Annual Conference 2020

Workshops & Panels

Saturday Workshops

Sound Writing: How to Write for an Audience of Listeners — Michael Freedman

What makes writing for the ear different from writing for the eye? Whether you are creating an audio book, you are launching a podcast, you are engaged in or aspire to radio, or you just desire to make yourself heard, this session will help you understand how to work with words that evaporate in the air. Learn where place attribution in a spoken sentence, how to write simply but not simplistically, how to use sound, how to create a “driveway moment,” and more.

Michael Freedman is President of the National Press Club and Journalist in Residence at University of Maryland Global Campus. In a distinguished career spanning more than 35 years, Freedman has served as general manager of CBS Radio Network News, managing editor for the Broadcast Division of United Press International, vice president and professor of journalism at The George Washington University, senior vice president and professor of the practice at University of Maryland Global Campus, and executive producer of the public broadcasting series "The Kalb Report."

Get More Book Reviews, Sell More Books — Ally Machate

It may seem like the first step for any author is to try and sell books, but in fact, if you haven’t already gotten at least 25 4- and 5- star reviews on Amazon, anyone who lands on your sales page is unlikely to take the next step and buy your book. And that’s not the only thing that’s probably keeping you from making more sales. It’s all about having the right approach to listing and promoting your book, especially in its first 30 days, a crucial window for engaging Amazon in promoting your book for you. This workshop  will show you how to do it.

Ally E. Machate is on a mission to make great books happen and help authors reach more readers. A bestselling author and expert publishing consultant, Ally has served both small and “Big Five” publishers, including Simon & Schuster, where she acquired and edited books for the Touchstone and Fireside imprints. Ally leads a diversified team of editorial professionals who work with authors to write, edit, publish, and sell their books. and

Planning for Pantsers — Orly Konig

No matter your writing and publishing goals, having a business plan is a necessary tool to keep you on track. This workshop will look at what a business plan is for an author, why you need one, how to develop a plan that works for you, and how to use the plan once you’ve created it.

Orly Konig spent over 15 years working in corporate communications for the space industry. She is the founding president of the Women’s Fiction Writers Association and is a member of the Tall Poppy Writers. She is the author of The Distance Home and Carousel Beach.

Write Your Nonfiction Book Proposal — Barbara Morrison

If you’re writing a memoir, biography or other nonfiction book, you will need to create a book proposal to send to agents and editors. Its purpose is to show there is a market for your book idea and why you are the person to write it. In some cases, you can sell your book on the basis of the proposal and get paid an advance before you’ve actually written the book. In this workshop, we will look at what goes into a book proposal, including the overview, competitive analysis, marketing plan, annotated outline, and sample chapters. this workshop will help you discover what it takes to create a successful proposal. 

Barbara Morrison, who writes under the name B. Morrison, is the author of a memoir, Innocent: Confessions of a Welfare Mother, a powerful coming-of-age story that dispels some of the myths and misunderstandings about those living in poverty. She is also the author of two poetry collections, Terrarium and Here at Least, and her award-winning work has been published in anthologies and magazines. She conducts writing workshops and provides editing services. She has maintained her Monday Morning Books blog since 2006 and tweets regularly about poetry @bmorrison9. For more information, visit her website and blog at

Kidlit Market 101 ⁠— Kathy MacMillan

Join Kathy MacMillan, author of 10 books for children and teens and co-Regional Advisor of the MD/DE/WV Region of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, for an overview of the children’s publishing world. We’ll cover age categories, genres, and best practices for submission, in addition to breaking down the differences between large and small publishers, educational markets, and book packagers. Learn how to focus your craft to fit your publishing goals, when you do and don’t need an agent, and the resources you need to know to get your kidlit career going.

Kathy MacMillan (she/her) is a writer, American Sign Language interpreter, librarian, signing storyteller, and avowed Hufflepuff. She writes picture books (Nita's First Signs and Nita's Day, Familius Press), children’s nonfiction (She Spoke: 14 Women Who Raised Their Voices and Changed the World, Familius Press and Understanding Bipolar Disorder, BrightPoint Press), middle grade fantasy (The Chronicles of Cavallon series, Working Partners/Arena), and young adult fantasy (Sword and Verse and Dagger and Coin, both HarperTeen). She has also published many resource books for educators, librarians, and parents. Kathy serves as the co-Regional Advisor for the Maryland/Delaware/West Virginia Region of the Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. She lives in Baltimore, MD. Find her online at

The Nuts and Bolts of Marketing Your Book —  Herta Feely

Whether your book is about to be published through a big press, indie press, hybrid, or self-publisher, what do you need to know about marketing your book? It often surprises people that even with traditionally published books, you need to provide additional marketing support. You ought to know the basics of marketing and develop a plan well in advance of your book’s publication date. Explore the importance and value of book reviews, various forms of social media, book tours (virtual and real), house parties, targeted advertisement, contests and book festivals, and more. Handouts include lists of book reviewers, paid advertising options; PR and publicity firms that promote books; lists of festivals, contests, and awards.

Herta Feely, author and editor, works with writers providing manuscript critiques, coaching, and ghostwriting. She has taught at the Bethesda Writer's Center and is the author of the novel Saving Phoebe Murrow, an Amazon UK Best Debut and recipient of three Independent Press awards. She has received the James Jones First Novel Fellowship and writing fellowships from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities and has ghostwritten two traditionally published memoirs.


Social Media Strategy & Branding — Sonny Tannan

To help you build a simplified, workable social media strategy, this workshop will focus on 3 big concepts...WHY, HOW, WHO. Let's start with the question and the WHY...does Social Media Strategy & Branding work? Proof is in the numbers and the type of engagement that you can create today. But what if I don't know HOW to do this...more importantly, what is in it for me? If you know anything about communication and how individuals and brands are reaching their audience today, its through leveraging relationships. Is there a right and wrong way to do this...and WHO do I want to reach? Workshop will focus on LinkedIn and touch upon other platforms.

Sonny Tannan is a United States Marine Corps veteran with a background in business development. As a #LinkedInVideo content creator, you may see him with his 3-year-old son Om (youngest influencer on LinkedIn!) or perhaps on The (Un)Learn Show. Sonny released his first book in March 2019, “Through the Eyes of Om - Exploring Malaysia”, based on life experiences and traveling the world as seen through the unique perspective of his son’s eyes. Being #Fansof3, their observations are presented in groups of three in order for information to be easily understood.

Editors: Who They Are, What They Do, and How They Can Help You — Katherine Pickett

You often hear that you must hire an editor before you publish your book. But what can an editor really do for you and what type of editor do you need? In this presentation, veteran editor Katherine Pickett will give you the inside scoop on: The types of editors available to you; What qualifies someone to be an editor; How to find and hire the right editor for your project; What your role is when working with an editor; How you can save time and money throughout the editing process. Attendees will have a chance to have a page of their own work edited during the workshop.

Katherine Pickett is the owner of POP Editorial Services LLC (, where she provides copyediting, proofreading, and developmental editing to authors and publishers across the country. She is also the author of the award-winning book Perfect Bound: How to Navigate the Book Publishing Process Like a Pro.

The first 50 Pages: What Editors Want to See — Linda Wood Rondeau

Agents and editors see hundreds of manuscripts each year and they have to go through them quickly. This workshop will highlight the five most important things they’re looking for in plot, character, setting narrative voice, and marketability. We’ll focus on you need to show an editor in your first five and the first 50 pages of your manuscript so she’ll want to read the rest.

Linda Wood Rondeau, a veteran social worker, is the author of eight traditionally published books.

Hanging Out a Shingle: DIY Author Websites
— Nate Hoffelder

An author's website is an online office and storefront, but it doesn't have to be stodgy. Your site can be a simple as a single page and still present a professional face to reviewers and help you connect with fans. It all starts with knowing what you want to do, and why.

Nate Hoffelder has been building and running Wordpress sites since 2010. He blogs about indie publishing and helps authors connect with readers by customizing websites to suit each author’s voice. His site, The Digital Reader, is mentioned on podcasts such as The Creative Penn, Wordslinger, or Sell More Books Show.

Creating Your Book Trailer — Alan King

With Facebook Live and other social media, people use videos to tell stories and engage their audience in real time. Book trailers are another opportunity to connect with potential readers and get them excited about your book. In this workshop, participants will learn what makes a book trailer successful, how to include one in their marketing strategy, and how to create their own trailers.

Alan King is an author, poet, journalist and videographer, and communications specialist and a senior editor at Words Beats & Life‘s global hip hop journal. His poems and short stories appear in various literary journals and magazines and are featured on public radio.

Creating Dialogue: Act It Out — Nancy Alexander

Join us for this fun, interactional, and educational exploration of dialogue development! Nancy Alexander will facilitate a ‘dialogue in action’ exercise, which will provide an in-depth, experiential understanding of how we write, read and understand dialogue. We will see how interpretation is affected by contextual cues and scene setting and notice what happens when they change or are absent.

Nancy Alexander has devoted her professional life to helping those in need. She has worked as a psychotherapist, mental health trainer, and social justice advocate. After publishing several short stories, she launched her Elisabeth Reinhardt series with Relentless, marrying her in-depth knowledge of the human mind and her love for psycho-thrillers. Her most recent novel, Deadlock, will be released early 2020.

Oral History and Writing— Monica Smith

Are you writing a biography, memoir, or historical work that requires new interviews? Would you like to generate dialogue or setting ideas for your novel, but are unsure of how to deliver a comprehensive interview? Perhaps you have considered conducting an oral history interview, but you don’t know where or how to start. If so, this workshop is for you. Learn oral history Dos and Don’ts, along with planning and execution tips before embarking on your project. Find out how to get responses rich in sensory details—all by asking the right questions.

Monica Smith is a retired pilot, bookseller, and aviation historian who focuses on women and African American aviation pioneers. A former A. Verville Fellow and Research Associate at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Air and Space Museum, she recently led the Military Women Aviators Oral History Initiative. Her writing projects include a history of the first 50 years of Black aviation, and two biographies of pioneering Black aviators.

Saturday Panels

Harness the Power of Many Minds Without Losing Your Own Voice — Kathy Love, Christie Kelley, Kate Dolan, Kate Poole

Kate Dolan

Christie Kelley

In this workshop, four critique partners will demonstrate how partnerships can inspire and improve participants’ writing and marketing techniques. First, they will briefly explain how they achieved positive results through brainstorming, critiquing, and working together on all phases of publication and marketing over the past 20 years. Then they will have participants consider story concepts and writing blocks individually and in small group brainstorming sessions. They will show how writers can help each other, but perhaps most importantly, they will show some of the mistakes that can cause serious setbacks, and how to avoid those pitfalls. The goal of the workshop is to give participants an understanding of how to harness the power of many minds without losing their own voice in the process.

USA TODAY bestselling author Kathy Love has been labeled "a character-driven author, who prefers complex subjects that add an emotional, humorous edge" by Romantic Times. ( Award-winning author Christie Kelley writes Regency set historical romances and when not writing, she is usually in the garden, fixing something around the house. ( Kate Dolan writes historical fiction “laced with humor and unusual characters” according to Historical Novels Review. She also writes cozy mysteries and YA fantasy under the name K.D. Hays. ( Kate Poole writes historical romance praised for the depth of emotion. Together, these Maryland authors have published over 40 novels and served as house staff for ten cats, four dogs and a rabbit who likes to eat reference books.

Agent Panel: What Makes a Great Query Letter?

Query letters are the gateway to getting an agent to represent your work. Our agent panel will discuss what makes a great hook, what needs to be included in a query, and what annoys them in the letters they receive.

Bring a query letter to the conference and it might be selected to have our expert panelists provide feedback.

Sunday Workshops

Secrets No One Tells You, A Treasure Map to Successful Self-Publishing — Pamela Brunell

Do you have a book inside you ready to be written, or a book already written sitting and snoozing in your computer aching to be published? Are you wondering: “how can I start? how will I ever do this?” If your answer is YES, come to this workshop and learn the hands-on nitty gritty of self-publishing.

In 2019, Pamela Brunell published Beloving, her first book on Amazon. She started without a clue. After many months, massive research, and hundreds of conversations with dozens of experts in all aspects of book publishing, Pam finally birthed this volume of elegies that had been growing inside her for 25 years. In this workshop, Pam will share all the details.

Do You Need an Editor? The Answer Might Surprise you...  — Jeannette DiLouie

Hiring a professional editor is a money-consuming process. Even if a book manuscript contains no typos, awkward sentences, confusing points or run-on thoughts, it could easily cost $500. Writers need to know their money-saving options by understanding the publishing route they’re planning on, the benefits of beta readers, and the kind of editor they’re looking for. The ultimate answer is yes. They should get one involved. But they can bring that cost down to as low as $0 if they play their cards right.

Jeannette DiLouie is chief executive editor of Innovative Editing, a professional service that helps businesses and book writers alike make their words stand out in all the right ways. Author of 12 books across four genres and counting, four educational e-booklets, and too many blog posts to count, she loves to encourage other people’s writing dreams into existence as well. Jeannette has her B.A. in English, over a decade’s experience in editing, and a lifelong love affair with the written word that she doesn’t plan on breaking up with anytime soon.

You’ve Written A Play…what next? Tips for Beginning Playwrights — Penny Knobel-Besa

This will be a relaxed informal session where participants can share where they are in process and goals. There will be discussions for how to get a play produced, how to make pitches to Hollywood producers, and hints for technical production details to consider while writing a play.

Penny Knobel-Besa obtained her theatre degree from Towson University, masters from University of Baltimore, post graduate theatre studies at Yale University, and playwriting at Johns Hopkins.  She has a 40 year history in theatre including 20 years as playwright producer director including the Off-Broadway, NY production of her play that was picked up for development as a movie.  She founded Maryland Theatre Arts Company writing original plays, adaptions from books in the public domain and converted two ballets into musical plays.  She made pitches in Hollywood; Jim Henson’s Group said she could make a living doing pitches.

The 7 Touches of Marketing for Authors — E. J. Wenstrom

The seven touches of marketing, a foundational theory of the communications industry, means that a consumer must have seven separate touchpoints (on average) with a brand before they have enough brand awareness to make a purchase. Participants will learn this fundamental principle of marketing and sales and how they can apply it to their own efforts to build a readership and sell books.

E. J. Wenstrom is a communications professional with over 12 years of experience developing integrated campaigns that combine public relations, social media, and marketing to grow clients' audience. She writes on this topic for authors as a regular contributor several publications.


Graphic novels are a booming industry and, as any librarian might tell you, they are the go-to for many, many readers. So what exactly is a graphic novel and why is this format becoming increasingly appealing to writers? We'll explore these questions and more in this session focused on the craft of writing in the graphic novel format. Let's dig into the nuts and bolts of comics, including crafting a graphic novel manuscript, the role of the author and of the cartoonist, and what great mentor texts can help to inspire your journey.

Matthew Winner is the host of The Children's Book Podcast, a weekly podcast featuring insightful and sincere interviews with authors, illustrators, and everyone involved in taking a book from drawing board to bookshelf. He also cohosts Kidlit These Days, a Book Riot podcast pairing the best of children’s literature with what’s going on in the world today. In 2013 Matthew was named a Library Journal Mover & Shaker and was invited to the White House as part of the Champions of Change program. Matthew is the lead Lower School Librarian at McDonogh School in Owings Mills, Maryland. Matthew will also present Making Space for Social Media (below).


An active presence on social media can help connect you with readers, booksellers and influencers, but it can also detract from your time spent writing and crafting stories. So how does one maintain an online presence while still finding balance for other things? What are the best social media tools for you to use? And what is the value of building an authentic presence over simply using online marketing tools? Join Matthew Winner, school librarian and host of The Children's Book Podcast, to discuss the How and Why of making space for social media with practical, platform-specific takeaways on creating that space.

Matthew Winner is also presenting the workshop Thinking Inside the Box with Graphic Novels. See bio above.


Artifact as Muse: Using the Things We Share to Bring Prose and Poetry to Life — Ann Quinn

How can writers interact with the past, with a time and place, in a tangible way? In this session, participants will examine how accomplished poets and prose writers asked questions of artifact to bring the past into relevant relationship with the present. Be prepared to write—participants will practice posing questions to an artifact (bring one, or a picture of one) to see how it can inspire writing.

Ann Quinn is the author of the poetry chapbook Final Deployment, published by Finishing Line Press (2018). Her poetry has appeared in a wide variety of publications including Potomac Review, Little Patuxent Review, Broadkill Review, Haibun Today, and Snapdragon.


Writing Realistic Combat Scenes — Ed Swing

Does your novel have a fight scene? If so, you may be struggling with how to make it both exciting and realistic. This workshop will tell you how. We’ll walk you through how to handle real weapons, explain the different types, and why tactics play a vital role in every fight scene. We’ll include medieval & fantasy weapons and armor, guns, tactics, unarmed combat, and combat psychology

Ed Swing, the author of Awakenings, the first book of a planned 5-book Young Adult fantasy series, spent several years fighting with medieval weaponry in the Society for Creative Anachronism.

Can Teamwork Make Your Publishing Dream Come True? — Laura Shovan

Some people like to work alone; others find a partner can help get the creative juices flowing and provide a boost in motivation. Writing duos have been popular in comedy and film for decades. Could a collaborative novel be the boost your publishing career needs? This session will cover finding the right co-author, setting ground rules for collaboration, playing to each other’s strengths, and creating a partnership that helps bring out the best in both of you.

Laura Shovan is former editor of the literary journal Little Patuxent Review and has won multiple awards for her chapbooks and children’s books, including Mountain, Log, Salt and Stone, Takedown, and The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary. A Place at the Table, co-written with author/activist Saadia Faruqi, will be published in 2020.

Bronco Poetics: How to ride line breaks deeper into the creative process — Bhodi Tims

This workshop will focus on strategies using line breaks to push participants into the deeper rhythmic structures of their poem-in-progress, creating space for different voices to emerge. Participants will learn how their poems can push them outside of their comfort zone to become something different – different from past work, different rhythms and voice.

Bhodi Tims received his BA in English/Writing from George Mason University studying poetry with Peter Klappert, and a PhD from the University of Maryland studying the chemical ecologically of medicinal plants. His recent poetry publications include: Book: The Acoustic Property of Ancient Peoples, Finishing Line Press, 2018. In Search of Blue, The Blue Nib, 2019.

Blog your way to a successful non-fiction book — Jaclyn Paul

Blogging provides an excellent platform to hone your voice and find an audience for your non-fiction writing. It also helps build the relationships and credibility required to publish a successful book later. This workshop will teach writers how to blog professionally, ethically, and with authority; why to post your writing on a blog instead of social media; how to fine-tune your personal brand; how to build relationships that will increase book sales, get you coveted blurbs.

Jaclyn Paul is the author of Order from Chaos: The Everyday Grind of Staying Organized with Adult ADHD. She has written at her blog, The ADHD Homestead, since 2014. 

Creativity is crucial: Creative NonFiction — Ken Weiss

Is your prose lively? Most writing, even flavorless reports and meeting minutes, can be spiced up. This workshop focuses on being creative with non-fiction. It includes examples, discussion, and just enough practice. Participants will leave motivated to make their quiet prose sing and with ideas for doing so. Participants are invited to send excellent short examples in advance, their own or stolen from great writers. There is homework – to read “Creative Nonfiction” at Not to worry - it is only two prize-winning pages.

Ken Weiss writes memoirs, creative non-fiction and poetry, and translates from Spanish to English. His publications include a book of translated poetry, magazine articles and four books on importing and exporting.  Ken is an active supporter of the annual book fair in Gaithersburg, Maryland and heads a Creative Writers Group in that city. He has bachelor’s and master’s degrees, has lived in six countries and traveled to about 80, and speaks three languages.

Sunday Panels

Audiobook Production: A Primer for Independent Authors — Bill Lord, Anne Flosnik, David Stever

Audiobook sales are up and the audiobook industry is booming. In a national survey, 50 percent of Americans said they had listened to an audiobook in 2018. A panel of audiobook industry professionals will discuss how to produce an audiobook. Topics will include selecting and working with a narrator and whether you should narrate your own book; available platforms for publishing (ACX, Findaway Voices, Spoken Realms); deciding on royalty share; and marketing your audiobook.

Presenters are Bill Lord, professional actor and audiobook narrator; Anne Flosnik, an accent specialist and accomplished, multi-award-winning British actress; and David Stever, novelist, screenwriter, and film producer. Bill is the voice of Johnny Delarosa, the protagonist of David Stever’s Auburn Ride, mystery-thriller winner of MWA’s 2017 novel contest.

Murder Done Right! — Dick Ellwood, Bruce Goldfarb, William F. Greene

A good crime story requires a lot of imagination and creativity, but if it’s not grounded in realistic detail and proper police procedures, you risk losing your audience. In this workshop, a panel of professionals will walk you through what really happens at a crime scene and then answer your questions on how to make your investigations seem like the real thing. Don’t rely on fake TV dramas and movies, get your facts right!

The panel will include retired homicide Detective Dick Ellwood, a 25-year veteran of the Baltimore Police Department, Bruce Goldfarb, a forensic expert who now serves as Executive Assistant to Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner, and William F. Greene, Director of the Crime Scene Investigation Division for the Prince George's County police department.

Agent Panel: The First Page: How to Get an Agent’s Attention — Agent Panel

A panel of our guest agents will discuss what they look for when they read the first page of a book. Topics will include the importance of the opening sentence, how much needs to be included in the first page, and what to avoid in that important introduction.

Bring a sample first page and it may be selected for a critique by our panel of experts.

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