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, but here is the current layout:

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. An Overview of Your Publishing Options Today (Birchwood Ballroom), taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This workshop examines the two largest routes any writer can take with their book: traditional publishing and self-publishing / e-publishing. We will examine the upsides of both routes, the challenges with both, and the next steps no matter what you decide. In today’s publishing world, a writer has to understand what they’re in for before they send their book out. This session is designed to prepare them for what’s to come and what options exist.

2. The Road to Love is Paved With Conflict: Notes on Romance Writing (Linden room), taught by Léonicka Valcius.  When the book is destined to end with a happily-ever-after, the journey becomes the reward. How can romance writers effectively build conflict and tension into the love story while still keeping the readers invested in the couple? In an hour-long interactive workshop, Assistant agent Léonicka Valcius walks writers through the different types of relationship conflicts, how to introduce them, and how to resolve them.

3. Inspiration as an Author (Cedar room), taught by Cecilia Lyra. Inspiration is a fundamental part of any creative process. Pop culture would have us believe that inspiration is out of our control: the lightbulb moment, the rush to put pen to paper in the middle of night, the inimitable a-ha feeling that lends wings to our creativity, but that also shows up unannounced. Almost as if it’s … magic. And, to a certain degree, it is. But inspiration can also be learned, honed, and even stored. Join Cecilia Lyra’s class to learn practical tips on how writers can boost their inspiration levels—and improve their writing in the process.

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. Writing Killer Mysteries (Linden room), taught by Carolyn Arnold. Whether you write cozy whodunits or blood-curdling thrillers, you need to engage your reader. In this session, we will explore how character and setting help to capture your reader and further your plot, and how both contribute to the proper pacing that will make your book a page-turner. Where should you hide your red herrings? When do you reveal you’re clues? Learn from a published author how to keep your mystery moving (without derailing the reader).

2. Everything You Need to Know About Agents and Query Letters (Birchwood Ballroom), taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This workshop is a thorough crash course in dealing with literary agents. After quickly going over what an agent is and what they do for writers, we will discuss resources for finding agents, how to ID the best agents for you, query letter writing, as well as the most important things to do and not to do when dealing with representatives.

3. Ask the Authors Anything (Cedar room), with panelists Amanda Sun, Rati Mehrotra, and Joyce Grant. This panel is a chance to ask three published authors — a picture book author, a young adult author, and an adult sci-fi/fantasy author anything you want. Hear different perspectives on your questions. Come with questions!

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 (Birchwood Ballroom) 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.  Nonfiction Intense: Book Proposal Tips (Linden room), taught by Carly Watters. This session, taught by a literary agent, 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 Perfecting Your Children’s Book (Cedar room), taught by Joyce Grant. Picture books are tricky works of art that require a lot to happen in very few words. In this session, we’ll look at picture book elements including plot, character and text—in a very different light than for other genres. We’ll also answer your questions, including how many words your manuscript should have, whether you should self-publish, how to include illustrator notes, and we’ll give you a list of helpful resources as you write and submit your picture book manuscript.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. World-building Your Way to Success — Especially in Sci-Fi and Fantasy (Linden room), taught by Rati Mehrotra. World-building is an essential part of any story, but most especially in science fiction and fantasy. How do you create believable worlds to immerse your readers? What are the differences in world-building for different genres? What are the economic, social, political, historical and technological questions you need to address? What comes first — story or world? And – most importantly: How much is enough?

2. Voice in a Manuscript (Birchwood Ballroom), taught by Stephanie Winter. One of the most important skills for a writer to have is the ability to craft clear and strong voices in a manuscript. Sounding inauthentic or unrealistic can be the difference between a pass or an offer of representation. In this lecture we’ll target common mishaps and approach creating strong narratives on three levels: dialogue, prose, and characters.

3. How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Talking Author Social Media, Blogging, and Platform (Cedar room), taught by Chuck Sambuchino. 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.

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Ten Keys to Writing Success (Birchwood Ballroom), 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.

2. Revision and Self Editing: Get Your Work Ready for an Agent (Linden room), taught by Nita Pronovost. You have some chapters, maybe even a first draft. You want to get an agent, but is your writing actually ready to be seen by one? This intensive workshop by Simon & Schuster Vice President and Editorial Director Nita Pronovost offers tips and tools to take your fiction writing to the next level. The workshop will cover: tips on genre and story structure; the importance of showing not telling, and how to enact it in your writing; beats in fiction; scene writing versus summary, and striking the right balance in your prose; book genres and their norms. At the end of the session, you’ll have valuable insight that will not only help you become a better writer, but also help you get noticed by industry professionals.

3. Writing Standout Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction (Cedar room), taught by Amanda Sun. Young Adult and Middle Grade are dynamic genres that are constantly breaking new ground. Did you know that over half the readers of YA are over 18? We will discuss what makes YA and MG so appealing to all ages, including voice, genre blending, authentic diversity, standalone versus series, themes, and trends to get to the bottom of what makes a strong manuscript and how to stand out in this vibrant market.


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.