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2022 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

Annette Dashofy 
Annette is the USA Today best-selling author of the Agatha-nominated Zoe Chambers mystery series about a paramedic and deputy coroner in rural Pennsylvania’s tight-knit Vance Township. Annette is the vice president of the Pittsburgh chapter of Sisters in Crime and has served on the Pennwriters Board of Directors since 2004 and received the Meritorious Service Award in 2013. She and her husband live on a farm in Washington County with their spoiled cat, Kensi. 
Workshop: So You Think You're Ready to Submit

You have your first draft. Or maybe it’s your second or third and you think you’re ready to submit to an agent or publisher. Or perhaps you’ve already taken the plunge only to receive rejections or no response. In this workshop, we’ll look at the frequently overlooked mistakes we might be blind to in our own pages. Learn what to watch for and how to revise and polish your manuscript before sending it out into the world.

Brent Maguire
Brent is a psychologist (consulting, psychotherapy, teaching) and writer who’s interested in the care and feeding of writers, specifically with respect to the mental side of writing. helping writers from two broad perspectives: getting the psychology right on the page, and getting their personal psychology right to start and finish their work. Brent is soon to release book two of his psychological thriller series.

Workshop #1: Hitting the Wall

Writing is like running. It doesn’t matter whether you’re sprinting through short stories or long-distance running to complete a novel. It’s about getting started, sustaining momentum, staying the course, and finishing. Sometimes a writer hits one of these issues; on bad days, all of them. This workshop will borrow from such fields as cognitive behavioral therapy, neuropsychology, and positive psychology, to develop strategies to address these potential hurdles.

Workshop #2: Wait. What Did He Say?

That's Not Right! Do your characters behave in a manner that is, well, out of character? Or does their behavior reflect inner dynamics (think symptoms) that are consistent with psychological disorders? This workshop will plumb the depths of psychiatric diagnosis (the process and the classification) and highlight some unique psychiatric disorders that could stimulate character development.

Angie Karchner

Workshop #1: It's All About the Rhyme Story
This session is for writers who aspire to write in rhyme but need direction on what else MUST be included to create a successful and publishable rhyming picture book. 
Perfect rhyme is important, but if the story isn’t well-written, it won’t matter. A traditional picture book needs a catchy hook, an interesting setting, clever characters, rising tension, a peak moment or problem to be solved by the main, child character and a satisfying ending urging the child to read it again. Plus, it will need perfect rhyme and perfect meter.

Workshop #2: From Rags to Rewards: How to Create a Platform That Works

Angie’s “You can do it!” attitude has helped her climb from an unknown writer to one who hosts an annual children’s book award in New York City. Learn how to network, collaborate, and market yourself so that you are mixing and mingling with amazing authors, agents and editors too. With determination and hard work, the opportunities will begin to present themselves! You must have the courage to say “YES” and then...hang on for the ride!

Carol Silvis 
Carol is the author of six college textbooks and five business books published by Cengage, the article “Time Management for Writers” in the 2012 Writers Market, and a dozen creative nonfiction stories in national magazines. She was interviewed for,, AARP online,, and newspapers. She is past-president of Pennwriters, former vice president, former author advocate, conference coordinator multiple years, and 2008 Meritorious Service winner. Carol has presented workshops for multiple writing groups.

Workshop: Writing as a Nonfiction Expert

There is a huge market for nonfiction books, articles, personal essays, and stories on a variety of subjects. If you have a good idea for a nonfiction topic, come learn how to get noticed. This workshop will address writing for various nonfiction niche markets such as business books, textbooks, educational materials, journals, magazines, and newsletters.

Information will include determining viable markets and topics, addressing timely issues, analyzing writing in magazines, choosing appropriate titles, writing in a way people can relate to, and researching the topic. Handouts included.

Kris Smith & Dick Jeffries

Workshop: Ask the SME: Firearms in Fiction

Guns are in everything from thrillers to romance. Do you know the basics so you can write a realistic scene? Do you know how or why your character would use a weapon? Maybe your heroine is in trouble and she needs to learn to handle her first handgun. Maybe your hero is in the middle of a shootout and his semi-automatic jams? Private investigator Dick Jeffries and former NYPD police officer Kris Smith of Morr Range will start with the basics about gun use and safety and then open the floor up for questions specific to your work in progress.
Jonathan Maberry
Jonathan is a New York Times bestselling author, 5-time Bram Stoker Award-winner, 3-time Scribe Award winner, Inkpot Award winner, and comic book writer. His vampire apocalypse book series, V-WARS, was a Netflix original series. He writes in multiple genres including suspense, thriller, horror, science fiction, fantasy, and action; for adults, teens and middle grade. His novels include the Joe Ledger thriller series, Bewilderness, Ink, Glimpse, the Pine Deep Trilogy, the Rot & Ruin series, the Dead of Night series, Mars One, Ghostwalkers: A Deadlands novel, and many others. 

He is the editor many anthologies including The X-Files, Aliens: Bug Hunt, Don’t Turn Out the Lights, Nights of the Living Dead, and others. His comics include Black Panther: DoomWar, Captain America, Pandemica, Highway to Hell, The Punisher and Bad Blood. He is a board member of the Horror Writers Association, president of the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, and the editor of Weird Tales Magazine. Visit him online at

Workshop#1: The Genre of You

Crossing genre lines is one of the most reliable paths to a successful and sustainable writing career. Not just within a single story (though that works, too!) but by stretching out into new areas, trying new things, and building yourself into a stronger and more diverse writer. New York Times bestseller Jonathan Maberry is the author of more than forty novels and over a hundred twenty-five short stories that cross and sometime blur genre lines. He has published mysteries, thrillers, horror, noir crime, science fiction, epic fantasy, dark fantasy, urban fantasy, alt-history, comedy, and more; and his market includes adults, young adult and middle grade, as well as comics and nonfiction. Writing cross-genre and multi-genre fiction allows for greater creative freedom and draws on different demographics within the book-buying public. Maberry will share trade secrets for how to maximize your selling potential while growing as a writer and having fun.

Workshop #2: The Art of the Pitch

In this fun workshop, NY Times bestselling author Jonathan Maberry discusses how to pitch to agents, editors, and producers –and how to make that process fun instead of stressful. The class will cover the query letter, elevator pitches, face-to-face pitches, identifying your market, reader demographic, and genre; building submission materials; formatting the manuscript; searching for markets; etiquette; follow-ups; and other resources.

Workshop #3: Marketing/Freelancing


Lisa Kastner

Workshop#1: Do I Really Need to be Social Media Savvy?

Here's How and Why ... Lisa Kastner will discuss the benefits of leveraging social media, methods for posting, and the benefits of having friends. Lots and lots of friends. You will leave the workshop with a social media plan to help you bring your presence and publicity to the next level.

Workshop#2: Go Indie: A Big Look at Small Press Publishers

Small press publishing has become not only a viable option for fiction and nonfiction authors, but it's also gaining in popularity. Indie presses are winning awards, hitting best seller lists, and more! Lisa Kastner gives an overview of independent publishing and then invites a panel of Pennwriters published authors to share their stories of publication. Join us. Ask us questions.

Diana Dru Botsford
Author of Stargate SG-1 novels and short stories, Diana Dru Botsford's screenwriting credits include "Rascals" for Star Trek: TNG, the award-winning SF web series, Epilogue, and cult favorite animated series, Spiral Zone. Ms. Botsford's TV/Film work includes projects such as Terminator 2, Dusk 'Til Dawn, and Nightmare on Elm Street VI.  She founded critically acclaimed Missouri State University's screenwriting program in 2006.

Workshop: Screenwriting

An intensive introduction to the world of writing for television and film. Gain an understanding of how the script process affects the development of plot, character development, and theme. Through discussion, viewing, and hands-on exercises, you'll learn how to use the visual (and aural!) medium to tell your story beyond the printed page. Topics will include Characterization through action and imagery, Rules of the Road with Dialogue, Plotting Scenes & Sequences, Script Formatting Basics, and How to Heighten the Script Reader's Experience. 

Don Helin
During his time in the military, Don served at a number of stateside posts as well as overseas in Vietnam and Germany.   He is the author of seven thrillers that draw from his military experience, including three tours in the Pentagon. He writes for TheBurg, a community magazine based in Harrisburg. His novel, Secret Assault, was selected as the Best Suspense/Thriller at the 2015 Indie Book Awards.You can reach Don at:

Workshop #1: Are We Series-ly in Trouble

How to keep a series alive. What makes us love series characters? How to keep your series characters fresh and fit in back story? Does your character change or stay the same? Learn the answers to these questions and many more in this interactive workshop.

Workshop #2: Point of View: Whose Story Is It Anyways?

Point of view is not only the camera that shows what your characters see, it also determines how close readers can get to your characters.  The distance between your characters and your readers helps determine the intimacy of the story. During this interactive workshop we will discuss the three POVs:  First Person, Second Person and Third Person then how each can help tell your story.

Hana Haitien Caye

Workshop 1: From Victim to Victor: Exploring Trauma Through Writing

In this session, we will discuss the healing benefits of putting our traumatic experiences on paper and then fictionalizing how the story ends. Participants will be encouraged to rewrite the incident so they can free themselves of the burden of being a victim. There will be in-class writing exercises (not related to anyone’s specific trauma) and discussion time.

Workshop 2: Fictional Characters Anonymous

"Hi. My name is Doris, and I'm a fictional character." During this workshop, all participants will introduce themselves as one of their characters and remain in character throughout the session. Consider this a support group meeting for characters to work out some of their issues. The results of the meeting are often surprising, as you discover character nuances, vulnerability, and trigger points. In order to write enticing fiction, you have to know your characters intimately. FCA can help you do just that! All participants will be expected to take part in the discussions. Limited to 12 participants per session. Additional conferees may attend as non-participants.
**optional** Extending this to a double session will allow for a 20 minute discussion time where participants can talk to each other out of character to further explore where the characters are headed in the stories.

Maria V. Snyder

Workshop#1: Writing a Marketing Plan

Once you publish your book, then what? This workshop will focus on writing a marketing plan for your book release and will review the pros and cons of book tours, blog tours, book trailers, conferences, swag, author events, and other ways to get the word out about your book. 

Workshop #2: Can you Hear Me Now

As life's pace increases daily, more and more readers are listening to audio books as they commute to work, do household chores, exercise, and during long drives. This module will focus on all things audio books, from deciding if you should give your publisher audio rights or do it yourself.

Workshop #3: Emotion Is Not a Dirty Word

No matter how complex your plot is or how beautiful your descriptions are, or how well you can use a metaphor, if your readers don't care about your characters, you've lost them. Many writers are reluctant to incorporate emotions and emotional reactions for their characters for fear of being called out on writing "purple prose,"  or for being "overly dramatic."  This workshop will help guide you in adding in a layer of emotional complexity to your stories.

Misty Simon

Workshop#1: Structure Swap: From Cozy Mystery to Romance

Cozies and romances have far more in common than some people think they do. They both have something that must be overcome and the author has to keep you on the edge of your seat through the entire book. Using red herrings, the usual suspects and the monologue we all breathlessly wait for at the end, you can sharpen your skills and make thinking through your story a true masterpiece.
Workshop#2: Mindmapping

From plotters to pantsers to panters, this easy method to work out the details before you get started or even while you're in the process can streamline your writing. While in class we will craft a story together, sometimes it gets a little crazy and I'll show you how to get out of your own way and jot down the ideas that will get you writing better, faster, and hopefully more creatively when you already have a framework.

Heidi Ruby Miller
Heidi is a travel writer and novelist. Her books include the AMBASADORA series, MAN OF WAR, and the award-winning writing guide MANY GENRES, ONE CRAFT. Heidi teaches at Seton Hill University, where she graduated from their renowned Writing Popular Fiction Graduate Program the same month she appeared on Who Wants To Be A Millionaire. Connect with Heidi and her husband, Jason Jack Miller, in their newsletter Small Space, Big Life and online.

Workshop #1: Pick Your Punk

You’ve heard of steampunk, and maybe even cyberpunk, but what about analogpunk or biopunk or elfpunk or…you get the picture: there are a lot of punks in the SF world and we’re going to visit all of them.

Workshop #2: Space Opera Is Still Queen

Amidst Disney opening up two theme park lands devoted to Star Wars, the blockbusterdom of Guardians of the Galaxy, successful streaming series like The Expanse, and Amazon proving that readers will still devour alien empires and interplanetary sagas, publishers are still putting out the call for space opera.

Jason Jack Miller 
Jason's travels and adventures inspired his Murder Ballads and Whiskey Series. He wrote Hellbender as a student in Seton Hill University’s Writing Popular Fiction program, where he's now an instructor. The novel won the Arthur J. Rooney Award for Fiction, the MacLaughlin Scholarship, and was a finalist for the Appalachian Writers Association Book of the Year Award. He was a keynote speaker for the 2019 Pennwriters Conference. He's on Twitter and Instagram @jasonjackmiller.

Workshop #1: Magical Realism: Folk Yeah!

The Brothers Grimm stumbled onto something when they began cataloging Europe’s dark old tales. But why do these stories STILL resonate, and how can a writer utilize folkloric tropes and plot structures to enhance their own work? This module will include an overview of some less familiar folklore, some tools writers can use to explore the mythology on their own, and a look at the classic plot structures and twists that can feel as fresh today as they did when Jacob and Wilhem first pulled them out of the Black Forest.

Workshop #2: Rural Noir

From Raylan Givens to Sookie Stackhouse, there’s a lot of action taking place away from bright lights and tall buildings. We’ll start this module by defining the parameters of the genre and discussing some great regional fiction and ‘rural’ fantasy that have popularized the trend. Then we’ll top it all off with a crash course in working ‘rural noir’ into our own stories while avoiding negative stereotypes and some of the more obvious tropes. 

Jim Rada

Workshop: Online Platforms
Course description

Jon Sprunk
Jon is the author of Book of the Black Earth fantasy series (Blood and Iron, Storm and Steel, Blade and Bone, Sun and Serpent). He also wrote the Shadow Saga (Shadow's Son, Shadow's Lure, and Shadow's Master.). Shadow's Son was a finalist for the Compton Crook Award and also a nominee for the David Gemmell Award in two categories. Jon grew up in Pennsylvania and attended Lock Haven University where he received his BA in English. He set out after graduation to become a “Serious Writer”. Unfortunately, he failed to notice the specter of Reality stalking his back. When his first fantasy novel failed to find a publisher, he sought gainful employment in the Real World. After a decade of numerous jobs and much soul-searching, he returned to writing and joined Pennwriters. In June 2009, he signed a multi-book deal with Pyr Books, finally enjoying some long awaited success. Jon lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and son. When not writing, he enjoys travel, collecting medieval and ancient weaponry, and pro football. Visit him online at

Workshop: Out of This World: World Building

It can be the most terrifying 10 minutes of your life or the most satisfying experience of your conference weekend. Jon will go over the tips and techniques for creating a solid pitch. Then it's practice time. Work out any remaining kinks (aka nerves) with an opportunity to deliver your pitch to the room.

Tim Waggoner

Workshop#1: The Art of Suspense

This session presents techniques for creating original, effective horror fiction. Topics covered include: The difference between dread, terror, horror, disgust, and shock. The horror equivalent of the hero’s journey. Avoiding clichés. Making your horror personal. Taking new approaches to old archetypes. Avoiding clichéd story patterns. What, if any, are the limits in horror fiction? How much – or how little – should you reveal?

Workshop#2: The BIG Story

Techniques for writing kick-ass novels. Topics covered include: Novels vs novellas and short stories. Action-Idea. Inciting incident. Classic plot design. Plotting using Scene and Sequel. The Spiral Method of plotting. What to do if your plot starts to sag in the middle. How to keep going for the long haul.

Workshop#3: The Ultimate Guide to Writing Horror

This session presents techniques for creating original, effective horror fiction. Topics covered include: The difference between dread, terror, horror, disgust, and shock. The horror equivalent of the hero’s journey. Avoiding clichés. Making your horror personal. Taking new approaches to old archetypes. Avoiding clichéd story patterns. What, if any, are the limits in horror fiction? How much – or how little – should you reveal?

Agent &Author Panel: Beyond Print

With Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Springer, Cindy Callaghan, Louise Fury, and Sandy Lu
Big screen, television, streaming services – with so many new opportunities available, how does one go about having their work optioned for the screen? Join authors Jonathan Maberry, Nancy Springer and Cindy Callaghan, and agents Louise Fury and Sandy Lu for a panel discussion on taking your work beyond print.
Joy Givens & Sandy Van 
Joy is a pun-slinging, hymn-singing storyteller and the lucky mother of two small superheroes. Raised in a big Midwestern family, Joy now lives in the blossoming literary community of Pittsburgh. She has written several award-winning short stories and writes middle grade and YA fiction to celebrate the fresh, fierce, fantastic side of life.

Sandi is a writer, college counselor, and overall organizer of lives. She is the author of three young adult verse novels that are part of an imprint aimed at encouraging reluctant readers. When she's not helping students or spending time with her family, you can find her in local libraries and coffee shops or wandering the woods.

Workshop: Healthy Habits for Busy  Writers

 As writers, we're often asked, "When do you find the time to write?" And when the answer is, "Whenever I can," the resulting time-crunch can lead to burnout, anxiety, and other challenges to mental and emotional health. This workshop will guide participants through small, practical adjustments to busy writing lifestyles to improve morale and overall well-being. We'll also
take some time for creative journaling to recognize and organize various emotional states. 
Larry Schardt 
Dr. Schardt is an award-winning, best-selling, multi-genre author. His book, James Conner: ...Football Hero, is “One of 24 Best Sports Biography Books of All Time” (BookAuthority-CNN, Forbes, Inc). Dr. Schardt is also a professional speaker, trainer, teacher, and entertainer. His passion for people, positive spirit, and zest for life radiates from his peace sign, to his smile, to his familiar “Rock'n'Roll!!!” Dr. Schardt sows seeds of love and happiness everywhere he goes.

Workshop: Rock the Room

As an author, odds are high that you'll be asked to talk about your work. Maybe it's a presentation at a school or a speech for Rotary; maybe it's an interview for a podcast or local news program. Whatever the invite, you'll want to make a great impression. This workshop will address tips for overcoming any trepidation you might feel when speaking in front of groups. Create excellent presentations and keep your audience engaged. Make it more than "a talk." No more "Death by PowerPoint." No more rambling. No more spewing information that people won't remember. Make every presentation an inspiration for your audience, a dynamic learning experience, an exciting event,  . . . You will leave this workshop with powerful tools to create excellent presentations!  
Agent Panel: The Voice: Query Version

Modeled after the popular television show, this workshop focuses on queries instead of songs. Bring your one-page, double-spaced query letter (name blacked out) for a moderator to read aloud, and we’ll see which agents like which works, and when.

Susan Meier
A published author for over thirty years, Susan started writing on a manual typewriter and used every incarnation of word processor until personal computers were finally invented. She’s learned social media, is dipping her toe into self-publishing, uses YouTube for research, and realizes that even as having talent gives you a chance to express yourself, your career shouldn’t be left to chance.

Workshop#1 Conflict and the Category Romance

Is there a difference between the conflicts of a single title romance and a category romance? Is there a difference between the conflicts of a long category and a short category? What purposes do conflicts serve in a category romance? Is there a way to use your conflict for more than a stumbling block for the romance? Can it also push your story forward?

Join multi-published category romance author Susan Meier as she answers these questions and more in her workshop CONFLICT AND THE CATEGORY ROMANCE. See how to use banter, why we use a ‘format’ not a formula, how mining your characters’ pasts creates the richest conflicts, and learn tricks for getting emotion and “layering” into your story.

Workshop#2: Taglines, Blurbs, and Covers

Taglines, Blurbs and Covers…They can help write your book AND sell it. Lots of people don’t write their taglines and blurbs or create their covers until they are done writing their book. But taglines, blurbs and covers can not only keep you on track while writing, they can also inspire you. Join Susan as she shows you tricks and tips to write taglines and blurbs that will hook you as well as your reader and how to use them, and your cover, to inspire you to write the best possible story.
Bobbi Carducci
Published in newspapers, magazines, online, creative nonfiction/memoir, an award-winning children’s book and a former professional book reviewer, Bobbi is a frequent presenter at writer’s conferences and workshops. In addition to writing, Bobbi is the co-host, with her husband, Mike of the podcast for caregivers,

New To Writing?

What you don’t know about writing and publishing can hold you back. Attendees will learn about publishing for the first time including information on contracts, marketing dos and don’ts, how to start selling your book before it’s written, preparing for that exciting first book signing, and more.   

Nancy Springer
Nancy is a lifelong professional fiction writer who has passed the fifty-book milestone, having written that many novels in genres including mythic fantasy, contemporary fiction, magical realism, and mystery.  She has collected starred reviews and other honors until it is no use mentioning them anymore, except maybe for those two Edgars from the Mystery Writers of America. Her latest release is GrandGhost, women’s literature with a paranormal twist. But her most popular works, no contest, are a series of short novels about Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister. The first ENOLA HOLMES feature film is coming in 2020 from Legendary Productions.  Emmy-nominated young actress Millie Bobby Brown stars in the brilliant, devious and daring role of Enola.  Nancy could not be more thrilled.

Workshop#1: Brainstorming Q&A

Workshop#2: How to Option Your Book