Carol Alexander (How to Make Your Editor Happy and Get More Story Assignments) is the editor of both Shenandoah Living magazine and a niche food blog. Since 2007, her writing has appeared in over 70 national, regional and local publications to include BackHome, Grit, Hobby Farms, Urban Farm, From Scratch, Home Education, The Old Schoolhouse, and regional parenting magazines all over North America. In addition, she is a former columnist for her local newspaper, several highly trafficked blogs and a national magazine. Since joining the staff of Shenandoah Living in 2015, Carol wishes that every freelancer could spend enough time in an editor’s shoes to learn both sides of the business. She lives in Shenandoah County.

RS Belcher

R.S. (Rod) Belcher (Science Fiction and Fantasy and the Working Writer) is an award-winning newspaper and magazine editor and reporter. Rod has been a private investigator, a DJ, a comic book store owner and has degrees in criminal law, psychology and justice and risk administration from Virginia Commonwealth University. He’s done master’s work in forensic science at George Washington University, and worked with the Occult Crimes Taskforce for the Virginia General Assembly. The Grand Prize winner of the Star Trek: Strange New Worlds anthology contest, Rod’s short story “Orphans” was published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds IX by Simon & Schuster in 2006. It was his first professional fiction sale. Rod’s first novel, The Six-Gun Tarot, was published by Tor Books in 2013. The sequel, The Shotgun Arcana, was published in 2014, and the third book in the Golgotha series, The Queen of Swords, is scheduled for publication in June of 2017. His novel, Nightwise, was released in August, 2015, and his latest book, The Brotherhood of the Wheel was published by Tor in March 2016. Sequels to both books are forthcoming. He lives in Roanoke, Virginia with his children, Jonathan and Emily.

Andrea Brunais

Andrea Brunais (Editing: Vital to a Book’s Acceptance; Tips from a Pro) is author of two novels including the prizewinning Mercedes Wore Black (Southern Yellow Pine Publishing), which tells the story of a backpack journalist covering the Florida governor’s race. A lifelong journalist, she is a freelance writer and book editor with a day job as communications director for Outreach and International Affairs at Virginia Tech, where she writes news stories, video scripts, op-ed pieces and more. In Florida in the ’80s and ’90s, she was an editorial writer with Media General and an editorial page editor with Knight-Ridder. Awards included the Robert Kennedy Journalism Award for investigative reporting and a first-place award from the Southern Newspaper Publishers Association; she was a Pulitzer Prize nominee as well. She also edited an alternative weekly in Sarasota with the Creative Loafing/Weekly Planet chain from 2000 to 2001. Students should bring examples of their work to class.

Ed Falco

Ed Falco (The Character Driven Story) teaches creative writing for Virginia Tech’s M.F.A. program and edits The New River, an online journal of digital writing. His most recent novel is the well-received Toughs, and he is the author of the high-profile The Family Corleone in 2012. Other novels include Saint John of the Five Boroughs, and Wolf Point, and short story collections Sabbath Night in the Church of the Piranha: New and Selected Stories and In the Park of Culture. The Cleveland Plain Dealer included None Too Fragile’s production of his play, Possum Dreams, among the 10 best plays of 2014 on Cleveland stages. He was an early innovator in the field of digital writing and his literary and experimental hypertexts are taught in universities internationally. (And yes, he is the uncle of actress Edie Falco.)

Diane Fanning

Diane Fanning (Writing a Non-fiction Book Proposal that Sells) is the Edgar-nominated writer is the author of ten mystery novels, fourteen true crime books and two eBooks and the editor/contributor of an anthology. She has appeared on the Today Show, 48 Hours, 20/20, Forensic Files, Snapped, the Biography Channel, Investigation Discovery, E! and the BBC as well as numerous cable network news shows and radio stations across the States and Canada. Raised in Baltimore, she now lives in the shadow of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Bedford.

Keith Finch (The Importance of Copyright) works at The Creekmore Law Firm in Blacksburg, focusing on intellectual property, contracts, corporate organization and business lawsuits. A Blacksburg native and 1992 graduate of William & Mary Law School, he worked in D.C. for a federal trial judge and for a business and maritime law firm before moving to Japan, where he spent eleven years in sophisticated international practice with one of Japan’s premier international law firms. He is fluent in French and Japanese.


Sarabeth Hammond (Social Media Forum) was killed in an automobile accident in late December. The 17-year-old home-schooled Roanoker was a noted blogger on Lyme’s Disease, from which she suffered. She was also an artist and actress. The RRWC scholarship has been renamed in her honor.

She was an artist, writer, and warrior against chronic Lyme disease, the focus of her popular blog. She was a young woman who decided to take life by the horns, whether teaching about life with disease, instructing medical professionals at Carilion Clinic, painting away her worries, or updating her blog, she always had something ahead of her.

Ran Henry

Ran Henry (Atmospheric and Accurate: Crafting the Nonfiction Scene), is an author, photographer, and writing professor at the University of Virginia, holding an M.F.A. in creative writing from Florida International University and a B.A. in English from Hampden-Sydney College in Virginia. A longtime writer for Tropic, the Sunday Magazine of the Miami Herald and the St. Petersburg Times (now the Tampa Bay Times), Henry was also a feature writer and music critic for the Florida Times-Union in Jacksonville. He has taught writing at the nation’s number one Honors College at the University of South Carolina and is the author of the definitive biography Spurrier: How the Ball Coach Taught the South to Play Football. He is at work on a narrative nonfiction book entitled Parable of the Sower: How Clementa Pinckney Raised Up a Church and Furled a Flag. Learn more at and follow him on Twitter at @RanHenry

Sarah B Rawz

Sarah Beth Jones (Never, Ever, Ever Stop Writing… Unless It’s Just That Time) is an empowerment coach working with driven creatives, curious professionals, wholehearted entrepreneurs and bold people of all stripes. She loves working and playing in that space where fear and excitement coexist. She’s also a lifelong writer who plays in fiction, poetry and personal essays for fun, and ghostwriting and copy professionally.

Laura Kitchell

Laura Kitchell (Even Monsters Need Love) is from Roanoke, and lives in Virginia Beach.  She writes Romance under historical, contemporary, rock band, light suspense, and paranormal subgenres. She has over 24 published works ranging from novella-length to novel-length. As a member of Romance Writers of America, she has served as President of a local chapter, Chesapeake Romance Writers. She also teaches fellow authors through workshops on the craft and business of writing, and you can find her on panels and at book signings at various conferences and author events around the country.

John Koehler

John Koehler (A Guide to Publishing: Things Authors Should Know) is the president and publisher of Köehler Books Publishing in Virginia Beach, Virginia. He is an award-winning graphics designer, and the author of seven books. He was awarded the lifetime achievement Silver Medal by the Advertising Federation of Hampton Roads in 2016. He earned a B.F.A. in communications arts and design from Virginia Commonwealth University and attended graduate studies at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. John’s professional career includes being senior art director of a major advertising agency and running a design studio. He was director of a ministry dedicated to helping children with disabilities, a cause he is still very much dedicated to. John made an international splash in 1991 by winning the Boomerang World Championship in Perth, Australia and was a member of the Foster’s Boomerang 2000 Team, a touring troop that taught professional athletes, and others, the gospel of boomerangs.

Bill Kovarik

Bill Kovarik (Stories of the Gothic South) is a professor of communication at Radford University, teaching journalism, media history, media law, and science writing. He has written extensively about media technology and environmental history for publications ranging from The New York Times to Earth Island Journal. His professional experience as a journalist includes reporting and editing for columnist Jack Anderson, the Associated Press, The Charleston (S.C.) Courier, The Baltimore Sun, Time-Life Books, Business Publishers, Appalachian Voice,  and the National Center for Appropriate Technology. He is also environmental historian and has served as a consultant for “Bill Moyers Now.” He has degrees from VCU, South Carolina, and a Ph.D. from the University of Maryland. He has written four books and working on a history of sustainable energy. He edits the online publication New River Voice. Students should bring examples of their work to class.

Roland Lazenby

Roland Lazenby (Writing Characters on People You Know Without Violating Trust) is author/co-author of more than 60 titles. His 2010 biography, Jerry West, The Life and Legend of a Basketball Icon, was an Los Angeles Times bestseller. His new biography Michael Jordan: The Life is published by Little, Brown and was an Editor’s Pick by The New York Times Book Review. The film/TV rights have been optioned by a Los Angeles production house. It was named as one of the best biographies of the year by both Publisher’s Weekly and Amazon. It has been translated into six foreign language editions, including Chinese, Italian, and Polish. He is a former publisher, journalist, and force behind a Virginia Tech student website that garnered acclaim for its coverage of the Tech shootings. He has taught journalism at Virginia Tech and Radford University.

Meredith Levy

Meredith Dayna Levy (Monologues: Performing Memoir for Live Theatre) is a Hollins graduate and a current Playwright’s Lab M.F.A. student and a member of the Dramatist’s Guild. Her goal is to give platform to quiet, quirky, and queer voices through her plays, and to offer challenging and dynamic roles to women on stage. Her solo show She Made Space will be produced by Hollins Theatre Institute as part of the Hollins-Mill Mountain Theatre Winter Festival of New Works February 16 – 19, 2017, and will go on to tour afterward. Her comedy Coupler, is the winner of the 2016 David L. Shelton Full Length Playwriting Award. Her full-length historical drama Decision Height won several awards through the Kennedy Center’s American College Theater Festival, including the National Student Playwriting Award. Decision Height has had more than 20 productions across the country. She is a founding member of dwellings dancetheatre, a collaborative partnership with the mission to create opportunities for emerging artists. With the support of Roanoke Ballet Theatre, they have created The Tinker, a monthly works-in-progress performance series for local and affiliated performance artists to engage audiences through unfinished works.

Liz Long (A Rapid Release Book Marketing Plan) is a proud graduate of Longwood University. Her inspiration comes from action and thriller genres and she spends entirely too much time watching superhero movies. Her day job as associate editor includes writing for LeisureMedia360 (The Roanoker, Blue Ridge Country, bridebook) in Roanoke, VA. Long has independently published nine novels, is co-director of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference, and director of Roanoke Author Invasion. To learn more about Liz (including more information on her books, plus writing, marketing, and social media tips), visit her website at

Terry Maggert

Terry Maggert (Delivering and Promoting Your Book Baby): Left-handed. Father of an apparent nudist. Husband to a half-Norwegian. Herder of cats and dogs. Lover of pie. I write books. I’ve had an unhealthy fascination with dragons since the age of — well, for a while. Native Floridian. Current Tennessean. Location subject to change based on insurrection, upheaval, or availability of coffee. Nine books and counting, with no end in sight. You’ve been warned.

Kim Leigh Martin

Kim Leigh Martin (Social Media Forum) is a Roanoke native and Virginia Tech graduate, who serves as president and co-founder of Missing Pieces Network. MPN is a non-profit dedicated to locating the missing and advocating for families of those who are missing, abducted, trafficked, or murdered.  The organization heavily uses social media and her blog has a weekly reach of 2.5 million. The ease of “sharing,” “liking” and “retweeting” word of a missing person has yielded dramatic and positive results. She replaces Sarabeth Hammond, who died in an automobile accident in December, on the panel. Her organization helped in the search for Sarabeth.  

Felicia Mitchell (Poetry Through Imagery), a native of South Carolina, has lived in southwest Virginia since 1983. Her poems and essays have appeared in a variety of publications, including Hospital Drive and PMS.poemmemoirstory. For ten years, she wrote a weekly column for Washington County News and currently is a regular contributor of a cancer-inspired blog to CureWaltzing with Horses, a collection of poems, is available from Press 53. She teaches English and creative writing at Emory & Henry College. Website:

Cara Ellen Modisett (Internal Journey: The Travel Writer and the Essayistis a pianist, essayist, and teacher with an M.F.A. in creative nonfiction from Goucher College and bachelor’s degrees in English and piano performance from James Madison University. Cara teaches English and advises the literary magazine at Ferrum College, former editor of Blue Ridge Country magazine, and was a reporter for WVTF public radio for more than a decade, Her prose has been published in Still: The Journal, Artemis, Memphis Magazine, The Roanoker magazine, Roanoke Business, the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Braided Brook, Flycatcher, Virginia Living and three books on the Blue Ridge Parkway in addition to other titles. She spent the last two years in Memphis, Tennessee, building a communications program for Church of the Holy Communion (Episcopal); she’s also a contributing editor for Episcopal Cafe. She has founded two writers’ series: Writers at Liminal in Roanoke (which will be resurrected under a different name in 2017) and Words, Cubed in Memphis. As artist-in-residence for Carilion Clinic in 2014, she guest edited an issue of Poems in the Waiting Room.

Neil Sagebiel (blogging forum panelist) is the author of The Longest Shot and Draw in the Dunes (both from St. Martin’s Press), and the founder and editor of Armchair Golf Blog, a nationally recognized blog that covers professional golf, golf history, and related topics. In a 20-year writing career, he has worked in marketing/advertising, corporate communications, development, and journalism. He lives in Floyd.

Dan Smith

Dan Smith (blogging forum panelist) is a 2010 inductee into the Virginia Communications Hall of Fame and founding editor of Valley Business Front magazine. He is the author of six books, most recently CLOG!, a novel. A journalist for 50 years, he has won awards in every significant journalistic discipline: Virginia Business Journalist of the Year 2005; awards for business ethics, environmental education, environmental journalism, support of the arts, and the first (2009) Perry F. Kendig Literary Award, given by the Arts Council of the Blue Ridge. Smith is an active community volunteer and member of a number of boards of directors. He is also an award-winning photographer and public radio essayist. Founder of the Roanoke Regional Writers Conference. Organizer of the 2011 Women’s Forum at Hollins.

Tiffany Trent (Science Fiction/Fantasy Worldbuilding) is an award-winning author of eight science fiction and fantasy books for young adults, as well as numerous short stories and essays. The setting of her latest books, The Unnaturalists and The Tinker King (Saga/Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers) was hailed by Publishers Weekly as “a world worth visiting.”