(IMPORTANT MARCH 2020 UPDATE: The 2020 SWW is now an Online Conference to keep everyone safe. There is much more to say about this, but immediately you should understand 1) This will be easy and awesome, 2) You do not have to be tech-savvy to do this, and 3) We are keeping all aspects of the event, including one-on-one agent & editor pitching, which will now be done by Skype or phone. Learn all details about the new April 25 SWW Online Conference here and what everything means.)
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THIS YEAR’S 2020 SESSION & WORKSHOPS:
8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location. Check in and get comfortable.
There will be 3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day. Agent pitches and critique consultations overlap with the sessions below. The schedule of presentation topics below is subject to change, but here is the current layout:
BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30
1. The Four-Act Structure: Constructing the Edifice of a Story, taught by Jason Kirk. Most story aficionados, and most conspicuously those in Hollywood, know the three-act structure: Setup, Confrontation, and Resolution. But from short stories to novels and narrative nonfiction, when it comes to the written word, a four-act structure has proved its worth in stories that span the globe, throughout history, and in multiple genres. In this class, we’ll discuss the four-act structure of storytelling by looking at how it functions in well-known works, as well as sharing each other’s recommendations for stories and books with other interesting structural frameworks.
2. How to Write Awesome Young Adult and Middle Grade, taught by Gabrielle Prendergast. Young adult and middle grade are hot markets today, but what does it really mean to write them? And how do you write YA and MG stories that connect with readers and keep them glued to the page? We’ll talk about YA and MG as categories: how they’re defined, and what audiences they’re aimed at. Then we’ll discuss the craft of writing them. From voice, to themes, characters, and plot, let’s explore how to write YA and MG stories that sell.
3. What to Expect When You’re Expecting: What Happens After You’ve Signed With an Agent, taught by Britt Siess. This presentation outlines the publishing process from the author’s point of view in order to shed some light on how exactly an agent gets you a book deal—and your role in the process. Beginning with querying, we will walk through signing with an agent, what to expect when going out on submission to editors, an author’s relationship with editors, and what happens between getting an offer for a book deal and holding a published book in your hands.
BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50
1. How to Apply the Five Most Powerful Methods of Story Creation to Your Novels, taught by Jim Rubart. In this class, an award-winning author will show you the five most powerful methods best-selling authors use to create their stories. Yes, there are time-tested formulas that always work—as well as proven building blocks you must understand and learn to apply to your novels and when generating new ideas. Plus, you’ll learn how you can harness the secrets of blockbuster movies and use these to develop stories that will draw the attention of editors, agents, and, ultimately, readers.
2. Everything You Need to Know About Agents and Query Letters, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This workshop is a thorough crash course in dealing with literary agents. After quickly going over what an agent is and what they do for writers, we will discuss resources for finding agents, how to ID the best agents for you, query letter writing, as well as the most important things to do and not to do when dealing with representatives.
3. Introduction to Science Fiction & Fantasy Writing, taught by Amber Royer. In this class, you will learn the basics of speculative fiction writing (science fiction, fantasy and anything else with a “speculative” element). We will consider what does and does not fit into these genres, as well as how to distinguish between sub-genres such as steampunk and portal fantasy (important distinctions when you start to market your work). You will learn what mashups are, and how this genre is open to unconventional takes and new voices. We will cover how to bring originality to your story and how keeping things simple helps make it believable.
LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15
Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes. There are lots of options, including onsite restaurants, and nearby places to eat.
BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30
1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest (Regent Room), with participating literary agents and editors. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with attending agents commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first page, and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention. (All attendees are welcome to bring pages to the event for this session, and we will choose pages at random for the workshop for as long as time lasts. All submissions should be novels or memoir—no prescriptive nonfiction or picture books, please. Do not send your pages in advance. You will bring printed copies with you, and instructions will be sent out approximately one week before the event.)
2. Elevating Your Work: How to Create Children’s Picture Books That Are Not Just Entertaining, but Transformative, taught by Gabrielle Prendergast. Quality literature can help children navigate challenging situations but it can also expand their understanding of other people and places. A good book can be a vehicle for growth, inspiration, and empowerment. And the very best children’s books also utilize the very best art. It is the combination of carefully selected words and the accompanying illustrations, that makes a memorable, meaningful, and child relevant picture book. Discover how to create books that will impact children in a lasting way while embracing the transformative power of your work.
3. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This session is completely devoted to nonfiction that is not memoir. So if you are trying to create an awesome nonfiction book proposal, this presentation is for you. With both a writer and agent to instruct and answers questions, the session will talk about platform, identifying your book’s place in the market, effective pitching, and more.
BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45
1. How to Write and Sell Great Mysteries, Thrillers, and Crime Fiction, taught by Jim Rubart. This presentation will teach you how to keep readers—including agents and editors—turning pages late into the night. We will address pacing, plotting, and characterization to keep your mystery/thriller/suspense moving.
2. Creating Perfectly Imperfect Characters, by Cody T Luff. The loveable rogue, the hardboiled detective, the beautiful assassin: all recognizable and entertaining tropes. Let’s go deeper into character. In this session, we’ll cover creating a dynamic character who lives on the page, who breaks just enough rules to not only garner the love of a reader but also to secure the interest of an agent and publisher.
3. An Overview of Your Publishing Options Today, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This workshop examines the two largest routes any writer can take with their book: traditional publishing and self-publishing / e-publishing. We will examine the upsides of both routes, the challenges with both, and the next steps no matter what you decide. In today’s publishing world, a writer has to understand what they’re in for before they send their book out. This session is designed to prepare them for what’s to come and what options exist.
BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00
1. How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Talking Author Social Media, Blogging, and Platform, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, everyone could use some helpful guidance on how to effectively market themselves and sell more books. This session includes easy-to-understand advice on social media (Twitter, Facebook, more), blogging, and other simple ways you can market your work online cheaply and easily.
2. Writing the 8-Point Synopsis, taught by Amber Royer. Writing a synopsis may be one of the most stressful parts of the whole drafting-to-publishing process. But it proves to an agent or editor that you’re very clear on what your story is about (and can explain it succinctly). Your synopsis can also help as you draft, giving you a road map to hit the most important points. But how do you avoid overthinking it? This class will explore how to make sure the important moments in your story are happening to the right character, and that they all relate to the same overarching plot question.
3. Make Your First Five Pages Agent Ready, taught by Tara Gilbert. You have five pages to impress an agent–make them count. It takes a few paragraphs for an agent to know if they connect with the writing of a manuscript, and you have five pages to convince them they want to see more. We will take a look at what makes a great opening, what you need to successfully grab a reader’s attention, and leave them wanting more after five pages.
SESSIONS END: 5:00
At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s bookstore station for a short while to sign any books for attendees.