40th Annual Writers Conference

Virginia is for Writers

CNU's 40th Annual Writers Conference
May 6-7, 2022
Freeman Center

Register By Mail


Registration Early Bird Pricing until April 15 Pricing after April 15
General Registration $125 $150
Military, age 60 and older, LLS members, and verified Muse students $75 $90
Non-CNU full-time students; ID required $50 $60
CNU staff and faculty $25 $30
CNU students no charge
Add Ons Fee
Each contest submission $20
15-minute one-on-one session $40
15-minute pitch session $40
Book-signing half table (reserve by April 15) $25
Optional box lunch $15


Friday, May 6

Time Event Location
4-5:30 p.m. Registration - Publisher's Night Freeman Center
5:30-6 p.m. Welcome and Opening Remarks

Michael Farmer
Gaines Theater
6-7 p.m. Keynote: How to Talk About Your Writing

Are you taking meetings, preparing query letters to literary agents, or trying to break in to book publishing? Assemble Media’s president of literary and IP development, Steven Salpeter, will walk you through the strategies to discuss and submit your work effectively and avoid the most common mistakes many authors make in the pitch, query, and submission processes. Saltpeter will provide an overview of the book publishing process after your manuscript is written, including how to find a literary agent, how to talk about your writing, how to submit your writing, as well as an intro to the book publishing process from the time you have representation to when you’re on shelves. This is great for authors who are in the middle of a project, as well as those who are getting ready to submit their book-length fiction or nonfiction, as well as those who might have submissions out there and want to perfect their submission material.

Steven Salpeter
Gaines Theater
7-8 p.m. Book Sales and Meet with Agents and Publishers Freeman Center
7-8 p.m. Optional Prepaid Box Dinner Freeman Center, second floor
8-9:15 p.m. Dreams Made Digital: Pairing up with Amazon to Publish

to publishing online, specifically on the use of Kindle Direct Publishing and on publishing online through Amazon for both e-books and print-ondemand. Ray will also discuss some other online publication platforms and tools available online for self-publishing.

J. Lisa Ray
Freeman Center
8-9:15 p.m. Narrative Structure and Organic Creativity: Telling Your Story

So, if you’re like me, you have 20 different ideas about 100 different stories that have been told a million times. That said, whether in a long piece of fiction or a short personal essay, there are specific tools writers use to structure their story into a narrative. Likewise, the reader needs to follow you, and they, too, come to your story with their own ideas, stories and past experiences, which they tell and re-tell in their own way however many times in however many voices in whatever order they want. So, we have a big task at hand: Tell your story to the reader in a way that is both organically your own and can connect with a stranger. In this seminar, we will focus on various types of narrative structure through examples across all types of forms and genres. Specifically, we’ll look at three different models to see how they work, what is gained and what is lost, and how you can benefit by looking at your story through different narrative structures.

Patrick Dacey
Freeman Center
8-9:15 p.m. The Memoir Inventory

DThis is a seminar in perception, a way to distinguish between what has worked in our lives and what is no longer useful or necessary. Being aware of who we were yesterday and the life choices we have made can help us unearth ideas to bring to the page. We may have lost sight of how our life experiences encouraged or neglected our potential. Some of the most challenging times in our lives are the very events worth writing about. By taking an inventory of our past and present, both the successes and setbacks, we can free ourselves from thinking patterns that no longer serve our creative potential and discover stories to develop for writing. Short prompts will be provided for reflecting, writing and sharing.

Lisa Cooper
Freeman Center

Saturday, May 7

Time Event Location
8:15-8:45 a.m. Registration, Coffee and Continental Breakfast Freeman Center 
8:45-9 a.m. Welcome and Agenda

Michael Farmer
Gaines Theater
9-10 a.m. Keynote: Opening to the World Again: Writing Poetry From Out of This Time of Vulnerability

Among poetry’s most powerful effects are its ability to unpeel complex layers of experience; to help us find keys which might open up spaces that were closed, hidden, unseen, unspoken. Especially, but not only in times of great difficulty, it might seem safer to keep the world at a distance. But poems offer the invitation to keep ourselves open, and the promise and grace that it is possible to make our way to the articulation of what we think we don’t even have adequate words for.

Luisa A. Igloria
Gaines Theater
10:15-11:35 a.m. Panel: From Manuscript to Market

You’ve worked hard on writing your book and you want to see it in print. These professionals will discuss the role of agents and editors in the submission and publication process in the children, young adult and adult markets.

Mary Batten, moderator; Steven Salpeter, agent; 
Michael Farmer, Published Author
Freeman Center
10:15-11:35 a.m. Journaling: Engineering Surprise for Creativity and Discovery

Surprise is an important element in any writer’s work. One reason? It’s a good lie detector. When we’ve failed to surprise ourselves, it’s often because we haven’t surrendered control. Instead, we allow our fears to dictate where we should go, what we should think, and especially how we should write. The danger in this passivity is we lose ourselves, which is why surprise focuses our attention. It demands action. Surprise is what helps us loosen our grip on the world, so at the very least, we must shift. So how can we shift? How can we invite risk? In this workshop, we will explore hacks to spark surprise into our lives and onto the page. We’ll journal and engage our own creative practices, and the great news is that it does not require experience at all to join. We will write, listen and share, with all of our sharing being focused on ourselves. No one else. Whether you are a sporadic starter and stopper like me, or a seasoned journaler, this class is designed to spark and/or reinvigorate your passion for writing and discovery.

Amanda Gomez
Freeman Center
10:15-11:35 a.m. Writing Fantasy

The famous sociologist, Max Weber, declared (in 1920), that the world, hitherto magical, had become “disenchanted.” Modern fantasy writers have responded to this disenchantment directly: recoiling from the bureaucratic, industrialized and technocratic society of the 20th and 21st century, they have created alternative worlds where the spirit of enchantment and adventure endures. In this course we will discuss the conventions of secondary world fantasy. In writing activities, we will test world-building techniques, practice fantasy-specific characterization methods and otherwise “escape” into the elsewhere and elsewhen.

Dr. Jason R. Carney
Freeman Center
noon-1 p.m. Lunch and Book Sales Freeman Center, second floor
1-2:20 p.m. Hero with a Thousand Faces

A brief history of Joseph Campbell and how he reached his theories. The literary structure for the Hero’s Journey and its connection to contemporary media and writing literature. We will also cover common archetypes and examples in contemporary media.

Rebekah Coxwell
Freeman Center
1-2:20 p.m. Adapting a Novel or Short Story Into a Screenplay

Whether you’ve gotten the rights to another author’s work or you want to adapt your own, this workshop will explore how to go about adapting a work of fiction or nonfiction to the big or small screen. Diane Fine, an experienced screenwriter and educator, will highlight the basic differences between prose and screenplay formatting, how to implement three-act story structure and navigating point of view. Examples of adapted films and television shows will be discussed as well as the legal ramifications of options, purchases and life rights agreements.

Diane Fine
Freeman Center
1-2:20 p.m. Patience and Publishing

Most writers dream of publishing a book with a hard cover, amazing cover art and their photo on the dust jacket. But how do we get there? In this seminar, we will discuss various paths to publishing – the successes, the failures and even more of the failures. We will learn strategies for presenting our stories to magazines, agents and publishers, from choosing the best agency for your work to developing an attention-grabbing query letter. We will also discuss specific markets for different genres, as well as how to make your writing stand out to potential readers and editors.

Patrick Dacey
Freeman Center
2:30-3:50 p.m. Action, Description, Reaction: A Simple Technique for Compelling Scenes

Strong scenes contain both narrative push and dialogue. Often, in early drafts, dialogue is presented in long swaths of back and forth from characters, with an occasional “said” to let readers know who is speaking. While “said” is useful scaffolding, so much more can be presented to the reader with dialogue tags and other devices that convey action, description and character reaction, which all help to fully build the scene. In this short seminar, we’ll take a closer look at the power of ADR and how it can help strengthen the setting, action and emotional resonance of your story.

Michael Khandelwal
Freeman Center
2:30-3:50 p.m. Marketing for Authors: All About Social Media and Platform Building

Building a platform and becoming familiar with social media is an important part of marketing and an author’s career. This workshop will cover: (1) what is an author platform, and do you need one anyway? (2) online components of a platform: website, newsletter, blogs and social media presence; (3) main social media sites useful to authors, with a special focus on Facebook and Twitter; and (4) 10 signs of a successful platform. You will also learn the key thing to know about social media and how authors should decide where to focus their energy.

Sylvia Liu
Freeman Center
2:30-3:50 p.m. Writing Children's Books That Sell

Everyone has an idea for a children’s book, but how do you know that book will attract a buyer, whether it’s an editor at a prestigious publishing house or a grandparent looking for a gift? This workshop will offer tips on writing a salable manuscript, whether your goal is traditional or self-publishing. Topics will include: ways to strengthen your story, finding traditional publishers and agents, self-publishing options, and tips on spotting questionable vanity presses that may be more interested in money than manuscripts.

Kim Norman
Freeman Center
4-4:30 p.m. Announce Contest Winners and Closing Words

Michael Khandelwal
Gaines Theater
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