Conference Session Recordings

Recordings of our conference sessions are available for purchase from VW Tapes in either MP3 or CD formats. Find out more by clicking here!

Keynote Speaker

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Meg Gardiner

Edgar-winning novelist Meg Gardiner writes thrillers. Fast-paced and full of twists, her books have been called “Hitchcockian” (USA Today) and “nail-biting and moving” (Guardian). They have been bestsellers in the U.S. and internationally and have been translated into more than 20 languages.

Into the Black Nowhere, her current title, is the second novel in the UNSUB series, featuring rookie FBI agent Caitlin Hendrix. The Minneapolis Star Tribune calls it “thrilling and un-put-downable.” Stephen King says, “Into the Black Nowhere. Excellent. You know the drill, bookstore near you. Buy now, thank me later.” The first novel in the series, UNSUB, is nominated for a Barry Award for Best Thriller, and has been optioned by CBS.

Meg was born in Oklahoma City and raised in Santa Barbara, California. She graduated from Stanford University and Stanford Law School. She practiced law in Los Angeles and taught in the Writing Program at the University of California Santa Barbara. Later she moved with her husband and three young children to London, where her first novel was published.

Beyond writing, Meg is a three-time Jeopardy! champion and a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation. She lives in Austin, Texas.


Into the Black Nowhere • UNSUB • Phantom Instinct • The Shadow Tracer • Ransom River • The Nightmare Thief • The Liar’s Lullaby • The Memory Collector • The Dirty Secrets Club • Kill Chain • Crosscut • Jericho Point • Mission Canyon • China Lake


China Lake won the 2009 Edgar Award for Best Paperback Original. Later it was a finalist for NPR’s 100 Best Thrillers Ever. • The Dirty Secrets Club was chosen one of the Top Ten thrillers of 2008 by Amazon and won the Romantic Times Reviewers’ Choice Award for Best Procedural Novel of the year. • The Nightmare Thief won the 2012 Audie Award for Thriller/Suspense audiobook of the year. • The Shadow Tracer was named one of Kirkus Reviews’ Best Books of 2013. • Phantom Instinct was chosen one of “The Best Books of Summer” by O, the Oprah magazine. • UNSUB is nominated for the 2018 Barry Award for Best Thriller. 

Pre-Conference Speaker

Tamara Hart Heiner

Tamara Hart Heiner lives in Arkansas with her husband, four kids, a cat, a dog, and a bird. She would love to add a macaw and a sugar glider to the family collection. She graduated with a degree in English and an editing emphasis from Brigham Young University. She's the author of the young adult suspense series, Perilous, Inevitable, the Cassandra Jones saga, and a nonfiction book about the Joplin tornado, Tornado Warning.


Pre-Con Workshop
Writing Hard Topics for Teens While Avoiding the Smut

Real life teenagers deal with uncomfortable situations and topics on a daily basis. Literature is both an outlet and a learning tool, opening the eyes of those unaware of social issues and providing hope and light to those suffering. Discover what your end goal is and tackle the hard topics with class.

Writing Distinctive Voices with Multiple Points of View

What happens when you write from more than one point of view? How do you juggle multiple main characters? Learn how to give your characters their own voice, style, and personality so each one looks, feels, and sounds different from the others.


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Amelia Appel

Amelia Appel is an Assistant Literary Agent at TriadaUS Literary Agency.  She previously held positions at McIntosh & Otis and Writers House and started her publishing career with an internship at HSG Agency.  As an English Literature major and two-sport varsity athlete at Hamilton College, when she wasn't in class or on the softball field or track (or goofing off with the juggling club), she could be found curled up somewhere cozy on campus with a good book.  Now, she's excited to use her passion for reading and editing to benefit her growing list of amazing clients.  She is seeking adult fiction, non-fiction, and occasional YA.  For adult fiction, she is most interested in literary fiction, mystery, thriller, upmarket women's fiction, science fiction and fantasy, and horror.  Projects with a smart, distinct voice, a fantastic setting to jump into, and/or a witty protagonist are all up her alley.  She is not looking for romance novels.  For adult non-fiction, she is primarily looking for creative non-fiction, humor, sports, how-to, pop culture, and true crime.  She is not looking to represent memoir.  For YA, she is particularly interested in stories with a savvy protagonist and a slightly dark tone that deal with serious coming-of-age issues well.


Looking for: Amelia is looking for a lot of different things! Right now, she’s most interested in the following: Adult Fiction: literary fiction, mystery, thriller, horror. Adult Non-Fiction: sports, how-to, pop culture, true crime. YA: contemporary, sporty, dark.


Writing Your Best Query Letter

Query letters are often daunting, but they don't have to be!  Amelia will outline proper query format, the do's and the don'ts, and the key elements for grabbing an agent's attention so you can query with confidence.  Bring a query letter for her to workshop with you.  Your query letter is your first impression - in this session, you'll learn how to make it the best it can be.

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Amy Brewer

Amy Brewer wears many hats every day, from literary agent at Metamorphosis, to co-author of the Texting Prince Charming series, to social media manager, to yoga teacher. She is a graduate of Culver-Stockton College with a theater degree because drama, romance, and angst are her lifelong passions. Her intuitive human understanding can help other writers bridge the communication gap and jump into the publishing world. For the last few years she has been learning all she can about social media optimization and platform building in the publishing industry. Amy's experience in the mental health field and yoga training help her guide and assist clients with stress and anxiety in this highly competitive industry. All of this is pulled together with a multi-tasking and hyper-organized brain, so that at the end of every day she feels accomplished and grateful. She’s seeking: Romances of all kinds, if your plot revolves around love or angst or both, send it to her. She is also looking for general fiction, LGBTQ+, women’s fiction, book club reads, and quirky humor.


Looking for: Amy is on the hunt for romance, Christmas romance, sweet romance, cozy mysteries, inspirational, LGBTQ+, women’s fiction, book club reads, and quirky humor. She also represents non-fiction in health and lifestyle.


The Formula for a Great Romance: From meet-cute to HEA

Amy will start with some trope identifiers and discuss the pros and cons of tried and true tropes. We will go over what angst is and why it is the most important emotion in a romance. Then work through what the formula is and how to make your romance fit the formula

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Paul S. Levine

Paul S. Levine “wears two hats”—he is a lawyer and a literary agent.

Mr. Levine has practiced entertainment law for over 35 years, specializing in the representation of writers, producers, actors, directors, composers, musicians, artists, authors, photographers, galleries, publishers, developers, production companies and theatre companies in the fields of motion pictures, television, interactive multimedia, live stage, recorded music, concerts, the visual arts, publishing, and advertising.

In 1998, Mr. Levine opened the Paul S. Levine Literary Agency, specializing in the representation of book authors and the sale of motion picture and television rights in and to books. Mr. Levine has sold over 150 adult, young adult, and children’s fiction and non-fiction books to at least 50 different publishers and has had many books developed as movies-for-television, television series, and feature films.

pitch room

Looking for: Paul is looking for all forms of adult, young adult, and children’s fiction and non-fiction, except fantasy and horror.


Go from Fingers to Keyboard to Dollars in the Bank

Paul S. Levine will discuss four ways authors make money from book publishers. Often times, beginning writers have very little idea how they can go from slaving away on their keyboards at night and on weekends to actually quitting their day job.

Paul will also discuss ways in which authors make money from publishers, and ways publishers try not to pay, or try to postpone paying for as long as possible. Of course, there are other ways in which authors make money from their books by being paid by third-parties other than their publishers, such as the “sale” of movie and television rights to their books to “Hollywood”, but that’s the subject of another session.


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Shannon Iwanski

Award-winning author Shannon Iwanski is the owner and Editor-in-Chief of Inkubus Publishing, an editor for A Murder of Storytellers, and a founding member of the critique group Nevermore Edits. In 2014, he realized his childhood dream when his debut novel Ride the Train was published. Since then, Shannon has published another novel, multiple short stories, four novellas, and three anthologies. When not alternating between cursing and thanking his overactive muse, he enjoys reading comic books and collecting way too much geeky memorabilia. Shannon lives in Tulsa, OK with his husband, four dogs, two cats, and a bird.

pitch room

Looking for: A Murder of Storytellers (AMoS) is looking for pieces that focus on darker subjects. This can be horror of any kind and in any sub-genre, dark fantasy or fiction, or anything else that is creepy or intended to terrify, horrify, or scare the reader. AMoS also wants pieces from diverse authors or from authors who have a diverse cast of characters.

Pieces should be at least novella-length (20k words). We're interested in standalone pieces, pieces that are part of a series or that have series potential, and single-author anthologies or short-story collections.

The great thing about AMoS is we have multiple editors who have varied tastes in stories. Authors don't have to try to tailor their pieces to just Shannon's tastes, because even if he doesn’t like it, he may be able to think of an editor who will. That's no guarantee of acceptance, but it definitely opens the field for more options. For example, he doesn’t like splatter punk, but he knows at least three fellow AMoS editors who are good with it.


People First Language: Shaping Readers' Perceptions of Characters

As authors, we know the importance of describing characters in order to make them come alive.  If used correctly, it can also quickly convey information that doesn't require lengthy descriptions. However, what we may not realize is that we could be unintentionally giving readers preconceived perceptions of the characters. Shannon Iwanski will discuss the philosophy of People First Language and how it can be used in writing.

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Ally Robertson

Ally Robertson, from Edmond, Oklahoma, has been with The Wild Rose Press since they opened in 2006. She is also a freelance editor and author, with more than twenty-five published titles. She’s partial to all things dark and scary. However, she’s not scary at all. She loves authors and enjoys helping them realize their dreams. One of the best perks of her job is meeting new people and discovering fabulous new stories. She adores editing, writing, reading, Elvis Presley, the MLB, and watching her favorite television shows—which she calls 'research' so it doesn't seem as though she’s wasting time.

pitch room

Looking for: The Wild Rose Press (TWRP) publishes short stories and novels from 7,500 to 100,000 words. Ally is looking specifially for suspense/mystery/thriller, with or without romance. TWRP is also looking for the following: Romance: paranormal, fantasy, sci-fi, historical, contemporary; Non-Romance: fantasy, paranormal, sci-fi, historical, women's fiction, mainstream contemporary. TWRP does not take non-fiction.


Fine-Tuning Your Manuscript Before Submitting (Or Self-Publishing):

Editor Ally Robertson will provide some tips on how to fine-tune your manuscript so that it’s agent/editor-ready. Whether you are submitting or self-publishing, you want your story to be as professional and polished as possible. Learn about dialogue punctuation, why you shouldn’t use so many dialogue tags, dangling modifiers, eliminating excess, repetitive, and unnecessary words, and more.

Melissa Ann Singer

Melissa Ann Singer is a Senior Editor at Tor/Forge Books, part of the Macmillan publishing group. Born and raised in New York City, she began reading at three (according to family lore), started reading comics when she was six, and started reading science fiction and fantasy when she was eight. She reads just about every kind of genre fiction there is, from sf/f/horror to romance, from westerns to mysteries, from the pulp era up to the modern day. This, as it turns out, is good training for being a genre fiction editor. New York is good at giving people a grounding in arts and culture, which means Melissa has been going to the theater and to dance performances for a very long time, and on most summer Friday afternoons can be found at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. She also loves baseball (the Mets) and assorted Olympic sports. In her 20s and 30s, she spent about ten years studying theatrical combat and could sometimes be spotted running through Central Park, a sword in hand. 

pitch room

Looking for: Melissa is eager to see characters who represent the full spectrum of people in the real world and works by writers whose voices we have not heard before. Horror fiction, both supernatural and psychological: She is open to anything frightening, creepy, or unsettling. Authors who are sourcing from non-Western and non-Christian traditions are especially welcome. Epic/adventure fantasy: quests, battles, magic, sailing ships, journeys of adventure and self-discovery, sword & sorcery. She is happy to see non-Western-derived cultures/worlds/magic/deities. Science fiction: explore planets; make first or second contact; bring down an evil, galaxy-spanning empire. Secondarily, sociological SF that looks at the impact of technology on individuals and cultures. Historical fiction: Asian and South Asian countries and cultures, trade route stories, and stories set in North America that are not about Ellis Island immigration and are not set in cities during the Victorian/Edwardian eras. Mystery and suspense: professional sleuths—cops and private eyes, forensic specialists and scientists--and spies (including the corporate variety). No cozies or humorous mysteries.


Instant Feedback on Your Opening Scene

Bring the first 3-5 pages of the beginning of your book (arrangements will be made to gather these anonymously). Melissa Ann Singer will read aloud and provide feedback intended to help you create an opening scene that will catch and hold the attention of the reader. Include genre/subgenre and title on first page.

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Vivian Zabel taught English and writing for nearly 30 years. During the years after retiring from teaching, she presented writing workshops from Texas to Alaska. She founded 4RV Publishing in February 2007. In her spare time, she writes, as she has since a child. To date, she has novels, young adult, and children's books released.

pitch room

Looking for: 4RV is looking for submissions in the following genres and areas: science fiction, fantasy, mainstream, cozy romance, mystery, suspense, nonfiction, Biblical based for tweens and teens, young adults, and adults. We will take pitches for children's books, but otherwise do not accept submissions.


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Angela Christina Archer

Angela Christina Archer is an author of Sweet and Spicy Romances from Yesteryear. Her titles range in different historical time periods, including the Civil War, the Klondike and Nevada Gold Rushes, the Great Depression, and the Salem Witch Trials. For more information visit her website at

Growing up in Nevada, reading was always a pastime that took second place to trail riding and showing horses. When she did find the time to curl up with a book, she found enjoyment in the Saddle Club Series, the Sweet Valley High series, and the classics of Anne of Green Gables, The Box Car Children, and Little House on the Prairie. Although, writing always piqued her curiosity, it wasn’t until September 2009 that she worked up the courage to put her passion to paper and started her debut novel. With a love of history, the genre picked her, she didn't pick the genre.

When she’s not writing, Angela spends her days as a stay at home, homeschooling mom. She lives on a small farm in Newcastle, Oklahoma with her husband and their two daughters. Her hobbies include gardening, taking care of her many farm animals, and baking and cooking from scratch. While she doesn't show horses anymore, she still loves to trail ride with her daughters.

Life certainly is hectic, at times, but she wouldn't have it any other way.


Elements and Rules of Writing Historical Novels

Historical novels draw readers into another time and era. A time in history when people lived without electricity, fought in wars for their country, panned for gold, lived among Dukes and Duchesses, battled rival clans in the Highlands, or explored a new frontier either on foot or by Viking long ships. In this discussion we will dig into the elements and rules for writing in the Historical genre.

The Best of Both Worlds: Being a Hybrid Author

Are you a traditional published author who is interested in self-publishing? Or are you a self-published author interested in traditional publishing? Explore the pros and cons to both and what it means to be a Hybrid Author.


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John T. Biggs

John T. Biggs describes himself as a regional writer whose region is somewhere west of the Twilight Zone. His work blends speculative fiction with a literary style and frequently includes Native American mysticism. 

Sixty of John’s short stories have been published in magazines and anthologies that vary from literary to young adult speculative fiction and everything in between. Some of these stories have won regional and national awards including Grand Prize in the Writers Digest 80thannual competition, third prize in the Lorian Hemingway short story contest, aStoryteller Magazine’s People’s Choice Award, and an OWFI Crème de la Crème Award. 

John has published four novels: Owl Dreams,Popsicle Styx (Oklahoma Book Award Finalist) Cherokee Ice (Oklahoma Book Award Finalist & OWFI Best Published Fiction Book of 2015), and Shiners(OWFI Best Published Fiction book of 2017)as well as a linked short story collection, Sacred Alarm Clock, which includes the OWFI Crème de la Crème winning story, “Twenty Percent Off”.  His series post-apocalyptic novellas,Clementine a song for the end of the world was released in mid 2018.

The best way to see what John is up to is on his Facebook page. You can also find John on Twitter or his Amazon Author page.


Let Magic Realism Work Its Spell on Your Fiction

Human beings are hard wired to believe in the supernatural. Many of us check our daily horoscopes. Some of us have paid money for psychic readings. Most of us have had a lucky charm at one time or another or a ritual we went through before a big event. Even if we don’t believe in any of those things 100%, we still let them influence our lives. Hard core realists feel a chill if they hear footsteps where no one is supposed to be. Atheists don’t tell friends not to pray for them while wait for the results of a biopsy. Everyone has had a life altering event—a missed connection, a chance encounter, a disaster avoided by a matter of seconds—something that seemed more a product of fate than coincidence.

Incorporating a bit of magic into your narrative will make your characters more memorable, especially if you are writing stories that include diverse individuals with cultural norms different from your target audience. Whether you are writing literary fiction like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, science fiction like Robert Heinlein, or westerns like Craig Johnson, your readers will love you for it.

Writing by the Seat of Your Pants

People developed a hunger for stories long before anyone could read and write. They sat around campfires or in long houses or in tipis and listened while someone skilled at telling lies entertained them. Some of those old tales were told over and over, but the best storytellers never told them exactly the same way twice. They knew the secret to keeping listeners interested was to make them wonder what would happen next. And one tried and true method of keeping an audience in suspense was for the storyteller to be in suspense too.

When we put that kind of story on paper, we call it writing by the seat of your pants. Rather that devote the creative process to producing a detailed outline, writers sit back and spin themselves a narrative. They are often even more surprised than the reader at how things work out. 

This workshop recommends beginning with a firm idea of who your main characters are, but with a very general idea of the plot and a flexible concept of the ending. The story moves forward one scene at a time. Unexpected twists and turns come to writers when they least expect it and these insights give the narrative an edge that’s difficult to achieve with meticulously planned work.


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Linda Boulanger

Linda Boulanger, a self-published author and fellow Oklahoman, is also an award-winning cover designer. She works with authors from around the world to provide their readers with that all-important first glimpse of what they will find beneath the cover. Her main objective is to make sure every author she works with falls in love with his/her cover because she believes you can’t “sell” your book if you feel like your cover is just okay. She claims success by that measure alone and her sessions are geared around making sure you are in love with your own cover, whether you create it yourself or hire it done. Please feel free to visit her at her website: You’ll also find Facebook links there on the CONTACT tab.


Can I Really Create My Own Cover?

While I can't teach you to use a graphics program, I can share valuable resource information and designer tips. This will get you on the right track to designing your own covers that will make a potential reader stop long enough to take that next step... read your blurb. Come with questions or cover needs in hand and let's talk about what it will take you to create your own cover.

Judging That Book By Its Cover

In this session, we will look at covers that sell. I'll share my knowledge and discuss some of what a designer puts into a cover that we expect will grab the attention of potential readers. Participants are encouraged to bring their own books or cover design but must be open to constructive critique.


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Sabrina A. Fish

Sabrina A. Fish is the award-winning author of the adult fantasy romance series, The Gate Keeper Chronicles as well as several YA novellas in the multi-author Shine series. She loves all things chocolate and her husband is sweet enough to never let the candy dish near her computer become empty.

Born and raised in Oklahoma, she considers the three years spent in a Texas high school to be a short trip down the rabbit hole that ended at graduation. She returned to Oklahoma and received her Bachelor's degree in Political Science from the University of Oklahoma. BOOMER SOONER. She owns a trophy/award company with her husband and son in Oklahoma City.

When she isn't writing, promoting her novels, or running her company, she can be found reading, scrap booking, or spending quality time with her family. To find out more about Sabrina and her books, visit her website.


Fantasy World Building: Where to Begin

In this workshop, award-winning fantasy & romance author, Sabrina A. Fish will walk you through the key questions you need to ask yourself when beginning to craft a new world for  your fantasy story.

Building an Author Platform: Before & After Publication

Whether published or not, all authors need to begin building and/or continue building their author platform. In this workshop, award-winning author, Sabrina A. Fish, will talk about ways to start building your platform from scratch as well as ways to continue building on that platform after publication. 


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Rene Gutteridge

Rene Gutteridge is the award-winning and best-selling author of twenty-four multi-genre novels and is a seasoned collaborator in both fiction and film. She has novelized six screenplays and movies, including Old Fashioned, with writer/director Rik Swartzwelder. Her romantic comedy with screenwriter Cheryl McKay, Never the Bride, won the Carol Award for Best Women’s Fiction.  Her additional titles include two more novelizations with Cheryl McKay, Love’s a Stage and O Little Town of Bethany. Her seven suspense books include Possession, Misery Loves Company, Ghost Writer and Escapement.  Her newest book, about Santa Claus, will release in December of 2019.

Her indie film, the comedy SKID, was deadCenter Film Festival’s Best Oklahoma Feature Film Winner in 2015 and also won Best Oklahoma Feature at Red Dirt and Trail Dance. She is a creative consultant on Boo, a script based on her beloved novel series, which is in development at Sodium 11 Entertainment with Andrea Nasfell (Moms’ Night Out) as screenwriter. Her novel My Life as a Doormat was adapted into a Hallmark film called Love’s Complicated which premiered in January of 2016 and scored 2.1 million viewers opening weekend.  She is the head writer for The Skit Guys. Find her on Facebook and Twitter or at her website,


Screenwriting for Novelists

How to Think like a Screenwriter and Adapt your Novel.  Novelists tend to excel at many forms of writing, from poetry to periodicals to even narrative non-fiction, because their strength is in the creative process and their love is in story.  But one form of writing, the screenplay, tends to be exceptionally difficult for novelists to adapt to.  Rene will show you the vast differences between the two forms of writing, and how novelists can switch their thinking in order to make the transition from manuscript to screenplay much easier.

The Screenwriting Life

The Business and Realities of Screenwriting in Independent Filmmaking.  Rene spent twenty years working as a novelist, and still writes books, but her transition into screenwriting (her first love and what she diligently studied in college), proved to be as challenging as it was rewarding.  Rene will lift the veil and reveal the realities of what it's like to work as an independent filmmaker and screenwriter, and how connecting to your local filmmaking community, rather than a big studio, can make a difference in the advancement of your ambitions.

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C.M. Healy

C.M. Healy currently lives in Texas with his wife, dog, and two giant cats where he taught seventh grade science. When he's not busy writing, he enjoys building Lego sets, playing video games, reading comic books (The Flash is his favorite), and watching TV with his best buddy, his wife. He earned the distinguished award of Eagle Scout during high school and went on to obtain his masters in child development from Oklahoma State University. He has been working with and entertaining children of all ages ever since.

P.S. He loves to wear FUN SOCKS to his events so ask him to show you ;-)


Being Self-Published, but Looking Professional

Publishing a book is easy nowadays, however, making it a viable income is anything but. To do that, you have to look professional. Find out what it takes to build your work (even if you’re already finished) piece by piece to look like a book you’d find on a shelf at Barnes and Noble from a traditional publisher. Cover design, ISBNs, barcodes, catalogue code and more will all be discussed as you learn how to take your book to the next level.

Self-Published Marketing: Doing It on Your Own

This workshop is designed to cover various marketing tips for the SP author who may have a little help but is doing it mostly on their own. Discussion will include how to get reviews, having a website, an email newsletter (and getting those emails), various social media outlets, and a few more tips. There’s an enormous amount of stuff out there, come find your focus and figure out what’s going to work for you.


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Jennifer McMurrain

Jennifer McMurrain is a full-time mother, wife, and writer. She has won numerous awards for her short stories and novels, including hitting #1 on the Amazon Best Seller list with her debut novel, Quail Crossings, being a 3rd place finalist in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards for her paranormal romance novel, Winter Song, and winning the paranormal category of the 2017 IDAs for her romance, Summer’s End.  She has six full length novels and seven book collaboration published. She lives in Bartlesville, Oklahoma with her family. You can find more information at


All Things E-Book: The Art of E-Book Writing, Formatting, and Public Relations

For most published authors e-books pay the bills. Find out the tips and tricks to making your e-book stand out with your writing, formatting, and marketing.  

Book Cook: How to Bake the Perfect Book

Perfect way to introduce the art of writing to the new novelists. As the Book Cook, Jennifer will walk you through the steps of novel writing with this interactive and fun presentation.


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Robin Patchen

Robin Patchen is one of the authors of 5 Editors Tackle the 12 Fatal Flaws of Fiction Writing, an in-depth guide to self-editing. She is a multi-published award winning author and freelance editor specializing in Christian fiction who was nominated to be ACFW's 2018's Editor of the Year. As a general editor with Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolina's Smitten line and a freelance copy editor for Serenade Press, she has the privilege of working with exceptionally talented romance and historical romance authors. Patchen loves mentoring new authors and helping established authors polish their books. She enjoys reading and editing almost every clean YA and adult genre.

For more information about Robin Patchen, visit her website at


Small Edits, Big Impact: Literary Devices and Simple Tricks to Improve your Prose

Has your critique partner ever "fixed" a great piece of your writing because it wasn’t grammatically perfect? Maybe you were using a rhetorical device and didn’t even know it. In this workshop, you’ll learn how to use rhetorical devices—which often don’t follow rules—and other simple tricks to improve the emotional impact of your stories. Because great prose transcends voice and genre, examples of the different devices will be taken from speeches, literature, and movies to illustrate how they can be used in all kinds of writing.

Writing when Life Gets in the Way 

Do you often set your writing aside to make room for urgent projects? Do you find it difficult to write when life has been physically challenging or emotionally draining? Learn to meet your writing deadlines—external and self-imposed—despite the distractions, difficulties, and dramas that come your way.


Eric Reitan

Eric Reitan, a philosophy professor at Oklahoma State University, has won numerous writing awards, including the Outstanding Writer Award at the Rose State Writers’ Conference and the Crème-de-la-Crème Award of the Oklahoma Writers’ Federation, Inc. His short stories have appeared in numerous venues including The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Gamut, Deciduous Tales, and the Alien Invasion anthology from Flame Tree Press. His nonfiction books include Is God a Delusion? (named a Choice Outstanding Academic Title of 2009), God’s Final Victory: A Comparative Philosophical Case for Universalism (with John Kronen), and most recently The Triumph of Love: Same-Sex Marriage and the Christian Love Ethic.


There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block

Every writer at some point has found themselves in the following situation: we sit down to write but the words don’t flow. It’s easy to slap the “writer’s block” label on it, but it’s an empty label. It tells us nothing about why we’re stuck. What we need if we want to get back to writing is a diagnosis that can help us devise a treatment plan. In this session we’ll consider a range of reasons why writers find themselves staring at a blank page, and then discuss strategies for moving forward.

 Openings That Don’t Suck (But Do Suck You In)

What do great openings have in common? What catches and keeps a reader’s attention? What inspires them to stop reading? In this session we’ll use examples from fiction and nonfiction to help identify some of the basic elements of strong openings, from opening lines to opening pages. Then, we’ll consider a helpful “don’t” list—things to avoid—but with a twist. Instead of just thinking about what makes such openings prone to failure, we’ll consider how to transform such “bad” opening gambits into something awesome.


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Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer

Sarah Elisabeth Sawyer is an award-winning inspirational author, speaker and Choctaw storyteller of traditional and fictional tales based on the lives of her people. The Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian has honored her as a literary artist through their Artist Leadership Program for her work in preserving Trail of Tears stories. In 2015, First Peoples Fund awarded her an Artist in Business Leadership Fellowship. She writes from her hometown in Texas, partnering with her mother, Lynda Kay Sawyer, in continued research for future novels. Learn more about their work to preserve Choctaw history and culture at and


Writing about Native Americans

How to be culturally aware when writing American Indian characters, stories and legends. Presented by a Native author, this session includes tips for in-depth researching online, phone interviews, site visits, archives, and more.

My Thousand Mile Journey

Inspiration for emerging and established writers, this is an intimate peek behind the scenes at the journey of a full-time writer. The ups, the downs, and ways to actually make a life as a writer.


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Natasha Tinsley

 Natasha Tinsley is an MFA candidate at Oklahoma State University. She has a BA in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and an M.Ed. in Education. She teaches 9th grade Language Arts. While her emphasis is in fiction, she has a love for creative nonfiction, poetry, and academic works. She has won awards from OWFI for poetry and fiction. She has also published poetry and academic works in Arcturus and the Writing Center Journal. Much of her work pertains to the marginalization and micro-aggressions endured by African American people, as well as the misconceptions and misunderstandings associated with both White and Black people.



Beyond Inclusion: Intentional Strategies for Critiquing Race and Racism in Writing

We will discuss ways of handling material structured around racial matters. The session will consist of a brief background related to racism in education and the presenter’s personal experience with racism. The participants should be prepared to immerse themselves in the experience by working through scenarios using strategies intended to maintain respect and communication between the writer and the person critiquing.

Seeing Is Believing: Strategies for “Showing” in Creative Writing

We will discuss what is really means to “show not tell” in creative works. Natasha will provide a brief history and research on what “show” and “tell” mean. She will also provide examples of showing such elements as mood, tone, and emotion that help the reader better understand character development, setting, and the plot. Be sure to bring your paper and pen to practice what you’ve learned. Feedback will be available for those interested.


Grace Wagner

Grace Wagner is currently an MFA candidate at the University of Houston. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Colorado Denver where she studied with Wayne Miller, Nicky Beer, and Brian Barker. She has also attended the New York Summer Writers Institute where she studied with Carolyn Forché, Cambell McGrath, Rosanna Warren, and Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky. She currently works for Gulf Coast and has previously worked for Copper Nickel as Assistant Poetry Editor. Her poetry has been featured in Salmagundi Magazine.


An Introduction to Poetry of Witness and Documentary Poetics

Elie Wiesel said, “For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Poetry is an extraordinary vehicle for remembering the past, both within living memory and farther back beyond the experience of modern day. Whether research based, as with documentary poetics, or experience based, as with Poetry of Witness, the power of poetry to reify the experience of trauma is integral in a world composed of and defined by trauma. Whether witness to genocide, natural disaster, or the more personal trauma of domestic violence, poetry can ensure that events are not forgotten and create empathy for the experiences of the Other. In this brief introduction to Poetry of Witness and Documentary Poetics, we will trace the history of poetry of witness and become familiar with contemporary poets of witness. We will also define what it means to be a poet of witness and how we can bear witness to traumatic events in our own lives through our poetry.

The Technical Side of Poetry: An Introductory/Intermediate Workshop on Poetic Devices and Form

Basho once said, “In my view a good poem is one in which the form of the verse and the joining of its parts seems light as a shallow river flowing over its sandy bed.” While poetry is often considered to be a highly emotional art, a poem cannot be truly great without an appreciation and understanding of form. Although not all poems are as intensely formal as a sonnet, they all use poetic devices and form to enhance content. This workshop will provide an introduction to several poetic devices and concepts of form that can be utilized in your own work. From free verse to the sonnet, we will examine how form enacts content and how it can be used to further communicate the poet’s meaning.


Cecelia Wilson

For more than a decade, Batesville, Arkansas native Cecelia Wilson has been the Feature Writer for Searcy Living magazine where she penned articles introducing readers to governors, senators, Grammy Award-winning musicians, and individuals from all walks of life.  Currently residing in central Arkansas, Cecelia is a graduate of Batesville High and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock.


Back to Bremen

Back to Bremen depicts the true, World War II story of Marta Röpke, a common mother who risks everything to see that her children survive the war that has come to her doorstep.  The story is a vivid reminder that war creates countless victims, but a mother’s love can turn a common woman into a heroine.

Joining Author Cecelia Wilson will be Arkansas resident Edith Röpke Harris.  Edith’s childhood in Nazi Germany is the basis for the book Back to Bremen, and Cecelia tells the story through Edith’s voice as a child.  Back to Bremen was published on Edith’s 81st birthday.

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How to Interview for Magazines and More

Using individual interviews, to get the story for articles, gaining that practice and honing skills to then translate that to writing a full-length book and getting published. There is a big difference in writing short articles as a magazine writer as opposed to lengthening stories to become a book author.