2022 Washington Writers Conference Expert Panels

(Click here for specifics times/locations for each panel.)

“Writing Your Life: Craft Workshop with Marita Golden.”
Master writing teacher, literary activist, and acclaimed author of The Strong Black Woman: How a Myth Endangers the Physical and Mental Health of Black Women Marita Golden offers answers to your most pressing questions about writing.

“The Business of Writing.”
Accomplished authors Lisa K. Friedman (author of the novels Cruise to Retribution and Nothing to Lose) and Nevin Martell (author of, among numerous others, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional Story of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip) share their practical advice and helpful tips on how to succeed as a writer. Moderated by Salley Shannon.

“What Editors Are Looking For.”
How do you get out of the slush pile? What do you put in a query letter? Hear the answers to these questions and others from three esteemed editors: Gargoyle Magazine’s Richard Peabody; the Washington Post’s deputy Travel and Local Living (Wellness) editor, Elizabeth Chang; and Arlington Magazine’s editor, Jenny Sullivan. Moderated by Nicole Chung, author of the bestselling memoir All You Can Ever Know.

“Out in the Open: LGBTQ Writing across Genres.”
Acclaimed playwright, translator, and author of Sugarless and Vamp Until Ready James Magruder; dave ring, author, managing publisher of Neon Hemlock Press, and chair emeritus of the Outwrite LGBTQ Literary Festival in Washington, DC; Mariah Barber, a spoken-word poet whose work has been featured by the Raleigh Museum of Art and the author of Of Mics & Pens & Gods & Other College Courses; and Christopher Gonzalez, self-described bisexual Puerto Rican short-story writer and fiction editor with Barrelhouse, whose collection I’m Not Hungry But I Could Eat was just released, share their experiences and insights as LGBTQ writers in their respective genres. Moderated by noted poet and editor of Poet Lore and editor-in-chief of FOLIO Emily Holland.

“To Agent or Not to Agent?”
Some writers publish through agents; some publish through independent or hybrid presses; still others decide to self-publish. What’s the right path for you? Prolific author Tim Wendel moderates this panel featuring Rose Solari, celebrated poet and editor and co-founder of Alan Squire Publishing; Tyrese Coleman, author of How to Sit, a 2019 Pen Open Book Award finalist published with Mason Jar Press, and the forthcoming Spectacle, being published by One World, an imprint of Penguin Random House; and Ariel Mendez, a children’s book illustrator whose work appears in My First Book of Shona and Ndebele Words, a resource book for the two native languages of Zimbabwe, and Hair Like Me, which was featured on NBC and HLN.

“The State of the Short Story.”
Short stories, flash fiction, and micro-fiction, oh, my! Some of the DC area’s most notable short fiction artists share their insights and expertise about the genre and its various offspring in this panel featuring renowned short fiction writers and Barrelhouse editors Tara Campbell and Chris Gonzalez; Vonetta Young, “short story-ist” and senior fiction editor for the Rumpus; and Richard Peabody, revered writer and founder and publisher of Gargoyle Magazine and numerous anthologies.

“The Writer’s Life: A Primer.”
How do I make time to write? What resources can I access to get started? How can I get involved in a writing group? Award-winning writers Leslie Pietrzyk (Admit This to No One and This Angel on My Chest); Susan Muaddi Darraj (2022 Maryland State Arts Council Independent Artist State Awardee and author of A Curious Land: Stories from Home and the Farah Rocks middle-grade series); Donna Hemans (author of the acclaimed River Woman and Tea by the Sea and owner of DC Writers Room, a co-working studio for writers based in Washington); and Melissa Scholes Young (Flood and The Hive) share their tips and tricks for getting started — or keeping going! — as a writer.

“Debut Writers.”
Learn what it’s like to publish that first oh-so-precious book in this panel of debut writers, including Taylor Harris (This Boy We Made: A Memoir of Motherhood) short-story author Christina Gorcheva-Newberry (The Orchard), and Brendan Slocumb (The Violin Conspiracy). Moderated by award-winning author of the novels Washing the Dead and Bertrand Court Michelle Brafman.

“The Great Unknown: Documenting the World through Poetry.”
“When you don’t know what to say anymore, try poetry.” Join renowned poets Rose Solari, author of three full-length collections of poetry (The Last Girl, Orpheus in the Park, and Difficult Weather) and recipient of the Academy of American Poets’ University Prize; Dr. Donald Cohen, author of the three-volume collection Memory Man One, Memory Man Two, and Memory Man Three; Mariah Barber, a spoken-word poet whose work has been featured by the Raleigh Museum of Art and the author of Of Mics & Pens & Gods & Other College Courses; and Emily Holland, noted poet and editor of Poet Lore and editor-in-chief of FOLIO, as they discuss poetry as a means of bearing witness to our world.

“DC Narratives.”
Washington, DC, has inspired countless works of fiction, nonfiction, and more, but what’s it like to actually live and write “inside the Beltway”? Join moderator Susan Coll, author of the forthcoming novel Bookish People and the novels The Stager, Beach Week, and Rockville Pike, and celebrated DC “insiders” Leslie Pietrzyk, Kim Roberts, and Morowa Yejidé as they talk about their Washington-inspired works and dish about the inner lives of the people who inhabit our nation’s capital.

“Fictionalizing History.”
Historical fiction or fictionalized history? Where’s the line? Is there one? Are writers obliged to stick to “accepted history”? Writer and communications strategist Tamar Abrams moderates this panel of writers successfully navigating the ticklish space between history and art, including Victoria Kelly, author of Mrs. Houdini; Karin Tanabe, author of A Hundred Suns and The Gilded Years; and Louis Bayard, bestselling author of The Pale Blue Eye and Courting Mr. Lincoln.

“Personal Essay/Memoir.”
While fiction writers can camouflage themselves behind made-up characters, memoirists and essayists must put themselves and those they write about on the page “warts and all,” which requires a unique type of courage and a willingness to be vulnerable. Join noted authors Nevin Martell (Looking for Calvin and Hobbes: The Unconventional of Bill Watterson and His Revolutionary Comic Strip), Taylor Harris (This Boy We Made), and Nicole Chung, author of the national bestseller All You Can Ever Know, which was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, for this panel discussing the rewards and difficulties of mining one’s own life for work. Moderated by Randon Billings Noble.

“Writing Across Different Genres.”
Some writers stick resolutely to a single genre, while others seem to glide effortlessly from fiction to nonfiction, from children’s books to adult, and back again. Accomplished genre-switching authors Meera Trehan, Joanne Hyppolite, and Susan Muaddi Darraj come together to discuss how they make those easy-looking switches. Moderated by Julia Tagliere.

“Grammar Rebel or Rank Amateur? A Grammar Crash-Course with Ed Perlman.”
Of course it’s “okay” to break a few grammar rules as you’re crafting your masterpiece — but first, you need to know what the rules are. In this mini version of Ed Perlman’s wildly popular “Sentence Power” course, which he teaches at Johns Hopkins University, you’ll get a scrumptious taste of how knowing the rules — and how and when to break them — can take your writing to the next level.

“Where Can I Find This?”
How many children did the real Baron von Trapp have? (Eleven!) Was James Madison Dolley’s first husband? (No.) What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow? (African or European?) Google may be tempting, but there’s no substitute for the original documents, letters, manuscripts, and artifacts that museums, libraries, and other organizations have on hand for research needs. Join Washington Post editor and staff writer and author of There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America Amy Argetsinger; Lydia Fraser, archives manager for the Sandy Spring Museum; and Joanne Hyppolite, noted middle-grade novelist and African Diaspora curator at the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture, as they share their insights into the treasure trove of extra-Google resources just waiting for inquisitive writers everywhere. Moderated by Libby Copeland, award-winning journalist and author of The Lost Family: How DNA Testing Is Upending Who We Are.

“Who Said Women Aren’t Funny? Women Writing Humor.”
The late, great Christopher Hitchens once asked, however rhetorically, “Why are men, taken on average and as a whole, funnier than women?” This rollicking panel features Carolyn Parkhurst, Sarah Schmelling, and Nikki Frias and is moderated by the always hilarious Paula Whyman. Some of them write humor, some interject it into their writing, and some do both. But all are here to prove Mr. Hitchens dead wrong.

“The Art of Profile and Biography.”
Distinguished biographer David O. Stewart moderates this panel dedicated to the craft of writing biographies and profiles, featuring A’Lelia Bundles, author of On Her Own Ground: The Life and Times of Madam C.J. Walker; Amy Argetsinger, Washington Post Style writer and author of There She Was: The Secret History of Miss America; Ronnie Greene, an investigative journalist and author of Heart of Atlanta: Five Black Pastors and the Supreme Court Victory for Integration; and Daniel de Visé, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of King of the Blues: The Rise and Reign of B.B. King.

“What Is This?”
How do you know if what you’re writing is an article or a book? Flash fiction or a prose poem? Short story or a novel? Journalist and author Cathy Alter moderates this panel of writers who have done both. Join the discussion along with Amy Argetsinger, Libby Copeland, Paula Whyman, and Randon Billings Noble.

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