2018 Schedule

Scroll down for information on plenaries, intensives, and panels for Saturday and Sunday.  To sponsor any of our sessions, contact Katharine Herndon at execdirector(at) jamesriverwriters.org. Schedule, description, and speakers are subject to change.

Follow a track
The James River Writers conference is designed to help you reach your writing goals, whatever they may be. To assist you in choosing from a variety of sessions, we’ve grouped them into tracks. You may want to follow a certain track throughout the conference to get an in-depth look at one aspect of writing. Or you might choose a few panels from each track to get a well-rounded experience. Then again, feel free to ignore the tracks altogether and follow your favorite speakers. As always, you select the sessions that are most relevant to your circumstances.

This year’s tracks are Methods of Storytelling, The Business of Writing, Elevating Your Voice & Craft, and 21st Century Self-care.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

8:45 - 9:15 Welcome

9:30 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. Breakout Sessions

Writing Across Genres and Mediums
Speakers: Melanie Bishop, Clay McLeod Chapman, Sona Charaipotra, Pamela Samuels Young
Moderator: Douglas Jones
Room: E10A-B
Track: Methods of Storytelling
From short stories to screenwriting, this panel offers a primer on the techniques, tools, and discipline needed to be successful with different forms of writing, in case you don’t want to write just one.

Publishing Poetry
Speakers: Tyree Daye, Meg Kearney, Pavana Reddy
Moderator: Wendy DeGroat
Room: E10C
Track: The Business of Writing
Getting your poetry out in the world is a different process than publishing other forms of writing. Learn how to find the best markets, what makes houses that publish poetry unique, and what you can do to find your poetry an audience.

Don’t Trip over the Tropes
Speakers: Xhenet Aliu, David Coogan, Lamar Giles, Alex Gino
Moderator: Michael Paul Williams
Room: E11A
Track: Elevating Your Voice & Craft
People are complex and don’t always fit into a convenient word package. Get tips on avoiding the stereotypes, defying expectations, and crafting narratives that reflect people, not archetypes.

Bouncing Back from Rejection
Speakers: Rashida Gray, Leah Henderson, Lana Krumwiede, Rebecca Scherer
Moderator: Melissa Scott Sinclair
Room: E11C
Track: 21st Century Self-care
Learn methods for coping with rejection and self-sabotage, including dealing with procrastination, fear, and self-loathing.

10:45 a.m. - 11:45 a.m. Breakout Sessions

Think Like a Word-Entrepreneur
Speakers: Sona Charaipotra, Pavana Reddy, Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Moderator: Erica Orloff
Room: E10A-B
Track: The Business of Writing
The world of freelance writing and independent journalism is competitive these days, but writers can make healthy earnings with the right mindset and business practices. Learn how.

Stop Shortchanging Short Stories
Speakers: Melanie Bishop, Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Virginia Pye
Moderator: Kristin Swenson
Room: E10C
Track: Methods of Storytelling
Have you heard of the New Yorker story “Cat Person” and the seven-figure deal the author landed? This panel explores why short stories matter, what writing them can do for emerging and established writers, and where to send them.

The Art of Revision
Speakers: Alex Gino, Victoria Christopher Murray, Latoya Smith
Moderator: Patty Smith
Room: E11A
Track: Elevating Your Voice & Craft
Rewriting is the heart of the creative process. How do you ensure that your final literary product–short story, poem, novel, essay, or screenplay–exhibits your best thought, best feeling, and best technique? How do you balance cutting words and adding layers? How many drafts are needed?

How to Create and Heighten Suspense
Speakers: Lamar Giles, Rebecca Scherer, Steven Smith, Pamela Samuels Young
Moderator: Bill Blume
Room: E11C
Track: Methods of Storytelling
Learn how to keep readers on edge with panelists who will share tips on creating impending danger and escalating tension for characters readers care about. Effective elements of suspense writing include infusing desire, apprehension, anxiety, countdowns, phobias, and threats into the story.

11:45 - 12:45 p.m. Buffet Lunch

12:45 - 1:45 Intensives

NEW THIS YEAR: Hands-on workshops focused on actionable items and concrete takeaways. Leave with inspiration and new skills. CHOOSE ONE OF THREE!

Book Reviewing Basics with Kristina Wright

Room: E10C
You love to read and talk about books. Maybe you run a book club or have a book blog. Or maybe you’re a writer who wants to pick up a book reviewing gig or an academic who has spent years studying a particular genre. Are books in your blood? Have you ever wondered how to break into book reviewing? Are you interested in getting free books, seeing your book reviews published and even getting paid to write book reviews?

Attendees will leave with:

  • An overview of book reviewing opportunities and other writing jobs related to books
  • Practical tips for becoming a book reviewer
  • Tips on reaching out to authors and publishers for review copies
  • A list of possible markets for book reviews
  • Insight on how writing book reviews can help your writing career

Editing Tips and Tricks with Kris Spisak

Room: E11A
You want your work in top shape before sharing with others, but how do you effectively self-edit something you’ve read a hundred times? What are some tricks to check your work for errors, whether that’s in big-picture content or inline edits? How do you incorporate suggestions from others without losing your message or voice?

Attendees will leave with:

  • A checklist of commonly overused words
  • Dialogue, description, and pacing reminders to elevate your story
  • A few punctuation rules everyone can master
  • And practical tips for tricking your brain into seeing your work with new eyes.

Strategies for Successful Public Readings with Iman Shabazz

Room: E11C
Do you get in your own way when reading your work to an audience?  Have you ever mumbled, stumbled or raced across the page? It’s not just you. Writers often fail to do justice to their books, poems, essays and other forms of prose at public readings. Effective readings demand practice. Whether it’s a work in progress or a published piece, holding the audience’s attention requires preparation. This session will share techniques and presentation tips to engage your audience and honor your work during public readings.

*Bring a page to practice and read for critique.

Attendees will leave this intensive with tools for:

  • Reading with authenticity: transforming your words from text to voice
  • Practical tips to transform anxiety into fuel to tell your story
  • How to use facial expressions and gestures to communicate
  • The importance of pacing and vocal variety
  • Understanding emotional value and its appropriate placement within your text

2:00 - 3:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions

You Have a Book Contract, Now What?
Speakers: Jessica Felleman, Lana Krumwiede, Chad Luibl
Moderator: Kristi Tuck Austin
Room: E10A-B
Track: The Business of Writing
Your work doesn’t end with your signature on that book contract. Next up, working with an editor, creating a marketing plan, and building your platform. Get your questions answered on how to navigate the challenges ahead.

Manipulating Time: Using Young Adult Novels as a Template
Speakers: Sona Charaipotra, Lamar Giles, Meg Kearney
Moderator: A. B. Westrick
Room: E10C
Track: Methods of Storytelling
Pacing is a defining element in YA. Young readers have no patience for long descriptive passages, and many adults have gravitated toward YA because of the high-quality storytelling. How do you pick up the pace of a story? Is there ever value to slowing down? How do you get this ingredient just right?

From the Page to the Screen
Speakers: Clay McLeod Chapman, Rebekah L. Pierce, Laurie Gwen Shapiro, Brian Weakland
Moderator: Kristin Swenson
Room: E11A
Track: Elevating Your Voice & Craft
Many authors dream of seeing their stories on the screen. But the road to a film or Netflix series is often long and complex. Get tips and tools for the journey from award-winning writers.

Strategies for Managing Beta Readers
Speakers: David Coogan, Leah Henderson, Virginia Pye
Moderator: Shawna Christos
Room: E11C
Track: 21st Century Self-care
From tapping readers with specific expertise or sensitivity to knowing which feedback to incorporate, learn how to get what you need from the readers you trust with your drafts.

3:15 p.m. - 3:30 p.m. Plenary Session

Announcement & Presentation of the Emyl Jenkins Award
Room: E10A-B

3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Plenary Session

A Conversation with Melissa Febos
Sponsored by EmotionallyNaked.com
Speakers: Melissa Febos, Roben Farzad
Room: E10A-B
Melissa Febos, author of Abandon Me and Whip Smart, discusses her writing journey and her lessons learned along the way with NPR host Roben Farzad.

5:30 to 6:45 p.m. Abuzz with Poetry

A Showcase of Poets from the James River Writers Conference
Speakers: Pavana Reddy, Meg Kearney, Tyree Daye, Wendy DeGroat
Location: Blue Bee Cider, in historic Scott’s Addition, 1320 Summit Ave, Richmond, VA 23230
Grab a glass of cider, pick up dinner from LowCo Low Country Cuisine food truck, and listen to a range of engaging poets read their work.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

8:45 - 9:00 Opening Ceremonies

9:00 a.m. - 10:00 a.m. Plenary Session

First Pages
Speakers: Melanie Bishop, Moe Ferrara, Dara Kaye, Latoya Smith
Moderator: Bill Blume
Readers: TBA
Room: E10A-B
Three agents and one editor across a broad spectrum of publishing listen to and critique first pages, read on the spot so the audience can hear their initial reactions. First pages should grab and not let go. Listen to the insights and gentle criticism from the experts. Will someone be “discovered” this year? (To submit your first page for consideration, see this page.)

10:15 - 11:15 a.m. Breakout Sessions

Publishing Trends
Sponsored by Tuck Austin Associates
Speakers: Sona Charaipotra, Beth Phelan, Victoria Christopher Murray
Moderator: Shawna Christos
Room: E10A-B
Track: The Business of Writing
You may have heard the advice to never chase a trend, but how do you find out what’s hot and what’s not? Learn what our publishing experts have on their radars.

Writing Young: Capturing the Middle Grade Voice
Sponsored by Meg Medina and Maya Smart
Speakers: Clay McLeod Chapman, Alex Gino, Leah Henderson, Steven Smith
Moderator: Melissa Scott Sinclair
Room: E10C
Track: Methods of Storytelling, Elevating Your Voice & Craft
Middle Grade novels are usually aimed at children ages eight to twelve. But there’s a big difference in an eight-year-old and a twelve-year-old. How does a writer (who’s older than their demographic) craft a compelling and authentic voice for that age range and stay true to their audience?

Writing the Unfamiliar
Speakers: Lamar Giles, Virginia Pye, Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Moderator: Patty Smith
Room: E11A
Track: Elevating Your Voice & Craft
We’ve all heard “write what you know,” but what if you want to write about a time or place you’ve never experienced? How do you find and employ the right details to infuse your work with authenticity and make it come alive?

Replenishing Your Creativity Tool Kit
Speakers: Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Moe Ferrara, Pavana Reddy
Moderator: Kris Spisak
Room: E11C
Track: 21st Century Self-care
As a writer you should aim to always have a new project underway. Learn inspirational and practical tips to foster creative breakthroughs as well as ways to relax and defeat writer’s block. Acquire tools to check work for flow, logic, and typos.

11:15 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. Lunch & Agent Dating Game

The Agent Dating Game

Agent Dating Game begins at 11:45 a.m.

Have you ever heard of the goofy 70s game show where a bachelor or bachelorette was matched with one of three mystery dates? Well, we’ve brought back the popular James River Writers version for a third year!

Here’s how it works . . .

Some time between Saturday morning and Sunday at 10:00 AM, you can drop your name in a bowl, indicating your willingness to participate in The Agent Dating Game and selecting which category best describes your current work. Categories will include Nonfiction, Young Adult/Middle Grade, Mystery/Crime/Suspense, Women’s Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction, and Horror. (We’ll do our best to get to all categories, but no guarantees!)

Now the fun begins. An agent will take a chair, and our MC will then select three names from the bowl. If your name is called, take a seat in one of the mystery date chairs.

Our agent will ask each 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?”) The three writers will then be given the chance to respond. After a few follow-up questions, our MC will encourage the agent to select a winner. 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 insights into the thinking of agents—and who knows? One of our own dates just might find the perfect relationship.

Don’t miss it!

MC: Brian Rock

Agents participating: Jessica Felleman, Moe Ferrara, Dara Kaye, Chad Luibl, and Rebecca Scherer
Room: E10A-B

1:00 p.m. - 2:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions

The Self-publishing Journey
Speakers:  Pavana Reddy, Steven Smith, Pamela Samuels Young
Moderator: Kristi Tuck Austin
Room: E10A-B
Track: The Business of Writing
There are many pieces to put in place if you want to experience self-publishing success. These experts can help make the journey go more smoothly.

Essay-writing Essentials
Speakers: Xhenet Aliu, Melissa Febos, Laurie Gwen Shapiro
Moderator: Ellen Brown
Room: E10C
Tracks: Methods of Storytelling
Essays capture human experience and help us connect with our communities. How do you boil big human emotions down into a small space, and just how much of it has to be true?

But Is it Funny? How to Infuse Humor
Speakers: Clay McLeod Chapman, Alex Gino, Beth Phelan
Moderator: Kris Spisak
Room: E11A
Track: Elevating Your Voice & Craft
Effective humor eases tension, surprises readers, and humanizes characters. You don’t need to be a comedian to make people laugh. Learn how to incorporate humor into your writing.

Coping with Deadline Hell
Speakers: Melanie Bishop, Tyree Daye, Virginia Pye
Moderator: Michael Paul Williams
Room: E11C
Track: 21st Century Self-care
Looming deadlines can make your anxiety feel like it is on steroids. Mistakes easily occur when time is running out. Learn techniques, tips, and the essential checklists to review before hitting send.

2:15 - 3:15 p.m. Breakout Sessions

Memorable Memoir
Speakers: David Coogan, Melissa Febos, Jessica Felleman
Moderator: Annette Marquis
Room: E10A-B
Track: Methods of Storytelling
What makes memoir compelling enough to find an audience in the wider world? How do you balance the relating of facts with vivid story-telling? How can you write your truth when other people might get hurt? Our panelists weigh in on these and other elements that make memoir appeal to readers.

Protect Your Rights
Speakers: Ashley Brooks, Lina Maria Ferreira Cabeza-Vanegas, Dara Kaye
Moderator: Erica Orloff
Room: E10C
Track: The Business of Writing
What do you need to know before you sign a book contract? How are foreign rights or rights for translations different? What do you need to know to protect yourself and treat your writing like the business it is?

What Makes a Story Timeless? Emotional Truth
Sponsored by Robert Sexton in Loving Memory of Emyl Jenkins
Speakers: Xhenet Aliu, Meg Kearney, Chad Luibl
Moderator: Douglas Jones
Room: E11A
Track: Elevating Your Voice & Craft
The greatest works of literature share an emotional truth that transcends the era in which they were written. Explore how to capture the human experience–in all its raw, messy honesty–on the page.

First Drafts: The Secret Sauce
Speakers: Lana Krumwiede, Victoria Christopher Murray, Pamela Samuels Young
Moderator: A. B. Westrick
Room: E11C
Track: 21st Century Self-care
How do you write a first draft? You work on it until it’s finished. Panelists will share mind hacks, games, and tricks of the trade to get you there as quickly and painlessly as possible.

3:30 p.m. - 4:30 p.m. Intensives

NEW THIS YEAR: Hands-on workshops focused on actionable items and concrete takeaways. Leave with inspiration and new skills. CHOOSE ONE OF THREE!

Mood and Tone in the Short Story with Melanie Bishop

Room: E10C
This class will utilize exercises to help writers attend to the often-neglected aspects of craft: mood and tone. How does the mood or mindset of a point-of-view character shape your story and color its ending? What is your attitude toward the material you are writing? What effect do you want this story to have on a reader? Do you want your reader laughing at the end of the story, or frightened, or heartbroken?  Exercises help participants to understand the difference between tone and mood, and to utilize both subtly and effectively.

In this intensive, you will leave knowing:

  • The difference between tone and mood in fiction
  • How to use tone and mood to affect your reader
  • How to write killer endings by using character’s mood
  • How to transform dramatic material to comedic and vice versa

Beyond Google: Web Treasures for Writers with Wendy DeGroat

Room: E11A
Do you need to establish a credible setting for your narrative or tune your characters’ dialogue to the language of an era? Would you like to enrich your writing with fresh metaphors related to a specific place or time? This class will leave you energized about the potential of lesser-known online resources to inform your work (or spark new work) and give you tips for making the most of these treasures.

Attendees will leave with:

  • A curated list of lesser-known online resources to support your writing
  • Insider search tips applicable across many different library and archive sites
  • Strategies for using finding aids and other tools to improve your research
  • Guidelines for ethical use of archival material

It’s Alive!: Bringing Your Characters to Life with Bill Blume

Room: E11C
Find out what it takes to create characters that readers want to journey with. You’ll learn why some characters never rise above a cliche and how to keep them active throughout your story. Author Bill Blume will show how he built the cast for his “Gidion Keep, Vampire Hunter” series, what he’s gotten right (and wrong) and how to use it to improve your stories.

Attendees will leave with:

  • A better idea of why some characters fall flat
  • How to use characters in a way that increases the tension in your story
  • Common mistakes when building a supporting cast
  • The warning signs a character doesn’t need to be in your story

4:35 pm to 4:50 pm Conference Closing

Join us for your chance to win a free ticket to the 2019 conference! You must be present to win.