The 2020 San Diego Writing Workshop: May 9, 2020

screen-shot-2014-07-23-at-12-58-51-pm.pngAfter successful events in 2015, 2017, and 2019, the San Diego Writing Workshop is back for 2020! Writing Day Workshops is excited to announce The 2020 San Diego Writing Workshop — a full-day “How to Get Published” writing event in San Diego, CA, on May 9, 2020.

This writing event is a wonderful opportunity to get intense instruction over the course of one day, pitch a literary agent or editor (optional), get your questions answered, and more. Note that there are limited seats at the event (175 total). All questions about the event regarding schedule, details and registration are answered below. Thank you for your interest in the 2020 San Diego Writing Workshop!


This is a special one-day “How to Get Published” writing workshop on Saturday, May 9, 2020, at the Crowne Plaza San Diego. In other words, it’s one day full of classes and advice designed to give you the best instruction concerning how to get your writing & books published. We’ll discuss your publishing opportunities today, how to write queries & pitches, how to market yourself and your books, what makes an agent/editor stop reading your manuscript, and more. No matter what you’re writing — fiction or nonfiction — the day’s classes will help point you in the right direction. Writers of all genres are welcome.

This event is designed to squeeze as much into one day of learning as possible. You can ask any questions you like during the classes, and get your specific concerns addressed. We will have literary agents onsite to give feedback and take pitches from writers, as well. This year’s faculty so far includes:

  • literary agent Carlie Webber (Fuse Literary)
  • literary agent Katherine Wessbecher (Bradford Literary Agency)
  • literary agent Jemiscoe Chambers-Black (Corvisiero Literary)
  • literary agent Courtney Miller-Callihan (Handspun Literary)
  • literary agent Jill Marr (Sandra Dijsktra Literary Agency)
  • literary agent Rachel Beck (Liza Dawson Associates)
  • literary agent Samantha Bagood (Samantha B Literary)
  • literary agent Tara Gilbert (Corvisiero Literary)
  • literary agent Annie Bomke (Annie Bomke Literary)
  • literary agent Elise Capron (Sandra Dijsktra Literary Agency)
  • literary agent Ben Miller-Callihan (Handspun Literary)
  • and probably more to come.

By the end of the day, you will have all the tools you need to move forward on your writing journey. This independent event is organized by coordinator Chuck Sambuchino of Writing Day Workshops, with assistance from a local writing organization, Go Be Write.


9:30 a.m. – 5 p.m., Saturday, May 9, 2020, at the Crowne Plaza San Diego, 2270 Hotel Circle North, San Diego, CA 92108.

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What you see below is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.

Please Note: There will be 2-3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day, so you will have your choice of what class you attend at any time. The final schedule of topics is subject to change, but here is the current layout:

8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location.

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. Make Your First Five Pages Agent Ready. 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.

2. Middle Grade and Young Adult: Writing the Book of Your Heart. This session will give tips and encouragement to help you create the book that only you can, in addition to showing you how writing the book of your heart will improve your life.

3. Beyond the book deal: how to navigate social media and build an effective brand.  This class will help you understand the very basics of marketing yourself and your book(s) online, whether you’re traditionally published or self-published.

Screen Shot 2015-12-30 at 1.44.34 AMBLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

1. How to Generate Suspense Workshop. No matter what genre you write, there needs to be conflict, peril and suspense in some form. Learn the seven steps to creating suspense and keeping the pace moving.

2. Balancing Writing and Working and Life. This class will explain strategies and tricks for squeezing the most out of your time, prioritizing your projects, and setting manageable goals.

3. Pitch, Please! How to Strike the Right Tone (and Other Helpful Tips) in Your Query Letter. Taught by two literary agents, this session will cover FAQ query questions and offer tons of insight from the agent’s side of the desk, so you can ensure that your query stands out (in a good way.)

(What you see below is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.)

LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15

Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes.

BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30

1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest. 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

2. How to Sell a Nonfiction Book. 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.

3. Picture Book Potluck. Creating an enticing picture book requires quality ingredients. Learn how to stir up savory story ideas, invent tantalizing titles, and concoct captivating characters.

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Conquering the Novel. This workshop helps writers develop a plan for organizing, writing, re-writing, and finishing their novel.

2. You Have an Agent Offer or Book Contract — Now What? Hear from a literary agent on how to effectively work with a literary agent, what to expect in the submission process, what it’s like to work with a publishing house editor, how to sell multiple books in your career, and much more.

3. When Nice Characters Do Bad Things: How to Make Your Protagonist Empathetic. This session will delve into ways to help the reader identify with your toughest characters without watering them down, as well as discuss the nuances of likability versus empathy.

(What you see below is a quick layout of the day’s events. See a full layout of the day’s sessions, with detailed descriptions, on the official Schedule Page here.)

BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. 10 Things Every Writer Should Be Doing. At a minimum, there are 10 basic things for every writer out there to be doing in hopes of publication, from knowing your genre and appropriate comp titles to following healthy social media habits.

2. Story Lessons from Hollywood. How lessons from screenwriting, acting, directing, producing, and video editing can help prose writers craft more compelling stories and keep readers turning those pages.

3. How to Start Your Own Publishing Company. This session will cover the best publishing platform options (digital and print), creating a company name, starting an LLC, where to focus marketing efforts (online or in bookstores), basic accounting options, and social media and how it fits into your new business.


At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s bookstore for a short while to sign any books for attendees.

Agent & Editor Pitching: All throughout the day.


Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 5.52.10 PM.pngAnnie Bomke is a literary agent and the founder of Annie Bomke Literary Agency. She is looking for adult and YA fiction and nonfiction, including commercial and literary fiction, upmarket fiction, mysteries (from hilarious cozies to gritty police procedurals and everything in between), historical fiction, magical realism, women’s fiction, psychological thrillers/suspense, literary/psychological horror, self-help, business, health/diet, cookbooks, memoir, relationships, current events, true crime, psychology, prescriptive nonfiction, and narrative nonfiction. She’s a sucker for locked room mysteries, books set in the Victorian era, books about evil children, and unreliable narrators. In any genre, she is looking for character-driven stories. She is especially interested in books that feature diverse characters. Learn more about Annie here.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 3.07.23 PM.pngKatherine Wessbecher is a literary agent with Bradford Literary Agency. In middle grade and young adult, historical fiction and fantasy have been favorites since she was young. But more than genre, she’s looking for the kinds of stories that transport her: to the past, an imagined world, or a perspective wholly different from her own. She’s drawn to stories that push readers to question their assumptions of the world. Her favorite picture books are the kind that make both kids and grown-ups laugh. Inventive premises, twist endings, and quirky characters are all good ways to pique her interest. Katherine is looking for upmarket adult fiction that straddles the literary and commercial divide. Books that inspire her list run the gamut from Where’d You Go, Bernadette to Yaa Gyasi’s Homegoing. She loves unexpected takes on familiar stories and flawed yet endearing characters. Katherine is actively seeking adult and juvenile narrative nonfiction—particularly projects that highlight stories the history textbooks left out. In the same vein, she’d love to work with nonfiction graphic novel projects like John Hendrix’s The Faithful Spy. Learn more about Katherine here.

Screen Shot 2020-01-15 at 2.37.58 PM.pngJemiscoe Chambers-Black is a jr. literary agent at Corvisiero Literary. She is seeking: mainstream fiction, women’s fiction, romance in all genres (especially in contemporary and fantasy), thriller, crime, fantasy, middle grade, young adult, and literary fiction. Learn more about Jemiscoe here.

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 6.31.09 PMCourtney Miller-Callihan is a literary agent and founder of Handspun Literary. She is always looking for stories she can’t stop reading. For adult fiction, Courtney represents mainstream/upmarket fiction (including historical fiction and women’s fiction), romance (all subgenres except inspirational), mystery novels, and speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy). For nonfiction, Courtney represents work targeting all age groups (children and adults). Though she will consider nonfiction on any topic, work that deals primarily with issues of religion or spirituality is unlikely to be a good fit. Learn more about Courtney here.

screen-shot-2015-05-28-at-3-22-28-pm.pngJill Marr is an agent at the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. Jill is interested in: commercial fiction, with an emphasis on mysteries, thrillers, romantic suspense and horror, women’s commercial fiction and historical fiction. She is also looking for non-fiction by authors who are getting their work published regularly and who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience. Jill is looking for non-fiction projects in the areas of history, sports, politics, current events, cookbooks, health & nutrition, pop culture, humor, music, and very select memoir. Learn more about Jill here.

Screen Shot 2019-10-12 at 1.45.33 AM.pngSamantha Bagood is a literary agent and founder of Samantha B. Literary. She specializes in books for all kinds of books for children — picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult. (No adult fiction pitches of any kind please.) She enjoys out-of-the-box formats and styles done well, and would love to see more stories from an Asian-American perspective. Learn more about Samantha here.

Screen Shot 2019-10-12 at 1.43.00 AM.pngRachel Beck is a literary agent with Liza Dawson Associates. Rachel is looking for: upmarket/book club women’s fiction in the vein of Emily Giffin, Jodi Picoult, Jennifer Weiner and Liane Moriarty; light-hearted millennial fiction or contemporary romance like Kristan Higgins or Sophie Kinsella; character-driven, psychological/domestic suspense that contain fresh plots and mind-blowing premises; contemporary young adult, primarily issue-driven material that explores topics such as sexual assault, LGBTQ issues, etc.; and select nonfiction, such as feminist material; career/business/personal growth books; extreme underdog, survival, accomplishment, or rising-from-poverty type stories; select health and wellness books (especially mental health, eating disorders, any rare or underrepresented conditions, Alzheimer’s/memory books); books about football/the NFL; marathoner/triathlete memoirs; parenting books with new angles; books that explore cult life or extreme religion; 9/11 survival stories. Learn more about Rachel here.

Screen Shot 2019-03-30 at 2.52.20 PMTara Gilbert is a jr. literary agent with Corvisiero Agency. At the 2020 San Diegi conference, she is taking pitches on behalf of herself as well as co-agents. Personally, she is seeking all kinds of young adult and middle grade, adult sci-fi, adult fantasy, graphic novels, contemporary fiction, and romance. On behalf of co-agents, she will take pitches for historical novels, women’s fiction, mainstream/general fiction, and children’s picture books. Learn more about Tara here.

Screen Shot 2017-11-06 at 1.17.01 AM.pngCarlie Webber is a literary agent with Fuse Literary. She represents fiction in the genres of: young adult, middle grade, new adult, women’s fiction, literary fiction, mainstream fiction, mystery, thriller, suspense, romance, science fiction, and fantasy. She does not want to rep picture books, easy readers, poetry, scripts or curriculum nonfiction. She no longer seeks nonfiction (or memoir) of any kind. Learn more about Carlie here.

Screen Shot 2016-11-21 at 7.00.28 PM.pngElise Capron is a literary agent with the Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. She is primarily interested in well-written narrative nonfiction in the areas of history, journalism, and science, by writers have an established platform in their field. She is also interested in adult literary fiction, and finds novels with an unusual or eccentric edge particularly appealing. (Her fiction taste leans heavily to the literary side, not commercial.) She aims to work with writers who are getting their work published regularly and who have a realistic sense of the market and their audience. And while she is willing to consider memoir, please note that she rarely takes on new authors in this area. Learn more about Elise here.

Screen Shot 2019-11-12 at 6.31.13 PMBen Miller-Callihan is a literary agent with Handspun Literary Agency. His interests include: humor, young adult and middle grade novels, science fiction & fantasy (especially decolonial SF/F), cookbooks, mainstream-ish fiction a la David Mitchell and William Gibson, and anything food-related. Learn more about Ben here.


          More 2020 agents may be added over time.

These one-on-one meetings are an amazing chance to pitch your book face-to-face with an agent, and get personal, individual feedback on your pitch/concept. If the agent likes your pitch, they’ll request to see part/all of your book — sending you straight past the slush pile. It also gives you an intimate chance to meet with an agent and pick their brain with any questions on your mind.

(Please note that Agent/Editor Pitching is an add-on, separate aspect of the day, for only those who sign up. Spaces are limited for these premium meetings, and pricing/detail is explained below.)


$189 — EARLY BIRD base price for registration to the 2019 SDWW and access to all workshops, all day, on May 11, 2019. As of November 2018, event registration is now OPEN.

Add $29 — to secure a 10-minute one-on-one meeting with any of our literary agents in attendance. Use this special meeting as a chance to pitch your work and get professional feedback on your pitch. (Spaces limited.) If they wish, attendees are free to sign up for multiple 10-minute pitch sessions at $29/session — pitching multiple individuals, or securing 20 minutes to pitch one person rather than the usual 10. Here are four quick testimonials regarding writers who have signed with literary agents after pitching them at prior Writing Day Workshops events. (Our bigger, growing list of success stories can be seen here.)

Screen Shot 2018-11-26 at 11.11.29 AM.png“I met my client, Alison Hammer, at the Writing
Workshop of Chicago and just sold her book.”
– literary agent Joanna Mackenzie of Nelson Literary

Screen Shot 2017-05-02 at 11.47.54 PM.png“Good news! I signed a client [novelist Aliza Mann]
from the Michigan Writing Workshop!”
– literary agent Sara Mebigow of KT Literary

Screen Shot 2018-11-05 at 12.56.10 PM“I signed author Stephanie Wright from
the Seattle Writing Workshop.”
– literary agent Kathleen Ortiz of New Leaf Literary

Screen Shot 2018-05-17 at 9.07.44 PM“I signed an author [Kate Thompson] that I
met at the Philadelphia Writing Workshop.”
– literary agent Kimberly Brower of Brower Literary

Screen Shot 2016-10-16 at 2.54.50 PM.png“I signed novelist Kathleen McInnis after meeting her
at the Chesapeake Writing Workshop.”

– literary agent Adriann Ranta of Foundry Literary + Media

Add $69 — for an in-depth, personal critique of your one-page query letter from instructor Chuck Sambuchino, an instructor for a previous workshop in San Diego. (This rate is a special event value for San Diego Writing Workshop attendees only.) Registrants are encouraged to take advantage of the specially-priced critique, so they can send out their query letter with confidence following the workshop. Also, if you are meeting with an agent at the event, you’re essentially speaking your query letter aloud to them. Wouldn’t it be wise to give that query letter (i.e., your pitch) one great edit before that meeting?

Add $89 — for an in-depth personal critique of the first 10 double-spaced pages of your novel. Spaces with faculty for these critiques are very limited, and participating attendees get an in-person meeting at the workshop. Options:

  • Literary fiction, mainstream fiction, memoir, women’s fiction, historical fiction: Faculty member Stephanie Storey, a published author, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting.
  • Women’s fiction, mainstream/upmarket fiction, and suspense: Faculty member Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, a published author duo, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss their thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting.
  • Children’s picture books: Faculty member Dee Leone, a published kidlit author, will get your work in advance, critique your picture book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss their thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting. Picture book texts should be 1,000 words max, and can include illustrations or not.
  • Middle grade and young adult: Faculty member Shelley Thomas, a published author, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, meet with you for at least 10 minutes at the workshop to discuss her thoughts, and pass along written critique notes at the meeting.
  • Fantasy, science fiction, paranormal, speculative, magical realism, thriller, mystery, crime: Faculty member Eve Porinchak, a freelance editor and former literary agent, will get your work in advance, critique the first 10 double-spaced pages of your book, and pass along written critique notes. Unlike the other critquers at the 2020 SD event, Eve will not be there in person. Instead Eve is happy to have her 10-minute meetings with writers over the phone or Skype, either before or after the event.

How to pay/register — Registration is now open. Reach out to workshop organizer Chuck Sambuchino via email:, and he will provide specific instructions for payment and registration to get you a reserved seat at the event. Payment is by either PayPal or check. Because Chuck plans different workshops, make sure you note that you’re inquiring about the San Diego workshop specifically.


Because of limited space at the venue of the Crowne Plaza, the workshop can only allow 175 registrants, unless spacing issues change. For this reason, we encourage you to book sooner rather than later.

Are spaces still available? Yes, we still have spaces available. We will announce RIGHT HERE, at this point on this web page, when all spaces are taken. If you do not see a note right here saying how all spaces are booked, then yes, we still have room, and you are encouraged to register.

How to Register: The easy first step is simply to reach out to workshop organizer Chuck Sambuchino via email: He will pass along registration information to you, and give instructions on how to pay by PayPal or check. Once payment is complete, you will have a reserved seat at the event. The SDWW will send out periodic e-mail updates to all registered attendees with any & all news about the event. Because Chuck plans different workshops, make sure you note that you’re inquiring about the San Diego workshop specifically.

Refunds: If you sign up for the event and have to cancel for any reason, you will receive 50% of your total payment back [sent by check or PayPal]. The other 50% is nonrefundable and will not be returned, and helps the workshop ensure that only those truly interested in the limited spacing sign up for the event. (Please note that query editing payments are completely non-refundable if the instructor has already edited your letter.)

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Thank you for your interest in the 2020 San Diego Writing Workshop.