Schedule: 2020 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, but here is the current layout:

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. The Nice Girl’s Guide to Creating Conflict (Design/Discovery room), taught by Sally Kilpatrick. Are you having trouble getting anyone to take a chance at publishing your stories? Have you received comments or reviews that say your story is “too quiet” or that “nothing happens”? If so, your story may not have enough conflict. For a character to have an arc–and for a story to be interesting–you must have both internal and external conflict. This workshop will give you strategies for creating both kinds of conflict for your characters as well as hints for how you can take that conflict to another level.

2. Master-Pitch Theatre: How to Successfully Pitch/Query an Agent (Grand Salon 1+2 combined),  taught by Katharine Sands. Your pitch is a performance. Whether you deliver it in person or on the printed page. Literary agent Katharine Sands shows you how to hone the on-page elements and in-person aspects of the pitch to create the actual script you will use at the conference, and beyond. Pitchcraft™ is an invaluable tool—You will learn what to do–and what not to do–when summarizing your book: the description of your book in 200-250 words; — How to get an agent from the get-go; start in a logical place, yet from a compelling perch; how to encapsulate in clear core points; ways to create coming attractions that whet the reader’s appetite for more—and how to avoid “Querial Killers”: the easy-to-fix mistakes writers make when querying agents. As a writer you are always going to be asked to introduce your work, to share your enthusiasm for your writing, and to get others excited about what is exciting to you. Instruction covers how to take a pitch from ho-um to magnum opus. “Tell me about your work,” means: 15 minutes of fame is yours to shine in. This presentation cuts through the mystery of getting an agent to want YOU, to read YOU and to say YES to YOU.

3. Out of This World Writing: Tips on Speculative Fiction (Science Fiction and Fantasy) (Grand Salon 3), taught by Beth Marshea. Have you always wanted to create worlds where anything can happen: technology runs amuck, magic is everywhere, or maybe demons are lurking where we’d least expect them? Learn how to create intense believable worlds that allow for fantastic events. Come create compelling plots and characters that will have your readers thinking about them long after they’ve laid your pages down. In this class, you’ll learn the basics of combining plot structure, world building and character development to create truly extraordinary writing.

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. Characters: The People of Your Story (Design/Discovery room), taught by Bob Mayer. The most critical component of a novel is character. How do you go from flat two-dimensional characters to vibrant three-dimensional ones? Bestselling author Bob Mayer will discuss templates you need to develop characters as well as the concept of character arc and change. These include profiling, psychological frameworks, and the to show character arc and change.

2. Industry Report: What Publishers Want in Today’s World (Grand Salon 1+2 combined), taught by Caroline George. The publishing industry faces constant evolution, which leaves many writers feeling outdated and uneducated. With that in mind, literary agent Caroline George hosts a Q&A style workshop geared to educate writers on the current publishing industry and provide tools to assist their publication efforts. Attendees will leave feeling encouraged and equipped.

3. Romance 101 (Grand Salon 3), taught by Sally Kilpatrick. Have you always wanted to write a romance but didn’t know where to start? This workshop will include the basics of writing a romance novel including tropes, industry terminology, and how to find an agent or editor as well as what to do with your novel once you’ve finished it. In addition to writing (plot, characterization, revision), you’ll also learn about the pros and cons of traditional publishing, indie publishing, and a hybrid approach.

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 (Grand Salon 1+2 combined), 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. Picture Books: From Opening Line to Published Manuscript (Design/Discovery room), taught by Reem Faruqi. To get your picture book published, there are many dos and don’ts you need to know as a writer. Award-winning author Reem Faruqi will discuss how to create a strong opening for your picture book, give examples of successful books from the kidlit world and offer insight on using one’s personal experiences in stories. She will also share tips on navigating the process of getting a picture book agent and publisher, inevitable rejections, and what the process is like fine tuning edits with an editor. She will conclude her presentation sharing which resources she uses for success and inspiration. And, if there’s time, Reem will hold a live group workshop for attendees who bring their picture book manuscripts (whether completed or still just in progress). If you attend this session, feel free to bring your picture book manuscript for potential live feedback.

3. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book (Grand Salon 3). 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.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Platform, Product & Promotion: Understand Your Unique Position as an Author (Design/Discovery room), taught by Bob Mayer. A writer can easily be overwhelmed by all the well-meaning advice given by experts, industry professionals and even other authors. The reason for this is that every single writer is in a different place and has to figure out their position and point of view with which to boil down all the information into intelligence (useable information). If you consider these three variables, with a sliding scale from ‘none’ to ‘the best’, you end up with an infinite variety of authors. This course taught by bestselling author Bob Mayer will help authors make decisions, such as should whether to traditional publish or self-publish; what areas they should focus their creative and marketing efforts on; and much more.

2. Crafting a Thrilling Domestic Suspense (Grand Salon 3), taught by Kimberly Belle. There’s no fool-proof way of writing a successful suspense novel, but there are ways to ensure that yours ticks all the right boxes. Kimberly Belle shares her best tips for building a page-turner from the inside out, including pacing, plotting, characterization, and above all, hooking your readers—including agents and editors—and keeping them glued to the pages.

3. Ask an Author Anything (Grand Salon 1+2 combined), with multiple published authors on the panel, including Nicki Salcedo , Marian L. Thomas and Reem Faruqi.  Get the inside scoop on the publishing industry as this panel of traditionally and self-published authors dish on what it’s like working with literary agents, publishers and more. Ask the questions you want and get the answers you need.

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Chapter One: How to Start Strong and End Strong (Grand Salon 1+2 combined), taught by Nicki Salcedo. In this workshop, we will explore what it takes to write the best first chapter. We will cover set up, foreshadowing, and theme. What you do in the first pages will set you up for writing success with no sagging middle and disappointing endings. Get your chapter one right and the story will follow. This is a workshop for plotters and pansters alike. This is a workshop for those just getting started and those who need to take a fresh look at their work in progress. We will review examples from classic and contemporary literature. Be prepared to write. There are brief writing exercises in this session.

2. Essential Elements of Young Adult and Middle Grade Novels: How to Use Plot and Character to Sell Your Young Adult or Middle Grade Book (Design/Discovery room), taught by Sally Apokedak. To have the best chance of selling your novel, you need to have both interesting plots and relatable characters. Readers love to read about characters. But the plot is the story you build so your characters can grow into the heroes your readers love. In this workshop, we’ll talk about how to make readers care about your characters and keep turning pages all the way through the book.

3. Self-Publishing: Top 10 Ways To Get It Right (Grand Salon 3), taught by Marian L. Thomas. From book cover design to getting your ISBN, this note-taking session will take you through the top 10 ways to self-publish your first book the right way. Learn cost-saving strategies and marketing techniques, plus learn how to get reviews and reach book clubs.


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.