Annual Writers Conference - Christopher Newport University Annual Writers Conference - Christopher Newport University
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39th Annual Writers Conference


It is with deep regret that we are informing you of the cancellation of the Writers Conference. The decision to cancel was based on the latest scientific data as well as cautions from federal and state authorities about travel and large gatherings. We recognize that the timing of this decision has significantly inconvenienced many of you. However, this decision was made out of concern for the health and well-being of our participants, staff and the University community.

If you registered for this conference, a refund will be issued to you automatically. Please contact the office of Christopher Newport University's LifeLong Learning Society at (757) 269-4368 if you have any questions.


Friday, May 15

Schedule of events
4:30-5:30 p.m. Registration - Publisher's Night Freeman Center
5:30-6 p.m. Welcome and opening words Gaines Theatre
6-7 p.m. Keynote: Balancing the Art and Business of Writing

Novelist Michele Young-Stone will speak on finding a balance between the art and business of writing. Publishing commercially isn’t for everyone. For some of us, it’s enough to write and share our work at a local level: in small groups, online, through self-publishing. Writing, in and of itself, is an act of bravery, and for some, the rejection that comes with attempting to publish commercially is too much. We’re artists. We’re sensitive souls. What are we willing to sacrifice artistically and of ourselves to see our words and worlds in print? Speaking from personal experience, Young- Stone will discuss both sides of this coin, the pros and cons of putting your work out there, of coping with rejection and moving forward.

Michele Young-Stone

Gaines Theatre
7-8 p.m. Book sales and meet with publishers Freeman Center
7-8 p.m. Dinner

Optional boxed dinners available for pickup.

Freeman Center Second Floor
8-9:15 p.m. Evening Workshops

Write a Collaborative Novel This Weekend – Fabrice Guerrier and David Russell,
Why Every Writer Should Write a Play – Jean Klein, Blue Moon Plays
Preparing for Publishers – David Hancock, Morgan James Publishing

Descriptions below.

Freeman Center

Saturday, May 16

Schedule of events
8:15-8:45 a.m. Registration, coffee and continental breakfast Freeman Center
8:45-9 a.m. Welcome and day's agenda

Michael Farmer

Freeman Center
9-10:20 a.m. Morning Workshops

Plotting and Techniques to Create and Maintain Suspense in Your Novel – David Perry
Crafting Complex Characters – Michele Young-Stone
Writing for Magazines – Bill Glose

Descriptions below.

Freeman Center
10:30-11:30 a.m. Keynote: Echoes and Images: Working in Multiple Genres

This presentation will explore the idea of experimenting with your writing material across multiple genres in various ways in order to discover and develop source material to its fullest potential. The author will share examples from her own writing where source material is presented in fiction, poetry and songs.

Rita Sims Quillen

Gaines Theatre
11:30 a.m.-12:45 p.m. Lunch and book sales Freeman Center Second Floor
1-2:20 p.m. Early Afternoon Workshops

Panel: From Manuscript to Market – Mary Batten, Moderator; Sarah Gerton, Children's and YA Agent; Melissa Warten, Children's Editor; Jean Klein, Adult Editor and Publisher; Bibi Lewis, Adult and Children's Agent
Writing Nonfiction History – Nancy Sheppard
Plotting and Techniques to Create and Maintain Suspense in Your Novel – David Perry

Descriptions below.

Freeman Center
2:30-3:50 p.m. Late Afternoon Workshops

Finders Keepers: The Art of Found Poetry – Kindra McDonald
Talk Back to Art: A Creative Writing Workshop – Lisa Beech Hartz
Confessions of a Book Reviewer – Bill Glose

Descriptions below.

Freeman Center
4-5 p.m. Open mic

Terry Cox-Joseph

Gaines Theatre
5 p.m. Announcement of contest winners and closing words

Terry Cox-Joseph

Gaines Theatre


Fabrice Guerrier and David Russell

Share the magic of writing with others by creating a unique fictional universe together and publish the work. The story will be rooted in specific ideas and issues you care about. At Syllble, we believe that the collaboration of writers will change the future. We want to share this unique experience of our literary community with you. Learn and collaborate with others you have never met and put your writing skills and creative mind to the test. It goes as follows: we will design the universe together, then create a three act plot and you will write three short stories for each of those acts, working with your teammates so the stories come alive. This collaborative workshop will be led by the co-founders of Syllble, and will include many guest speakers from our independent publishing press.

Jean Klein

Fiction writers and many poets have a lot to learn from playwriting. Playwrights have to make exciting things happen right in front of their audiences. A lack of clarity or forward motion will send their audiences home at intermission, while a reader in an easy chair might well skim a boring page or two. Audiences can't reread for clarity. We have to make sure that the audience understands every word as it is said and why it is said. Every word counts. We learn quickly what action or forward action really means or we play to empty chairs. Dialogue has to be sharp, clear and pertinent. It has to delineate character, move plot and maintain interest, and we learn techniques to show not tell. Learning to write a play teaches plot, dialogue, characterization and language efficiency in a way no other discipline does. How do I know? My former grad students who go on to write novels tell me so.

David Hancock

Three kinds of publishing for your book, and what to expect from each kind of publisher. What should you, as the author, bring to the table that interests publishers? What can you expect to happen to your work with each kind of publisher? How to stand your ground and when to not, so that you get what you want: your book published and your book your way.

David Perry

"What happens next?" That question is the key to successful novel writing. If you can make your readers ask that question from the first sentence and sustain it through the climax and denouement, you will have succeeded in drawing your readers in and entertaining them to the very end. In this 75-minute presentation, Perry will outline techniques crucial to maintaining suspense and conflict in your plot. He will discuss the six crucial elements of successful plotting and suspense building applicable to all genres. Want to know more? We'll see you in the lecture hall...

Michelle Young-Stone

In this workshop, we'll spend time discussing how to craft complex protagonists, tackling the important questions: what does the main character want? What's keeping her from getting it? Why does she want it? What misconceptions or misbeliefs does our character have? In this generative workshop, we'll write our protagonist's backstory, enabling us to write forward in our stories/novels. Once you understand your main character, her motives and misbeliefs, it's much easier to understand the rest of the story, the scenes you'll need to write to make the character and story important to the reader.

Bill Glose

In this workshop, Bill Glose shares his own roadmap to successful publication to show how to break in at magazines and keep landing assignments after you've kicked the door down. You will learn the basics of querying, editorial timelines and relationships, and the art of narrative nonfiction as it applies to both essays and articles.

Mary Batten, Sarah Gerton, Melissa Warten, Jean Klein

You've written your book and want to see it in print. These professionals will discuss the role of editors and agents in the submission and publication process.

Nancy Sheppard

Throughout this seminar, award-winning nonfiction author, historian and lecturer Nancy Sheppard will teach the"in" and "outs" of writing nonfiction history, including: picking a topic, techniques for performing research, writing a proposal for a publisher, manuscript drafting and so much more!

Kindra McDonald

We will explore the art and origins of found poetry from the Dada movement and Oulipians, to visual collage poetry and abecedarian forms. We will channel our spontaneous sides to find poetry everywhere. With hands on experimentation in cut-ups, cross-outs, ransom notes and magnetic poetry, we will see poetry hiding in plain sight. Come play!

Lisa Beech Hartz

Participants will create a piece of writing inspired by and responding to thoughtful interaction with a visual image through a step-by-step process of looking, writing, sharing and revising.

Bill Glose

As the Books editor for Virginia Living for the past 17 years, Bill Glose has sifted through hundreds of book marketing campaigns. In this workshop, he will discuss how he chooses which books to review and the mistakes that many beginning authors do that harm their chances. He will also discuss the lifespan of a book and show participants how to make a publicity package that stands out.

Conference Rates

For planning purposes, please register by April 24, 2020. Cancellations are accepted before April 24. After April 24, there are no refunds. On-site registration accepted.



Includes conference and Saturday lunch

 Before April 24 After April 24
General registration $125 $150
Military or age 60+ $90 $108
LLS members $75 $90
Verified Muse student $75 $90
Non-CNU full-time students (ID required) $50 $60
CNU faculty and staff $25 $30
CNU students No charge

 Additional Rates

15-minute one-on-one session

(must be registered, materials due April 16)


15-minute pitch session

(must be registered, no materials due prior to conference)


Each contest submission

(must be registered, contest submissions due April 24)


Book-signing table

(reserve by April 24, 2020)


Boxed dinner (Friday night)


One-on-Ones and Pitch Sessions


Participants may submit in advance up to 10 pages of your writing to be reviewed by an editor. Then, you will meet with the editor for a 15-minute critique session to discuss your work.

$40 additional fee for conference registrants only. Submissions must be received by April 16, 2020.

Pitch Sessions

Here’s your chance. “Tell me about your work” means 15 minutes of fame is yours to shine. Participants will meet with an agent and pitch their work for about five minutes, introducing and promoting the concept and trying to grab the agent’s attention. Then you’ll have 10 minutes for further discussion.

$40 additional fee for conference registrants only.


  • Sarah Gerton, children's and young-adult agent
  • Bibi Lewis, adult and children's agent
  • Melissa Warten, children's editor

Please include on your registration which agent you would like to meet with.

Writing Contest

Submission deadline: April 24, 2020

Registrants may submit one entry in one or more of the four categories with accompanying $10 fee for each submission. First, second and third place will be awarded at the closing ceremony.

First place prize: free registration to the next Writers Conference


  • Fiction: Heidi Hartwiger
  • Nonfiction: Kara Keeling
  • Poetry: Bob Kelly
  • Juvenile fiction: Kim Norman

Writing Contest Entry Submission

  1. Email or mail entries to:
    LifeLong Learning Society
    Yoder Barn Theatre
    660 Hamilton Drive
    Newport News, VA 23602
  2. CNU students may submit entries to Dr. Kara Keeling

Contest Rules

  1. All entries must be original, unpublished manuscripts. Work that appears in on-campus publications or online publications is considered published and may not be submitted.
  2. All entries must be on 8.5 x 11-inch white paper and double-spaced in 12-point, Times New Roman font.
  3. There must be a removable title page (e.g., paper-clipped) with the author’s name, address, category and title.
  4. Title and page number must appear on each page of all entries.
  5. The word count for each category is:
    • Fiction and juvenile fiction: one story or book chapter, not to exceed 3,000 words
    • Nonfiction: one article or book chapter, not to exceed 3,000 words
    • Poetry: one poem, not to exceed 100 lines
  6. Judges have been requested to comment in writing (length at their discretion).
  7. Failure to follow contest rules or cancellation of registration will disqualify entry.
  8. Entries may be picked up at the close of the conference or within 30 days at the LLS office.

Connect with us

Contact Us

Christopher Newport University
LifeLong Learning Society
(757) 269-4368

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