Writer's Digest Conference Schedule

The Writer’s Digest Annual Conference program is designed to give you a balanced education in both the craft and the business of being a writer—all in an encouraging, inspiring environment. Customize your experience by mixing and matching sessions among these core tracks: Craft, Getting Published, The Business of Being an Author, Platform & Promotion and Genre Studies.

We’re hard at work, putting the finishing touches on what we expect to be our best program yet. Check back often, and be sure to sign up for the Writer’s Digest Annual Conference e-newsletter for updates!

Getting Published

Getting Published

Explore the latest options, shore up your publishing strategy and perfect your pitch—with guidance from the industry’s best.
Platform & Promotion

Platform & Promotion

Enhance the discoverability of your work and utilize marketing and technology to earn it the notice it deserves!
The Business of Being an Author

The Business of Being an Author

Learn what it takes to live the writer’s life, think like an entrepreneur and manage your writing like, well, a business.


Revisit the fundamentals or explore new techniques to take your work further. Every session empowers you to create your best possible work.
Genre Studies

Genre Studies

Hear what makes your genre tick, learn from masters of the craft and deepen your understanding of some of today’s bestselling genres.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

8:00 AM - 6:00 PM Registration 
9:00 AM - 5:00 PM The Emotional Craft of FictionCreating an emotional response in readers is more than just luck—it's a craft. Based on psychological research and an extensive study of what makes novels emotionally gripping, this all-day intensive workshop goes beyond showing and telling to help you create an emotional journey for readers—one that is unseen but nevertheless deeply felt and ultimately unforgettable.
Donald Maass
5:15 - 5:30 PM Vulnerability is Sexy Documentary Vulnerability is Sexy is a 14 minute documentary exploring a new way of entering relationships that offers the kind of connection most people are after, but rarely risk pursuing. The film follows the work of Corey Blake and his team of artists as they erect installations at events and engage attendees to anonymously share their vulnerabilities so they can be turned into works of art.
Corey Blake
5:30 PM Orientation Brian is a senior online editor for Writer's Digest and in this special welcome event, he'll be sharing ideas and tips for making the most of your experience. 
Brian Klems

Friday, August 18, 2017

Getting Published

Platform & Promotion

The Business of Being an Author


Genre Studies
8:00 AM – 5:30 PM Registration & Exhibits
9:00 – 10:00 AM Pitch Perfect Pitch Perfect is one of the annual conference’s signature sessions, open only to those who have paid to attend the pitch slam. If you intend to pitch, it’s imperative that you attend this session. Why? The opportunity to pitch your book to agents and editors is a great chance to grab the ear of decision makers that can help bring your book to market.
Paula Munier
10:15 - 11:15 AM Best in Class: Self-Publishing Platforms Share Their Offerings and Advantages In this insightful session, representatives from IngramSpark, BookBaby, Lulu, Wise Ink Creative Publishing will explain their services and how they benefit you, the author, so you’ll make better-informed decisions when you execute on your publishing plan.
Kathy Hensgen (Lulu), Steven Spatz (BookBaby), Justine Bylo (IngramSpark), Laura Zats (Wise Ink), Justin Renard (Pronoun), Porter Anderson (Moderator)
The Novelist’s Platform In this presentation, Jennifer S. Wilkov, sought-after book consultant at “Your Book Is Your Hook!”, will show you why you need to build a platform for yourself as a fiction writer and not just your book in order to grow more fans and followers of your novels and writing career.
Jennifer Wilkov

Novel Revision Strategies for Pantsers: From Muddle to Manageable We’ll talk about the cycle pansters go through to create, and how that is mirrored in revision in a step-by-step system that works.
Annalisa Parent

Perfecting Page One In this session, suitable for any genre, we will dissect and analyze acclaimed first lines and opening paragraphs, and reveal the writing secrets these brilliant examples offer. 
Hank Phillippi Ryan

Panel: What Literary Magazine Editors Are Looking For This session brings you face to face with editors from some highly regarded journals to hear more about how you can stand out in their submissions inbox, what common missteps you should avoid, and other important nuances that will help give you a leg up in writing for these publications.
Joe Killiany, Ronald Koury, Ariel Courage, Windy Lynn Harris (Moderator)
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Ask the Agents (& Editor) Anything: FYSA & FriendsLiterary Agent Barbara Poelle of the Irene Goodman Agency has been fielding these questions and many more with hilarity and candor in WD magazine's popular "Funny You Should Ask" column. On this panel, she gathers some like-minded publishing friends and dares you: Ask them ANYTHING. 
Barbara Poelle, Janet Reid, Abby Zidle, Jessica Strawser (Moderator)

Pixels to Platform: Marketing for Creative PeopleIn this session, you will learn concrete steps for building your online brand so you can forge meaningful connections with your readers. You’ll also discover a game-changing technique that will help you understand and research your audience, whether your platform is huge or nonexistent. Gabriela Pereira

15 Questions You Need Answered After You Have a Publishing Plan Covering everything from Goodreads to Amazon to launch parties, WD's own Brian A. Klems will guide you through best practices learned through his own publishing experience as well as working with hundreds of other authors through his work at WD.
Brian Klems

Story Trumps Structure: How to Write Unforgettable Fiction by Breaking the Rules This workshop is filled with practical insights, dozens of ways to fix plot flaws, time-tested writing secrets and easy-to-implement ideas.
Steven James

Writing a Mystery Novel: A Crash CourseThis session demystifies the art and artifice and gets down to the nuts and bolts of writing a killer mystery novel, from the author of the Edgar-nominated book on mystery writing. 
Hallie Ephron

12:30 - 1:45 PM Lunch on Your Own
1:45 - 2:45 PM

Panel: Successful Freelance Writing  Successful freelancer writers and editors take you behind the scenes at glossy magazines and top Web markets to share the secrets of what the best-paying, most in demand editors really want, how to strategize for steady work, and much more. Julie Pennell,
Sally Koslow,
Dontaira Terrell,
Sona Charaipotra, Tyler Moss,  Porter Anderson (Moderator)  

Applying Best Practices in Branding to Your Writing Career In this insightful session led by a marketing expert, you'll discover what branding means, how it differs from the visual manifestation of a brand, and why this is important for authors.

Carol Van Den Hende


The Pros & Cons of Amazon Publishing Join author Catherine McKenzie as she discusses her experience publishing with Amazon, and what you can expect. Catherine McKenzie

Mastering Plot Twists By integrating plot twists, plot reversals, and moments of heightened danger (TRDs) at tactically sound moments, your stories will captivate readers with their I-can’t-wait-to-see-what-happens-next unpredictability. When your plot twists come at the right moments, your pace will be quicker and the action more focused, and these are the nuanced, multifaceted books that sell, and that find a devoted readership. Jane K. Cleland

Write Naked: A Bestseller's Secrets to Writing Romance and Navigating the Path to Success Let New York Times bestselling romance author Jennifer Probst take you through the process of honing your craft, solidifying your platform, and growing your reader audience. You’ll also discover the most important elements for romance-writing success, and what you need to know about publishing your book through traditional and indie routes.
Jennifer Probst

3:00 - 4:00 PM


The Effective Query Letter Workshop  In this session, you’ll learn how to craft a compelling query that introduces your work and entices a literary agent to ask for more. Respected literary agent Janet Reid will share with you the key things to avoid, as well as the things you must include. Janet Reid


Secrets to a Successful Author WebsiteLearn best practices for design and content, the most important visual areas to focus on (where do visitors’ eyes land first and how can you take advantage of that?), plus valuable online strategies to help grow your career. You'll also save time and money by learning how to avoid the 5 biggest mistakes that authors make with their websites that can affect their usefulness and impact.
Jane Friedman

The Thin Line Between Historical Fact & FictionWhether setting your contemporary novel against the backdrop of actual events, or delving into historical fiction several generations (or even centuries) removed, it can be a challenge to determine how and when to fill in the gaps in what is known, when it's okay to take creative license, and how to deliver a narrative that captures both the flavor and truth of the real-life inspiration. We will explore the choices that writers must make between what was real and what best serves the story and the reader.
Crystal King,
Anjali Mitter Duva
Creating a Character Web This workshop looks at creating characters with conflicting goals, creating the tension that is essential to any compelling story. We’ll analyze the web of character in examples, then examine the participants’ works in progress through the lens of the character web.
Hallie Ephron
Panel: The Art (and Science) of Worldbuilding in Science Fiction and Fantasy We'll examine what special considerations are required when writing superior science fiction and fantasy stories, and how to address those considerations properly, without limiting the power, impact or pace of your story. 
Chuck Wendig,
Tabitha Lord, Jeff Somers, Mercurio D. Rivera,
Elizabeth Crowens, Tyler Moss (Moderator)
4:15 - 5:15 PM Opening Keynote: Lisa ScottolineMore information coming soon.
5:30 - 6:30 PM Book Signing with Keynote

Saturday, August 19

  Getting Published Platform & Promotion The Business of Being an Author Craft Genre
8:00 AM – 6:30 PM Registration & Exhibits
9:00 – 10:00 AM All About the Author/Agent Relationship  At its best the agent/author relationship grows into a dedicated connection where both parties thrive. What should you expect from your agent? What does the agent expect from you? How can you get the most out of the relationship, survive the industry hazards and manage a successful career? Rita will cover the basics that affect every writer, regardless of the author's chosen category.
Rita Rosenkrantz
The Three Step Formula for Building an Author Platform  In this session, you will learn which efforts are worth your time and which ones are distractions. Whether you're an author or someone who advises authors (publisher, agent or publicist), this session will be relevant.  
Fauzia Burke
Banishing Doubt: What I Wish Someone Had Told Me about Being an Author In this session, Hank presents practical ways for savvy authors to avoid the despair, self-doubt, and wordlessness—all the things she wishes someone had told her at the start of her decade-long, award-winning career.
Hank Phillippi Ryan
Unbeatable Beginnings: How to Craft Story Openings That Sell In this invaluable session, author, literary agent, and editor Paula Munier details what keeps a reader engaged, what are the most common mistakes that make them stop, and the steps you need to take to correct them.
Paula Munier
Write from the Heart: Crafting and Publishing Powerful Personal Essays: A Hands-On Workshop In this combination session/workshop participants (who should come prepared to write) will learn the craft of writing powerful personal essays, how to build an arc, powerful openings and resonant endings, plus what gets an editor’s attention, editor etiquette and outlets for publication.
Estelle Erasmus
10:15 - 11:15 AM From Manuscript to Book: What Every Writer Should Know This is a no-holds-barred, step-by-step breakdown of the new author's experience from submission through publication via traditional publishers. A leading literary agent shows you what will be expected of you (from revision to marketing), how you can best advocate for your work, and the smartest ways to position yourself for success. Barbara Poelle Make It Worth Your Time: How to Analyze & Adjust Your Social Media Involvement Time is one of the most precious things anyone has, so it’s a smart writer who asks, “Is this social media stuff really the best use of my time?” While it can be a highly subjective matter (every career has different needs and phases), we’ll talk about how to quantify your activity on social media, analyze
Jane Friedman
Shut Your Monkey! How to Control Your Inner Critic and Get More Writing Done Danny Gregory will explore the impact that voice has on your work, your life and your happiness. He’ll explain its origins and discuss various strategies for keeping the inner critic at bay. And finally he'll take you through a strategy to not only quiet the voice but liberate yourself so you can do the work you were born to do, the work that will define your life and help the world. Danny Gregory No Pain, No Gain: Putting Conflict to Work in Your Stories In this session, she will provide techniques for increasing conflict in every scene and across the scope of the story or novel.  Laura DiSilverio Panel: Writing about Yesterday, Today: The Art & Business of Historical Fiction In this insightful session, our panelists will examine the peculiar difficulties associated with researching and crafting convincing, artful historical fiction that sweeps readers away without bogging them down with too much detail and description.  
Crystal King, Heather Webb, Lauren Willig, Nancy Bilyeau, Stephanie Cowell, Jessica Strawser (Moderator)
10:15 - 11:15 AM Pitch Slam - SOLD OUT                 Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, featuring more than 50 top literary agents and editors. Pitch your story idea and get immediate feedback from agents with experience in your genre!
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM Panel: Is Self-Publishing the Path for You?What makes a successful indie? For whom is this a viable choice? Let’s talk about the pros and cons with a diverse panel of writers who’ve blazed an indie trail. 
Ben Sobieck, Christopher Stollar, Rob Dircks,
Tabitha Lord (Moderator)
Being Seen: A New Approach to Attracting Your Ideal Readers Learn directly from Corey Blake—founder of RTC, a storytelling company, and TEDx speaker on the power of vulnerability—who will share a better approach to attract your ideal readers and apply a funnel approach to more successful marketing.
Corey Blake 

An Insider's Guide to the Editing Process for Novels Join author Catherine McKenzie as she takes you through the process for an eye-opening look at what happens to your manuscript behind the scenes.
Catherine McKenzie 

The Importance of Being Scenic: Scenes Versus Summary This workshop explores the elements of a scene—complex characters, POV, sense details, action, dialogue, new plot information, conflict, and setting—and allows the writer to practice writing vivid scene openings. Lecture and writing exercises. Lauren B. Davis Crafting a Strong Short Story This presentation will guide you through the process of crafting a short story that sells. There are five key elements: character, setting, plot, conflict, and theme. Learn how to braid these elements together for maximum impact in a small amount of space.
Windy Lynn Harris
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM Pitch Slam - SOLD OUT             Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, featuring more than 50 top literary agents and editors. Pitch your story idea and get immediate feedback from agents with experience in your genre!
12:30 - 1:45 PM Lunch on Your Own
1:45 - 2:45 PM Self-Editing for Nonfiction Writers: How to Revise Your Way to Publication In this session, you’ll learn how to assess and revise your manuscript from both macro and micro levels, apply the two Big Cs of strong writing, gain tools and techniques to make the task more manageable, avoid common mistakes and missteps, and decide if and when to seek the assistance of a professional.
Rachel Randall 
You’re the Boss! Taking Control of Your Book’s Promotion PlanIn this session, we’ll look at how you as the author can take control of the process (or complement the work of a publicist). We’ll think creatively far beyond the bookstore setting for readings and events, and discuss how to plan your own version of a book tour, how to use social media to make genuine connections, how to partner with organizations, how to plan for long-term benefit, and how to keep it all organized and enjoyable.
Crystal King 
Authenticity & Authority in Culture-Specific Writing In this session we will explore relevant topics, including the use of language, dialect and italics; how to approach cultural taboos and clichés; tackling reader expectations and possible prejudices; being (or not) a cultural ambassador; how much to explain; and more. 
Anjali Mitter Duva
Rookie Mistakes to Avoid When Writing Your First Novel  It’s all too easy to turn off a reader in the first few pages of your manuscript, or hook them with a great beginning only to lose them with a flabby middle. From idea, to execution, to the final polish, this workshop explores best practices and potholes to avoid. 
Hallie Ephron
The Craft & Business of Women's Fiction During this session, you'll hear from a range of writers (from debut to well established) about their experiences publishing in the genre, how to write successfully for book clubs and other voracious readers in this audience, and more. Jessica Strawser, Orly Konig, Amy Sue Nathan, Sally Koslow, Shelley Noble, Barbara Poelle (Moderator)
1:45 - 2:45 PM Pitch Slam - SOLD OUT                  Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, featuring more than 50 top literary agents and editors. Pitch your story idea and get immediate feedback from agents with experience in your genre! 
3:00 - 4:00 PM One on One: Working with an Independent Editor This session will show you how to find and engage the right editor for your needs, develop a strong writer-editor relationship, and protect your interests as a writer. You’ll also learn strategies for tackling the marked-up manuscript and bringing out the best in your writing.
Christina M. Frey and Sangeeta Mehta
Panel: Build Your Audience With a Blog Learn the keys to success straight from the pros behind popular blogs with devoted followings, and have a chance to ask your own questions about how best to apply their strategies to your own efforts. Jenni Walsh, Heather Webb, Chuck Wendig, Amy Sue Nathan, Jane Friedman (Moderator) 

Avoiding Burnout Part workshop, part lecture, this session will help you to home in on your personal achilles heel(s) and create a customized strategy to help you avoid (or exit) burnout and proceed with your work in manageable stages. Therese Walsh

Troubleshooting Your Novel: Essential Techniques for Identifying and Solving Manuscript Problems In this practical workshop packed full of specific, time-tested advice, you will explore how to pinpoint weak spots in your story—and solve them—examine how to adjust elements of story progression, develop riveting characters, master narrative techniques, and ensure reader engagement. You owe your book more than a polish and a proofread. This workshop will help take it to the next level.  
Steven James
Secrets to Writing Middle-Grade and YA Fiction You'll learn the specifics of the middle-grade and young adult categories, how to come up with a great story idea, and how to craft your story from beginning to end. 
Jennifer De Chiara
3:00 - 4:00 PM Pitch Slam - SOLD OUT                  Writer’s Digest Pitch Slam, featuring more than 50 top literary agents and editors. Pitch your story idea and get immediate feedback from agents with experience in your genre! 
4:15 - 5:15 PM Debut Author PanelIn this panel, you'll hear from authors who just broke through with publishing houses both small and large. You'll learn what it took for each of them to secure a deal, what the reality of that experience was, the disappointments and the victories, and the lessons learned along the way. Jessica Strawser, Jenni Walsh, Orly Konig, Tiffany D. Jackson, Sophie Chen Keller, Cris Freese (Moderator) 

How to Speak to the Media About Your Work An experienced PR pro and novelist will walk you through you the basics of pitching your work to, and talking about it with, the press.

Sharon Bially
Build Your Writing Career with Wattpad and Social Reading Apps  Presented by Benjamin Sobieck, a member of the Wattpad Stars program, this presentation will offer an in-depth look at this increasingly popular way of reading and outline the critical steps you need to take before the next Kindle-sized disruptive event hits the publishing industry.
Ben Sobieck 

Writing from the Senses and Creating Believable Fiction This workshop explains what concrete, significant details are, and how to use them to make your reader feel as though they’re dreaming with eyes wide open.  Lauren B. Davis

Panel: Secrets to Succeeding as a Mystery Writer During this panel, an exciting lineup of bestselling and award-winning mystery novelists will detail exactly what defines a good mystery, what special or unique considerations the genre may require of an author, and how to write a mystery that attracts both industry pros and readers alike. 
Jane K. Cleland, Hallie Ephron, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Paula Munier, Laura DiSilverio (Moderator) 
5:30 - 6:30 PM Central Keynote: Richard RussoMore information coming soon.
6:30 - 8:00 PM  Cocktail Reception
6:30 - 8:00 PM Vulnerability is Sexy The Game Join RTC for Vulnerability is Sexy, a card game that helps players reveal their true selves and give each other some of life's most beautiful gifts: time, truth, and connection.
Corey Blake

Sunday, August 20, 2017

  Getting Published Platform & Promotion The Business of Being an Author Craft Genre
8:00 AM – 12:00 PM Registration & Exhibits
9:00 –10:00 AM So You Want To Be An Indie Author? You’ve decided that indie publishing is your path! Congratulations! You have the independent spirit, the creative energy, and a business mind. Learn from award-wining indie author Tabitha Lord as she shares her experience and advice on how to be successful.
Tabitha Lord
How an Email Newsletter Can Be Your Secret Marketing Weapon E-mail marketing is the No. 1 overlooked means of reader engagement when authors evaluate their overall platform. Being able to directly reach your readers, or most avid fans, is a powerful capability that every author should have. Thankfully, it’s easy to get started with e-mail newsletters, and it doesn’t require technical know-how. This session shows you to get off the ground and grow from there.
Jane Friedman
Keeping Your Book Alive Beyond Its ReleaseDrawing from her experience with nonprofit organizations, educational institutions, cultural groups, museums, social media and more, Anjali Mitter Duva will discuss financially feasible and truly enjoyable ways to bring readings and discussions beyond the bookstore setting and beyond your local circles. 
Anjali Mitter Duva
Revealing Character Through Setting This workshop will show writers how to reveal character through setting, via both the environment the character creates for herself, and her reaction to the settings she finds herself in. Properly used, setting can reveal a lot about viewpoint characters and about any character whose setting is being described. Interactive with numerous examples to dissect/discuss. Laura DiSilverio The Art of Distraction: Using Red Herrings to Create Suspense In this workshop, you’ll learn how to weave red herrings into your narratives, allowing you to increase suspense as you create engaging and ingenious puzzles.  
Jane K. Cleland
10:15 - 11:15 AM Rock Your Revisions In this session, Gabriela will walk you through her signature Pyramid Method for revision, a layer-by-layer approach for a smoother revision and a stronger final draft. You’ll leave this session with a concrete plan and actionable timeline so you can power through and rock your revisions. Gabriela Pereira New Digital Tools: Make Your Social Media Marketing Easier and More Effective This session will present new and established digital tools that can help make the process of managing online marketing easier and more effective. After testing many tools, Burke will present the ones that are most helpful to authors and publishers alike. In a “show-and-tell” session, we’ll review tools that help find influencers and discussions, create visual content and data, collaborate with teams, measure engagement and more.  
Fauzia Burke

Critique Groups: The Good, The Bad, and the No Longer Useful We’ll look at the benefits of both groups and individual critique partners, how to give and receive feedback, how to assess if you’re in the right critiquing relationship and what to do if you’re not. Orly Konig 

I Hear Voices: The Art & Craft of Distinctive Voice In this session, Heather Webb will discuss the nitty gritty of crafting voice by examining samples from expert writers, dissecting the difference between author voice and character voice, and sharing her own techniques to infusing your pages with a unique sense of style.    
Heather Webb
Straddling Multiple Genres This session includes workshop elements to help unearth your story’s core components, as well as examples of successful cross-genre novel pitches and tips on how to find representation.
Therese Walsh, Catherine McKenzie
11:30 AM - 12:30 PM Closing Keynote: David LevithanMore information coming soon.
12:30 -1:30 PM Book Signing