2024 Washington Writers Conference Panels & Workshops

(Click here to view the hour-by-hour schedule.)


A Writer’s Dream: DC's Creativity, Community, and Craft.
When it comes to literary talent, the DC area is an embarrassment of riches, and that’s why, for this year’s lunchtime address, we’ll showcase a panel of noted local authors — Tania James (Loot), Marita Golden (The New Black Woman: Loves Herself, Has Boundaries & Heals Every Day), Louis Bayard (Jackie & Me), and Richard Peabody (Guinness on the Quay) — moderated by the equally notable Melissa Scholes Young (The Hive). We want to make sure attendees come away with an appreciation of the resources available to writers in the DMV and the generosity of spirit that prevails within this community.

Debut Authors Share Their Publishing Stories.
Learn how three Washington-area writers came to publish their first books of fiction. Len Kruger’s coming-of-age story, Bad Questions, won the 2023 Washington Writers’ Publishing House Fiction Award. Eman Quotah’s Bride of the Sea, a tale of family secrets and colliding cultures, received the 2022 Arab American Book Award for Fiction. In Company, acclaimed author Shannon Sanders recounts a multigenerational saga through a linked collection of stories. Melissa Scholes Young — novelist, editor of two anthologies, and associate professor at American University — will moderate as these debut authors tell their success stories.

Nonfiction: From Proposal to Publication.
Writing a proposal is only the first step of your nonfiction project. These award-winning authors share their journeys from proposal submission to published book. Journalist, editor, and novelist Sara Fitzgerald is author of the forthcoming The Silenced Muse: Emily Hale, T.S. Eliot, and the Role of a Lifetime. A professor at Johns Hopkins University, Lawrence Jackson lists Shelter: A Black Tale from Homeland, Baltimore among his recently published books. During a journalistic career that included 20 years with the Wall Street Journal, Neil King Jr. traveled extensively; American Ramble: A Walk of Memory and Renewal is his first book. Serving as moderator is Mary Collins, who has taught nonfiction writing for 30 years and, in 2023, published an experimental collection of essays and watercolor paintings called A Play Book: Creating Writers, Creating Citizens.

Writing a Life: Memoir.
Moderator Marita Golden, the award-winning author of over 20 works of fiction and nonfiction, heads up a panel of accomplished writers whose compelling individual and family stories have led them to memoir. Mary Collins, with her son, Donald Collins, is author of At the Broken Places: A Mother and Trans Son Pick Up the Pieces. The forthcoming work by novelist Joe McGinniss Jr. is entitled Damaged People, a memoir about his father, himself, and raising a son. And poet Bernardine Watson won the 2023 Washington Writers’ Publishing House prize for nonfiction for her recent memoir, Transplant.

Does This Genre Look Good on Me?
Every genre comes with a set of conventions and expectations, and you may wonder what’s the best fit for your story. Leading the discussion about such choices is Louis Bayard, whose acclaimed historical fiction includes The Pale Blue Eye, now a Netflix film. The latest novel by Tania James, Loot, which recounts the tale of an 18th-century woodcarver recruited by a sultan to build a giant mechanical tiger, was longlisted for the National Book Award. Tara Laskowski has won many accolades for her suspense novels, the most recent of which is The Weekend Retreat. And filmmaker, novelist, and screenwriter Eryk Pruitt released Something Bad Wrong, the first crime thriller in a new series, in 2023, with the second book forthcoming this spring.

A Community of Letters.
Writing is solitary, but you don’t have to go it alone. Explore opportunities to work with others and to share common purpose, enrich your writing, and strengthen the literary community at large. Hear from experienced pros who’ve sponsored writing retreats, edited anthologies and journals, founded reading series, and fostered art-as-activism movements. Rachel Coonce is co-creator and executive director of the Inner Loop, a DC literary-arts nonprofit, and serves on the board of the Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. Lisa Leibow co-founded the Scheherazade Project, an “artivism” movement that helps promote social justice and build community. Felice Neals is founder and co-editor of (Re) An Ideas Journal. And Julia Tagliere established and continues to host the MoCo Underground Writers Showcase.

What Do Editors Want?: Small-Press Publishers Tell All.
As writers, we often study publishing news and social media to glean what agents are looking for, but what about editors? Hear from experts who are both editors and writers: Hannah Grieco of Alan Squire Publishing, who recently edited Already Gone: 40 Stories of Running Away; Jen Harris, publisher and editorial director of JackLeg Press, as well as author of the novel Pink; and Richard Peabody, a poet, fiction writer, teacher, and founder of Gargoyle Magazine and Paycock Press. Moderating is Michael Landweber, a former editor for the Potomac Review and author of four novels, the latest being The Damage Done.

How to Plot a Killer Thriller.
Eryk Pruitt, author of the forthcoming crime novel Blood Red Summer, leads a friendly interrogation of our panelists as they reveal insider secrets to producing a gripping page-turner. Novelist and memoirist Elliot Ackerman’s latest thriller, co-authored with Admiral James Stavridis, is 2054. Well-known for his 1974 Six Days of Condor, James Grady is the prolific author of novels focusing on espionage, intrigue, and police procedurals, including his new release, The Smoke in Our Eyes. And Alma Katsu is a master of many genres whose latest spy novel is Red London.

Finding Your Community: Identity-Based Writing Groups.
What does it mean to join a group of writers with whom you have something very specific in common? Four authors will discuss how their identity-based groups support and amplify writers: Sarah Kain Gutowski from Pen Parentis (parent writers), Jee Leong Koh from Singapore Unbound, Chloe Yelena Miller from Italian American Writers Association, and E. Ethelbert Miller from Cave Canem (African American poets). They will discuss what it means to claim these identities and the possible challenges of labeling oneself.


Writing Through the Block: Embracing Your Creative Self.
What impedes your creativity? Procrastination? Perfectionism? Myths about what success looks like? A lack of time? In this workshop, we’ll identify the creative self in each of us and explore how to establish the most effective process for keeping our artistic work alive while navigating today’s publishing industry. Workshop leader Lynn Auld Schwartz is a developmental editor and ghostwriter who guides clients toward discovering their own stories and telling them well. The award-winning author founded the Temple Bar Literary Reading Series in New York City and has taught creative writing at various venues, including St. John’s College and the Writer’s Center.

Building Your Platform, Publicizing Your Book.
Think getting your book published is the last step? Think again! Given the sea of books vying for readers’ attention, it takes a smart effort to get yours noticed. In this workshop, Emily Barrosse, founder and CEO of Bold Story Press, will walk through how to use the publication calendar to your best advantage, how to ensure your book is getting noticed ahead of publication, and how to make the most of your launch.