2020 James River Writers Conference Schedule

 


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The James River Writers Conference is designed to help you reach your writing goals, whatever they may be. We have included a mix of sessions that cover both the business side of writing, as well as the craft. Tailor the conference offerings to your needs. While the conference add-ons (Agent One-on-Ones, Master Classes, and the ShopTalk Pass) need to be selected at the time of registration, you can decide which regular sessions to attend up until the day of the conference, just like you would if you were attending in person. Once you’ve registered, watch this website and your email inbox for more conference fun and details, as well as tools to help you make the most of your experience! Exact times are subject to change, but we will make every effort to keep the offerings the same for each day.

 

Friday, October 9, 2020 Pre-Conference Offerings

9:00 am–6:15 pm  Master Classes (Premium Add-On)

See schedule and pricing for Pre-Conference Master Classes HERE.  Please be prepared to make your Master Class choices when you register. You must register for these ahead of time to secure your spot.

4:30 pm–5:30 pm  Pre-Conference Networking Opportunities/Writers Den

4:30 pm – 5:00 pm Conference Newcomers If this is your first time attending a James River Writers Conference, this is an opportunity to ask questions about the conference and learn what to expect. James River Writers Staff members and volunteers will be there to help! Join us in the “Writers Den!”

5:30 – 6:00 pm Networking for All All Conference Registrants are welcome to drop in to the “Writers Den” to network with other writers. We will put people in breakout rooms to enable mixing and mingling in smaller groups, and allow attendees to meet like-minded people in the writing community.

Facilitated by: James River Writers Staff and Conference Committee Members


Conference Attendees are Invited to Join Us for Some FREE, Pre-Conference Fun on Friday Evening!!

7:00 pm–8:30 pm  Poetry Samplings – FREE

Join us as we invite poets to share their creative works!  

Featuring Poets Reshonda Tate Billingsley, Porsha Olayiwola, Terese Svoboda, and Ran Walker

MC: Wendy DeGroat


8:30 pm–9:30 pm  Bedtime Stories – FREE

Conference speakers and writers from the James River Writers Community will read excerpts from works that will inspire, provoke thought, or make you laugh! 

Featuring Rachel Beanland, Robin Farmer, Hank Phillippi Ryan

Hosts: Conference Chairs Sonia Johnston and Anne Marie Mahler


*Panels and panelists are subject to change due to occasional unforeseen circumstances.

Saturday, October 10, 2020 

8:15–8:45 am  Morning Musings – Writing Prompts | Networking in the Writers Den

  • Morning Musings – Writing Prompts

Need to get your creative juices flowing? Grab your pen and notebook, and join us for writing prompts that will help you get centered for the day. Brought to you by the wildly popular and well-revered instructors of Life in 10 Minutes.

Instructor:  Valley Haggard

  • Networking in the Writers Den

All Conference Registrants are welcome to drop in to the “Writers Den” to network with other writers. We will put people in breakout rooms to enable mixing and mingling in smaller groups, and allow attendees to meet like-minded people in the writing community.

Facilitators:  James River Writers Staff and Conference Committee Members


9:00–10:00 am  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • A Place in Time

    In historical fiction, time and place are often as important as character and plot. In this session, our panel of experts will share details on how they make important stories set in the past come alive and resonate with today’s readers.

    Panelists: Rachel Beanland, Lauren Francis-Sharma, Beverly Jenkins

    Moderator: Rebekah L. Pierce

  • Who’s Telling Your Story?

    Choosing the right point of view is essential for establishing a connection with your reader. In this panel, we’ll talk different POVs and the pros and cons of each one. We’ll also discuss tips for choosing the best character viewpoint for creating strong scenes and relationships.

    Panelists: Heather Bell Adams, Hank Phillippi Ryan , Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

    Moderator: Melissa Scott Sinclair

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 1

    • Entertainment Law with Joni Davis
    • Pitches with M.M. Finck
    • Author Websites with Nate Hoffelder
    • Writing for Kids and Teens with Lana Krumwiede
    • Accounting for Authors with David Robinson, CPA

10:15–11:15 am  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • When Truth is Stranger than Fiction

Poisoned drinking water in Flint, Michigan, or Tuesday lessons from a dying professor–we all know that real life can take us places that our imaginations can’t conceive. We’ll discuss how to turn fascinating events into memorable memoir and exciting nonfiction through finding your why,identifying your reader, staying true to your story, and figuring out how to put truth on the page.

Panelists: Marc Aronson, Heath Hardage Lee, Terese Svoboda

Moderator: Annette Marquis

  • Social Media Hacks

Social media, particularly video, is huge in our increasingly online communtiy, and for an author,figuring out what to do and how to do it can be overwhelming. In this session, our pros will help you focus on which platforms can be effective for you. Leave with tips on how to successfully and authentically engage your audience and build a loyal following.

Panelists: Sarah Glenn Marsh, Sharvette Mitchell, Eric Smith

Moderator: Kristi Tuck Austin

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 2

    • Be Your Book’s Best Publicist with Stacy Hawkins Adams
    • Setting as Character with Heather Bell Adams
    • Query Letters with Melissa Sinclair
    • Microfiction with Ran Walker
    • Psychoanalyze your Character with Helen Foster

11:30–12:30 pm  Keynote with Meg Medina and Linda Sue Park

Friends with Benefits: the Role of Community in a Vibrant Writing Life

Two literary luminaries discuss how friendships with other writers have influenced their personal writing journeys. Whether it’s hearing the inside scoop, learning writing shortcuts, or getting commiseration for this creative life, we need all the help we can get. Come hear about theimportance of support systems, and learn how to find or build one of your own.

Moderator: Patty Smith


12:30–1:30 pm  Lunch Break


1:30–2:30 pm  Intensives  |  Networking in the Writers Den

  • Cherise Fisher on Fiction

What makes a novel shoot straight to the top of the charts? Everything from marketing to style and most definitely timing. And while there is no direct formula to guarantee what the next bestseller will be, and authors may feel powerless when it comes to breaking that barrier, there are a few commonalities among top sellers. In this intensive, former publisher and current literary agent, Cherise Fisher, will conduct a case study of recent bestsellers lists and share what the novels that repeatedly show up as top sellers have in common in terms of character, plot, and pacing.

  • Kris Spisak on Editing

Yes, there can be a method to the editing madness. Having a revision strategy in place and clearly defined goals can bring your manuscript draft from average to awesome if you’re ready to put in the effort. Just like any other piece of the writing process, editing is a craft to be learned. So often the best of stories are held back not by the author’s creativity but by writers skipping the necessary steps that allow a project to become what they always envisioned it could be. In this workshop, attendees will learn how to rethink their editing processes, dividing it into three stages. All will walk away with:

    • Macro-editing goalposts and techniques
    • Micro-editing cheat-sheets and strategies
    • Proofreading tactics to put to use right away
    • And the knowledge that self-editing is an essential tool in every successful writer’s toolbelt
  • Networking in the Writers Den

All Conference Registrants are welcome to drop in to the “Writers Den” to network with other writers. We will put people in breakout rooms to enable mixing and mingling in smaller groups, and allow attendees to meet like-minded people in the writing community.

Facilitators:  James River Writers Staff and Conference Committee Members


2:45–3:45 pm  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • Let’s Talk About Sex

No one likes awkward sex. No one wants to read it, either. In this panel, we’ll talk love scenes vs. sex scenes, appropriate language for your audience, and just how much sex is really too much. Leave your inhibitions at the door. Our experts will tell you everything you need to craft a love scene that sizzles and advances the plot.

Panelists: Beverly Jenkins, A.M. Mahler, Saba Sulaiman

Moderator: Rebekah L. Pierce

  • High Stakes

Did you drop a body too soon? Need to raise the tension in your story? Want to keep readers flipping the pages into the early hours of the morning? Learn how to keep up the pace and raise the conflict in your work. This panel of master storytellers will discuss the tricks of the trade and how they keep their readers clamoring for more.

Panelists: Sarah Glenn Marsh, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Ran Walker

Moderator: Stacy Hawkins Adams

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 3

    • Publishing with Small and Uni Presses with Heather Bell Adams
    • Metadata with Kristi Tuck Austin
    • Action Scenes with Bill Blume
    • Envisioning Success: How To Successfully Launch a Writing Project with Lisa Ellison
    • Nonfiction Book Proposals with Maya Smart

4:00 pm–5:00 pm  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • From Page to Screen

Books being made into movies is one the hottest trends in publishing. Networks and streaming channels are scooping up books almost as soon as authors sign with publishers. In this panel, authors whose books went from the bookshelf to the screen will share writing, business tips, and insight on how they did it.

Panelists: ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Victoria Christopher Murray, Heath Hardage Lee

Moderator: Kirk Ellis

  • Presenting Your Poetry

Congratulations! You’ve finished your poem or poetry collection. Now what do you do? In this session, poets share how and where to perform your poetry, including on popular podcasts, and the many different routes to publication.

Panelists: Athena Dixon, Porsha Olayiwola, Terese Svoboda

Moderator: Wendy DeGroat

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 4

    • Fan Fiction with Jean Anderson
    • World Building with Bill Blume
    • Query Letters with M.M. Finck
    • First Draft Hacks with Lana Krumwiede
    • Podcasting with Sharvette Mitchell

5:15 pm–6:15 pm  Breakout Sessions

  • Balancing Act

Let’s face it, trying to find the balance between the real world while working towards your dream of writing and finishing your book can seem daunting. But it can be done! In this panel, authors who made it work will share productivity tips and tricks and offer practical solutions to help you make it to the finish line.

Panelists: Heather Bell Adams, Athena Dixon, Lisa Ellison

Moderator: Stacy Hawkins Adams

  • Author/Agent/Editor Relationships

Your agent and your editor are two of the most crucial relationships in a traditionally published author’s writing life. We’ll hear from two literary professionals who have worn many industry hats, including working together as author and editor. They’ll dish on what works and doesn’t work; author, agent, and editor expectations; and other tips for long-lasting and successful partnerships.

Panelists: Cherise Fisher, Victoria Christopher Murray

Moderator: Phil Hilliker


6:30 – 7:00 pm  Evening Break


7:00 pm–8:00 pm Author Wine Down: Women on Writing Women

Grab a glass of wine and join us for some after-conference fun. We’ll talk to some of our leading ladies on writing the complexities of women, their thoughts on women’s fiction, techniques used to tell their tales, and why every story doesn’t need a happy ending.

Participants: Victoria Christopher Murray, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Terese Svoboda, Hank Phillippi Ryan

MC: DaNika Robinson


Sunday, October 11, 2020 

8:15–8:45 am  Morning Musings – Writing Prompts | Networking in the Writers Den

  • Morning Musings – Writing Prompts

Need to get your creative juices flowing? Grab your pen and notebook, and join us for writing prompts that will help you get centered for the day. Brought to you by the wildly popular and well-revered instructors of Life in 10 Minutes.

Instructor:  Paula Michelle Gillison

  • Networking in the Writers Den

All Conference Registrants are welcome to drop in to the “Writers Den” to network with other writers. We will put people in breakout rooms to enable mixing and mingling in smaller groups, and allow attendees to meet like-minded people in the writing community.

Facilitators:  James River Writers Staff and Conference Committee Members


9:00–10:00 am  First Pages

The First Pages Critique has become one of the conference’s best-loved sessions. Agents and editors are swamped with submissions. How can your writing get their attention? Pre-selected first pages will be read aloud anonymously, and our experts will give on the spot feedback. Does the action start too early? Can the reader tell what genre or time period they’re in on page one? Find out what a good hook looks like and common errors to avoid.

More on submitting your First Page HERE.

Panelists: Lauren Bieker, Cherise Fisher, Katharine Sands

Moderator: Bill Blume


10:15–11:15 am  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • The Non-Fiction Proposal

Everyone has a great idea for a nonfiction book, but can you sell it? Not only do you need to have an interesting and relevant topic, but you also need a marketable one. Where do you start, and how do you move forward? Our experts will guide you through the process of knocking your nonfiction proposal out of the park!

Panelists: Marc Aronson, Karen A. Chase, Katharine Sands

Moderator: Kristen Green

  • The Importance of Representation

Readers need to see stories of people that look, act, and think like them. In this panel, we’ll talk to authors about the need for inclusivity and why public perception matters. We’ll also gain insight on their experiences in the publishing world and what needs to happen for effective change.

Panelists: Athena Dixon, Cherise Fisher, Porsha Olayiwola, Eric Smith

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 5

    • NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) with Jean Anderson
    • DocuPoetry with Wendy DeGroat
    • Pitches with M.M. Finck
    • Freelance Writing with Melissa Sinclair
    • How to Write Your Bio Blurb with Katharine Herndon

11:30 am–12:30 pm  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • Digging Deep for Emotion

As authors, you want your readers to connect as they read. In this panel, we’ll discuss how writers can use imagery, description, and word choices (the elusive show-don’t tell) to elicit emotion and empathy from their readers. We’ll also talk about why taking a deep dive into your character’s backstory and pulling from your own experiences help to improve your story.

Panelists: Heather Bell Adams, Rachel Beanland, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, Terese Svoboda

Moderator: Terry Menefee Gau

  • The Book Entrepreneur

Did you know that most indie authors spend more time on their book business than writing? How do you get seen? Should you form a company? How active on social media should you be? Is the indie writing life right for you? Our panel, including both indie authors and a publishing consultant, will pull back the curtain and show you what you need to know to be a successful book entrepreneur.

Panelists: April Eberhardt, Sharvette Mitchell, Ran Walker

Moderator: Kris Spisak

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 6

    • Book Cover Design with Phillip Hilliker
    • Memoir with Annette Marquis
    • Strategies for Getting Your Story on the Page with Rebekah Pierce
    • Author/Agent Relationship with Katarina Spears
    • Fiction vs. Nonfiction with Kristen Green and Melissa Scott Sinclair

12:45–2:15 pm  The Agent Dating Game

Grab Lunch and Join us for the Agent Dating Game

Conference attendees will be chosen at random (we will tell you how you can put your name in the mix later!) to participate in this conference favorite. Our agent will ask each selected writer a question (for instance, “What would be your main character’s idea of a perfect date?” or “What does your protagonist want most of all?”) After a few follow-up questions, our “MC” will encourage the agent to select a winner based on their answers. Winners of each round will have their proposal and first chapter read (nonfiction), or their synopsis and three chapters read (fiction). The audience will gain insight into the thinking of agents. And, who knows–one of our own dates just might find the perfect relationship!

Panelists: Lauren Bieker, Michael Carr, April Eberhardt, Eric Smith, Saba Sulaiman

MC: Brian Rock


2:30–3:30 pm  Breakout Sessions | ShopTalk

  • Compelling Dialogue

Dialogue is tricky. Are you straying true to the period of time you’re writing? You have a shy character, but is she swearing too much? Are your characters even talking about something interesting? Don’t lose your readers to bad dialogue. Our experts will give you tips on using effective and interesting dialogue to move your story forward and keep your readers invested.

Panelists: ReShonda Tate Billingsley, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Moderator: Bill Blume

  • Advocating for Young Readers

Children watch and learn. They also read and absorb. In this panel, we’ll hear from authors who push boundaries so that children and young adults have a safe space to learn about bias, health issues, trauma, and more. These authors are often asked “Why do you write for kids?” Come find out the answer.

Panelists: Sarah Glenn Marsh, Meg Medina, Linda Sue Park

Moderator: Robin Farmer

  • ShopTalk Options – Session 7

    • Surviving the Messy Middle with Lisa Ellison
    • Query Letters with M.M. Finck
    • Building a Platform Before the Sale with Katarina Spears
    • Researching and Getting it Right with Terese Svoboda
    • Nonfiction for Kids with Marc Aronson

3:45–4:45 pm  Intensives | Breakout Session/Panel

  • INTENSIVE Porsha Olayiwola on Poetry — Portrait, Persona, and Narratives

An introductory writing workshop using the works of Ross Gay, Patricia Smith, and Nate Marshall to explore poetic form and technique through three distinct styles. This is a great resource for folks who identify as writers or are looking for an introduction to poetry.

  • INTENSIVE Athena Dixon on Essays —Writing Your Point

Personal essays are as unique as the individual writer. However, there are a few best practices and tips to consider. In this session, Athena Dixon (whose work was featured in the launch of Roxanne Gay’s “Gay Magazine”) gives practical advice on the art of crafting personal essays. Participants will come away with tools to help them identify their core ideas, develop the means of telling the story, and how to best keep readers hooked for the duration.

  • PANEL Structural Integrity

It doesn’t matter if you’re outlining or winging it, the ultimate structure of your work influences the pacing, the character arc, and your reader’s engagement. Whether it’s three-act structure or a hero’s journey, or another approach entirely, our authors can give you real tips and takeaways that could help your book become the next bestseller.

Panelists: Karen A. Chase, Lauren Frances-Sharma, Ran Walker

Moderator: Shawna Christos


4:45–5:30 pm  Sunday Send Off – Relax, Relate, Release | Presentation of Emyl Jenkins Award

We’re living in turbulent times and sometimes, as authors, we can’t always find the words to express ourselves, nor do we want to. As we end our conference, we’ll talk to authors, an agent, and a writing coach on how to silence the noise, find the courage to reset, and the inspiration to continue your writing journey.

Participants: Michael Carr, Lisa Ellison, Victoria Christopher Murray

Moderator: Sadeqa Johnson