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Planning is underway for the 2015 Conference.  Sessions will be posted here as speakers are confirmed.  Below are the topics from the 2014 Conference.

Keynote: Uncovering the Truth about Cattle Kate–125 years later
(Jana Bommersbach)

One of the most outrageous and endearing legends of the Old West is that in 1889 in Wyoming Territory, is was “rangeland justice” that prominent cattlemen strung up two notorious “cattle rustlers”–one of them, the only woman ever hanged in the nation as a rustler.  They called her Cattle Kate and said she deserved her fate because she was a horrible thief and a whore, to boot.
It was all a lie.
Her real name was Ella Watson. She was a 29 year-old homesteader who was in their way.  They murdered her for her land and her water and then got away with destroying her name and reputation.
But “Cattle Kate,” my first historical novel, sets the record straight in letting Ella Watson tell her own life story. Learn what really happened on that July Saturday in 1889 when two innocents were hanged; how it got that far, and what it was like to be a woman pioneer homesteader.
As one early review put it, this book “literally rewrites history.” And in this, the 125th anniversary year of her murder, I say it’s about time!!

Keynote: The Seven Deadly Sins of Dialogue
(Bill Konigsberg)

Description: In this session, award-winning author Bill Konigsberg will go through the seven biggest mistakes authors make when writing dialogue. Starting with humorous examples of bad dialogue, the session will give participants a chance to try their hand at writing the worst scene of dialogue ever. The conversation will then turn to good dialogue, what it consists of, and a few tools writers can use to improve their own dialogue writing.
Learning Objectives:
  • Understand the pitfalls of hackneyed dialogue
  • Gain tools for “hearing” dialogue
  • Improve dialogue writing


Mind Mapping Your Way to Strong Characters
(Reese Monroe)

How can you make your characters leap off the page and take hold of your readers? There are many ways, but one we’ll touch on in this session is Mind Mapping. Be ready to have some crazy fun learning how to use this method to create deep, meaningful characters that your readers will remember long after they finish your story.

Learning Objectives:

  • Defining Mind Mapping
  • How this can help form/develop characters alone or in addition to other methods you’re already using.
  • Use it (This will be the practical aspect to the break-out session where I might use internet, or if you have dry erase boards/markers available)

Self Editing for Fiction Writers
(Jessica McCann)

 In this talk, I address the process and various stages of editing a writer can go through — from the plot and character development to theme and fact checking — to ensure the manuscript is ready to submit.

7 Golden Rules of Book Structure
(Landon J. Napoleon)

An overall guide to organizing a book from start to finish.

Writing from Personal Experience: Letting it Ignite Your Writing without Getting Burned
(Laura Ellen)

YA author Laura Ellen will discuss her journey to publication and how writing from personal experience both helped and hindered the process.  She will discuss topics such as revision, importance of networking and accepting criticism. This will be geared toward both beginning writers and writers who have finished or are close to finishing a novel. Although she will be speaking from the young adult market perspective, the talk will be applicable to all genres.

Session Learning Objectives: Participants will learn how:

  • writing from personal experiences can help and hurt their writing
  • to keep their vision in tact while taking themselves out of the story
  • to revise objectively without getting sucked into their own writing
  • to handle criticism and discern what to listen to and what to ignore
  • networking with other authors can help them
  • to locate opportunities to share their work with agents and editors

Writing Successful Historical Fiction
(Judith Starkston)

This session will explore four topics. We will define what historical fiction is in today’s market. We will examine how to do the essential research and then use your research in vivid detail without overburdening your story. We will discuss how to balance fact and fiction by both making the story work and keeping the history right. Last, we will focus on some of the issues particular to historical fiction when you choose your characters and build your plot.

Session Learning Objectives:

  • Understand how historical fiction is defined in today’s market.
  • Identify the blends and crossover genres that are part of historical fiction.
  • Identify methods and resources of effective historical research.
  • Examine successful versus overburdening use of research details.
  • Discuss when you can and probably should depart from the “facts.”
  • Examine how to streamline a plot and keep a story arc in action while building an historical world.
  • Identify how to keep your main character “real” and immediate to your audience even though he or she lived a long time ago: making your character face choices (even when you know how history came out), internal struggles, and a lot of complications from secondary characters.

Stretching and Bending the Lines with Creative Non-fiction
(Jana Bommersbach)

How do you take a true story and make it read like a novel, filled with intrigue and details and scenes that bring you into the story?  How do you take facts–just the facts–and suck your readers in? Jana Bommersbach has had a long and acclaimed career–both as a journalist and author, doing just that.  Her many investigations for New Times and Phoenix Magazine won her countless awards and her first investigative book, “The Trunk Murderess: Winnie Ruth Judd” was a finalist for the prestigious Edgar Allan Poe Award. Jana’s workshop will share her techniques and secrets for compelling writing.

Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service
(Grael Norton)

Many folks have TONS of questions about publishing in general and about publishing services companies in particular. That’s why we’re holding a special online presentation of ‘The Author’s Guide to Choosing a Publishing Service.’


  • The three methods of publishing, and how to decide which method is right for you
  • Four misused terms to ignore when researching how to publish
  • Nine critical mistakes to avoid when choosing a publishing service
  • Three questions to ask your publishing service before you give them a single penny

How to Capture an Editor’s Attention When She Has Ten Other Manuscripts on Her Desk?
(Karen Grove)

This session will be divided into two parts, the first half will focus on what you can do to give your story its very best shot in capturing an editor’s (or agent’s) attention. We’ll discuss the pitch, the query letter, and the manuscript itself; what you can do to make yourself stand out; things you should avoid at all costs; and how to find the right editor or agent for your work. You spent a lot of time and effort writing your story, so make sure it goes out into the world looking like a million bucks. The second half of the session will be opened up for you to ask anything and everything you’ve ever wanted to know about publishing. I will do my best to give you straightforward answers, coming from my 30 years of editing fiction. This is your opportunity to pick an editor’s brain.

Learning Objectives:

  • What you can do to capture an editor’s attention
  • What things can hurt your chances of being published
  • How to work with your editor
  • What to expect throughout the publishing process
  • The answers to the questions you’ve had but didn’t know who to ask


Scene Study: Strengthen Your Writing with Compelling Scenes
(Susan Pohlman)

We all have treasured scenes from movies or books that have imprinted themselves upon our souls forever. They make us laugh, cry or root for the hero/heroine.  Scene is the element of craft that captures the heart of the reader. This session will clarify the difference between narrative summary and scene and present the fundamentals of how to create effective scenes.

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