41st Annual Writers Conference - 41st Annual Writers Conference - Christopher Newport University

41st Annual Writers Conference

Virginia is for Writers

May 6, 2023
Freeman Center

Christopher Newport University's annual Writers Conference brings together people who love words as a hobby and as a vocation so that they can learn from agents, editors, publishers, accomplished authors, poets, professional teachers and from each other.

The conference has a long tradition of helping writers learn the skills needed to transfer their thoughts and imagination with clarity and heart to the written page and to understand the many facets of professionally publishing and marketing their work in a fast-changing technological world.

The conference is sponsored by Warwick Forest, Writers Advisory Council, Christopher Newport’s English Department, Muse Writers Center and the LifeLong Learning Society.

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Saturday, May 6

Time Event
8 - 8:30 a.m. Registration, Coffee, and Continental Breakfast
8:30 - 8:45 a.m. Welcome and Agenda
Michael Farmer/ Gaines Theatre
9 - 10 a.m. Early Morning Workshops

#1: Panel Discussion: From Manuscript to Market / Mary Batten, moderator; Amy Elizabeth Bishop, agent; Jessica Errera, agent; John Koehler, publisher

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's, YA, and adult markets.

#2: A Beginning Writer’s Toolkit / Tidewater Community Writing Center

Are you getting back into a regular writing practice? Or have you been writing consistently for a while and would like a refresher course on the fundamentals? This workshop will help writers of all levels and experiences gain a better grasp and understanding of common writing concerns to help authors create more engaging writing. Participants will engage in hands-on writing activities with small group sharing and discussing. Handouts will be provided.
10:10 - 11:30 a.m. Morning Workshops

#3: How to Write About Yourself Without Sounding Like a Jerk / Desiree Cooper

In this session, we will explore how to write about personal experiences without sounding preachy, pompous, braggadocious, or narcissistic. Through discussion and exercises, we'll learn how to expertly mine emotional truths.

#4: The Snowflake Plotting Method: Expanding One Idea into a Novel / Rick Eley

Do you want to write a novel, but you're stuck figuring out how to start? Or maybe you already have a great synopsis–but how do you convert that into ninety-thousand words? In this workshop, we'll explore a near-effortless way to take a simple idea and build it into a story of any length and genre, fiction or nonfiction. Whether you write novels, short stories, or screenplays, Snowflake is the best way to create the foundation for your work. With this easy method, you can produce anything from an elevator pitch to a spreadsheet of scenes/chapters showing the word counts needed, pivot points, act breaks, and more. If you're a "pantser," this workshop will change your life! Even if you're already a plotter, there's still a 98.773% chance Snowflake plotting will change your life. (Results may vary.)

#5: Publishing Q&A / John Koehler

After publishing over 1500 books through Koehler Books (including 12 of his own), publisher John Koehler knows what authors want to know. For instance… How important are brick-and-mortar stores? What about returns? What kind of marketing should I plan and what will the publisher do? Should I have my manuscript edited before submitting it? What kind of sales can I expect? What’s the difference between self-publishing and hybrid? And many more questions that you will ask at this Q&A workshop. Participants will receive a free copy of Koehler's book, POCKET GUIDE TO PUBLISHING, which has been read by over 150,000 writers/authors like you.
11:45 a.m. - 12:45 p.m. Lunch / Book Sales / Open Mic
1 - 2:20 p.m. Keynote:

Lessons Learned from Writing in Multiple Genres / Bill Glose
For more than two decades, Bill Glose earned his living writing articles for magazines. Over the same period, he published five books of poetry and one book of fiction. In this session, he will share the joys of being a multi-genre writer and describe how lessons learned in each of the separate genres strengthened his writing in the others.
2:30 - 3:50 p.m. Afternoon Workshops

#6: How to Trim & Hone Your Prose for Maximum Readability / Michael Krentz

Practical exercises in writing readable prose. The workshop will include hands-on analysis/editing of examples from popular fiction and submissions from workshop participants.

#7: Ekphrastic Prose: Responding to Art to Create a Story / Ivan Rodden

Although often associated with poetry, ekphrasis transcends any single genre to encompass all kinds of literary interactions with the visual arts. Before the advent of tourism and cheap photographic reproduction, the written word was able to transport a reader to the ruins of Egypt or conjure the great paintings of history. Ekphrastic writing requires the author to carefully convey concrete, specific detail of an unseen thing while incorporating the emotional essence of a static object into language. The result of ekphrasis not only allows a reader to see an image or object but also to have new insight into the emotional possibilities of seeing. This workshop will explore how writers especially can use the visual arts – painting, sculpture, and illustration – as a catalyst for creating compelling characters, interesting narratives, or just stimulating their creativity. Through guided exercises and a variety of language and visual prompts, we will create a variety of texts that help us bypass the blank page to make something worth revising and finally worth reading.

#8: Mining the Gap: Turning Lack of Knowledge into Opportunities for Creative Exploration in Personal Essay and Memoir / Joanna Eleftheriou

Many nonfiction writers select their subjects based on the moments they remember best. However, some of the most powerful writing comes from the little fractures and glimmers of memory we retain, filled in with research as well as artfully shaped reflection and clearly disclosed conjecture. This workshop invites participants at any level and stage of their nonfiction writing to lean into what they don't remember, and "mine the gap" for meaning and emotive resonance.
4 - 5:20 p.m. Late Afternoon Workshops

#9: The Activist Art of Literary Journalism / Jason Ray Carney

In the summer of 1946, an essay was published in the Scottish magazine of literary art, Gangrel (1945-1946), by George Orwell. Titled, “Why I Write,” Orwell’s essay famously considers the perennial problem of mixing the literary with the journalistic. After surveying his writing career, Orwell seems to refute literary art for politics: “When I sit down to write a book, I do not say to myself, ‘I am going to produce a work of art.’ I write it because there is some lie that I want to expose, some fact to which I want to draw attention, and my initial concern is to get a hearing.” Just as quickly as Orwell defends the political over the artistic, however, he prevaricates: “I could not do the work of writing a book [...] if it were not also an aesthetic experience.” So, what’s the answer? Politics or art? Journalism or poetry? Orwell is undecided. Orwell’s intriguing undecidedness on the topic of journalism and literary art outlines some of the questions our workshop will consider: can political writing be artful? Can self-consciously artful writing and poetic language serve activist purposes? To what extent do literary devices contribute to (or detract from) a piece’s activist potential? To what extent should journalistic writing avoid literary stylistics to concentrate on rhetorical effectiveness and/or broad audience appeal? We will consider all of these questions and more.

#10: Words Bear Witness: Writing About Trauma / Libby Kurz

As human beings, we’ve all experienced trauma, no matter how big or small. During this seminar, we will explore the complex relationship between trauma, language, and healing. We will focus on poetry, a genre built on imagery, metaphor, and sensory fragments—the natural language of trauma. Through the examination of various texts and writing prompts, students will learn how poetic devices can grant us access to even the most unspeakable moments of life, reclaiming language in the places it was once taken. If you have an important story you want to tell but don't know how to tell it, then this class is for you.

#11: Building Your World: Generative Prompts for Creating a Fantastical Place / Cassandra Clarke

In fiction, setting can be as an important a character as the people. And in speculative fiction, that character often needs to be built from the ground—and history, and culture, and physics—up. In this generative workshop, we’ll work through a series of interactive writing prompts designed to help you build a world as complex and lived-in as the real one, and participants walk out of the session with the seeds of a brand new world.
5:30 - 6 p.m. Contest Winners & Closing Words / Michael Khandelwal

Announcement of the Doris Gwaltney Award / Mary Batten
6 - 7 p.m. Networking Reception with Cash Bar
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