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. How to Write Great Young Adult and Middle Grade Fiction, taught by Danielle Younge-Ullman. In this session, an award-winning YA author will take you through the steps to writing both middle grade and young adult novels, looking at both the similarities and differences between the two categories. Beginning with the brainstorming of character, concept and story, then moving on to themes, issues and POV, and finally addressing voice, vocabulary, and the use of language, Danielle will tell you everything she knows about writing books that speak to and resonate with middle grade and young adult readers.

2. I Did It, It’s Done! … Now What? taught by J.M. Frey. So you’ve written a novel! Congratulations on finally typing “The End”! Now what do you do with it? This presentation explains the common routes and methods of writing a query letter, signing with an agent, and publishing your book (both traditionally and through self publishing avenues). I will discuss some of the pros and cons, the common pitfalls, and what specific widely-used terminology means. An excellent presentation for people new to the publishing world.

3. The Business of How Authors Make Money, taught by Carly Watters. This workshop, taught by a literary agent experienced with contracts and negotiation, will delve into all the ways authors make money. The class will break down complicated subjects and make they easy to understand — such as contracts, royalties, subsidiary rights, and translation rights. Also, the class will discuss financial literacy for authors — such as planning for the future, what to do with your advance, and whether to spend your money on marketing (or not).

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. (How to) Revise the Crap Out of Your Manuscript, taught by Danielle Younge-Ullman. Finishing a first draft is fantastic, and a huge accomplishment. Until you’ve done multiple revisions of that manuscript, however, your book isn’t finished — and we’re not just talking about looking for typos and making sure you haven’t called three different characters “Bob.” Author Danielle Younge-Ullman is a tireless, in-depth and joyfully ruthless reviser, and in this session she will show you the steps she takes to revise her manuscripts. Subjects will include character consistency, POV, tone, tightening and/or expanding, layering in new characters and plot lines, analyzing structure, and figuring out what’s wrong with a scene that isn’t working. You will also understand how to devote a portion of the session to interpreting and getting the most out of feedback from beta readers, agents and editors.

2. Keep Them Hooked: How to Write a Page-Turner, taught by Barbra Leslie. We all love them, those thrillers that keep us up long past our bedtimes. In this course, Barbra Leslie — whose Cracked series was called “a breathless, propulsive read” by The Toronto Star and has been optioned for television — will guide you through the key elements to keeping your readers wanting more. Using both theory and examples from popular mystery and thriller series, Barbra will show how key elements of structure, character and plot can take your manuscript from deadly boring…to dead exciting. Barbra will take some off-the-cuff feedback from students, and show the right — and wrong — ways to execute your story.

3. TBA

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. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book. 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. 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 Potluck. Creating an enticing picture book requires quality ingredients. Learn how to stir up savory story ideas, invent tantalizing titles, and concoct captivating characters. Discover ways to add spice to your writing and gain tips to avoid spoiling a good recipe. Acquire the skills needed to cook up a work of art your audience will crave. Finally, receive seasoned query advice designed to whet the appetite of editors and agents.  

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Romance 101, taught by Vicki Essex. Romance novels make up 46% of all books sold in the United States; they sell more than mystery and science fiction combined. The voraciousness of the reader base makes writing romance potentially lucrative, but you need to know what readers want and you can’t skip on craft. We’ll talk about plotting and publishing a smart and successful romance novel, what’s selling, and what the market looks like today.

2. This is Going to Be Harsh: 10 Things that Writers Need to Know About Writing and Publishing, taught by Cecilia Lyra. This session, taught by a literary agent, is a no-nonsense class on what aspiring (and even published) writers need to understand immediately to make the most out of their writing career and journey.


BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Writing Believable Science Fiction & Fantasy Worlds, taught by J.M. Frey. You’ve got a great idea for a story set in an alternate world, but you don’t know where to start. From maps to environment, from cultural taboos to levels of technology, from food, to clothes, to how marriage works, these are all things that you have to make up and keep consistent for your secondary world to be believable. This presentation will provide you with a handy checklist of things to consider when you’re creating a place for your story to happen.

2. Plotting Arcs and Compelling Narratives, taught by Stephanie Winter. A great work of fiction requires excellent pacing to move the reader past those first pages and to propel them to the very end. The ups and downs of a well-plotted arc are not unique to Shakespeare and film. This session will walk you through the key markers of exposition, climax, and denouement moments in novels, and will outline what these arcs look like across genres. If you’ve ever been told your story does not start in the right place, this session is for you. 

3. Ask the Agents Anything. This session is an open Q&A designed for writers to be able to ask some attending literary agents questions and get answers. Bring your conundrums and questions and dilemmas!


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.