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Craft of Writing Sessions

LAURA OLIVER  Accepted! Tips for Developing a Stand-out Style

Agents, editors and publishers agree that the single most important criteria for having work accepted for publication is a compelling style. In this workshop we learn what literary style is, why it is so singularly important to agents, publishers and readers alike, and how to acquire a style unique to you—one readers can’t put down. Through examples, exercises, tips and developmental techniques, we will learn to identify and polish your very personal authorial style for success.  Laura Oliver is the author of The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers (Penguin Random House), named by The Writer Magazine as one of the best writing books of the year. Already in its fifth printing, it was additionally selected by Poets and Writers Magazine as one of the best writing books published to date. In addition, Oliver is an award-winning writer and workshop instructor at St. John's College and has taught both fiction and essay writing at the University of Maryland and the Writer's Center. Oliver's fiction and essays are published in national newspapers, magazines and top-tier literary reviews (The Washington Post, Country Living Magazine, The Writer Magazine, The Writer’s Guide 2013, Glimmer Train Stories, The Sun Magazine, Charleston Magazine, Portland Magazine, The Baltimore Review,) Among other distinctions, she is the recipient of a Maryland State Arts Council Individual Artist Award in Fiction, the Anne Arundel County Arts Council Annie Award for Literary Achievement, two Glimmer Train Short Fiction finalist awards, and her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Oliver holds an MFA in Creative Writing and Literature from Bennington College and has completed writing seminars in creative non-fiction at the University of Iowa.   

GAIL BARRETT  – Stop Messing with My Head!  A Crash Course on Point of View.

Point of view: What is it? Why does it matter?The award-winning author of fifteen published novels explains the basics of this essential craft technique, and how it brings power and immediacy to your writing.  Gail Barrett is the award-winning author of fifteen romantic suspense novels. A former RITA® finalist, Gail has received countless awards, including the Book Buyer’s Best Award, the Holt Medallion, The National Readers’ Choice Award, the Daphne du Maurier Award for excellence in romantic suspense, and Romance Writers of America’s prestigious Golden Heart. She lives in Hagerstown, Maryland. For more information, visit her website: www.gailbarrett.com.

LYNN SCHWARTZ – It’s Not A Formula: Developing A Satisfying Plot

Plot is the organizing force that makes our stories progress and insists that something happen, but plot cannot stand alone. In good fiction and memoir, it’s essential to support plot with other elements of craft such as characterization, theme, suspense, and conflict. Let’s explore how to create satisfying stories, to avoid formulaic plots, and to understand how characters drive an organic narrative from beginning to end.  Lynn Auld Schwartz is a writer, story development editor, and has ghostwritten three books. Her plays have been performed in Atlanta and NYC, including Lincoln Center. She founded the Temple Bar Literary Reading Series in NYC. She has received two Individual Artist Awards in Fiction from the Maryland State Arts Council, and an Annie Literary Arts Award from the Arts Council of Anne Arundel County. Her stories have appeared in literary journals and she produces and directs the Page To Stage series, which offers regional writers the opportunity to perform their life stories. A graduate of The City College of New York, Columbia University, and The Neighborhood Playhouse School of the Theater, Schwartz teaches fiction and memoir at St. John’s College and The Writer’s Center. www.writerswordhouse.com.

BARBARA ESSTMAN – SHOW vs. TELL: Just How Does that Work?

Every writer has heard the rule, “Show, don’t tell,” and then been confused by what that means. Do you always show and never tell? How do you tell if you’re telling too much? Join us in demystifying this first commandment of writing and learn how to make it work for you. Internationally published and nationally awarded author Barbara Esstman, MFA and NEA fellow, is the coeditor of A More Perfect Union: Stories and Poems about the Modern Wedding (St. Martin’s Press). Her novels, The Other Anna and Night Ride Home, were both published by Harcourt Brace, HarperPerennial, and numerous foreign presses, and they were both adapted for film by Hallmark Productions. Among other distinctions, her short stories have been recognized by the Pushcart Prizes and the Redbook Fiction Award. She teaches creative writing and creative nonfiction at universities and The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and does developmental editing with individual clients.

ART TAYLOR ​– The Short Story: Big Worlds in Small Spaces

How can you create fully fleshed characters and satisfying plots within the strict confines of the short story? Join award-winning short story writer  for a discussion of this sometimes challenging form. After writing your own six-sentence story, you’ll examine the architecture of the short story (linear vs. modular), explore scenes as the building blocks of short fiction, and draw on sources as diverse at Cinderella, Doc Savage, and South Park for guidance and inspiration. Art Taylor is an associate professor of English at George Mason University and the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel and a finalist for both the Anthony Award and the Macavity Award for Best First Novel. He edited Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015, currently a finalist for the Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He has also won two Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction. For more information, visit www.arttaylorwriter.com.  

AUSTIN CAMACHO ​– Bringing Diversity to Your Characters

We live in a world filled with people who don't look like you, the writer, and often have major cultural differences. A diverse cast is more interesting to your readers. The trick is to portray people of other groups accurately, and without offending anyone. Austin Camacho offers some tips on how to do both in this class.  Crime novelist Austin Camacho is a popular speaker and instructor on the craft of writing. The author of six books in the Hannibal Jones detective series and five action adventure novels, he is a past president of the Maryland Writer's Association. He is also author of Successfully Marketing Your Novel in the 21st Century, and his small press, Intrigue Publishing, presents the Creatures, Crimes & Creativity conference for genre fiction in Columbia MD. He blogs at http://www.ascamacho.blogspot.com.

KATHRYN JOHNSON  – Conflict, Action and Suspense:  Adding the Power that Sells

It's often said that without conflict there is no story. It also holds true that strengthening the conflict in any type of fiction will bump up the tension and turn a limp, ordinary tale into an extraordinary adventure that will keep readers turning pages until The End. Whether you choose to write literary fiction, mysteries, family sagas, thrillers, historical fiction, sci-fi or fantasy—you can learn techniques for drawing readers into your tales through action, dialogue, setting details, and plot twists that make your work stand out from the crowd. Kathryn Johnson (aka Mary Hart Perry) teaches creative writing for The Writer's Center, in Bethesda, Maryland. She is a popular speaker for the Smithsonian Associates programs and appears regularly at regional and national writers’ conferences. She also is the CEO of a writer's mentoring service: www.WriteByYou.com. An Agatha Award finalist, and winner of the Heart of Excellence and Bookseller's Best Awards, for her historical fiction, Kathryn is currently working on a new Victorian mystery series and continues her contemporary thriller series, Affairs of State. More than 40 of her novels have been published.​

TARA LASKOWSKI  – Tiny but Mighty: How to Write Amazing Flash Fiction

Imagine it: An evocative, complete short story in 1000 words or less. This session will focus on flash fiction, the form taking online publishing by storm. Tara Laskowski, longtime editor of the flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly, will define this type of writing and its many forms—from microfiction to novellas-in-flash—and walk you through some dos and don'ts for crafting your own tiny stories.  Tara Laskowski's short-story collection, Bystanders, was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and other places. Since 2010, she has been the editor of the online flash fiction journal SmokeLong Quarterly. 

LORIANN OBERLIN –  Writing Difficult People into Your Fiction and Nonfiction

We all know that conflict drives a good novel and that accuracy in all types of writing is essential. So how do you accurately depict “difficult” people into your characterization? There are clinical definitions of self-absorbed, passive-aggressive, or sociopathic characters, but this workshop will go beyond diagnostic criteria that you could look up on your own. It will show how people with various psychological challenges interact with others at work or within families, provide realistic therapeutic settings as well as emergency psych situations, and challenge your own creativity to go beyond clichés and stereotypes.  Loriann Oberlin is the author of numerous non-fiction titles including the 2016 edition of Overcoming Passive-Aggression as well as Surviving Separation & Divorce and a new eBook series Writing to Make Money. She’s written 12 non-fiction titles and two women's fiction novels under the pen name Lauren Monroe. Oberlin has a master's degree in clinical counseling from Johns Hopkins University and has a private therapy practice with offices in Montgomery County and in Easton, MD. www.loriannoberlin.com.

ROBERT BIDINOTTO – Rejecting Reality: Making the Leap from Nonfiction to Novels 

Many writers of nonfiction secretly yearn to try their hand at storytelling. But that prospect can be intimidating. Inventing characters, plots, and dialogue calls upon skill sets and mental habits different from writing journalism, ad copy, or how-to books. After a long career writing and editing nonfiction, in his sixties Robert Bidinotto pursued his lifelong dream of writing his first novel. Now the author of best-selling, award-winning thrillers, Robert will share the unique challenges and rewards of storytelling over expository writing. He’ll also offer tips and advice on how to navigate the transition happily and successfully. Robert Bidinotto is the author of the acclaimed crime thriller Hunter — a #1 Amazon Kindle bestseller in “Mysteries & Thrillers” and a Wall Street Journal “Top Ten Fiction Ebook.” Bad Deeds, the first sequel in his “Dylan Hunter” thriller series, won the CLFA “2014 Book of the Year” award. Before turning full-time to fiction, Robert was an award-winning magazine editor, a nonfiction author of books about crime, and a prolific writer of commentaries, reviews, and investigative articles. A former Staff Writer for Reader’s Digest, Robert also is a frequent public speaker and talk-show guest. Visit his blog, “The Vigilante Author,” at HunterThrillers.com.

KHRIS BAXTER – Screenwriting Techniques for Writing Effective Dialogue

“It’s not just that dialogue sounds like music to me. It actually is music.” — Aaron Sorkin 

Dialogue is much more than just putting words into your characters'mouths. In this workshop we'll look at examples from some of the masters of Film & TV dialogue and discuss ways for you to elevate and energize the dialogue in your novel, short stories, memoir, etc. In the process we'll discuss techniques for crafting dialogue that reveals character, advances plot, and makes your writing come alive. For all levels and genres.  Khris Baxter is a screenwriter, producer, and co-founder of Boundary Stone Films which develops, finances, and produces a wide range of projects for Film and TV. Baxter has been a screenwriter for two decades and has taught screenwriting since 2004, most recently at The MFA in Creative Writing at Queens University, and American University. He’s been a judge for the annual Virginia Screenwriting Competition since 2004, and is the co-founder of the Telluride Screenwriting Conference held annually in Telluride, CO.


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