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Pennwriters, Inc.
P.O. Box 957
Somerset, PA 15501

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HomePresenter Bios/Classes 2024

2024 Workshops

 Simply register to attend the conference when registration opens, then select whatever workshops interest you on the day(s) you selected.

Workshop Information and Presenter Bios

*Please Note: Every effort has been made to update this information as changes to classes occurred, but the most updated information is on the schedule in our website document library 2024 Workshop Schedule


E-Mail List Building with Misty Simon 

Extra! Extra! Read All About It! Come on in to learn about the do’s and don’ts of building your email list, maintaining your list, and engaging your readers through this wonderful tool that’s all yours. We’ll also talk the positives and negatives of swapping and stacking with advice Misty has gathered from a bunch of authors who’ve been at this for years.


Pitch Perfect with L. Diane Wolfe

Ready to pitch your manuscript to publishers and agents? Publisher L. Diane Wolfe covers the steps to put forth your best effort and get noticed. Understand the importance of critique partners and doing your research. Learn how to compose a proper query letter and what items to send. Discover other options for pitching your manuscript. Uncover the secrets to pitching perfect!


Raising the Dead: Breathing New Life into Historical Characters
with Eileen Enright Hodgetts

For writers of historical fiction, historical romance, historical mysteries, and fantasy. How do you realistically recreate the past or design the world of the future? What are the little details that will bring your work to life and draw your reader into the world you have built? What about real people - they’re dead now, but what were they really like? How do you reach beyond facts and recreate the real human being (without getting yourself sued. From the design of a medieval castle, to the food on the table, to Victorian underwear it pays to get the facts straight. Everything you need to know is somewhere on the world-wide web, if you know where to look and what to look for. 


The Journey of a Picture Book: From Spark to Shelf with Joy Givens

Picture books are deceptively simple: colorful quick reads usually designed for children to read and enjoy. However, the publication process for this category can be a confusing and lengthy odyssey, even by industry standards. This workshop will provide a "travel guide" for new and experienced writers to learn more about the submission, editorial, design, publication, and promotion processes for picture books. (This information can certainly be generalized for all writers, but the additional steps of illustration and art direction apply specifically to picture books.


FRIDAY 10:15-11:15 am

Dealing with Copyeditors: the Bad, the Ugly, <Insert Good
with Timons Esaias

Getting copyedits on a piece, however short, can be a daunting, painful experience. Timons will offer "The 24-hour Rule" and other guidance for how to survive. We'll talk strategy, what to do, what NOT to do, and bargaining. We will even discuss when you pull the piece (let it be rare to never). Come prepared to share your own traumas, er, experiences.


Writing a Series with Maria V. Snyder

Readers love them, publishers love them, writers love them...sometimes. This workshop will discuss writing a series from why write one to how to plan and pitch one to editors (yes, even pantsers can plan a series). Also discussed will be the problems and pitfalls of writing a series from forgetting details to getting bored with your characters. And we'll talk about how to write the dreaded second book, which has to remind readers of prior events without boring them--a difficult balance.


Beginner Character Workshop with Cindy Callaghan

Calling all beginners…. Are you new to writing? Just getting started? This roll-up-your-sleeve workshop will help you create a character and get your project on its way. This interactive hour will be a step-by-step guide through the components to build a compelling character. Attendees will be encouraged but not required to share their work.


Story Healing with Janet Cincotta

An experiential workshop that presents storytelling as a healing practice. It is meant for anyone who has been touched by illness or injury, for health care providers in any field, and for caregivers. In this workshop, participants are encouraged to explore their experience and begin putting it into words. Learn what is meant by “healing” and how story sharing can benefit both writer and reader. Participants are invited to respond to a writing prompt, to share what they have written, and to exchange constructive feedback. Time is provided for quiet reflection and gentle movement. In this workshop, participants find a safe and supportive space for self-discovery and expression


FRIDAY 1:15-2:15 pm

Keywords, Graphics, Lead Magnets, and Newsletters with Susan Meier

Learn about keywords for ads, popular tools to create graphics, and platforms to launch a lead magnet novella (as well as audio books), even for traditionally published works. Use these to gather newsletter followers and “lead” readers to the books you want to sell. We’ll also chat about what to put in a newsletter, how often you should send it, and why you want to create and nurture a strong newsletter audience.


Great Beginnings with Hank Phillippi Ryan

You know the great opening lines: Ishmael, Manderley, the last camel. Why do those work? And how can you create one for your own novel?  And then--what about that crucial first paragraph? And a first page that will entice editors and enchant readers? How can you set the proper expectations for the story to come—and make every word work?  

In this class, suitable for any genre, we will dissect and analyze acclaimed first lines and opening paragraphs, and reveal the writing secrets these brilliant examples offer. If you are brave enough--Please bring your own first line!  Hank and the class will offer advice and guidance—to set you and your book off in the right direction.


Using Short Fiction to Create Income and Connect with Readers
with Matty Dalrymple

Based on information shared in Taking the Short Tack which she co-authored with Mark Leslie Lefebvre, Matty discusses opportunities offered to writers through the traditional short fiction market; via the ever-expanding pool of non-traditional options, such as audio; and how writers who are willing to act as their own gatekeepers can use the tools of independent publishing to get their work into readers' hands.


Secrets In Your Stories with L.E. Delano

Who’s got a secret? When will it be revealed? How and why does it come to light and to what effect? In this workshop we’ll examine how secrets make the story. From hidden wounds to devastating betrayals, from breadcrumb trails to plot twists and startling revelations, analyzing and mapping your story’s secrets will influence your plot structure, character arcs, dialogue, and action. You won’t truly know your story until you’ve unearthed all its secrets.


FRIDAY 2:30-3:30 pm

Utilizing Amazon Attribution Tools with Wende Dikec 

Setting up Facebook ads can be tricky, but understanding whether your ad campaign was successful or not can be even trickier. Join Abigail Drake and learn how to create a Facebook ad step-by-step. Then learn how to measure the results of that ad with the magic of Amazon Attribution. If you’ve struggled with ads, or with understanding the results, this could be the workshop for you. We’ll start with the basics but take it to the next level by utilizing this very valuable tool. It’s a game changer, and it will completely alter how you view Facebook advertising.


Avoiding Emotional Clichés with Annette Dashofy

Do your characters burst into tears when they’re sad? Smile when they’re happy? Yell when they’re angry? Do they get weak in the knees when they’re frightened? If so, it might be time to take your writing to a higher level. In this interactive workshop, you’ll learn to spot these and other clichés as you discover how to delve into even the simplest emotions, allowing your reader to bond more deeply with your character’s heart and soul


How to Write Nonfiction Using Fiction Techniques with Carol Silvis

Adding humanizing elements to facts makes for an interesting and entertaining read. Draw your readers in with an attention-grabber and keep them submersed in the subject by creating a memorable experience complete with characterization and vivid descriptions. Educating readers does not have to be a dull presentation of facts.


Expand Your Brand with Wilnona & Jade

We will talk expansion of your brand meaning how to turn your book into various income streams. We will discuss the three practical steps authors can take to see their written words from a different perspective and make cohesive expansion moves. Thereby, thinking outside the box, expanding your definition of a warm market and growing your platform. How we took our books from pages to, Games, movies, clothing line, a reality show, and wine. Anyone can do the same, but you have to think outside the box first.


FRIDAY 3:45-4:45 pm

Using AI to Improve Your Writing with Jim Rada.

You are already using artificial intelligence (AI) to enhance your writing. You just might not realize. This workshop looks at the ways AI already influences writing and the new programs that are taking AI and writing to the next level. It also looks at some of the ways you can use these new programs in your writing. However, as AI becomes more advanced, there are ethical considerations that need to be addressed, which we will also look at.


Professional Panel with L. Diane Wolfe, Lawrence Knorr, Cathy Teets, and Allen Media Strategies

Panel discussion featuring our resident professionals from the publishing industry.


Inspiration for the Small Stuff: You Did Remember to Have a Setting, Right? with Timons Esaias

What makes a setting convincing, even surprising, are those unexpected little details. Sure, you're thinking “research,” but we'll talk about a different procedure: “playsearch.” Playsearch involves tools that may seem unrelated [newspaper ads, magazine articles, catalogs, postcards, antique shops, specialty museums], but which remind you what a character typically has around them. We'll discuss how to go from This Thing to A Thing Like It, to The Thing your story requires. Nor will we hesitate, nay, we will do the thing.


Things that Go Bump in the Night, Writing Paranormal
with Terry Friedman

What are the ghost rules in paranormal writing? Where do ghosts hang out? How do characters communicate with the dead? What’s the difference between a poltergeist and your Great Uncle Frank? Who’s moving things in your house, things you swore you put there? Let’s explore the realm between this world and the next.

SATURDAY 9:30-10:30 am

Top 10 Ways to Sell More Books with Lawrence Knorr

Sunbury Press CEO Lawrence Knorr pulls back the curtain to reveal what does and doesn’t work in the current book marketing environment. Sunbury Press only makes money by selling books, so the advice offered is practiced every day and several of the suggestions buck conventional wisdom. These methods work for presses of all sizes and independent authors, too.


First Step to Hollywood with Wilnona & Jade

Every author has the desire to see their book as a movie. The mystery is how to get started. This presentations explains the first steps toward this happening. We discuss loglines, how to create a pitch deck in detail, what is required in a pitch for a tv show to a producer and lastly where any writers can meet producers/directors to pitch their tv show. their will be a short time to create a pitch.


Crack the Code: Craft Your Novel Using Story, Scenes, and Words
with Susan Meier

Strategies for writing the best book possible. Learn where to start your story, how to fix a book that's gone off track, and how to sharpen your prose to make each word matter. Using tools like one-paragraph story summaries, action/reaction/decisions trains, and nine scene enhancers, Susan makes novel writing an organized, happy process. The concepts are simple. The tools are easy to use. If you're struggling with cracking the code of the mechanics of executing your great idea, this workshop is for you.


Writing With Faith: Four Maxims to Enrich Stories with Spirituality

With Hermina Boyle

Using four maxims, writers will draw on their faith experience and explore how spiritual concepts can enrich their craft and help shape a narrative that resonates with readers. Participants will be encouraged to define ‘man’, ‘God’ and ‘worship’ and translate their observations into ‘protagonist’, ‘goal’, and ‘agency’ as it applies to their work in progress. ‘Taming of demons’ will explore the role of antagonists and conflict, ‘good deeds’ the nature of world building and plot. ‘Bearing witness to a truth’ examines how underlying themes can illustrate a world view that is both universal and personal. This course is not geared toward apologetics or depictions of specific religious doctrine.


SATURDAY 10:45-11:45 am

How to Give a Stimulating Presentation with Carol Silvis

To gain sales, authors will want to get in front of their readers again and again. This workshop will provide information for giving fun, uplifting, informative presentations that will keep the audience engaged. Discussion covers developing visual aids and exercises; delivery methods, ice breakers, pacing, wrap ups, and evaluations. Tips and techniques will help introvert writers as well as outgoing ones deliver engaging presentations. Handouts will be provided.


What Bookstore Owners Wish Authors Knew
with Michelle Haring and Linda Roller

Why is my local bookseller avoiding me when I arrive with my latest book? How can I get them to organize a book signing for my self-published series? (Is that a voodoo doll of me on the checkout counter?) It doesn’t have to be that way. We’ll cover the misconceptions and miscommunications about book sales, signings, and author events from the perspective of bookstore owners. Find out what makes an event successful for both you and the store.


The Discipline of Writing with Cara Achterberg

You’ve got so many ideas, so many projects—for sure the next best-seller—but how do you get them from your head to the page? The discipline of writing isn’t sexy, but without it, finishing an essay or a book, and getting it published can prove illusive. How do you find the time, the will, and the way? And once you’ve got ‘butt in chair’ what can you do to move your writing forward? Join us to talk about what it takes to actually do the work, plus tips and tricks for doing so efficiently and improving your skills.


I Think I Have a Book: Successful Strategies for Preparing Your Poetry Manuscript with Keith Kopka

Explore questions and strategies for cover letters, different types of manuscript submission, contest research, submission organization, and finding the right press for your work. We’ll also discuss technical elements of manuscript preparation such as formatting, poem order, the purpose of sectional organization, and more.


SATURDAY 1:45-2:45 pm

Conquering the Muddle in the Middle with Hank Phillippi Ryan

Your fingers are poised over the keyboard. You have a rocking first act to your novel, and you even have an idea of how to end your story with a twist and a bang and a shot at certain bestsellerdom. But now what? You've hit 36,000 words—how are you going to get from that great beginning to the kickass ending? You've hit the muddle in the middle. But USA Today best-selling author Hank Phillippi Ryan will show you how these central pages can be crafted to intrigue, surprise and delight your readers—and have them turning the pages as fast as they can. Never fear—with practical advice and specific tips, Hank will show you the way to the magic in the middle.    


Audiobooks: An Explosion of Sound with Maria V. Snyder

As life's pace increases daily, more and more readers are listening to audiobooks as they commute to work, do household chores, exercise, and during long drives. This workshop will focus on all things audio books, from deciding if you should give your publisher audio rights or do it yourself. And how to go about producing an audiobook. (Part 1 of 2)


The Joy of Writing and Characters with L. Diane Wolfe

An active session designed to help you flesh out a realistic character, complete with backstory, goals, strengths, and weaknesses.


Love Your Villain, Too with Don Helin

Villains have to be strong and unique, not just your run-of-the-mill bad guys.  They also have to be motivated to do what they do. Learn how to make your villain catch your reader’s imagination and keep it throughout your novel.


SATURDAY 3:00-4:00 pm

Let’s Talk About Endings with Timons Esaias

The First Truth of Endings is that in rough draft they never work. So now what do you do? And what if you can't even figure out how to get there? Aided (pandemic willing) by malt balls, Timons will address this difficult part of storytelling. We'll deploy arcs, the MICE Quotient, genre expectations, emblems and emotional payoffs. Oh, and please come with a couple of your favorite book/story endings to share.


Audiobooks - An Explosion of Sound with Maria V. Snyder (Part 2, see above description)


Crafting Your Memoir with Cara Achterberg

How is memoir different than autobiography or biography? Learn how to get your story on the page, mining your memories for nuggets that not only entertain, but share universal truths. Memoir writing is not for the faint of heart—it requires bravery and creativity—but will reward you with new avenues to your soul. Bring a notebook and pen (or a laptop) as we explore the story only you can tell.


Legal Issues for Writers - Defamation and Privacy with Sara Beth Kohut

Whether writing about real or even fictitious people in memoir, news pieces, non-fiction, or fiction, writers should have a good strategy to avoid legal issues. This program will cover libel, defamation, and privacy law as relevant to writers.


SATURDAY 4:15-5:15 pm

Slow and Steady Wins the Race with Susan Meier

Sick of people talking about Time Management? Maybe what you need to get more done is a better way to look at your goals, your time and your identity? Susan Meier defines slow and steady and discusses why it works and how commitment and the power of finishing can propel you to new levels of achievement.


Building Your Platform Through Podcasting with Matty Dalrymple

Matty Dalrymple, host of The Indy Author Podcast and author of The Indy Author’s Guide to Podcasting, shares how to use podcasting to grow your author platform. Based on her 6 years and 200+ episodes of the podcast and capitalizing on her love of the nautical metaphor for the writing craft and the publishing voyage, she offers a step-by-step guide for navigating the podcasting voyage, from the most strategic considerations to the most tactical.


Make It Big with Awards with Suzanne Mattaboni

Lear about submitting to award programs to publicize your novels, short stories, and poems. Winning awards for your material, and for yourself, isn’t as intimidating and difficult as many think. They can be leveraged as press release content, put on your website, added to your book cover, and referenced in future pitches. It may require some investment of time and entry fees  (unless you’re with a big press), but you’ll forever be able to call yourself an award-winning writer.


Free Media Strategies with Jeff Johnson

Allen Media Strategies specialist Jeff Johnson shares his top ten free methods for garnering media and press coverage.


SUNDAY 9-10 am

Nonfiction Book Proposal and Query Letter Writing with Carol Silvis

Learn how to write proposals for various nonfiction niche markets such as textbooks, business books, self-help books, memoirs, how-to books, and more. Discussion will include what makes a proposal and query stand out for various nonfiction markets. You don’t need a completed manuscript for the nonfiction book market, so bring your ideas.


Mindmapping: An Interactive Story-building Session with Misty Simon

Learn the ropes on this great tool to help with story ideas and execution for plotters, pantsers and plantsers. We'll create a story during class to show you how it works. Bring your ideas, your creativity, and your burn to learn as we bubble our way into a map to guide you in your writing!


*Marketing and Promotion for Published Authors with Cathy Teets

Publisher Cathy Teets will brainstorm with authors concerning launch events, marketing, and promotion. Bring your book and ideas to this round table discussion! Her 39 years of independent publishing and marketing experience covers fiction, nonfiction, and children's books.

*Limited class size due to individual attention. Pre-registration required. Email with your name and Sunday time selection (9am or 10:15am).


SUNDAY 10:15-11:15 am

The Secrets of Suspense with Hank Phillippi Ryan

Think about the words you see in a rave book review. Pacey. Propulsive. Page-turner. Those are all shorthand for “fun to read,” and for “something happens.” And also for "I cannot wait to find out what happens next." Problem is, it’s textbook-easy to begin a novel and have something happen: that’s why there’s a story. But to keep your story going, to keep it pacey and propulsive, things must keep happening. And at every moment, the reader must be compelled to turn the page. Every writer knows it can be daunting to keep the engine of your book running. But suspense is the fuel that makes it accelerate. How can you create suspense in very sentence? And how can you pack your pages with so much suspense that it becomes a coveted one-sitting read?  USA Today best-selling author and Emmy-winning investigative reporter Hank Phillippi Ryan will show you how each element of your story can be tightened, twisted, and focused to intrigue, surprise and delight your readers--and have them turning the pages as fast as they can. With practical advice and specific tips, Hank will guide you through the secrets of suspense.


Publishing Tips for Frugal Authors with Matty Dalrymple

We owe our readers professional-grade work, and we owe it to ourselves to deliver it as cost-effectively as possible. The two most important hallmarks of professional work—a cleanly edited manuscript and a brand-right, attention-getting cover—are also two of the most expensive components of book creation. In this session, author and publisher Matty Dalrymple shares her frugal tips for achieving a high standard of publishing excellence while also holding down costs.


*Marketing and Promotion for Published Authors with Cathy Teets

Publisher Cathy Teets will brainstorm with authors concerning launch events, marketing, and promotion. Bring your book and ideas to this round table discussion! Her 39 years of independent publishing and marketing experience covers fiction, nonfiction, and children's books. *Limited class size due to individual attention. Pre-registration required. Email with your name and Sunday time selection (9am or 10:15am).



SUNDAY 11:30 am-12:30 pm

Your Life Is Poetry with Timons Esaias

You don't have to know a dang thing about meter, or iambs, or trochees to write poetry. You don’t need to live in Tuscany or the Vendée, either. This workshop will remind you that your life is full of poetic subjects, and that poems are the sketches for prose description. The subject of this workshop is poetry, but the purpose is to get more magic into any line that you write in any form of writing. We’ll look in our own lives for the sparks of poems, add some tinder, and then try to fan the flames.


Hopepunk: The Ultimate “Do It Again” Genre with Kathryn Yelinek

Learn about this emerging genre that emphasizes the ongoing fight to bring positive change to the world. This session will define what is meant by hopepunk, some defining works in the genre, and tips for writing hopepunk. If you want your work to advocate for a more hopeful world, this might be the genre for you.  


Legal Issues for Your Writing Business with Sara Beth Kohut

Writing is a business and smart writers will take steps to protect their rights, as well as their personal and business assets. This program will discuss options for forming a business entity, key contract provisions, and estate-planning concerns for writers.