Ted Blain

Ted Blain, Where does a story begin? A workshop about first pages.
W. Edward (Ted) Blain, a native Roanoker, taught senior English at Woodberry Forest School for 38 years and was head of the English department for 31 of those years. His first novel, Passion Play, was a finalist for the Edgar Allan Poe Award in 1991; his most recent short story, “The Secret Sharer,” won the 2022 Readers Award from Ellery Queen’sMystery Magazine. He likes to write both literary and mystery fiction and to promote reading in all genres, especially any work that somebody wants to ban.

Ken Conklin

Ken Conklin, Building an Author Platform
Ken Conklin, a native of Los Angeles, has lived in Botetourt County, VA, for the past 18 years. He was awarded a 2022 Kegley Preservation Award for his book NORVEL: An American Hero about Botetourt County native Norvel Lee. Ken is also the author of The Zen of Ken, a collection of his poems. He served on the Centennial Committee for the Poetry Society of Virginia’s 100-year festival held last May in Richmond. The Centennial anthology includes three of his poems. His essays have been published in The Roanoke Times and other publications such as the Victoria Advocate, Easy Reader, and Microwave Journal. Ken is the owner of Chapin Keith Publishing, which publishes and distributes select works by independent authors. As a 19-year-old he was drafted by the U.S. Army, serving as a “boots on the ground” soldier during the Vietnam War. His career in the technology industry gave him the opportunity to travel throughout North America, Europe, and Asia. The experiences from those travels inform his writing. He is a member of the Authors Guild, Alliance of Independent Authors, and the Poetry Society of Virginia. Ken enjoys golf, hiking the beautiful trails of Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains, and attending local live music events. He continues, however, to root for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Steve Cushman

Steve Cushman, Flash Fiction—Sometimes Less is More
Steve Cushman earned an M.A. from Hollins University and an M.F.A. from UNC-Greensboro. He has published three novels, Portisville, which won the 2004 Novello Literary Award, Heart With Joy, and Hopscotch. Cushman’s first full-length poetry collection, How Birds Fly, won the 2018 Lena Shull Book Award. Along with a short story collection, Fracture City, he’s also published two poetry chapbooks, Hospital Work and Midnight Stroll. His latest collection is The Last Time. Cushman lives in Greensboro, NC, with his family and works in the IT department at Cone Health.

Alice DeSturler

Alice de Sturler, No Character? No Problem!

Alice de Sturler is the founder of the research website Defrosting Cold Cases. On that website, she explores unsolved cases and posts book reviews of works that fit the site’s theme. Book reviews from other genres are posted on her blog Malham Magna. Alice loves to read, journal, and cook.

Tad Dickens

Tad Dickens,Beyond the Comfort Zone
Tad Dickens is the technology reporter at Cardinal News. For the 24 previous years, he worked at The Roanoke Times, covering county governments, state and federal courthouses, and—for the bulk of his career there, the Southwest Virginia music scene. Tad grew up playing music and still does it, as a drummer and harmony singer with two very different local bands. His dog, Buster, is his near-constant companion, and they try to walk around Roanoke together as much as possible.

Shannon Dominguez

Shannon Dominguez, AI 101
Shannon Dominguez is working on two memoirs and serving as a nonprofit consultant. She is dedicated to assisting writers in optimizing their creative process to increase productivity and minimize writer’s block, which is a key reason for her belief in the crucial role of AI.

Kate Goggin

Kate Goggin, 10 Things To Know about Freelance and Technical Writing Opportunities (taught with Dan Smith)
Communications Consultant Kate Goggin specializes in plain language writing, editing, and training services for private industry and public sector clients. She is a certified technical writer and previous federal spokesperson with extensive experience translating complex scientific and technical topics into clear text for the public, the media, industry representatives, and congressional staff. Her clients have included the U.S. State Department, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She is a member of the Center for Plain Language and the Society for Technical Communication and holds a degree in communications consulting from George Mason University. She is currently contracted to A. K. Government Solutions. She resides in Leesburg, VA.

Dan Smith

Dan Smith is a veteran journalist of nearly 60 years, author of eight books, photographer, and founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, Persiflage/Writers Lunch, and the Roanoke Regional Women’s Forum. A member of the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame (class of 2010), he is a former Virginia Business Journalist of the Year (2005). Among his many recognitions are the Perry F. Kendig Award (twice: support of the arts and individual artist), Arts Council of the Blue Ridge’s first Literary Award, BBB Marketplace Ethics Award, Clean Valley Council media award, Roanoker Magazine Best Area Writer gold award and Best Area Blog gold, numerous Virginia Press Association awards in various categories, International Regional Magazine Writing Award, Cool Citizen Council media award, Virginia Broadcasters Association editorial award, AP Broadcasters editorial award, AP Marshall Johnson Career Achievement Award, and numerous others. He has been honored by the City of Roanoke three times with Proclamations (Dan Smith Day). His most recent novels are CLOG! and NEWS! A native of Asheville, NC, he has lived in Roanoke for more than 50 years and is the father of two and grandfather of two.

Cathryn Hankla is a native of Southwest Virginia and the author of 16 books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Her recent titles include Immortal Stuff: prose poemsNot Xanadu: poems, and Lost Places: On Losing and Finding Home. Hankla is professor emerita of Hollins University where she taught English and creative writing for four decades. 

Layla Khoury-Hanold

Layla Khoury-Hanold, From Plate to Page: How Food Writing Can Enhance Your Stories
Layla Khoury-Hanold is a James Beard Award nominated writer and has written features and essays for national publications including Food52, Food Network, Refinery29, The Chicago Tribune, Mother Untitled, Vine Pair, The James Beard Foundation, Saveur, and Drinks International. She is also a regular contributor to regional publications, including The Local Palate, The Roanoker Magazine, The Roanoke Rambler, Edible Blue Ridge, and En Forme. She is working on her debut memoir. Learn more by subscribing to her substack Words with Layla or visiting www.wordswithlayla.com. Follow her writing, dining, and travel adventures @words_with_layla on Instagram or @words_withlayla on X.

Gene Marrano

Gene Marrano, The Art of the Interview
Presenter Gene Marrano is a longtime Roanoke Valley award-winning journalist and editor for Roanoke area radio, newspapers, magazines, and TV, and a freelance writer. He’s helped edit several books as well. Gene has also appeared in numerous community theatre productions locally and for some reason likes to run when he has the time.

Mindy Quigley

Mindy Quigley, Writing Yourself Sane: Strategies for Overcoming the Emotional Impediments That Make Writing So Damn Hard
Mindy Quigley is the author of two cozy mystery series: the Deep Dish Mysteries and the Mount Moriah Mysteries. Her short stories have won awards, including the 2018 Artemis Journal/Lightbringer Prize. Her nonwriting career has been stranger than fiction, taking her from the U.S. to the U.K., where she worked as the personal assistant to the scientist who cloned Dolly the sheep, and as project manager for a research clinic founded by the author J.K. Rowling. She lives in Virginia with her Civil War history professor husband, their children, and their idiosyncratic miniature Schnauzer.


Beth Raps

Beth Raps, Another Pair of Eyes: An Introduction to Editing
Beth Raps is a published writer and French translator. She’s also a devoted developmental and copyeditor. (She was a proofreader too, but she doesn’t do that anymore.) Her website is Raps in French and English: Punctuated Passion and Precision atbethrapsblog.wordpress.com/ She’s also a celebrated philosopher and fundraiser. She lives with her partner on a mountain near Iron Gate, a happy hermit.

SB Rawz

SB Rawz, Throwing the Deuces to Writer’s Block
SB Rawz is a coach and the creator of the web series All Up in It and zine press Humaning. She’s been writing since she could hold a crayon; she’s been a newspaper columnist, features writer for business and publications, blogger, and dabbles in fiction and poetry. Most of all, she’s a whole messy human who loves connecting and collaborating with other whole messy humans. Learn more at rawzcoaching.com; find her on YouTube @sbrawz_coach_human or Etsy @humaning.

Josh Urban

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
Doloris Vest came to the book industry after a career in communications, marketing and non-profit management. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism with a minor in business from Radford University and did graduate work in corporate communication. As a marketing communication professional, she has worked as a writer and editor for print, broadcast and digital media in high-tech, industrial and business services sector. She served as chief executive of the region’s federal workforce development board and then a local chamber of commerce for a total of almost 15 years. Book No Further opened in 2017 and expanded in 2019 in Downtown Roanoke; As a bookseller, Vest is especially interested in promoting the rich literary character and tradition in the Roanoke and New River valleys and throughout Western Virginia and Appalachia. She especially enjoys working with authors to understand the crazy industry they’re interested in joining.

Sarah Warburton

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.