Schedule: 2021 Workshop


Agent pitches and critique consultations overlap with Saturday sessions. The schedule of presentation topics below is subject to change and updates:

FRIDAY, MAY 14, 2021

9:30 – 10:30: Common Publishing Myths … Debunked, taught by Kaitlyn Johnson. Publishing is a labyrinth in and of itself, especially when writers begin speculating what it takes to be successful. In this session, Literary agent Kaitlyn Johnson discusses the most common myths about publishing and what the reality for writers truly is.

10:45 – 11:45: Plotting Arcs and Compelling Narratives, taught by Stephanie Winter. A great work of fiction requires excellent pacing to move the reader past those first pages and to propel them to the very end. This session will walk you through the key markers of exposition, climax, and denouement moments in novels, and will outline what these arcs look like across genres. If you’ve ever been told your story does not start in the right place, this session is for you.

11:45 – 1:15: Break

1:15 – 2:30: Everything You Need to Know About Agents and Query Letters, taught by Chuck Sambuchino. This workshop is a thorough crash course in dealing with literary agents. After quickly going over what an agent is and what they do for writers, we will discuss resources for finding agents, how to ID the best agents for you, query letter writing, as well as the most important things to do and not to do when dealing with representatives.

2:45 – 3:45: How to Market Yourself and Your Books: Talking Author Social Media, Blogging, and Platform, taught by Eric Smith. Whether you’re traditionally published or self-published, everyone could use some helpful guidance on how to effectively market themselves and sell more books. This session includes easy-to-understand advice on social media (Twitter, Facebook, more), blogging, and other simple ways you can market your work online cheaply and easily.

4:00 – 5:00: Understanding Hook and Theme, taught by Shirin Leos. Are you just about ready to send your book out into the world? Before you do, get an inside scoop on how best to arm yourself. Learn why everyone needs an elevator pitch (a very brief verbal summation of their novel), how to prepare yours, how to fashion it around your hook and theme, and critically, how to lose the plot. With real-life examples, concrete tips, and interactive exercises, this fun class will get your ready to be impactful and effective the next time somebody asks: What is your book about?

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SATURDAY, MAY 15, 2021

9:30 – 10:30: Lost In Revisions- How to Self-Edit Your Manuscript, taught by Beth Marshea. You know that before you send your work out to the world it’s going to need some adjustments, but where do you begin? How do you look at a work when you’ve been so close to it for so long. Agent Beth Marshea will teach the foundations of self-editing, focusing on high level plot and and continuing down into the nitty gritty of grammar. We’ll go over techniques that give authors the ability to distance themselves and discuss what makes one writer’s work sing while another’s falls flat.

10:45 – 11:45: After the Book Deal: What Happens Next? taught by Courtney Miller-Callihan and Ben Miller-Callihan. A pair of agent instructors will present a detailed explanation of the traditional publishing process, including the differences between the acquisitions editor and the production editor, sales, marketing, publicity, cover design, distribution, and much more. Bring your questions! 

11:45 – 1:15: Break

1:15 – 2:30: “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest, with participating literary agents and editors. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” 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. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first page, and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention. (All attendees are welcome to bring pages to the event for this session, and we will choose pages at random for the workshop for as long as time lasts. All submissions should be novels or memoir—no prescriptive nonfiction or picture books, please. Do not send your pages in advance. You will bring printed copies with you, and instructions will be sent out approximately one week before the event.)

2:45 – 3:45: Open Agent Q&A Panel. Several attending literary agents will open themselves up to open Q&A from SDWW attendees. Bring your questions and get them answered in this popular session.

4:00 – 5:00: Getting Published in Today’s World: 10 Tips to Make You the Writer Agents and Publishers Want, taught by Brian Klems. If you want to land an agent and a book deal in today’s market, you’re going to have to do a lot more than just write a great book (though that’s a good start). In this session, former Writer’s Digest editor Brian A. Klems discusses the challenges writers face in publishing today and offers up 10 practical tips to help you break through the barriers and find success.


Agent pitches and critique consultations overlap with Saturday sessions. The schedule of presentation topics below is subject to change and updates: