Presenters and Instructors

This faculty page for presenters and critique personnel
will be updated over time. Thank you.


Screen Shot 2018-01-11 at 11.40.30 AM.pngErik Hane is a literary agent at Red Sofa Literary. At the 2018 workshop, he is teaching the class “Query Letter Comprehensive.” He will also be taking pitches from attending writers.

Erik is a writing major from Knox College, and attended the Denver Publishing Institute after graduation. His first publishing job came soon after, as an editorial assistant and then assistant editor at Oxford University Press. He then moved to The Overlook Press as an acquiring editor, working on primarily upmarket nonfiction (history, biography, pop science), but was lucky enough to work on some novels as well.


Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 11.10.20 PM.pngLaura Zats is a literary agent at Red Sofa Literary.

At the 2018 workshop, she is teaching the class “Simple Editing Tricks for Enhancing Voice.” She will also be taking pitches from attending writers.

Across all of her genres, Laura is looking specifically for diversity (of all kinds, with a bent towards #ownvoices), feminism, and geekery. She is especially interested in well-drawn female characters, fresh story-telling techniques (unreliable narrators, lists, emails, charts, texts, etc.), and voices that are unexpected for the genre the book is in (literary, lyrical middle grade, for instance).


Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 11.14.03 PM.pngEric Smith is an author, blogger, and literary agent with P.S. Literary. At the 2018 workshop, he is teaching the workshop “Talking Fantasy and Science Fiction.” He will also be taking pitches from attending writers.

His first humor book, The Geek’s Guide to Dating, was published by Quirk Books in December 2013, and was an Amazon 2013 Best Book of the Year selection in Humor, as well as a Best of the Year pick by PopSugar and Wired’s GeekDad. His debut Young Adult novel, Inked, published with Bloomsbury’s digital imprint, Bloomsbury Spark in January of 2015. The sequel, Branded, was published in May 2017. His next novel and first print Young Adult book, The Girl and the Grove, will be out with Flux in May 2018.

You can listen to him twice a month on Book Riot’s HEY YA podcast, co-hosting with Kelly Jensen. Along with Facebook designer Tim Quirino, he co-founded of Geekadelphia, a hyperlocal blog in Philadelphia, covering all-that-is-geek in the City of Brotherly Love. In 2011, he co-founded the Philadelphia Geek Awards with the Academy of Natural Sciences, a ceremony honoring local geeks. He’s since handed off the blog and the show to his friends back in town.

Eric holds a B.A. in English from Kean University and an M.A. in English from Arcadia University, two schools he adores. He uses those fancy degrees to teach composition and mentor MFA students at Arcadia University. He’s taught at a number of colleges, including Peirce College, Holy Family University, and Montgomery County College. His Mom keeps his degrees hanging in his childhood home, and won’t give them back.

Before he became a literary agent with P.S. Literary, Eric could be found at Quirk Books, an indie publishing house in Philadelphia. Here he had the honor of working with a number of awesome people, New York Times bestselling authors, and scores of wonderful books, like William Shakespeare’s Star Wars, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, The Last Policeman series, and the Pride & Prejudice & Zombies series.


Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 11.27.38 PM.pngMary Cummings is a literary agent with Betsy Amster Literary. At the 2018 event, she is teaching a class on picture book writing. She will also be taking pitches from attending writers.

Mary represents fiction, literary nonfiction, and poetry for children and teens, from picture books to middle grade and young adult novels, including contemporary and historical, humor, mystery, fantasy, and multicultural. She is particularly seeking middle grade novels as well as picture books with strong story arcs, a spunky central character, and warmth, humor, or quirky charm. In literary nonfiction, her areas of interest include picture book biographies as well as lyrically written science, nature, mindfulness, and social awareness issues.

Mary served for fourteen years as education director at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, where she organized an annual festival of children’s literature and selected judges for the prestigious McKnight Award in Children’s Literature. She represents both career writers and newcomers. Read more about Mary here.


Cynthia Ruchti is an author as well as literary agent with Books & Such. At the 2018 event, she is teaching a class on revision and self-editing. She will also be taking pitches from attending writers.

Screen Shot 2017-10-26 at 11.14.30 PMCynthia spends her days diving into words, worship, and wonder and celebrating 44-plus years of marriage, three grown children, and five outrageously adorable grandchildren. One of her greatest joys is helping other writers grow in their craft. To that end, she served as the assistant director and a faculty member of the Quad Cities Christian Writers Conference, the Green Lake Christian Writers Conference, has served as worship and devotions staff and faculty for the Write-to-Publish conference, WriteCanada, and teaches at other conferences as opportunities arise.

She speaks frequently for women’s groups, at mother-daughter banquets, and for women’s refresher days and retreats. It is her delight to serve on her church’s worship team and Creative Arts team. Rather than “busy,” she likes the term “active.”


Screen Shot 2017-11-28 at 12.11.25 AM.pngMichelle Grajkowski is a literary agent with 3 Seas Literary.

At the 2018 Minnesota workshop, she is teaching a class on romance writing. She is also taking pitches from attending writers.

From the moment Michelle first opened the doors to the 3 Seas Literary Agency in August of 2000, she has been living her dream. (What could be better than surrounding yourself with amazing authors and their exciting and imaginative books?) Since then, her agency has sold almost 700 books to all the major publishing houses, and has grown from one agent to three!

Michelle’s client list includes New York Times best-selling Authors Katie MacAlister, Cathy McDavid, Kerrelyn Sparks and C.L. Wilson. When not curled up with a great manuscript, Michelle loves to spend time with her husband, children and her two crazy puppies, who refuse to grow up.


Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 11.07.06 PM.pngCori Doerrfeld is a published picture book author and illustrator. She has created many published books. In 2018, she will have new books coming out with publishers such as HarperCollins, Little Brown, and Dial Books for Young Readers.

At the 2018 Minnesota workshop, Cori will be doing add-on picture book critiques for attendees. (Learn more about the critiques here.)

Cori received her undergrad degree in Studio Art from St. Olaf College and her Post Baccalaureate from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. All of her books are available at or your local bookstore.

Cori is represented by Rachel Orr at Prospect Agency.



Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 3.23.45 PM.pngBrian A. Klems (@BrianKlems) is the former online editor of His blog during his tenure there, The Writer’s Dig—which covered everything writing and publishing—was one of the largest blogs in the writing community.

Brian’s first book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Guide to Raising Daughters (Adams Media) was released in April 2013. It received high-level buzz and praise from some of the funniest writers alive, including Dave Barry and Bruce Cameron.

Brian is also a proud graduate of the Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, a husband, softball infielder, perennial fantasy sports underachiever, and father of three lovely little girls.

At the 2018 event, he is teaching classes on what to do before you submit, what to do after you submit, writing nonfiction books, social media & book marketing, and the state of the publishing industry today.


Screen Shot 2017-12-04 at 10.25.02 PM.pngAmanda Shofner has had her nose in a book for as long as she can remember, so it’s no surprise she made a career in the publishing industry.

Currently a publicist for a traditional publisher in Minneapolis, Minnesota, she’s also worked for a self-publishing company, run her own freelance editing business, and released her own novels.

When she’s not busy guiding authors on their publishing path or working on her next book, you’ll probably find her reading, investigating the Twin Cities with her dog Scarlet, adventuring to new restaurants, drinking coffee, or declaring, “There’s a Futurama episode for that.”

At the 2018 event, she is teaching the session “A Self-Publishing Overview: What You Need to Know.”


Screen Shot 2017-12-08 at 2.17.57 PMAllen Eskens is the USA Today-bestselling author of The Life We Bury, The Guise of Another, The Heavens May Fall and The Deep Dark Descending. Find all of his books online here.

At the 2018 workshop, he will be teaching the class “How to Write Exciting Thrillers and Mysteries.” He will also be critiquing attendee manuscripts. (Learn more about the critiques here.)

He is the recipient of the Barry Award, Minnesota Book Award, Rosebud Award, and the Silver Falchion Award and has been a finalist for the Edgar® Award, Thriller Award, and Anthony Award. His debut novel, The Life We Bury, has been published in 16 languages and is being developed for a feature film.

Allen has a journalism degree from the University of Minnesota and a law degree from Hamline University. After law school, he studied creative writing in the M.F.A. program at Minnesota State University-Mankato, as well as the Loft Literary Center and the Iowa Summer Writer’s Festival. He is represented by Amy Cloughley of Kimberley Cameron and Associates Literary Agency, and published by Seventh Street Books.

Allen grew up on the hills of central Missouri. He now lives with his wife, Joely, in out-state Minnesota where he has recently retired from his law practice to devote the entirety of his energy to writing novels.


Screen Shot 2017-12-13 at 12.57.36 PM.pngDavid Oppegaard is the author of The Town Built on Sorrow (Sept. 2017, Flux); the 2016 MN Book Award finalist The Firebug of Balrog County (Flux); the Bram Stoker-nominated The Suicide Collectors (St. Martin’s Press); And the Hills Opened Up (Burnt Bridge); and Wormwood, Nevada (St. Martin’s Press).

At the 2018 workshop, he will be teaching on how to write great young adult and middle grade. He will also be doing young adult and middle grade critiques for attendees. He is also critiquing adult sci-fi, fantasy, and horror.

David grew up in the small town of Lake Crystal, MN, and wrote his first novel at the age of fifteen. David’s work is a blend of literary fiction, science fiction, horror, and dark fantasy.

He holds an M.F.A. in Writing from Hamline University and a B.A. in English from St. Olaf College. He has worked as an optician, a receptionist, a standardized test scorer, a farm hand, an editorial assistant, a trash picker, a library assistant, a seasonal bookstore employee, and as a child minder on a British cruise ship. He teaches the occasional fiction class at Hamline University and currently works at the University of Minnesota. He lives in St. Paul, MN.



BIhfssn4_400x400.jpgDanielle Bylund is the Author Engagement Director for Wise Ink Creative Publishing.

At the 2018 workshop, she is doing manuscript critiques for the following genres: literary fiction, mainstream/general fiction, historical fiction, women’s fiction, and memoir.

Danielle holds a BA in English from Columbia University and an MFA in creative writing from Hamline University. She is a Story Editor for Paper Darts Literary Journal, and has previously been the Assistant Managing Editor for the Water~Stone Review, and the Lead Copy Editor and Publisher for the Columbia East Asia Review. She teaches Creative Nonfiction at the Hamline Young Writers Workshop, Fiction and Introduction to Literary Publishing at Hamline University.

As an editor, teacher, and writer she is passionate about creating a collaborative community of writers who feel supported by their partnerships.