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 and updates:

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. Crafting Dynamic Characters for Young Adult and Middle Grade (Governor 1), taught by Mary Kole. Geared toward YA & MG novelists, but also applicable to picture book writers, this workshop explores use of interiority — or an exploration of your character’s thoughts, feelings, inner struggles, and reactions. For the past decade, editor (and former agent) Mary Kole has been helping writers know when and how to weave interiority into plot for novels that enthrall readers. Explore this powerful tool and learn concrete tips to apply to your manuscripts.

2. How to Write a Damn Good Query Letter (State Suite), taught by Eric Smith. In this session, literary agent Eric Smith will teach you the no-nonsense approach to writing a query letter that works. Learn what to include in your pitch, what to cut, and how to give voice and flavor in a small amount of words. At the end of this class, you will have inside information on how to entice an agent or editor to request more material from you.

3. Social Media for Authors (Governor 2), taught by Lesley Sabga. Social media’s purpose is connecting you with the right people. It’s not a place to sell; it’s a place to connect. (Because once you connect, then you will sell without trying.) One of the main reasons social media doesn’t work for many authors is that they don’t understand how to best use social media. In his class, you will learn how to identify your readers and mingle with them on their social media channels of choice. We will talk about what to post online, how to engage new readers, and the differences between social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. Structure in Memoir (Governor 2), taught by Kate Hopper. How can the memoirist contain the messiness of life in a single manuscript? Where might the story begin and end? How does structure affect narrative urgency? In this class, we’ll discuss chronology and beginnings, weaving narrative threads, and various ways to keep your writing from feeling episodic. Kate will also share exercises that will help you find the structure that best serves your story.

2. Ten Keys to Writing Success (State Suite), taught by Chuck Sambuchino. 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.

3. Incorporating Research in Fiction (Governor 1), taught by Savannah Brooks. Plot is what drives a narrative forward, but oftentimes the most compelling aspects of a story are the characters and the setting. This presentation focuses on how to bring in research to make those aspects as authentic and compelling as possible—and how to give your book a point of distinction in the marketplace while you’re at it.

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 (State Suite), 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. Elevating Your Work: How to Create Children’s Books That Are Not Just Entertaining, but Transformative (Governor 1), taught by Essie White. Quality literature can help children navigate challenging situations but it can also expand their understanding of other people and places. A good book can be a vehicle for growth, inspiration, and empowerment. And the very best children’s books also utilize the very best art. It is the combination of carefully selected words and the accompanying illustrations, that makes a memorable, meaningful, and child relevant picture book. Discover how to create books that will impact children in a lasting way while embracing the transformative power of your work.

3. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book (Governor 2), taught by Dawn Frederick. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction. 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.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Three Laws and Ten Pages: How to Use Newtonian Physics to Add Momentum to Your Fiction (Governor 1), taught by Laura Zats. There are a lot of rules for how you’re allowed to begin a book. Never show a character waking up! You need to start with action! But there can be absolutely no prologues! Or mirrors! No one ever explains why these rules exist, or what you’re supposed to do with your story when you carve away its logical starting points. In this session, we’re going to throw these rules out the window and, using Newton’s Laws of Motion, reframe the beginning of your book in a way that won’t stifle your creativity but will keep your readers clamoring for more. 

2. Improve Your Writing And Deepen Your Characters With the Craft of Empathy (Governor 2), taught by Kate Hopper. Writing with empathy in mind can create texture in our work, deepen our characters, and be transformative for both writer and reader. In this class, we will discuss the ways that writing with empathy in mind can help us create complex and believable characters, and we will discuss the power of writing your younger self with empathy. The instructor will provide an exercise to help writers tap into empathy in their work. This class can help writers of fiction (any kind), memoir, and narrative/creative nonfiction.

3. 18 Frequently Asked Questions About Publishing All Writers Should Know (State Suite), taught by Dawn Frederick. Before you publish your work or query an agent (and after), there are plenty of things you need to know — such as when is your book ready, how to effectively use social media, general etiquette, how to launch your book right, how to draft a compelling query/pitch and synopsis, the general publishing timeline, how to find other writers who can help you, and much more. This will be a general Q&A in this session, so bring your questions too!

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. The Timeline of a Book, Explained (State Suite), taught by Rachelle Gardner. This workshop will examine what happens between the time you submit your query to an agent to the time your book is finally published. You’ll understand how an agent reviews your query, considers your book, offers representation, fine-tunes the submission, submits it to publishing houses, generates interest in a project, and works out a release.

2. How to Create Awesome Worldbuilding for Your Science Fiction and Fantasy (Governor 1), taught by Laura Zats. So your gritty cyberpunk needs a bar with a nanite-ridden soul and your demon’s lair in your fantasy world needs a living history woven into the narrative. Crafting living spaces that act as both character and location not only sets the stage for a good fantastic tale, but also adds a layer of world-building that can make any story stand out from the crowd. From an android detective’s office to a haunted dwarven fortress, this talk discusses how to put character in the place and place in the characters.

3. Conquering the Dreaded Synopsis (Governor 2), taught by Kelly Peterson. This class is designed to help you understand what makes up an effective synopsis. A synopsis is different from a query pitch; it’s longer, and reveals all three acts (including the ending!) of the story. This class, taught by an agent, will explain how long a synopsis should be, how to write concisely and whittle down your narrative, and what elements should be included in a synopsis vs. which should be left on the cutting room floor.


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.