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. Getting Published in Today’s World: 10 Tips to Make You the Writer Agents and Publishers Want, taught by Brian Klems. If you want to land an agent and a book deal in today¹s market, you’re going to have to do a lot more than just write a great book (though that’s a good start). Brian Klems discusses the challenges writers face in publishing today and offers up 10 practical tips to help you break through the barriers and find success.

2. Keys to Writing Great Young Adult & Middle Grade Fiction (Azalea & Iris rooms combined), taught by Madeline Smoot. Writing for children isn’t all that different from writing for adults. You still need great characters in interesting situations doing meaningful things. However, there are some genre specific things to keep in mind when crafting books for those readers under 18. In this session, presenter Madeline Smoot, acquiring editor for CBAY Books, will discuss the tips and tricks for making middle grade and YA novels great.

2. How to Write Young Adult and Middle Grade that Sells, taught by Jessica Burkhart. Jessica will take writers through creating a YA or MG novel that sells. Jess will use forty-five minutes to explore: brainstorming a concept and idea, outlining and what kind of outline Jess uses, creating relatable characters, constructing an interesting setting, crafting realistic voice and realizing the importance of a strong chapter ending. Jess will include her favorite list of resources, too, that will be helpful to both new and veteran writers. The remaining workshop time will be dedicated to Q&A.

3. The Art and Craft of Memoir (Hickory and Maple rooms combined), taught by Heather Ebert. The best memoirs are often as compelling as novels. This session will address the importance of plot structure and character development; the interplay of truth, memory, and imagination; how to discern what to include in your story and what to leave out; and identifying and finding your audience.

BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

2. 15 Tips on How to Write Like the Pros, taught by Brian Klems. This workshop is a thorough crash course concerning craft, style and voice. We’ll discuss nuts & bolts tips for sentence construction like how to avoid passive tense, how to use vivid language, how to self-edit your own work, how to make your characters memorable, the art of compelling dialogue, and much more.

2. Everything You Need to Know About Agents and Query Letters (Birch Room). 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. How to Self-Publish Your Book Now and Do It Right (Hickory and Maple rooms combined) taught by David Domine. The publishing world has seen huge changes in the last decade or two. Independent publishing platforms and a variety of online resources have made it easier to see your own work in print. Many authors who have gone the self-published route swear by it; some, on the other hand, don’t recommend it. So, how do you know if self-publishing is the right thing for you as a writer? Join a successful author who shares the secrets of self-publishing and how to do it right.

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 (Birch Room), 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: The 9 Musts of a Proposal, taught by Brian Klems. 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 Intensive: Advice on Selling Your Children’s Book (Azalea & Iris rooms combined), taught by Madeline Smoot. Picture books are tricky works of art that require a lot to happen in very few words. In this session, we’ll discuss questions to consider before sending a picture book manuscript out in the world.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. How to Write & Pitch Fantasy and Science Fiction (Azalea & Iris rooms combined), taught by C.J. Redwine. A discussion regarding the genres of science fiction and fantasy — how the markets are changing, what writers can do to improve their craft in these genres, and much more. It’s a great session to attend if you’re trying to write and sell speculative fiction.

2. Storytelling: The Elements of Writing a Great Mystery, Crime or Thriller Story taught by Robert McClure. The renowned mystery editor Otto Penzler defines mystery fiction as any work in which a crime or threat of a crime is central to the plot or theme of the story. However you define it, writing a mystery/crime/thriller story is a conjuring act. Using only words to excite a reader’s imagination, a skillful writer can place you in the middle of a mob hit or a bank heist, then have you follow a canny detective while she solves the crime. To accomplish this feat requires the writer to craft his ideas in a way that plays to his readers emotions in a coherent and entertaining way. Using his internationally recognized crime story “Harlan’s Salvation” as a guide, Robert McClure provides an overview of crafting a compelling mystery story, from the genesis of your idea through execution of the time-tested elements of creating an entertaining work of fiction.

3. Publicity and Marketing 101 for New Authors, taught by Jessica Burkhart. Jessica will teach workshop participants how to market and publicize their book no matter if one is from a small house or a large one. With a minuscule to non-existent publicity budget, Jess was able to help her books sell over 1 million copies. Jess will begin with a brief introduction about why self-promotion and marketing are important. Then, she will detail how and when to begin putting together a marketing plan which includes a monthly to-do list as far as 18 months from publication. Jess will share the best tips and tricks she learned in her ten years promoting her books. The remaining workshop time will be dedicated to Q&A.

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. 18 Frequently Asked Questions About Publishing All Writers Should Know, taught by Brian Klems. Before you publish your work or query an agent (and after), there are plenty of things you need to know — such as how to submit to agents properly, what social media channels you should be on already, how to launch your book right, how to draft a compelling query/pitch and synopsis, how to land book blurbs, how to find other writers who can help you, and much more.

2. New Southern Writing, taught by Lorna Hollifield. You’ve probably heard of “New Southern” cuisine and its sweeping impact across The South. It basically pairs new modern twists or ethnic fusions with southern classics (think Asian-spiced biscuits on a bed of grits). The Southern Fiction literary climate in 2019 is a similar revolution. Readers love exploring this unique region, but in modern ways that aren’t necessarily riddled with “y’alls” and “fiddle dee-dees.” In this workshop you’ll learn how to bring the thick, cozy, downhome vibes that everyone loves about Dixie into cutting-edge political, social, multicultural, and currently relevant settings

3. How to Write and Sell Romance in Today’s Market (Hickory and Maple rooms combined), taught by Kim Law. The romance market is constantly changing, so how then, are you to know what and when to submit to editors and agents? In this workshop, you will learn not only what’s trending in the current marketplace, but how to research an agent/editor that best suits your needs, and the proper ways to approach them.


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.