2016 Conference: Tracks and Sessions


During each scheduled time slot throughout the day of the conference, you’ll have the opportunity to choose breakout sessions from the four tracks in the areas of craft, genre, marketing and publishing.

Below, click on the links to reveal more information about each session and presenter:


Dynamic Dialogue

Mapping images: ways in which writers build a bridge between their character’s internal and external conflicts.

Joshua Mohr

Joshua Mohr is the author of five novels, including Damascus, which The New York Times called “Beat-poet cool.”  He’s also written Fight Song and Some Things that Meant the World to Me, one of O Magazine’s Top 10 reads of 2009 and a San Francisco Chronicle best-seller, as well as Termite Parade, an Editors’ Choice on The New York Times Best Seller List.  His novel All This Life was recently published by Counterpoint/Soft Skull.

1. Working With an Editor: Overview

The nuts and bolts: range of editing services, where to find an editor, how to determine compatibility, what an editor will require, what editing will cost, care and feeding of the working relationship.

2. Does It Have to Take 10 Years: The Efficient and Cohesive Writing Experience

Find out how to think about audience, planning your content, opening chapters, what to include where, dealing with stuckness, self-editing tips, beta readers.

Editor David Colin Carr has been freelancing fiction and non-fiction since 1988 with writers as far flung as Beijing and Johannesburg, as well as doctoral candidates around the United States. He works collaboratively with clients to bring forth their passion–with clarity and coherence while preserving their distinctive voice. Carr values outlining to develop logical structure; strives for lively, efficient language; and uses humor to turn bad news into an exciting challenge. He is dedicated to projects that manifest the beauty of this planet and the mystery of our hearts–offering compassion, counseling skills, and creativity to bring forth the brilliance of both the writing and the collaborative relationship. DavidColinCarr.com

Making the Past Present: Embedding Backstory in Behavior

Your character’s past isn’t explanatory filler. It’s the foundation of his worldview, his attitude, how he thinks and feels, what he values, what he fears. All of this is embodied in the compromises he hides behind, the challenges he accepts, the decisions he makes, how he justifies those decisions, and how he deals with their consequences. In this workshop, David Corbett will outline the mechanics of how to turn what has happened before the story begins into the fabric of the narrative itself.

David Corbett Promo 5 (2)

David Corbett is the award-winning author of the writing guide The Art of Character (“A writer’s bible” – Elizabeth Brundage) and five novels, including 2015’s The Mercy of the Night. His second novel, Done for a Dime (a New York Times Notable Book) was described by Patrick Anderson of the Washington Post as “one of the three or four best American crime novels I’ve ever read.” George Pelecanos of The Wire remarked, “Corbett, like Robert Stone and Graham Greene before him, is crafting important, immensely thrilling books.” His short fiction has twice appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, and his non-fiction has appeared in the New York Times, Narrative, Zyzzyva, Bright Ideas, and numerous other outlets. DavidCorbett.com

Build a Solid Novel: The 12 Pillars of Novel Construction

Over and over, struggling writers make the same fatal mistakes in their manuscripts. Even writers who have studied all the best writing craft books and taken workshops and followed writers’ blogs still don’t get the structure. Truth is, a lot of writers believe they can write a novel without taking time to learn the nuts and bolts of novel construction. Just as with building a house, writers need to adeptly wield the proper tools and materials, and follow structurally sound rules if they hope to “build a novel.”

Build strong!

Smart writers will take the time to learn how to structure strong pillars that will hold up their novels. There are 12 key pillars of novel construction, and if any of these pillars is weak, made of faulty materials, it will compromise the integrity of your novel. Without such foundational support, collapse is inevitable. Build a novel that will stand up to scrutiny and thrill readers.

C.S. Lakin is a multi-published novelist and writing coach. She works full-time as a copyeditor and critiques approximately 200 manuscripts per year. She teaches writing workshops and gives instruction on her award-winning blog Live Write Thrive.

The latest book in The Writer’s Toolbox Series, “The 12 Key Pillars of Novel Construction,” shows writers how to take an idea and turn it into a compelling concept, then construct all the needed components to build a solid novel. The companion workbook contains hundreds of brainstorming questions, inspection checklists and a generous amount of bonus materials to take the pain out of novel construction. Lakin just released the second edition of Say What? The Fiction Writer’s Handy Guide to Grammar, Punctuation, and Word Usage which is designed to help writers get a painless grasp on grammar.

Your First Page

Your First Page focuses on the steps needed to present a tight, well-edited and interesting first page for submission to an agent or publisher, and to lure your readers into your self-published book. Learn to construct a perfect first line and shape a captivating hook. By submitting your first page, we can (anonymously) review various techniques and how to spin that page into the beginning of a page-turner.

25 Entries Professionally Edited

Have the first page of your manuscript, story or essay edited by a professional editor. Participants upload their first page upon registering for the conference. All entries will be edited in advance and returned during the presentation. Several submissions will be discussed. (Again, your name will not be revealed in session.) Edits are limited to the first 25 submitted.

REGISTRATION NOTE: If you plan to attend this session and you want your writing to be considered for editing, there will be an opportunity during registration to upload the first page of your piece. Again, editing will be limited to the first 25 submissions.

Robbi Sommers Bryant is the author of Dream, 2nd place winner in the Los Angeles Book Festival Best in Genre, and a semi-finalist in the Kindle Book Review Best Books of 2013. Her novel, The Beautiful Evil, has won the BAIPA Award for Best in Genre, as well as receiving Honorary Mention in the Los Angeles Book Festival and the San Francisco Book Festival and named a top finalist in the Kindle Book Review Contest.

She is the author of one novella, four novels, five books of short stories and a book of poetry. Bryant’s articles have been published in magazines such as Redbook, Penthouse, Reader’s Digest and several international magazines. Besides writing, she is a professional comprehensive editor and co-chair of the 2016 Redwood Writers conference. Visit Bryant’s website at RobbiBryant.com.


Literary Fiction: What the Heck Is It?

In a world of great genre and cross-genre writing, what does the genre “literary fiction” stand for? Is it merely the confabulation of marketers, or might its values prove useful to writers of all stripes? We’ll consider notions of “literary fiction” that may augment or enrich our work regardless of where it’s shelved in a bookstore.

Amanda McTigue’s debut novel, Going to Solace, was named a Best Read of 2012 by public radio KRCB’s literary program, “Word by Word.” Her shorts stories from an upcoming collection are beginning to appear in journals. In 2015, “You Don’t Say No to Ituango” was published by “Literally Stories” and designated an Editor’s Choice. A second story, “Big Fast,” appeared in 99 Pine Street Literary Journal. By spring of 2016, McTigue will have returned from the remote Sierra Maestra Mountains of Cuba on a research trip for her second novel that has the working title, Monkey Bottom.

Lifelines: A Memoir Writing Workshop

Memory is ephemeral. It may or may not be factual, as history or autobiography purports to be. Imagine the stories told at a family gathering; how many versions of the same story might you hear, each one claiming to be “the way it really happened.” In this workshop, we will explore ways of tapping memory as we focus on specific strategies to help you recreate those small moments that make up your own memoir, the tapestry of your life.

After many years of teaching, Fran Claggett is now devoting her time to writing, consulting and teaching memoir writing and poetry. She has published a number of books for teachers on critical reading and writing as well as two books of poetry. She is currently working on her book, Moments with Madge: Then and Now, a memoir of poems memorializing her life with her partner of more than 50 years.

A former department chair and mentor teacher at Alameda High School where she taught English and humanities, Fran was twice named Teacher of the Year in her district and county, where she initiated an achievement and portfolio writing assessment program. Her teaching experience includes college appointments in English, biology and physical education. As well, she has also been the James Lynch Lecturer in English at the University of California, Berkeley. Claggett has given workshops for teachers across the country, evaluated schools in Guam, and taught in the Bay Area Writing Project Panama and the Virgin Islands summer workshops.

The Art of Poetry For Writers of Prose

Albert Flynn DeSilver is an internationally published poet, writer, speaker, workshop leader, and founder of BrilliantWriter.com and will be hosting Dave Eggers on May 7 at the Napa Meritage. DeSilver is the author of several books of poetry and most recently Beamish Boy: A Memoir. He has two new books due out in 2017; a novel titled, Brooklyn, Wyoming, and a non-fiction book, Writing as a Path to Awakening, based on his popular writing and meditation retreats. DeSilver is also a speaker and trainer having taught and presented with Cheryl Strayed, Elizabeth Gilbert, Maxine Hong Kingston, and U.S. Poet Laureate Kay Ryan among many others. He teaches and hosts extraordinary events for writers nationally. More at AlbertFlynnDeSilver.com

Put Some Starch in Your Shorts! Give Shape and Structure to Your Short Stories.

We’ll look at samples of traditional short fiction and then at some radical experiments with the form and try to identify what aspects and components are essential to the successful short story. There will be brief exercises.

Daniel Coshnear is the author of a previous collection of stories, Jobs & Other Preoccupations (Helicon Nine Editions), which was awarded the Willa Cather Prize in Fiction. He teaches in a variety of university extension programs, including University of California, Berkeley, and San Francisco State University. Coshnear works at a group home for homeless men and women with mental illness. He lives in Guerneville, California with his wife Susan and their children Circe and Daedalus.


Going Indie, Going Commando

What’s it like going commando, without the safety net of a publisher, their awesome in-house publicists, art department, marketing gurus? Or, is that also fiction, just like your book? What does it take to have the mental chops to go Indie? How do you know what is your path? What are some decisions you need to make before you even start? And if you’ve already started, how do you wander through the maze of all the things you need to do yourself to be successful?

We’ll talk about some terms: FB (Facebook) Advertising, Google Advertising, PA’s, VA’s, platform, book covers, blog tours, FB parties, networking with other authors, boxed sets or anthologies, writing for Kindle Worlds, writing for KU, audio books and should you do them, how to hire a narrator, do you know where your readers lurk?

Sharon Hamilton is the NY Times and USA Today best-selling author of almost-erotic Navy SEAL stories of the SEAL Brotherhood. Her characters follow a spicy road to redemption through passion and true love. All of her SEAL Brotherhood Series novels are available as audio books. She has maintained an Amazon top 100 author status in romantic suspense since the end of 2012. Honeymoon Bite, Book 1 of the Golden Vampires of Tuscany Series, has earned the Amazon designation of #1 gothic romance. That book, along with Book 2 in the series, Mortal Bite, are both available as audio books, as well. Hamilton’s Guardian Angels Series is also in print and audio formats.

Keeping It Legal: What You Need to Know About Contracts and Copyrights

Writer and lawyer Helen Sedwick calls upon her 30 years of legal experience to show writers how to stay out of court and at their desks. She will give an overview of copyright law to help writers understand what they own and how to protect it from infringement and theft by contract. Sedwick will also discuss how to get permission to use quotes, images and lyrics created by others. Time permitting, she will give tips on spotting scams and overpriced services targeting writers.

Helen Sedwick is a writer and lawyer with 30 years of legal experience she uses in the literary world. Publisher’s Weekly listed her Self-Publisher’s Legal Handbook as one of the top five resources for independent authors. Her blog coaches writers on everything from protecting copyrights to hiring freelancers to spotting scams. A novelist as well, Helen’s historical novel, Coyote Winds is an IndieBRAG Medallion Honoree. Find more about Helen at her website HelenSedwick.com

How to be a Bookstore Savvy Author (and Why You Want To)

Bookstores can be an author’s best friend when it comes to showcasing the new book, hosting an event, or handselling it. Many a national bestseller has originated from the word of mouth created by independent bookstores. How does the bookstore staff make its decisions on what to bring into the store or what event to host? How do you set up an event and, should you get one, what can you do to make it successful? What are the dos and don’ts when dealing with a bookstore? What expectations should you have? Learn how to make this important part of the publishing industry a partner in promoting and selling your book.

Vicki DeArmon has 25 years in the book publishing industry. She’s been the Marketing & Events Director at Copperfield’s Books for the last seven years and has developed a nationally recognized event program. She books events and runs promotions for all eight North Bay stores. Previous to that, she was the publisher of Foghorn Press in San Francisco for 13 years. She is also a fiction writer and published author of nonfiction. She serves on the boards for the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association and the Women’s National Book Association, San Francisco Chapter. 

How to Reach Your Audience & Manage Your Platform in 30 Minutes a Day

Authors often complain that they don’t have time for social media. Once you turn to the Internet, it’s easy to lose track of time as you read your friends’ posts, check on who’s following you on Twitter, or leave a comment or two in one of your LinkedIn Groups. In this session, Frances Caballo will bust the myth that social media has to be a time-consuming endeavor. She will share her four-step strategy that will help you to economize your time while enabling you to meet your marketing goals and still have time to do what you love – write. In this session you will:

• Learn about the applications and websites that will do the work of finding great content for you.
• Find a scheduling application that fits your budget.
• Learn the basic principles of social sharing.
• Discover applications that will analyze your marketing results for you.
• Learn how to find your readers online because your readers are a specific niche who only frequent certain social media networks.
• Learn how to find and reach your online audience of readers.

Frances Caballo is a social media manager and author with 25 years of experience in the communications industry. She’s a regular speaker at the San Francisco Writers Conference and has written four books including, Twitter Just for Writers, which is available for free on her website. Her focus is on helping authors surmount the barriers that keep them from flourishing online, building their platform, finding new readers, and selling more books. Her clients include authors of every genre and writer conferences. You’ll find her every day on Twitter @CaballoFrances.


Author Platform, Branding and Monetization

Learn how to use your expertise to build a valuable online asset and turn your content into an amazing variety of multimedia products using the latest technology to reach the readers just waiting to find your message.

Joel Friedlander is an award-winning book designer, blogger and writer. He’s been launching the careers of self-publishers since 1994 from his book design and consulting practice at Marin Bookworks in San Rafael, California. Friedlander is the author of A Self-Publisher’s Companion: Expert Advice for Authors Who Want to Publish, and the coauthor of  The Self-Publisher’s Ultimate Resource Guide. He is a columnist for Publishers Weekly, and Writer’s Digest has named him as one of the 10 people to follow in book publishing. Friedlander writes “The Book Designer,” a popular blog on book design, book marketing and the future of the book. He’s also the founder of “The Self-Publishing Roadmap,” an online, video-based training course in book publishing. In 2013, with Tracy R. Atkins, Friedlander launched BookDesignTemplates.com, where he provides pre-designed book templates for Microsoft Word and Adobe InDesign, as well as book marketing tools for authors. He is a past president of the Bay Area Independent Publishers Association.


How To Make Your Kindle Book a Bestseller


Howard VanEs is President of Let’s Write Books, Inc., a company specializing in work with independent authors providing publishing and book marketing services. In addition to being a Kindle marketing expert, he has more than 25 years of writing experience in every format imaginable, including writing 22 books of his own. Many of his books have been number one in their respective categories on Amazon. VanEs has also ghostwritten numerous books in a wide variety of genres ranging from non-fiction and novels to books for kids. His experience also includes the marketing and creation of information products: reports, eBooks, workbooks, DVD’s, audio programs, etc.  VanEs is also the former owner and creative director of an award-winning ad agency.


[email protected]

Pitch Hard and Query Well

Before anyone sees a word of the amazing book you’ve written–one you’ve poured your heart and soul into for months or years–they’re going to see your query or hear your pitch at a conference. Great pitches and queries are the key to getting your book in the door so agents and editors have a chance to fall in love with it. Join agent Laurie McLean to learn the secrets of creating a great pitch and crafting a killer query letter.

Laurie McLean is the co-founder of Fuse Literary, the literary agency of the future. With virtual offices in California, New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Dallas, Fuse Literary blends the tried and true elements of traditional publishing with the bold new strengths of indie-publishing. At Fuse, Laurie represents adult genre fiction as well as middle grade and young adult children’s books. Query her at [email protected]

PLUS…Agents for the 2-Hour Pitchfest!

2:55-5:05 p.m.
Room: Empire

Do you have a best-selling story to pitch?
Here’s what these agents are looking for:


Karyn Fischer Headshot

Karyn Fischer

Karyn Fischer has been working with BookStop Literary Agency since the beginning of 2014. She joined the agency after working as a bookseller and book buyer for an independent bookstore, and after completing a number of publishing internships. Though she reads adult novels, her real passion is children’s and young adult fiction, particularly novels with strong voice and an engaging story. Karyn holds an MFA in Creative Writing and is a member of SCBWI.

What Karyn is looking for:

BookStop Literary Agency represents children’s book writers across all genres and age ranges. Our agents are especially drawn to fiction and non-fiction picture books, middle grade, and young adult manuscripts with richly drawn characters, and intriguing, well-written stories. BookStop’s agents enjoy reading quirky picture books, multicultural and historical stories, magical realism, smart mysteries, realistic contemporary stories, sci-fi and fantasy stories, and literary fiction.


Laurie McLean

Laurie McLean is the co-founder of Fuse Literary, the literary agency of the future. With virtual offices in California, New York, Chicago, Vancouver and Dallas, Fuse Literary blends the tried and true elements of traditional publishing with the bold new strengths of indie-publishing. At Fuse, Laurie represents adult genre fiction as well as middle grade and young adult children’s books.

Query her at [email protected]

What Laurie is looking for:

Laurie specializes in adult genre fiction plus middle-grade and young adult children’s books. She looks for visceral writing, amazing world-building, relentless pacing and characters that jump off the page. Query her at [email protected] and put “Pen to Published Request” in the subject line or it will be auto-rejected.


Amy Cloughley

Amy Cloughley

Amy Cloughley is an agent with Kimberley Cameron & Associates. Keeping with the agency’s unique legacy of The Reece Halsey Agency, she strives to represent the highest quality writing. Amy came to the agency in 2012 with a background in editing, writing, and marketing. You can also find her coaching writers via a Writer’s Digest course designed to help authors craft and strengthen their submission materials.

What Amy is looking for:

Amy is looking for literary and commercial fiction, and has a special interest in mystery/suspense, near historical, and upmarket women’s fiction. She also seeks narrative non-fiction projects. You can visit her agency website at Kimberleycameron.com or follow her on Twitter @amycloughley.


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