points North, and The Persimmon Tree.

At the 2017 workshop, she is teaching the session “Ten Tips for Writing Great Mysteries, Thrillers, and Crime Fiction.” She is also critiquing manuscript pages as an add-on element of the day. The genres she will critique are mystery, suspense, and historical fiction.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 12.15.26 AM.pngJessica Bell is the executive coordinator of Writing Day Workshops, which organizes one-day writing conferences. These events take place mostly in the U.S., but can happen elsewhere.

If Jessica could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she spends most of her time in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a 30-something Australian contemporary fiction author, award-winning poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written.

She started as a poet, drawing from her musical background and etching her thoughts and feelings into verse. Those stanzas soon turned into sentences and paragraphs, and eventually into published books. Her literary voice is said to overflow with “lyrical descriptions, unique metaphors, tight dialogue, and an abundance of sensory detail.” She has also been told she has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary three-chord type story and turn it into a main stage event.

In addition to her novels about unique dysfunctional families, poetry collections, and her best-selling pocket writing guides (Writing in a Nutshell series), she has published a variety of works in online and print literary journals and anthologies, including Australia’s Cordite Review, Writer’s Digest, and the anthologies 100 Stories For Queensland and From Stage Door Shadows, both released through Brisbane, Australia’s, eMergent Publishing.

One of Jessica’s proudest moments was when, in November 2013, her poem, Sugar (which was published in a poetry anthology called Women’s Work, edited by Libby Hathorn) was broadcast on ABC National Radio’s Poetica program.

Jessica Bell is the Publisher of Vine Leaves Press, and she makes a living as a Book Cover Designer for indie authors, and an editor/writer for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

As of October 2016, she is the singer of Keep Shelly in Athens.

To see a list of awards click here.