Presenters

Mike Allen

Mike Allen, Never Pay for An Editor Again

World Fantasy, Shirley Jackson, and Nebula Award finalist Mike Allen has written several poetry collections, including Strange Wisdoms of the Dead (a Philadelphia Inquirer editor’s choice selection), The Journey to Kailash and Hungry Constellations; a dark fantasy novel, The Black Fire Concerto; and three collections of strange and scary short fictions, Unseaming, The Spider Tapestries: Seven Strange Stories, and Aftermath of an Industrial Accident (forthcoming 2020). In the summer of 2019, he gave a talk, “Horror and the Weird,” at the Library of Congress. With his wife Anita, he runs the Mythic Delirium Books imprint, home to the Clockwork Phoenix anthology series and critically acclaimed volumes of fiction by C.S.E. Cooney, Theodora Goss, Nicole Kornher-Stace, and Barbara Krasnoff. A journalist by day, he’s spent the last 10 years covering arts and culture for The Roanoke Times. You can follow Allen’s exploits as a writer at descentintolight.com, as an editor at mythicdelirium.com, and all at once on Twitter at @mythicdelirium.


Betsy Ashton

Betsy Ashton, Putting Social Back in Social Media

Ashton, born in Washington, D.C., was raised in Southern California where she ran wild with coyotes in the hills above Malibu. She is the author of the Mad Max Mystery series, Unintended Consequences, Uncharted Territory, and Unsafe Haven. Her stand-alone serial killer psychological suspense novel, Eyes Without A Face, was published late in 2017, and her literary effort, Out of the Desert, came out in August 2019. Her short stories and poetry have appeared in several anthologies including 50 Shades of Cabernet, Candles of Hope, and Reflections on Smith Mountain Lake. She is the past president of the state-wide Virginia Writers Club.


Diane Fanning

Diane Fanning, Keynote: How to Succeed When You Don’t Know What You are Doing

Fanning is the Edgar-nominated author of 11 mystery novels and 15 true crime books. She has consulted for 48 Hours and appeared on the Today Show, 20/20, Forensic Files, Snapped, the Biography Channel, E!, the BBC, and Investigation Discovery, where she is a regular on Deadly Women. She’s a recipient of the Defender of the Innocent award from the Downstate Illinois Innocence Project. Born and raised in Baltimore, she now lives in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bedford, Virginia.


Jane Fenton

Jane Fenton, Down the Rabbit Hole: Facebook Ads

Fenton is an avid reader of books that combine romance, mystery, and laughter because they’re as satisfying as a triple fudge sundae–without the calories. Although she shares Repo Girl’s love of Roanoke City, good friends, junk food, stray dogs, and Jeep Wranglers, she’s quite happy to create these fun misadventures from the comfort of her quiet farmhouse in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia where she lives with her family.


Tom Field

Tom Field, Eight Reasons Why I Don’t Want To Hear Your Story

Field is a 30+ year veteran copywriter, reporter, creative director, and publisher hailing from Virginia’s Blue Ridge. He has interviewed everyone from the nation’s top CEOs to NFL coaches to high tech entrepreneurs to moonshiners to the mompreneur next door. He founded Berryfield, a marketing and media agency in 1993, that includes Valley Business FRONT in its lineup, a monthly magazine and continuation of the regional business journal since 1988. He has instructed and advised writers and other professional communicators at training conferences and workshops as well as internal marcom departments in a variety of industry sectors. He’s familiar with success… And the failures that get you there.


Amy Gerber-Stroh

Amy Gerber-Stroh, Getting Your Story In Motion: Adapting Work into a Screenplay

Gerber-Stroh received her B.A. in film at Pennsylvania State University and her M.F.A. in film/video from the California Institute of the Arts. Gerber-Stroh has a passion for all aspects of filmmaking but especially loves directing and producing her own documentaries. Her films have won honors at numerous film festivals and professional venues, including Edinburgh International Film Festival, Mill Valley Film Festival, Film Forum, Los Angeles, and Women in the Director’s Chair, Chicago. She also directed films for the Los Angeles County Museum of Art from 1993 to 1996. She has gained significant professional film experience in Hollywood while working on 12 major motion pictures including The Mask of Zorro (Columbia Pictures), Goldeneye (MGM), Afterglow (Sony Pictures Classics), Tank Girl (United Artists), and Angels in the Outfield (Disney). Her latest film, Do Cell Towers Dream of Morse Code (2018) has won honors at several film festivals this year. When she is not teaching and filming, Gerber-Stroh squeezes in family time, badminton, fly fishing, motorcycling, playing viola, and listening to Radio Lab on WNYC.

Gerber-Stroh is associate professor of film at Hollins


Photo of Ran Henry

Ran Henry, Discovering Your Theme: The Tie that Binds Story and Reader

Henry is the author of Spurrier: How the Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football, the definitive biography of an All-American quarterback and coach, and the forthcoming true crime book The Palmetto Club: How Clementa Pinckney Transformed the Confederacy. Henry was a Ralph McGill Scholar at Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia, earned an M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University, and wrote for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville, the St. Petersburg Times, and Tropic, the Sunday magazine of the Miami Herald. He teaches writing courses in narrative nonfiction and memoir at the University of Virginia. He and his wife Linda own Blue Mountain Weddings in Charlottesville and their daughters Sarah and Kristen are designing a new world in Brooklyn, New York, and Austin, Texas.


Grant Kittrell

Grant Kittrell, Roaming: from Room to Room, Art to Art

Kittrell is a writer, illustrator, and the poetry editor at Flock Literary Journal, which recently received CLMP’s Firecracker Award for Best Debut Magazine. He was the winner of the 2018 Phillip Booth Poetry Prize. Last year he served as the fall 2018 writer-in-residence at Randolph College. His work has appeared in Salt Hill, The Common, The Carolina Quarterly, The Normal School, Gigantic Sequins, Construction, and Magma Poetry, among others. His collection of prose poems, Let’s Sit Down, Figure This Out, is out from Groundhog Poetry Press. He received his M.F.A. from Hollins in 2014, and he currently lives and writes in Lynchburg, Virginia, where he serves as the director of the Academic Services Center and the writing program at Randolph College.


Jeanne Larsen

Jeanne Larsen, Truth, Lies, & Poetry: Saying Stuff Without Shouting It

Larsen has published three books of poetry, What Penelope Chooses (2019, winner of the Cider Press Review Book Award), Why We Make Gardens (2010), and James Cook in Search of Terra Incognita (1979; AWP award series winner in poetry), as well as many uncollected poems and essays, two books of translations (Willow, Wine, Mirror, Moon: Women’s Poems from Tang China, 2005; and Brocade River Poems: Selected Works of the Tang Dynasty Courtesan Xue Tao, 1987), and four novels (Silk Road, 1989; Bronze Mirror, 1991; Manchu Palaces, 1996; and Sally Paradiso, 2009). The recipient of various awards and fellowships, nowadays she’s professor emerita in the Jackson Center for Creative Writing at Hollins. She continues to travel widely in Roanoke County and other places. More at www.jeannelarsen.com


Heath Hardage Lee

Heath Hardage Lee, The League of Wives: How Unlikely Activists Brought their POW Husbands Home and Changed Military Culture

Lee comes from a museum education and curatorial background, and has worked at history museums across the country. She holds a B.A. in history with honors from Davidson College, and an M.A. in French language and literature from the University of Virginia. She served as the 2017 Robert J. Dole Curatorial Fellow. Her exhibition entitled The League of Wives: Vietnam POW MIA Advocates & Allies about Vietnam POW MIA wives premiered at the Robert J. Dole Institute of Politics in May of 2017 and is now traveling to museum venues throughout the U.S. including the Virginia Museum of History and Culture and the Richard Nixon Presidential Library and Museum. Potomac Books, a division of the University of Nebraska Press, published Lee’s prize-winning book, Winnie Davis: Daughter of the Lost Cause, in 2014. Heath’s new book, The League of Wives: The Untold Story of the Women Who Took On the U.S. Government to Bring Their Husbands Home from Vietnam, about the courageous wives of American Prisoners of War and Missing in Action during the Vietnam War was published by St. Martin’s Press on April 2, 2019. Reese Witherspoon’s film production company Hello Sunshine has optioned the book for a feature film, and she will be an executive producer and historical consultant on the project.


Photo of Liz Long

Liz Long, Writing for Magazines

Long is a USA Today bestselling author of YA and urban fantasy, most recently The Brighton Duology. She is the editor of The Roanoker and bridebook magazines at LeisureMedia360 in Roanoke, and when not writing, can be found drinking happy hour Prosecco, attempting hand lettering, or cuddling her dog, Fisher. She is the director of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference and the annual Roanoke Author Invasion, as well as a public speaker, covering topics such as self-publishing and magazine writing. To learn more about Long, including info on her books, plus writing, marketing, and social media tips, and writer pep talks, visit her website at lizclong.com.


Zoe McCarthy

Zoe McCarthy, Make a Scene of Your Scene: Four Improvements to Make Your Scene Stand Out

McCarthy is a full-time author and speaker. She writes contemporary Christian romances involving tenderness and humor. Believing opposites distract, McCarthy creates heroes and heroines who learn to embrace their differences. She’s the author of six romances. Her nonfiction, Tailor Your Fiction Manuscript in 30 Days, helps writers write their stories or ready their manuscripts for publication. She teaches a community Bible study and writing workshops. McCarthy and her husband live in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. She blogs regularly at www.zoemmccarthy.com.


Ginger Moran

Ginger Moran, Mapping Your Writing Journey: The Four Stages to Writing a Book and How to Navigate Them

A published and award-winning writer, teacher, and single mother of two boys, Moran’s areas of expertise are in nonfiction and fiction writing, editing, and speaking. She has bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English from the University of Virginia and a Ph.D. in literature and creative writing from the University of Houston. She has published in salon.com, Oxford American, the Virginia Quarterly Review, and many other journals and magazines. Her first novel, The Algebra of Snow, was nominated for a Pushcart Editor’s Choice Award and published in 2012. She is also a certified Martha Beck Life Coach and KMCC Creativity Coach, and a graduate of the National Speakers Association Academy. She helps people who have a story to tell get it into the world.


Valerie Nieman

Valerie Nieman, All into the Pool: Writing Mashups and Genre Crossovers

Nieman’s fourth novel, To the Bones, a genre-bending satire of the coal industry and its effects on Appalachia, joins her award-winning novels Blood Clay, Survivors, and Neena Gathering. Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, includes work that first appeared in The Missouri Review, Chautauqua, The Southern Poetry Review, and other journals. Her poetry has appeared widely, from Poetry to The Georgia Review to The Galway Review, and has been published in numerous anthologies, including Eyes Glowing at the Edge of the Woods and Ghost Fishing: An Eco-Justice Poetry Anthology. She has held state and NEA creative writing fellowships. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte and a former journalist, she teaches creative writing at North Carolina A&T State University.


Christina Nifong

Christina Nifong, So You Think You’re Not a Journalist?

Nifong has been a journalism major, news reporter, newspaper features writer, magazine writer, personal essayist, blogger, newsletter publisher, online content provider, marketer, and PTA Board secretary. She is currently working on her first narrative nonfiction book.


Angie Smibert

Angie Smibert, Newbie’s Guide to Writing for the Children’s Market

Smibert is the author of the middle grade historical fantasy series, Ghosts of Ordinary Objects, which includes Bone’s Gift (2018), Lingering Echoes (2019), and The Truce (2020). She’s also written three young adult science fiction novels: Memento Nora, The Forgetting Curve, and The Meme Plague. In addition to numerous short stories, she’s published over two dozen science/technology books for kids. Smibert teaches young adult and speculative fiction for Southern New Hampshire University’s creative writing M.F.A. program as well as professional writing for Indiana University East. Before doing all this, she was a science writer and web developer at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. She lives in Roanoke with a goofy dog (named after a telescope) and two bickering cats (named after Tennessee Williams characters), and puts her vast store of useless knowledge to work at the weekly pub quiz. Visit her website at angiesmibert.com.


Melody Warnick

Melody Warnick, 100 Good Ideas: Tips and Tricks for Coming up with Story Ideas That Editors Want to Assign

Warnick is a freelance writer whose work has appeared online and in print for publications including Reader’s Digest, O: The Oprah Magazine, Redbook, Woman’s Day, Good Housekeeping, Better Homes and Gardens, The Guardian, Atlantic CityLab, Quartz, AARP, Family Fun, Bankrate, Taste of Home, Daily Yonder, and others. Her book This Is Where You Belong: Finding Home Wherever You Are (Viking, 2016), a practical guide to loving the place where you live, has been featured in The New York Times, Time magazine, Fast Company, and Psychology Today. Warnick lives with her husband and two daughters in Blacksburg, Virginia. You can find her online at melodywarnick.com.