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Bay to Ocean Writers Conference 2024
Session Descriptions

NON-Fiction / CRAFT, Editing


9:00AM – 9:50AM
No Red Bows: How to End an Essay (or any work, really) Meaningfully, Honestly, and “Perhaps" Openly
Randon Billings Noble

In school we're often taught the five-paragraph essay--make a big claim, give three examples, and then say it again in the conclusion. But life is more complicated than that and a good essay should not only reflect but embrace that complexity.  In this session we'll look at the way several different essayists end their essays without tying them up in a neat red bow.  We'll also do some writing exercises to try some honest and open endings of our own.  Bring a work-in-progress of your own if you can (but it's not required) as well as a notebook, pen, and a spirit of exploration and play.

RANDON BILLINGS NOBLE is an essayist. Her collection Be with Me Always was published by the University of Nebraska Press in 2019 and her anthology of lyric essays, A Harp in the Stars, was published by Nebraska in 2021. Other work has appeared in the Modern Love column of The New York Times, The Rumpus, Brevity, and Creative Nonfiction. Currently she is the founding editor of the online literary magazine After the Art and teaches in West Virginia Wesleyan's Low-Residency MFA Program and Goucher's MFA in Nonfiction Program. You can read more at her website,

10:00AM – 10:50AM
Navigating Trauma in Memoir
Lynne Schmidt

This generative session will be lead by Lynne Schmidt, a mental health professional who has a focus in trauma informed care and emotion focused therapy. Memoirists and creative nonfiction writers should develop skills around grounding themselves when faced with traumatic memories, and how to write through it. Three to four prompts will be offered, as well as space for sharing small segments as comfortable.

LYNNE SCHMIDT is the grandchild of a Holocaust survivor, and a mental health professional with a focus in trauma and healing. They are the winner of the 2021 The Poetry Question Chapbook Award for their chapbook, Sexytime, and the 2020 New Women's Voices Contest for their chapbook, Dead Dog Poems. Other chapbooks include Gravity, which was listed as one of the 100 Best Breakup Books of All Time by Book Authority, and On Becoming a Role Model. When given the choice, Lynne prefers the company of her three dogs and one cat to humans.

11:00AM – 11:50AM
From Memories to Memoir

Veronica Li & Sverrir Sigurdsson

Drawing from their experience with writing their memoirs, this husband-and-wife team will discuss the essential elements for producing a captivating memoir. Learn how to turn loose and disjointed memories into coherent stories. The session will include an exercise to jumpstart your memoir writing process.

VERONICA LI immigrated to the US from Hong Kong at age fifteen. She received her Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of California at Berkeley and her master's degree in International Affairs at Johns Hopkins University. She has worked as a journalist for The Wall Street Journal Asia and as a project officer for the World Bank, and is currently a writer. She has published four titles, including a memoir about her mother's life, Journey Across the Four Seas: A Chinese Woman's Search for Home. It was featured on Book TV of C-Span.

SVERRIR SIGURDSSON grew up in Iceland and graduated as an architect in Finland in 1966. He pursued an international career that took him to the Middle East, Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the U.S. His assignments ranged from construction of the palace and harem of the ruler of Abu Dhabi to building schools in developing countries in Africa and elsewhere. He has worked for the international aid agencies, UNESCO and the World Bank. He recently published his memoir, Viking Voyager: An Icelandic Memoir, which has won two international awards.

1:30PM – 2:20PM
Is Your Nonfiction Book Naked? Maybe It Needs an Index...

Judy Reveal

An index guides the reader to key issues described in a nonfiction book. Join Judy Reveal, a professional back-of-the-book indexer, who will explain why an index helps your reader travel easily through your book, find the answers they are seeking, and build interest in purchasing your book. Judy will guide you into building a powerful index that resonates with your readers!

JUDY REVEAL has been editing manuscripts and indexing books for over 20 years. She is a published author and writes book reviews for the New York Journal of Books and has been the Managing Editor for Crisis, Stress, and Human Resilience: An International Journal since 2018. Judy also provides guidance for self-publishing books.

2:30PM – 3:30PM
How to Write a Braided Essay
Laura J. Oliver

A braided essay weaves together several seemingly disparate events, observations or memories, to create one entertaining and resonant piece. The essay's true subject is revealed as you alternate topics with varying degrees of tension. You may be watching your father build a fence, planning a birthday party for your son, remembering the last day of your mother's life, and by the end of the essay the reader will see how each of these events is linked, how these 3 separate stories are one. Using published examples, we will make this technique our own.

LAURA J. OLIVER, M.F.A., is an award-winning, nationally-published writer, a popular newspaper columnist regularly featured on NPR, the author of The Story Within (Penguin Random House), a book selected by Poets and Writers Magazine as one of the best of the year, and a sought-after developmental story editor. Her short stories and essays have been published in The Washington Post, Country Living Magazine, The Sun Magazine, The Writer, Glimmer Train and elsewhere.  Oliver has taught creative writing at the University of Maryland and St. John's College.

Craft, Editing

9:00AM – 9:50AM
Spells or Newscasts?
Jane Edna Mohler

In this workshop we'll consider how to write poems that behave as spells. Poetry readers don't want "just the facts". Instead, they want to experience something, a unique vision that invites them in and changes their outlook if only for a minute. We'll look at frequent habits that weaken poems. Then we'll shake things up as participants work from a prompt asking us to say "Yes!" when normally we'd say "No!" There will be time for Q&A and discussion about submitting your poems to journals. 

JANE EDNA MOHLER is a Bucks County Poet Laureate Emeritus (Pennsylvania). Recent publications include Gargoyle, River Heron Review, and One Art. Her collection Broken Umbrellas was published by Kelsay Books. She is the Poetry Editor of the Schuylkill Valley Journal in Philadelphia. Read more at

10:00AM – 10:50AM
Bronco Poetics: How to Ride Line Breaks Deeper into the Narrative Process
Bhodi Tims

Have you ever wanted your poems to push you outside of your comfort zone to become something different--different from your past work, different rhythms and voice that you didn't know you had inside? This workshop will focus on strategies using line breaks to push you into the deeper rhythmic structures of your poem-in-progress, creating space for different voices to emerge. We'll explore the tension between where breath versus syllabic count leads to different line breaks. 

BHODI TIMS directors the Herbal Product Design and Cannabis Science programs at Maryland University of Integrative Health. In 2019 he led a workshop, Mining the World of Science for Ideas and Language to Expand Your Poetry for the Bay to Ocean Writers Conference. His recent poetry publications include: --In Search of Blue, The Blue Nib, 2019. --Book: The Acoustic Properties of Ancient People, Finish Line Press 2018. --Theory of Air, Biophony, Water Lilly at the Edge of a Dream, The Unspeakable Sense of Connection and The Acoustic Property of Ancient People, Syzygy Poetry Journal, 2015. --Bone Seed Lilac, Broadkill Review, 2015.

11:00AM – 11:50AM
The Art of the Critique: It's Not Rocket Science; It's MUCH Tougher Than That
D.J. Stevenson

Learning how to give a constructive critique helps not just the author, but also the reviewer as they can often apply their observations to their own writing. This presentation will cover how to give a thoughtful critique, including examples of what types or remarks to avoid.  It will help the critiquer separate preference (like/dislike) from quality (well written/poorly written) and how to focus their comments to help the author find and refine their own voicenot dilute or change it.  It will include techniques help the critiquers solidify and convey their thoughts constructively. Learning to make use of the feedback is as important as giving constructive feedback.  The author is the ultimate arbiter of how useful the commentary is.  It's important to know it is ok to make use of some of the notes, and ignore others, which ultimately depends on the writer's goals. Join D.J. Stevenson as she meticulously explains how to set goals for what you'd like to receive in critiques.

D.J. STEVENSON, author, editor, publisher, book designer, and translator, has published twenty-six novels and ninety-five short stories.  She writes essays and reviews for the "Outside In" series and for the Sci-Fi Bulletin.  She serves as the Executive Vice President of the International Association of Media Tie-In Writers and chairs their Scribe Awards.  A longtime member of Pennwriters, she also chairs their Critique Partners Program.  Her credits include Tempest, in the Sorcery & Steel series; "Class Project" in Double Trouble: An Anthology of Two Fisted Team Ups; and "Jupiter Joyride" in Brave New Girls Tales of Girls Who Engineer and Explore.

1:30PM – 2:20PM
Familiar History: Using Family Stories and Hands-On Research to Bring the Past Alive
David Healey & Pat Valdata

When it comes to writing historical fiction and even poetry, it's the small details that help the past come alive in readers' minds. What would your characters have worn, what music would have thrilled them, what did they think of the events that they lived through? These details can be drawn from research, family stories, and even experiences such as historical reenacting. Join us as we share methods that the historically curious writer can use for crafting engaging stories and poems set in the past. You will also have an opportunity for a writing exercise to mine your own family history for details to spark a story or poem.

Longtime ESWA member DAVID HEALEY spent 21 years as a reporter and editor for newspapers in the region. His first novel was published by an imprint of Penguin Putnam, and he has since written nearly 30 nonfiction books and novels that are often inspired by local legends and stories. A graduate of Washington College and the Stonecoast MFA program at the University of Southern Maine, he is a full-time faculty member in the Department of English and Rhetoric at Purdue University Global.

PAT VALDATA is a novelist and poet. Her most recent novel, Eve’s Daughters, won first prize in the novel category from the Delaware Press Association and received an Honorable Mention from the National Federation of Press Women. Her other books are a historical novel, The Other Sister, which won a gold medal from the Hungarian Association’s Árpád Academy, and a coming-of-age novel about women pilots, Crosswind. Her book of poetry about women aviation pioneers, Where No Man Can Touch, won the Donald Justice Poetry Prize. A revised edition of the book was published in 2020 by Wind Canyon Books. Pat is a retired university professor (almost always an adjunct) who now lives in Crisfield, Maryland.

2:30PM – 3:30PM
The Tales, the Traumas, the Beauty, the Poetry and the Music of Ireland
Christopher T. George & Denny Lynch

Liverpool, UK-born Christopher T. George gives a special St. Patrick's Day performance of his short stories and poems about Ireland plus works of Irish-born writers such as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, and Brendan Behan. The Troubles in Ireland, the confrontation of Catholics and Protestants will be addressed, incidents such as Bloody Sunday in Derry and the U2 Song about that famous moment in the Troubles, the 19th Century Potato Famine and the emigration of Irish. Also the session will cover Irish worthies such as the late Sinead O'Connor, Jack Yeats, Michael Collins, James Connolly, Bernadette Devlin, and Bobby Sands. Chris's presentation will include photographs by Irish American photographer and teacher Denny Lynch who will be on hand to talk about his images and his own adventures in Ireland and his links to the Irish Railroad Workers Museum in Baltimore.  The audience will be given prompts to write about Ireland and to share their poems or stories written during the session or previously written.

CHRISTOPHER T. GEORGE was born in 1948 in Liverpool, England, and came to the United States in 1955. He is now a resident of Newark, Delaware. Chris's poetry has been published worldwide, including in Poet Lore, the American Poetry Journal, Anti-Heroin Chic, Loch Raven Review, Gargoyle, and The Times of London.

Photographer DENNY LYNCH has been exhibiting his work in New York, Paris and many parts of Ireland since the 1990s. Much of his work has focused on Irish history and culture. His photographs have become part of the permanent collections of the Museum of the City of New York and the New York Historical Society. In addition, Denny presents slide-illustrated lectures about history and travel on both sides of the Atlantic.

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