This year we’ll be sharing a portion of our conference with all of Richmond—and sharing Richmond with our conference goers. Saturday, October 18, afternoon and evening hours are set aside for some of our speakers to give open presentations at various RVA locations.

This program is sponsored by the Virginia Foundation for the Humanities.


RVA ♥ Writers will include free presentations from

Kwame Alexander, T. R. Simon, and Stacy Whitman on Multicultural Books: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Literature.  At Art180, 114 West Marshall St – 4:00 p.m.

Bruce Holsinger, Sarah MacLean, and Kelly O’Connor McNees on Taking Liberties: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Historical Fiction. VCU Globe Building, 817 West Franklin St – 4:00 p.m.

Hugh Howey on Rapid Fire: Self-Publishing and the Changing Climate for Writers and Readers. UR Downtown. 626 east Broad St – 4:00 p.m.

Brian Jay Jones on Not Just Muppets: Jim Henson’s Cultural Influence. St. Christopher’s School, 711 St. Christophers Rd, in the Playhouse Auditorium located in the Luck Leadership Center – 5:30 p.m.

No registration is required for these events and all RVA Loves Writers events are free and open to the public, so bring friends and family.

Please see below for additional information on these fun and informative panels.

Multicultural Books: The Importance of Diversity in Children’s Literature
4:00 p.m. at Art 180
1114 West Marshall Street

This panel will continue the conversation begun on Tumblr and Twitter this spring by the We Need Diverse Books grassroots organization, created to address the lack of diverse, non-majority narratives in children’s literature. Topics will include the changing culture of children’s books and the richness all readers can experience when books have diversity and depth. Questions for the panel will include: What are the statistics supporting the dearth of diverse literature? What are the benefits of children seeing themselves in books? What benefits are there to reading diverse books?

Panelists include Kwame Alexander, T. R. Simon, and Stacy Whitman. Stacy Whitman, founder of a small press dedicated to publishing multi-cultural books has been a member of the We Need Diverse Books movement since its beginning and can directly address these questions. With an M.A. in cultural anthropology and experience teaching classes on writing for children, author T. R. Simon (Tanya McKinnon) will lend a unique perspective to the panel discussion. Kwame Alexander, a recognized literary expert, author, poet, and commentator, as well as an advisor for LitWorld, will round out the panel’s expertise. For additional information on each speaker, please see the biographical information page.

Kwame Alexander

Kwame Alexander

Tanya McKinnon

Tanya McKinnon

Stacy Whitman

Stacy Whitman








Taking Liberties: The Pleasures and Pitfalls of Historical Fiction
4:00 p.m. at the VCU Globe Building
817 West Franklin Street, Room 1030J

This panel will discuss broad aspects of historical fiction, including the research required for verisimilitude, the secrets behind its popularity, and how authors create the feel of “being there” without the luxury of actually “being there.” Questions for the panel will include: What is the role of story in historical fiction? How important is it to stay true to the facts? How do writers make historical characters real and three-dimensional for their readers?

Panelists include Bruce Holsinger, Sarah MacLean, and Kelly O’Connor McNees. As the author of six award-winning nonfiction books and a debut novel set in medieval London, literary scholar Bruce Holsinger can speak to both the fact and the fiction of historical fiction. Historical romance writer Sarah MacLean will contribute a different point of view to the panel and can speak to the cultural significance of the romance genre, particularly addressing whether or not historical accuracy is equally important in all types of historical fiction. Kelly O’Connor McNees, winner of the 2012 Willa Award, given annually for outstanding literature featuring women’s stories set in the West, will add her expertise on setting and character to the discussion. For additional information on each speaker, please see the biographical information page.

Bruce Holsinger

Bruce Holsinger

Sarah MacLean

Sarah MacLean

Kelly O'Connor McNees

Kelly O’Connor McNees









Rapid Fire: Self-publishing and the Changing Climate for Writers and Readers
4:00 p.m. at UR Downtown
626 east Broad Street

This talk by Hugh Howey will focus on the many ways the publishing industry is changing and discuss the significance of those changes for writers who want to self-publish and for readers who want to take advantage of the wide range of literature available. Howey has been a vocal participant in the recent, much-publicized feud between Amazon and Hachette and will be able to address questions about how this type of business stand-off affects readers and writers.

Hugh Howey is the New York Times best-selling author of the Wool series, which became a sudden success in the fall of 2011. Originally just a novelette, the demand from Amazon reviewers sent Howey scurrying to write more tales in this subterranean world. The resulting Omnibus has spent considerable time in the Amazon top 100, has been a number one bestseller in Science Fiction on Amazon, and was optioned by Ridley Scott and Steve Zaillian for a potential feature film.

The story of its success has been mentioned in Entertainment Weekly, Variety, and Deadline Hollywood among many others. In 2012, Howey signed a deal with Simon and Schuster to distribute Wool to book retailers across the US and Canada. The deal allowed Howey to continue to sell the book online exclusively. He notably turned down seven figure offers in favor of a mid-six figure sum, in return for maintaining e-book rights.

Howey remains an advocate for writers’ rights and for the opportunities inherent in self-publishing. He is frequently consulted on the changes in the book industry, particularly the opportunities available outside traditional publishing. He was the keynote speaker at the PubSmart Conference in April 2014 and has been featured at numerous other conferences, including Book Expo America and the Virginia Festival of the Book.

Author Hugh Howey

Hugh Howey








Not Just Muppets: Jim Henson’s Cultural Influence
5:30 p.m. at St. Christopher’s School
711 St. Christophers Road, in the Playhouse Auditorium located in the Luck Leadership Center

Brian Jay Jones is the author of the only Jim Henson biography, written with the cooperation of his family, his company, and his colleagues. Enjoy an evening celebrating Jim Henson, including behind-the-scenes stories and footage of rarely seen projects.  Jones enthusiastically describes his presentation: “People will hear about projects they may never have heard of before: Jim’s short Academy Award nominated, non-Muppet film from 1965. His desire to open a psychedelic nightclub. His inspiration for Mahna Mahna. His short films for Sesame Street, his early days on variety shows, and his shocking coffee commercials. Jim’s SO much more than Muppets, and I’ll talk about (and show) clips from his experimental, Twilight Zoney (and non-Muppets) specials from the 1960s, clips from The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth . . . and even a heartbreaking bit of film of Muppet performers singing and crying through his memorial service.  While it’s more than Muppets, it will still appeal to all-ages.”

Brian Jay Jones, New York Times best-selling biographer, spent nearly two decades in politics before turning to biography in 2007. A self-proclaimed “pop culture junkie,” he has written two award-winning biographies, Jim Henson: The Biography (Ballantine, 2013), the first comprehensive biography of the iconic creator of the Muppets, and Washington Irving (Arcade, 2008). He currently serves as President of Biographers International Organization.

Brian Jay Jones

Brian Jay Jones








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