2020 Washington Writers Conference Panels at a Glance

It’s with sadness that we announce the 2020 Washington Writers Conference is canceled. Please read the full announcement here. Contact us at [email protected] with questions.

Check out the wide-ranging panels and presentations we’re lining up for the 2020 conference, with plenty of publishing and publicity “how-to” information and a spotlight on diverse voices:

“Writing about Race.” With Rion Amilcar Scott, Melanie S. Hatter, and Nadeem Zaman; moderated by Alice Stephens. Some of the most exciting fiction writing in America today is from writers of color, and yet the literary gatekeepers, from agents to editors to book reviewers, are largely white. This panel examines the role race plays in the work of three fiction writers of color, and how they navigate the world of publishing.

“Writing for a Cause: Books as Advocacy.” With Laura Zam, Andrea Chamblee, and Susan Muaddi Darraj; moderated by Marita Golden. Why do we write? Often it’s because we are passionate about a particular subject or we have a message to share. In this panel, four authors share the drivers behind their recent releases, from advocating for diverse children’s stories, to editing an anthology of fiction and nonfiction about Alzheimer’s in support of research, to completing her husband’s book on DC high school basketball after he was murdered at the Capital Gazette, to describing a journey to heal from sexual abuse and dysfunction.

“An Agent, an Editor, and a Publisher: Publishing’s Holy Trinity.” With Richard Peabody, Evelyn Duffy, and BJ Robbins; moderated by Hannah Oliver Depp. This is a reprise of a popular 2019 panel, which brings together the varied perspectives of the publishing professionals an author may encounter on the journey to publication. New for 2020, we’ve added the perspective of a bookseller, with Loyalty Books’ Hannah Oliver Depp serving as moderator.

“Recipes for Success: Cookbook Authors Serve it Up.” With Domenica Marchetti and Cathy Barrow; moderated by Bonnie Benwick. Cookbooks are some of the most beloved books in today’s households, with many developing a committed following. This panel of cookbook authors and editors discuss what it takes to conceive of, write, and publish a winning cookbook. (In concert with our “Recipes for Success” panel, and available for the first time, you can attend a 15-minute, one-on-one session with a featured cookbook author to discuss how to take your cookbook project to the next level! Learn from successful pros how to craft a book that sells, from developing recipes to building your platform. Only 12 slots available; $20. Sign up now!)

“Hybrid, Small, Big: Which Kind of Press Is Right for You?” With Naren Aryal, Kevin Atticks, Therese Doucet, and Rose Solari; moderated by Caroline Bock. Certainly, we’ve all heard of “the Big Five” publishing houses that encompass a huge number of imprints. But these days, there are plenty of choices among smaller publishing houses and non-traditional presses, too. Here’s your chance to get the straight scoop on different options directly from a variety of publishers who can help to make sense of the choices you have on your journey to publication.

“Self-Publishing Doesn’t Have to Be Do-It-Yourself.” With Dara Moore Beevas, Amy Cutler Quayle, and Cherrie Woods; moderated by Kim Alexander. Many writers have had great success with self-publishing, but the wise author knows there’s much learning, planning, and prep work to be done before pressing “Publish.” The good news is that there are people out there who can help you so that you don’t have to navigate it all on your own.

“How to Build Your Platform.” With Amy Collins. A bestselling author and president of New Shelves Books, Amy Collins brings her many years of expertise in book buying and book marketing to the 2020 Washington Writers Conference to give you insight into the best ways to build your brand as an author. She describes small, practical steps that authors can take every day to increase their reach to readers and get themselves known.

“How to Make the Most of Marketing and Publicity.” Moderated by Caroline Bock.

“Literary Citizen: Building a Writing Community.” With Rachel Coonce, Courtney Sexton, and Patricia Schultheis; moderated by Zach Powers. Prospective authors are often unaware of the resources surrounding them within a wider writing community, the support that community represents, and the value of becoming an active participant in it. Learn from these literary citizens about the possibilities for engagement that benefit you even as they help others in the community.

“Know Your Rights as an Author: Key Issues in Publishing Agreements.” With Lauren Menkes. This is a reprise of a popular presentation from 2019, filled with practical information that every prospective author needs to know when faced with a publishing agreement. Entertainment attorney Lauren Menkes walks through the typical elements of an agreement so that you know what to expect and how to prepare.

“In the Stacks: Doing Research at the Library of Congress.” With Nanette Gibbs. For an author, DC represents an unparalleled source of primary research material. One such resource, the Library of Congress, is a national treasure here in our own back yard, but it can be overwhelming to navigate. Join LOC expert researcher Gibbs to learn how to plumb the depths of the Library’s collections and find what you’re looking for — no matter whether you’re writing fiction or nonfiction, historical or contemporary works.

“Out in the Open: LGBTQ Voices across Genres.” With Mariah Barber and Marlena Chertock; moderated by Emily Holland. Finally, works by LGBTQ authors are achieving the mainstream acceptance and readership they deserve. Poet Lore Managing Editor Emily Holland leads this discussion of the opportunities and challenges for LGBTQ authors in multiple genres.

“Diversity in Children’s Literature.” With Susan Muaddi Darraj, Dara Moore Beevas, and Susan Hawk; moderated by Hannah Oliver Depp. For children to develop a love of reading, it is crucial for them to find and see themselves in the books that parents and others read to them and, later, that they discover for themselves. This panel, which includes two children’s authors, an agent, and a bookseller, explores the challenges and opportunities in bringing diverse children’s books to a wider audience.

“Documenting the World through Poetry.” With Grace Cavalieri, Melanie Figg, and Meg Eden. Join this panel of three successful poets, including the current poet laureate of Maryland, in conversation about their process through research, emotional engagement, and historical inquiry. Their subjects range from Mary Wollstonecraft to the Fukushima Power Plant to the Oregon State Insane Asylum. The process examined — including the hook that grabbed the author’s attention and the balance between the factual and the literary — is applicable to all writers.

“Historical Nonfiction: Crafting the Narrative.” With Steve Vogel and James Carter; moderated by Eugene L. Meyer. This panel explores how the authors researched their subjects and crafted their narratives, the challenges they encountered along the way, the importance of place and character, and other elements crucial to a successful nonfiction narrative.

“The State of the Story.” With Rion Amilcar Scott, Chaya Bhuvaneswar, and Tara Campbell; moderated by Barbara Diehl. Authors often joke that no one publishes short stories, but this panel is here to tell you why that’s just not true. Barbara Diehl, founding and senior editor of the Baltimore Review, leads this panel of successful writers who can attest that excellent short fiction has a wide and avid audience.

“What the Flash?! Writing Small Stories with Big Impact.” With Randon Billings Noble, Christopher Gonzalez, and Josh Jones; moderated by Tara Campbell. Flash packs a lot of punch in a small space and is a form that continues to grow in popularity in our time-crunched world. What are the secrets to developing compelling stories and essays in a compressed word count? Learn some tips from these masters of the form.

“New Voices: Welcome, Debut Authors.” With Angie Kim, Eliza Nellums, and Chaya Bhuvaneswar; moderated by Carrie Callaghan. Every journey to publication is unique, and we love welcoming a new panel of debut authors each year to discuss both their books and their experiences on the path to and through publication. Hear what these talented new authors learned on their journeys.

“Angie Kim in Conversation with Louis Bayard.”

“Jenny Yacovissi in Conversation with Elliot Ackerman.”

To learn more about each individual panelist, click here.