The workshop for humor writing, human interest writing, networking and getting published

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Sessions (2014)


Subject to change

PITCHAPALOOZA — American Idol for Books (one time only)
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

Pitchapalooza is American Idol for books (only kinder and gentler). Twenty writers will be selected at random to pitch their book. Writers get one minute to make their best pitch. A panel of judges will help you improve your pitch, not tell you how bad it is. Judges critique everything from idea to style to potential in the marketplace and much more. Authors come away with concrete advice as well as a greater understanding of the ins and outs of the publishing industry. Whether potential authors pitch themselves, or simply listen to trained professionals critique each presentation, Pitchapalooza is educational and entertaining for everyone. From Los Angeles to New York City, and many stops along the way, Pitchapalooza has consistently drawn standing-room-only crowds, press and blog coverage, and the kind of bookstore buzz reserved for celebrity authors. At the end of Pitchapalooza, the judges will pick a winner. The winner receives an introduction to an agent or publisher appropriate for his/her book. Three writers have recently gotten publishing deals as a result of participating in Pitchapalooza.  Bonus: Anyone who buys a copy of The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published will receive a free 20-minute consultation, a $100 value.
Offered Sat. at 3:45 p.m.



Humor Writing: Punch Up Your Prose
Dan Zevin

Your friends think you’re funny, your family thinks you’re funny, and your sensibility is more Seinfeld than Sartre. So how come your writing sometimes winds up so dry? Hint: Your high school English teacher said that writing was solemn business. In this workshop, it’s payback time. You’ll be encouraged to look at the world the way nature intended: with your sense of humor. We’ll discuss personal essays, comic fiction and topical satire. And our in-class exercises (relax, no cardio) will help you find the funny in the characters, dialogue and situations you create. Whether your goal is to write a “Shouts and Murmurs” piece for The New Yorker, a list for McSweeney’s or a book-length humor collection, the first step is the same: take your sense of humor seriously.
Offered Fri. at 3:45 p.m. and Sat. at 10:45 a.m.


From Hometown to Hollywood: The Psychology, Strategy and Secrets Behind Gaining National Exposure
Dr. Nancy Berk

Capturing a national audience requires productivity, industry insight, creative problem-solving, genuine networking, PR skills and the ability to step out of your comfort zone. And thankfully, it’s not always about who has the biggest checkbook. This workshop will help you analyze the steps, identify the psychosocial roadblocks, and draft the most cost-efficient and optimal strategic plan for your own creative success story.
Offered Fri. at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.


Evaluating your Book Idea and Prepping for Success (one time only)
Nina Amir

Improve your odds of becoming a successful author by producing a business plan for your book before you write a word. In this session, you’ll learn what acquisitions editors are looking for and to see your ideas through their eyes. You’ll learn the process for determining whether your idea is marketable to agents, publishers or readers — and if you are ready to become an author. This is not a session on writing book proposals. But you will learn how to use parts of a book proposal as a process to train yourself to see both the creative and business aspects of writing and publishing a book and creating a business plan for a book. This is the foundation for creating books that sell to publishers and to readers, to become the business partner that a publisher seeks or to become a savvy and successful indie publisher.
Offered Sat. at 10:45 a.m.


Writing Non-Fiction: Connecting People Through Stories
Kelsey Timmerman 

Writers of creative nonfiction explore truths through verifiable facts, shaping the narrative using the same tools as writers of fiction: scene, pacing, setting, characterization, etc. Students will be introduced to these elements and given the opportunity to use them in their own writing and share them in the class.
Offered Fri. at 9 a.m. and 10:30 a.m.


Column Writing: How Personal is Too Personal?
Gina Barreca
TMI. PDA. Everybody, it seems, is sharing all the intimate details of their lives — and that’s just while standing in line for coffee. Soon we’ll be able to hear all about it for hours on end in a locked airline cabin, since everybody will be shouting into a cell phone. As a writer, should you be shouting above everybody else, taking notes or checking with your own family members about whether they’ve already engaged legal representation? Internationally celebrated humor columnist Gina Barreca believes “we create, construct and tell stories to own them.” In this workshop, she’ll share tips on how writers can find the courage, wit and honesty to transform own deepest, most personal moments into works that capture, embrace and illuminate the universal experience.
Offered Fri. at 2:15 p.m.


From Novel to Script to Red-Carpet Premiere
Cathryn Michon and W. Bruce Cameron

Are you ready to turn your book into a movie script? Is there a formula for translating your work visually to film?  Writing (and real-life) partners Cathryn Michon and W. Bruce Cameron have successfully collaborated on four screenwriting projects. They will talk about their experiences adapting their novels for the big screen — and building a national audience using social media. They can help you build readership for your books and blogs through engaging and creative social media campaigns. As part of the workshop, they will share excerpts from their 2014 romantic comedy, Muffin Top: A Love Story. Ms. Michon, one of the film’s stars and an advocate for putting more women in front of and behind Hollywood’s cameras, raised more than $90,000 from a Kickstarter social media campaign to conduct a nationwide red carpet tour of the movie.
Offered Sat. at 9 a.m. and 2:15 p.m.


Women Writing Their Lives — Truth-Telling, Wisdom and Laughter
Suzanne Braun Levine, Gina Barreca and Ilene Beckerman with Patricia Wynn Brown, moderator

The first editor of Ms. magazine, the first lady of humor studies and the queen of style and fashion share their lives and how they found their writing voices. Patricia Wynn Brown, creator of The Hairdo Monologues Project, will moderate. The session is designed to inspire and help you find your distinct voice as a writer.
Offered Fri. at 3:45 p.m. and Sat. at 10:45 a.m.


Editing for Bigger Laughs (Or Why I Wouldn’t Want Two Vaginas)
Anna Lefler

To quote Samuel Johnson, “What is written without effort is generally read without pleasure.”  This workshop session invites you to elevate your humor writing to a new level of excellence. No matter how freeform your creative process may be, writing that delights readers doesn’t just “happen.”  Rather, it results from discipline, tried-and-true practices and a healthy dose of humility.  This session will help attendees embrace these practices, with a focus on a critical aspect of the writing process: editing.  From big-picture concepts to single commas, creating superior — and funny — content for any format requires rigorous honing, refining and polishing of the material.  What’s the payoff for all that effort?  The satisfaction of knowing that the work you are unleashing on the world is the most captivating it can be.
Offered Fri. at 10:30 a.m. and Sat. at 2:15 p.m.


Chick Wit: Writing the Humorous Memoir (one time only)
Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella

Everyone has a story to tell. How do writers cultivate the humor, honesty and courage essential for any story that captures the universal human experience? Lisa Scottoline and Francesca Serritella have teamed up to bring their hilarious and witty perspective on the everyday life as mother and daughter in weekly essays in the Philadelphia Inquirer and four book collections. The writing duo will offer tips on weaving truth and story into personal essays that will make readers laugh out loud in recognition.
Offered Fri. at 9 a.m.


In Their Own Write
Tony Cochran and Tom Batiuk

Tony Cochran (Agnes) and Tom Batiuk (Funky Winkerbean and Crankshaft) each create daily comic strips syndicated in hundreds of papers . . . day after day, every day until the day they die. It is a sentence they not only welcome, but sought out as well. Find out how they keep it fresh, make it funny and stay relevant in a world of cyberspeed . . . day after day, every day until the day they die.
Offered Fri. at 9 a.m. and 3:45 p.m.


Psychology of the Anthology
Dahlynn McKowen

Considered one of Chicken Soup for the Soul’s most trusted co-authors for a decade, Dahlynn McKowen knows a thing or two about anthologies. In 2012, she realized that short-story writers needed a new venue to sell their work and created the successful Not Your Mother’s Book series. Since July 2013, seven titles have been released and more than 30 are under production. Having read more than 100,000 anthology submissions, she will talk about the good, the bad and the ugly — and offer this type of valuable guidance:

* How to be daring, different and smart about your submission
* Legal concerns that publishers worry about when considering your story submission
* Advice on what not to include in your story submission
* Insider tips on making it past the infamous anthology slush pile
Offered Fri. at 3:45 p.m. and Sat. at 2:15 p.m.


Write Out Loud: Blogs, Books and Beyond
Donna Cavanagh

In an Internet-driven world, a blog is often the cornerstone of a writer’s professional foundation. But cookie-cutter blogs aren’t the answer to professional success. Are single-person blogs preferable to multi-writer sites? Is team-driven traffic preferable to flying solo? What level of professional and financial commitment is necessary for the vast number of blogging options?  Which blog appeals to your personality?  Which type will prepare you to grow as a writer? Which will showcase you best as an author, screenwriter or playwright? It’s time to give the blog the respect it deserves while focusing on your ultimate goal. Whether it’s books, Broadway or beyond, let’s take the first step together.
Offered Fri. at 2:15 p.m. and Sat. at 9 a.m.


Surrounding Your Brand:  How to Define Your Content, Stake Out Your Niche and Own Your Corner of the Writing World
Tracy Beckerman

For many years, Erma Bombeck’s name has been synonymous with heartfelt writing and authentic family humor. But in today’s over-saturated writing market, can your own name be enough to help you cut through the clutter, define your niche and find an audience? Clearly what you write is more important than what you call yourself. But having an instantly recognizable column or blog name can give you a real advantage.  Tracy Beckerman, who writes the syndicated column “Lost in Suburbia,” knows firsthand how branding yourself can help you take your column or blog to the next level. In this session, she will show you how defining and surrounding your brand legally, promotionally, and across multiple social media platforms can help you grow your readership, increase your writing opportunities and make more money.
Offered Fri. at 2:15 p.m. and Sat. at 10:45 a.m.


Turning Your Problems into Punch Lines (one time only)
Judy Carter

Judy Carter is the author of the Bible — no joke: The Comedy Bible. This book has become the guide for anyone wanting to write or perform comedy. She has coached some of today’s hottest comics as well as taught comedy and storytelling techniques in Russia, China, Sweden and the UK. In this session, based on her new book, The Message of You, Judy demonstrates how to turn our most humiliating experiences into comedy gold and gives an overview of comedy principles that can help anyone, even the humor-impaired, get laughs.  She will cover acting out a story, how to get an audience to react and get laughs as soon as they come onstage, and demonstrate how comedy writers can see themselves and the world they live in as a stand-up comic does — that it’s all material. Take aways:

*How to get an audience to love you in 17 seconds
*Creating comedy from passion and authenticity
*Be IN your story rather than TELL your story
*Create funny authentic moments within a story
Offered Sat. at 2:15 p.m.


How to Blog Your Way to a Book Deal (one time only)
Nina Amir

If you can write, you can blog. Blogging a book is the easiest and quickest way to write a book and promote it at the same time. Nina Amir, a nonfiction editor and book coach, proposal consultant, blog-to-book coach with more than three decades of experience in the publishing field and author of How to Blog a Book and The Author Training Manual, will show you how to turn your blog into one that attracts readers, agents and publishers, how to produce books as you blog and how to produce a book from previously blogged material. A blog with an established readership represents a successfully test-marketed book idea. A blogger with a large readership is an attractive publishing partner.
Offered Fri. at 3:45 p.m.


How To Get Published Successfully (one time only)
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry

It is the greatest time in history to be a writer.  The barriers have been torn down, and now anyone can get published.  But to get published successfully is a whole other matter. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry take you through the entire publishing process. This step-by-step, soup-to-nuts workshop will remove the smoke and mirrors from the murky world of publishing and give writers a compass and map to a successfully published book. Topics include:

* Choosing the right idea
* Creating a blockbuster title
* Crafting an attention-getting pitch
* Putting together a proposal/manuscript
* Finding the right agent/publisher
* Self-publishing effectively with e-books, print-on-demand or traditional printing
* Developing sales, marketing and publicity savvy
* Producing a video book trailer and helping it go viral
* Building a following through social media
Offered Sat. at 9 a.m.


Self-Hypnosis: A Tool for Vivid Storytelling (one time only)
Suzette Martinez Standring

Emotion is the heart of any story, and one’s heart guides the writer to the genuine lesson of an experience. Feel it, and then convey it. Too many write from a distance. A safe, guided imagery exercise will lead you to a memory, reveal its key emotion, and allow you to mine that inner picture for details. Vivid images enhance storytelling, and “learned relaxation” unlocks the imagination. Award-winning columnist Suzette Standring was certified in hypnotherapy in 1990 and applies meditation and guided imagery techniques to her own work.
Offered Fri. at 9 a.m.


Self Publishing is the New Black
David Braughler and Robin O’Bryant

No longer do self-published authors have to hang their heads in shame when asked the dreaded question, “Who published your book?” Learn from two Indie book vets: David Braughler, publishing adviser with Greyden Press, who works with independent authors, organizations, coaches and executives to help them take their stories and expertise into published books. And Robin O’Bryant, a stay-at home mom, turned blogger, who leveraged a small-town newspaper column to begin building a platform for her self-published book, Ketchup is a Vegetable & Other Lies Moms Tell Themselves. Ketchup reached #12 on the Amazon Bestseller list, hit #3 on the New York Times list and was subsequently purchased to be republished by St Martin’s Press. Let David and Robin give you an overview of the self-publishing process, and you’ll leave convinced that self publishing is the “new black.”
Offered Fri. at 10:30 a.m. and Sat. at 2:15 p.m.


The E-Book Revolution and How Self-Publishing Affects You
Robert F. Levine

Since 2000, the digital revolution has turned the publishing business upside down and any writer who does not understand its implications does so at peril. This workshop focuses on the E-book revolution and the rise of self-publishing as a viable alternative to traditional publishing. We will look at the seismic changes taking place in publishing and their implications for writers hoping to be published. Robert Levine’s entertainment law firm, Levine Plotkin and Menin, is an active player in the New York publishing industry. The firm serves as literary agents for a number of high-profile authors and represents a major e-book publisher and many literary agencies and publishing executives.
Offered Fri. at 10:30 a.m. and Sat. at 9 a.m.


Ready to reinvent BRAND YOU? (one time only)
Mary Lou Quinlan

You’ve got your signature talent but how to reinvent to achieve your next dreams while staying true to Brand YOU? Meet a Master of Reinvention, who catapulted a career as an advertising exec into successful marketing entrepreneur, international speaker, magazine columnist, bestselling author, network news TV correspondent, reality TV show host, actor, playwright and women’s advocate. She’ll share tools to discover the Whole Truth of what you were born to be. (And in an interactive exercise, she’ll expose the (often-funny) Half Truths that may stand between you and success.) Learn how to identify your barriers and areas of growth, enlarge your support team and add skills to your talent portfolio, while advancing a career that’s brand YOU.
Offered Sat. at 9 a.m.


How to Build a Killer Author Website
Ken Palen

So much of success in life depends on marketing ourselves in the digital age. How do writers build a website that stands out, one that reflects their unique voice? In this workshop you will view some excellent examples and learn a step-by-step approach on how to build and maintain an effective website — through a hands-on approach. And, while an engaging website is a marketing must in the 21st century, attention must be paid to content as well. The session will offer perspective on what to showcase on your website and how to best represent yourself as a storyteller and wordsmith.
Offered Sat. at 9 .m. and 10:45 a.m.


Staying Power Advice from Top Opinion Columnists (one time only)
Suzette Martinez Standring

The superstars of opinion writing — Ellen Goodman, Connie Schultz, Clarence Page and others — all faced closed doors, biases or rejection early in their careers. Their answer was to blaze new trails, and to pioneer innovative columns with irresistible writing. Learn the writing strategies of famous award-winning columnists known for career longevity. Suzette Standring featured outstanding op-ed writers in her new newly published book, The Art of Opinion Writing: Insider Secrets from Top Op Ed Columnists.
Offered Fri. at 2:15 p.m.


Hairdo Monologues: When Monsieur Chemo Styles Her Hair: How Stories Transform Lives (one time only)
Patricia Wynn Brown 

Performer, writer and producer Pat Wynn Brown, our workshop emcee, believes in the healing power of stories, the arts and humor. When she created a Hair Theater® show featuring breast cancer survivors, doctors, hair professionals and performers, a new idea ignited. The reaction to the show from the sold-out audience was so overwhelmingly positive that Pat knew she needed to bring her message of hope and strength in the face of adversity — and the proven rejuvenating elixir of laughter — to a larger audience. With funds raised on Kickstarter and through the creativity of videographer Alan Beavers, the show came to life on a DVD. The piece is now inspiring, entertaining and transforming lives across the U.S., England, Scotland, Wales, Canada, France and even South Africa. This session features a viewing of the video and a chat with Pat about how public funding our own projects — and telling our stories — take us from being a victim of life’s adversities to stars of our own life script.
Offered Fri. at 2:15 p.m.


Stand-Up Comedy Boot Camp (for Saturday night attendee stand-up performers, one time only)
Leighann Lord

Learn the basics of stand-up comedy and hone the five-minute set you’ll perform Saturday night at the workshop. Leighann Lord’s humor has been seen on Lifetime’s Girls Night Out, ABC’s The View, Comedy Central’s Premium Blend, Comics Unleashed with Byron Allen and The Original HBO Def Comedy All Star Jam. She wrote for the pilot of The Chris Rock Show, and she performs her special brand of comedy all over the world. Please come to the workshop with a basic outline of your five-minute set and a notebook for scribbling hilarious ideas.
Offered Fri. at 10:30 a.m.

Reflections of Erma