2024 Presentations

Lee Hunsaker, Premier Guest

Friday Night Keynote: Storytellers as Revolutionaries

How sharing our stories just might save the world. Join Lee Hunsaker, creator of Roanoke’s Hoot and Holler: Our Stories. Out Loud., as she reflects upon her years of witnessing the transformative power of live storytelling. Lee is a story coach and a storyteller’s cheerleader, confidant, and guiding force. She works tirelessly to help others shape their stories into compelling narratives, ultimately making the leap from page to stage. Lee believes that radical change can happen within ourselves, our communities, and in the greater world at large when we bravely share our truths.

Saturday Workshop (two hours): My Outside Voice

Crafting unapologetic stories that leap from the page to the stage. In this lively and engaging workshop, Lee will lead participants in thought provoking writing prompts, conversation, and exercises, designed to bring our personal stories to life. We will talk about the importance of backstory, building drama and high stakes, navigating challenging emotions, and the power of a killer opening line. This workshop is designed to have you thinking outside the box, perhaps outside of your comfort zone, and to give you the confidence and tools to understand that there is no such thing as a small story. Prepare to have fun, dig deep, and to give yourself permission to fully and unapologetically step into the power of your own voice.

Ted Blain, Where does a story begin? A workshop about first pages.
Everybody knows that a successful story will hook a reader immediately, but what are your best strategies for achieving that goal? In this session we’ll talk about how to find the perfect moment to begin a story and how to ground your readers in time and space. Participants are warmly invited (but certainly not required) to bring a sample first page from one of your stories to be critiqued. Please print out the page if you wish to have it discussed.

Ken Conklin, Building an Author Platform
What is an author platform and why is it necessary? For the independent author a platform is required to establish a name, reputation, and long-term followers. The steps required to form a successful author platform can be as creative a process as writing your book. You will learn what to do and what not to do to set a firm foundation for your personal author platform and presence in the marketplace.

Steve Cushman, Flash Fiction—Sometimes Less is More
In this workshop, we’ll explore the exciting genre of Flash Fiction. We’ll define what makes a piece of writing flash and how this is similar, yet different, from other forms of fiction. We’ll look at how you can pack a satisfying story in less than 1,000 words, paying close attention to language and plot and character. We’ll read some contemporary Flash Fiction and get started writing our own flash stories with the help of prompts and exercises. You’ll leave the workshop with a variety of resources for you to continue your study of Flash Fiction, including a list of journals and magazines that publish flash.

Alice de Sturler, No Character? No Problem!
You often hear a writer mentioning the main character appeared fully formed in their head. Well, what if that doesn’t happen? Can you still write a book? The answer is yes. I am doing it right now and I am 70,000 words in. 

Tad Dickens, Beyond the Comfort Zone
Early in my writing career, I decided I would work to be as versatile as possible. It hasn’t always been easy, and sometimes it’s been pretty scary.

Shannon Dominguez, AI 101
From streamlining the creative process to maximizing book promotion, attendees will learn how to optimize AI to build their author platform. Shannon will also address ethical concerns that come with utilizing AI, and provide best practices for using these powerful tools responsibly.

*The original draft of this presentation description was created by an AI assistant. It was then reviewed and edited by a human to ensure accuracy, appropriate wording, and ethical standards. While AI tools can provide helpful starting points, human oversight remains essential. This disclosure is being provided in the interest of full transparency regarding the creation process behind promotional materials like event descriptions.

Cathryn Hankla, Revising Poetry: I’ve Written Something That Looks Like a Poem. Now What?
This workshop includes examples of works in progress and strategies for improving any kind of poem through revision, along with discussion of process approaches to writing and the difference between revision and editing. Beginners through advanced writers can profit from this hands-on experience.

Layla Khoury-Hanold, From Plate to Page: How Food Writing Can Enhance Your Stories
Learn about different kinds of food writing and how it can enhance your craft across a variety of genres. Presenter Layla Khoury-Hanold will also share the process behind her James Beard Award nominated essay for Food52, “In My 40th Year, I Finally Made Pita Bread.” Through suggested writing exercises and contemporary examples, participants will discover how their own family food memories and dining experiences can serve as story inspiration.

Liz Long, How to Win Projects and Influence Clients
Whether you’re a writer, editor, or project manager, this guide is your freelancer strategy compass. We’ll cover winning proposals and contracts, effective client collaboration, organizational systems, and treating your freelancing venture like a business. Explore various freelance platforms, discover key organizations to join, and gain insights for freelancers at every level.

Gene Marrano, The Art of the Interview
In what is planned as an interactive session, what’s the best way to make your interview subject feel more comfortable? What questions might trip their trigger? How do you turn an interview into a true conversation? Whether a journalist, a nonfiction writer or someone writing a novel but researching for background, what works for you—and what else might work? Let’s have a conversation.

Mindy Quigley, Writing Yourself Sane: Strategies for Overcoming the Emotional Impediments That Make Writing So Damn Hard
Are you struggling with writer’s block? Does the thought of sending your work out for critique fill you with dread? Is the mere idea of marketing your own work causing you to wake up every night in a cold sweat? Do you alternate between thinking you might be writing a heartbreaking work of staggering genius™ and knowing that you’re nothing but a talentless hack, spewing forth an inane jumble of worthless word salad?! Mindy Quigley, award-winning author of two murder mystery series, numerous short stories, and even some journal articles about biomedical science, will guide participants toward ways of becoming more productive and less debilitated by the negative thoughts and emotions they harbor about writing. This fun and interactive session will be part how-to guide, part case study, and part group therapy session. Bring your emotional baggage so we can unpack it together!

Beth Raps, Another Pair of Eyes: An Introduction to Editing
Everyone needs editing before they publish. Do you know the different kinds of editing you might need? This workshop will explore the two primary kinds of editing: developmental editing and copyediting. It will also get you started with self-editing.

SB Rawz, Throwing the Deuces to Writer’s Block
Coach SB Rawz is back with another getcha-writing RRWC hour! This year, SB will guide the group through a lightning round of ideation and writing. Along the way, we’ll show up the nagging inner voices that tell us we don’t have good ideas, we can’t get started, and we have to have X amount of time to write anything worthwhile. What do those voices know anyway? Bring your notebook, your curiosity, and your sense of humor and let’s getcha writing—we’re throwing the deuces to writer’s block!

Dan Smith and Kate Goggin, 10 Things To Know about Freelance and Technical Writing Opportunities
Whether you are writing a profile for an upcoming holiday or creating digital content for business or government, freelance and technical writing opportunities are expanding. If you are a new writer, how do you approach these markets? If you are an established writer, how would you pivot to those markets? This session will cover the top 10 things you need to know to consider freelance or technical writing opportunities. You will learn from two experienced writers about how to best position yourself for success and you will walk away with references and resources. 

Josh Urban, The Burning Stories (And How To Tell Them)
You’ve got an aching story to tell; something unique, something only you can write. Don’t ruin it. Tell your burning story in a stunning fashion (or a gentle one). Josh leads a workshop on crafting gripping narrative, authentic voice, and compelling style. Give that story life. All levels are welcome.

Doloris Vest, Working with Your Local Bookstores
Note: This is an updated course from our 2023 program! Doloris shares even more great advice and tips for getting your book on the shelf of an independent bookstore. If a book is judged by its cover, you need to understand and meet the needs of store buyers to get your work in front of readers. This workshop will show you the information that is must-have for the buyer — and what’s better saved for family members.

Sarah D. Warburton, Page Turner 101: Hook Your Reader in Any Genre
Page Turner 101: Hook Your Reader in Any Genre. From the first page to the last, tension keeps an agent, an editor, and (most importantly) a reader turning the page. We’ll discuss why tension is at the heart of every story and how you can make sure your book is delivering from your initial concept through your final revision.