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9:00 – 10:30
How to Structure an Un-Put-Downable Story

Readers want a story that grabs them at the beginning and then grips them till the endone whose suspenseful pacing makes it “un-put-downable.” But how do you craft a tale that keeps them turning pages? Whether you write by the “seat of the pants” or are a detailed planner, how you structure your story is critical to making it a riveting, memorable experience for your readers. In this presentation, best-selling thriller novelist Robert Bidinotto sheds light on classic plot-structure forms that great storytellers use to entrance readers from the first page to the last. You’ll learn how to structure and pace tales that, at the end, will leave your readers exclaiming, “I couldn’t put it down!”and eagerly awaiting your next story. 

ROBERT BIDINOTTO is the Wall St. Journal bestselling author of “HUNTER,” the debut novel in his Dylan Hunter thrillers series. A former award-winning magazine editor and investigative journalist for Reader’s Digest, he also is a popular speaker, and a freelance editor of fiction and nonfiction books. His thrillers and nonfiction books are available on Amazon in ebook, print, and audio editions.

10:45 – 12:15
Begin at the Beginning

You can write. You know you can. Over the years, your teachers in all your English classes have praised your writing. Your friends and spouses say you can write. You love to read, and you carry stories around in your head. But you ask yourself, How do I begin a novel or a short story? In this work session, we will explore a variety of story openings across genres  and see the patterns. You will learn how to open your short story or novel by following a few steps. From there, you will launch into your story. Come with a good and lengthy summary of your story, your characters, and setting, and be prepared to write or type.

JUDY KELLY is an award-winning author. Her first novel, Blessings and Curses, was a finalist in Readers Favorite Award for 2020, and a Top Ten Most Popular Novel at Frankfort, Sharjah, and Guadalajara International Book Fairs in 2018. That Ever Died So Young, was a finalist in Somerset Literary and Contemporary Fiction Award for 2014. She presents at conferences, libraries, and meetings. She’s a member in several organizations. She teaches fiction writing at Montgomery College, and Frederick Community College. She’s an adjunct professor at Montgomery College teaching speech, college reading and English. She enjoys walking, live theatre, movies, museums, reading and writing.

1:45 – 3:15
Your Story Matters

Have you ever found yourself halfway through a story you’re writing and asking yourself, “Why am I doing this?” It’s good that you’re asking yourself that — because every story needs to have a purpose, or else there’s really no point in telling it, is there? This course will explore how you can figure out what your message is and use that to create high-stakes conflicts, set believable obstacles (both internal and external) for your characters to overcome, motivate your protagonist and antagonist to act, and ultimately build to a climax that will leave your readers feeling changed by the experience of reading your story.

DYLAN ROCHE is a novelist, playwright, journalist, copywriter, blogger, editor, and creative writing coach with years of professional experience in a breadth of writing-related endeavors. Whether he’s writing magazine features about fitness and nutrition, farcical sitcoms for the stage, or ad copy for small businesses, he loves connecting with and resonating with readers. His first novel, The Purple Bird, a YA fantasy adventure, debuted in 2019. He lives in Annapolis with his dog, Tyrion the corgi, and when he’s not writing, he can usually be found going on long-distance runs.

3:30 – 5:00
From Novice to Novelist

A practical 15-point plan that demystifies and deconstructs novel-writingfrom the mere germ of an ideaall the way through the creative process, with an eye on getting a finished book into the hands of potential fans. We’ll discuss how to tap into your subconscious and life experiences to transform them into a book-length project, populated with interesting characters, a twisty-turny plot, snappy dialogue, and an interesting setting. We’ll also look at strategies for finding an agent, marketing the finished product, and facing your writing and marketing fears. 

Novelist, writing coach, and manuscript editor JOHN DEDAKIS is a former editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” DeDakis is the author of five mystery-suspense novels. His fourth novel, “Bullet in the Chamber,” is the winner of Reviewers Choice, Foreword INDIES, and Feathered Quill book awards. In his most recent novel, “Fake,” protagonist Lark Chadwick is a White House correspondent dealing with “fake news” in the era of #MeToo. “Fake” earned Honorable Mention for the Reviewers Choice Award and was a Finalist for Killer Nashville’s Silver Falchion.

Session Summaries by Track:

Fiction I  |  Fiction II  |  Poetry I  |  Poetry II  |  Publishing & Editing  |  Marketing  |  Craft  |  Specialty Writing




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