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39th Annual Writers Conference

Virginia is for Writers

May 22, 2021
Virtual One-Day Event

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Conference presented via Zoom.


General registration $75
LLS members $50
Verified Muse Writers Center students $50
CNU students No charge


Saturday, May 22

Schedule of events
8:45 - 9 a.m. Welcome and day's agenda Virtual
9 - 10:15 a.m. Keynote: Echoes and Images: Working in Multiple Genres

Rita Sims Quillen

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.

10:20 - 11:55 a.m. Panel: From Manuscript to Market

Mary Batten, moderator
Sarah Gerton, children's and YA agent
Jean Klein, adult editor and publisher
Bibi Lewis, adult and children's agent
Melissa Warten, children's editor

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.

Noon - 1 p.m. Why Every Writer Should Write a Play - Blue Moon Plays

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. 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.

1 - 2 p.m. Writing for Magazines

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 non-fiction as it applies to both essays and articles.

2 - 3 p.m. Finders Keepers - The Art of Found Poetry

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!

3 - 4 p.m. Writing Captivating First Pages and Chapters

Sylvia Liu

In order for a book or manuscript to stand out, an author must capture a reader’s (or agent’s and editor’s) interest in the first pages. This workshop will explain the key things one must accomplish in these important pages, while introducing the character, the story problem, and world-building. The workshop will also provide examples from successful books as well as pitfalls to avoid. You will leave the workshop with concrete tips for revising your opening chapter (and beyond).

4 - 4:15 p.m. Closing words

Michael Farmer


Meet the Writers

Mary BattenMary Batten is an award-winning writer for television, film and publishing. Her many writing projects have taken her into tropical rainforests, astronomical observatories, scientific laboratories and medical research centers. She scripted some 50 television documentaries, was nominated for an Emmy, and is the author of many magazine articles for Cosmopolitan and others, and more than 15 nature/science books for adults and children, including Sexual Strategies: How Females Choose Their Mates and Aliens from Earth – 2006 Isaak Walton Conservation Book of the Year Award. Her most recent book is Life in a Frozen World: Wildlife of Antarctica. See more on her website:

Sarah GertonSarah Gerton has worked at Curtis Brown, Ltd. since 2015. Now an associate agent, she’s building a list of young-adult and middle-grade authors across genres—while her first love is fantasy, she’s interested in everything from narrative nonfiction to horror, as long it’s for young people. She’s always looking for a character voice that sticks with you, a setting you want to fall into, or a central question that shifts the way you look at the real world.

Bill GloseBill Glose is a combat veteran and former paratrooper. Now a civilian, he undertakes intriguing pursuits—such as walking across Virginia and participating in a world-record-setting skinny dip—to write about for magazines. The author of four poetry collections, Glose was named the Daily Press Poet Laureate in 2011 and featured by NPR on The Writer’s Almanac in 2017. He is a contributing editor with Virginia Living magazine, where he has written the Books pages for the past 17 years. His stories, poems and essays have appeared in numerous publications, including The Writer, The Sun, Narrative Magazine and The Missouri Review. His honors include the F. Scott Fitzgerald Short Story Award and the Robert Bausch Fiction Award. He maintains a page of helpful information for writers on his website,

Jean KleinA playwright, editor and publisher, has been a semi-finalist in the O’Neill competition, and is currently co-director of the Virginia Playwrights Forum. Her degrees are a BA from Carnegie-Mellon and an MA and MFA from the University of Iowa. A full-length play Unreasonable Possession was produced as a staged reading at the Earl Hamner Theatre in Nelson County, Virginia; a short play, Lifeswap was produced at The Venue on 35th in Norfolk, Virginia in 2012 and at The Edge Theater in Belle Haven, Virginia. Two plays, Lifeswap and Priming The Pump have been filmed for airing by Cox Cable in Virginia and North Carolina. A one-act play Snapshots was a winner in the Kernodle Play competition was produced in August of 2014 at The Venue in Norfolk, VA, and at The American Theatre in Hampton, VA. A full-length play Refraction Of Light was produced by Looking Glass Productions at The Venue for the Norfolk Summer PlayFest; had a staged reading at Playwrights Night at Wilkes University; and a subsequent staged reading by Transcendence Theatre Company in NYC. A new play, Generous Rivals is received a staged reading by Zeider’s American Dream Theater in Virginia in June. She is also the founder and owner of HaveScripts/Blue Moon Plays, a dramatic publishing company for new plays and spoken word poetry and fiction which explores social/political issues and challenges, as well as providing new scripts for the high school, college, community theater, senior performer market.

Bibi LewisBibi Lewis joined the Ethan Ellenberg Literary Agency in 2014 as an associate agent and subsidiary rights manager. She is actively building her list in both children's and adult. A New York City native, she is a fierce lover of the New York Public Library.

Sylvia LiuSylvia Liu is a middle grade and picture book author inspired by oceans, cephalopods and kraken. She writes about shy girls who find their voices (Manatee's Best Friend, Scholastic 2021) and clever girls who fight high tech conspiracies (Hana Hsu and the Ghost Crab Nation, Razorbill 2022). Her picture book, A Morning with Grandpa, illustrated by Christina Forshay, won the Lee & Low New Voices Award. Sylvia is the co-founder of the author resource website, Kidlit411. She grew up in Caracas, Venezuela, spent a decade as an environmental attorney protecting oceans, and lives in Virginia with her family. Find out more at her website, or follow her on Twitter @artsylliu.

Kindra McDonaldKindra McDonald is the author of the poetry collections Fossils published by Finishing Line Press and In the Meat Years by Aldrich Press, both in 2019 and the chapbooks Concealed Weapons, (2015) and Elements and Briars, (2016.) She received her MFA from Queens University of Charlotte and her BA from Virginia Wesleyan University. Her work has appeared in various journals and anthologies to include Rise up Review, Twyckenham Notes, Muddy River Poetry Review and the anthology The Nearest Poem. She has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and for Bettering American Poetry. She lives in the city of mermaids with her husband and cats where she bakes, hikes, and changes hobbies monthly.

Rita QuillenRita Quillen’s new novel Wayland, a sequel to Hiding Ezra, was published by Iris Press in fall 2019, and her new poetry collection Some Notes You Hold from Madville Press in fall of 2020. Her full-length poetry collection, The Mad Farmer’s Wife, was published in 2016 by Texas Review Press, a Texas A & M affiliation and was a finalist for the Weatherford Award in Appalachian Literature from Berea College. Her novel Hiding Ezra, released by Little Creek Books, was a finalist for the 2005 DANA Awards. One of six semi-finalists for the 2012-14 Poet Laureate of Virginia, she received three Pushcart nominations, and a Best of the Net nomination in 2012. Read more at

Melissa WartenMelissa Warten is on the editorial team at Farrar Straus Giroux Books for Young Readers, an imprint of Macmillan Children's Publishing Group, acquiring picture books, middle grade and young adult novels, and select graphic novels and nonfiction projects. Some of her favorite projects include What Stars are Made Of by Sarah Allen; Sing, Aretha, Sing! by Hanif Abdurraqib, illustrated by Ashley Evans; co-editing We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal; and spearheading the movie tie-in publication for Disney's A Wrinkle in Time. Melissa is a graduate of Boston College and the Columbia Publishing Course, a Spotify addict and pop culture aficionado, and orders iced coffee in the dead of winter. She lives in New York.

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