Featured Keynote Speaker - Kristan Higgins Luncheon Keynote Speaker - Nancy Herkness Special PRO Presentation/PUB Author Retreat Speaker – Damon Suede Special Presentation *first 100 registrants*: "Holding Out for a Hero"– Elizabeth Hoyt 3-Hour Pre-Conference Workshop ($45): "The Basics are Still the Same" – Eileen Dreyer
Alphabetical List of Presenters
Terri Brisbin - After THE END: Writing Epilogues, Synopses, Query Letters and more! (craft track)
Most writers think that when they type the wondrous words – THE END – their work is done. In reality, it is just beginning! One decision is about whether to include an epilogue in your fiction. But, two of the most important parts of your work – the Query Letter and the Synopsis—still need to be created if you expect to market and/or publish your work. Both are critical tools that will grab the attention of a prospective editor or agent and help them sell your work to publishers or for marketing plans. Terri, who has sold her work based on synopses, will discuss the final steps of fiction writing – crafting an epilogue, writing a query letter and composing a thorough synopsis – and give tips and share suggestions from leading editors and agents about those crucial final steps of novel writing. (For experienced writers nearing THE END)
Anabelle Bryant - What's Love Got To Do With It? The 6 Stages of Love and How to Write Them Into Your Romance (craft track)
The French call it “frisson” (free-sawn): that sudden rush of excitement when an attraction begins. How does an author translate those feelings into words on a blank page? This workshop will be an interactive discussion of all six progressive stages of love, from lust (frisson) to endurance, and how to apply them to create impact within a romance novel. Techniques for building sexual tension will be explored including the physical effects on the body, changes in language, and development of the motives, actions and emotions that compose an enduring relationship. Examples from published romances will be used to demonstrate how authors incorporate each stage into the storyline adding credibility and emotional resonance. Vocabulary, phrasing and vernacular will also be detailed.
A handout defining each stage will be provided as well as a “quick reference” bookmark authors can use to keep the workshop objectives at their fingertips while writing.
Jeni Burns - Perfect Pitch! (beginner track)
In an industry where words are plentiful, a perfect pitch is an author’s biggest asset. You’ve spent months writing a book. Even more editing the beast. And now you’ve got that coveted appointment in hand.
Whether it be your first or thirty-fifth, a good pitch will always give you the foot in the door you need. Jeni has spent more time researching pitching methods than she cares to admit to; might have something to do with her previous sales background. Keeping in mind that a solid sales pitch will (almost) always get you noticed, she’s combined all her research into what she calls the perfect pitch method. In her session, Jeni shares the seven questions every author should ask themselves to develop a perfect pitch that can be delivered in less than 2 minutes. Trust her, being able to leave an editor or agent 5+ minutes to grab a coffee or take a bathroom break will make you memorable in the best way!
If time allows, Jeni will offer 2 raffle winners the opportunity to sit with her and perfect their own pitch. Handout included.
Christine Bush - First Timer's Workshop (beginner track)
This workshop is for writers at all levels who are attending our NJ conference (or any conference) for the first time. Come find out what we are all about, how things work, what to expect, and what not to expect! Meet your fellow writers, and start the conference with a bang (and a laugh or two!)
Demystifying Publishing Deals is an interactive session that focuses on the process of getting a deal; what terms to look for in offers to help authors decide on how to choose the right offer; and discussions of contract language and terms, and industry standards in simple terms designed to give authors a clear understanding of the deal structure so that they can negotiate fair terms and spot unfair practices.
Eileen Dreyer *Keynote Speaker* Pre-Conference Workshop: The Basics are the Same *A separate ticket must be purchased during registration for this workshop*
It's too easy to get sidetracked by publication, promotions and algorithms (oh, my!), leaving the story-telling to languish. But the story is all. Because no matter how hard you work to maximize covers, social media and advertising, if your reader can't make it to the third chapter of your book, you still lose. So let's work on those first chapters. Beat back backstory. Eradicate info-dump. Set up everything the book is going to be. And remember that, as Mickey Spillane said, the first line sells this book; the last line sells the next book. But most of all, rediscover discipline. You're the boss of that book. Make sure all those words know it.
Eileen Dreyer - His Brain/Her Brain: Why It Took Moses 40 Years to Get Out of the Desert (craft track)
Men and women really do think, react, problem solve, and give directions differently. We may be living in the 21st century, but for the most part our brains are still chasing wooly mammoths and drawing in caves. Use scientific studies to help create realistic characters.
Kate Forest - 21st Century Dating: How People Meet, Date, and Mate in the Digital Age (craft track)
If you’re writing contemporary romance, but haven’t been in the dating world recently, you’ll want to make sure you’re getting it right when your characters find Mr. Right. With online sites and endless new apps, the rules of meeting people have changed faster than iPhone models. So don’t let your contemporary characters date like it’s 1999. Professional dating coach Kate Forest helps navigate the tangle of options in the search for love. In this workshop, she’ll bring her extensive experience to guide authors looking to present a realistic view of modern dating and mating. Learn the difference between sites like Match.com and eHarmony, and apps like Coffee Meets Bagel and How About We. It’s not enough to know how to “swipe right.” You’ll also want to know what the “slow fade” is, and how to get to “143.” And no one wants a “thirst trap” profile picture.
Rosie Genova - Put a Little Mystery in Your Romance... With Some Help From Jane Austen (craft track)
This workshop will explore how Jane Austen used mystery elements to build suspense and increase the reader’s investment in character and storyline. Using examples from Austen’s novels, Rosie will demonstrate how she utilizes the same tools mystery writers employ to keep readers guessing, and most importantly, turning pages. They are: crucial questions, hidden history, viable suspects and secret villains, and red herrings.
Megan Hart - Point of View: Getting Inside the Right Character's Head and Staying There (beginner track)
Head hopping? Different tenses? More than one main character? Point of view is one of the most important ways to connect your reader to your story. NYT bestselling author of more than forty published novels, Megan Hart, helps you figure out how to write in first or third person and which character needs to be telling the story by diving deep into point of view. Perfect for beginners or anyone who struggles with figuring out POV. Megan Hart - Write Fast, Write Furious (beginner track)
Frustrated with your word count? If you're feeling as though you have the potential for greater output, but you're not sure how to write faster with more consistency, join NYT Bestselling Author Megan Hart to learn how to get those word counts higher. Aimed at beginners just started to write, but also for established authors looking for some tips or tricks on how to get those words down.
Nancy Herkness*Keynote Speaker* - The Subtle Art of Pacing (craft track)
Your plot is thrilling, but your story still drags. How can that be? Because there’s more to pacing than exciting action and high emotion. Learn subtle ways to keep your reader turning the pages at high speed. These techniques include seeding in backstory without info dumps, crafting chapter beginnings and endings that intrigue and satisfy the reader, and creating scenes that serve more than one purpose. In addition, we will discuss active dialogue tags, micro-conflict, subtext, word choice, and other ingenious stylistic methods that require only small adjustments to the work but have a big impact on pacing.
It's a love story, not The Martian. How do you come up with ideas that aren't life and death and keep them interesting for 400 pages? What happens in the sagging middle? How can you avoid being too cutesy but still write a compelling book? Kristan will discuss what high concept is, what soft concept is, and how to craft a book about regular problems and people that will still grab the readers by the heart.
Elizabeth Hoyt *Keynote Speaker*-Holding Out For a Hero Special Presentation: First 100 Registrants Only
Your hero is tall, dark, handsome, and an alpha... and like every other romance hero out there. Learn how to not only write a unique hero, but one that will stay in readers’ minds... and make it onto their keeper shelves.
Elizabeth Hoyt - It's Just Emotion (craft track)
Emotional depth is the key to an unforgettable romance. Learn how to set up characters and plotlines to create scenes with maximum emotional impact and make your romance stand out from the pack.
Regina Kyle and Stefanie London - The Bedroom and Beyond: Writing Compelling Sex Scenes That Keep Things Sizzling All the Way to the HEA (craft track)
This workshop is aimed and aspiring and newly published authors who want to take their love scenes to the next level. Content will focus on showing participants not only how to write better sex, but how to weave love scenes more seamlessly into their stories as well as strategically use them for character growth and plot development. The session will also cover how to maintain tension after a sex scene and include a checklist that participants can use when writing and editing their own scenes. This workshop will help you take the sex scene beyond the bedroom (and no, we don’t mean getting your characters to do it on the kitchen table!) Learn how to write sizzling sexual scenes that further your character’s developmental arc and drive the story forward. No gratuitous scenes allowed! We’ll help you navigate language, emotion and tension techniques no matter whether the bedroom door is cracked open just a little or if you’ve flung it wide open for the neighbors to see.
Caroline Linden - The Art of the Novella (craft track)
Looking for a way to increase your pace of new releases, but can’t write three books a year? Interested in trying something a little bit different, but not willing to risk a whole novel on it? Novellas are the answer. A good novella serves up complex characters, strong writing, and a fully developed plot, just like a novel…but shorter, both to read and to write. With the advent of digital publishing and the ease of self-publishing, there has never been a better time to write novellas and short stories, whether as muse-refreshing changes of pace, spin-offs from your other works, or in support of your series in progress. Done right, novellas can recharge and expand your career, at half the work of a novel and (believe it or not) twice the fun.
Susan Litman and Brenda Harlen - Wonder Twins! (career track)
How to meet your editorial match and build a long-term relationship as a superpower duo for the benefit of your writing career! Harlequin editor Susan Litman and award-winning author Brenda Harlen will discuss why it is so crucial to partner with the right editor, and why the best author-editor relationships are collaborations that result in mutual trust, open conversations and top-selling books. Whether you’re just starting out, transitioning from self-publishing to traditional or hybrid, or at another point in your career, they will offer tips and strategies from their own experiences that are sure to help you on your journey to finding your “special someone” with whom to share your career journey.
Tracey Lyons - Gone Fishing: How to Catch an Agent (beginner track)
In her newly updated, popular workshop, bestselling author Tracey Lyons will discuss the different approaches to finding the right agent. Using some old and new resources Tracey will discuss how to find the perfect list of agents for you. The workshop will also cover how to decide which agents to query, when is the right time to query, the perks and pitfalls of using newer agents/agencies and the right way to approach agents at workshops and conferences. In addition to answering the question, “Will I still need an agent if I decide to self-publish?” the goal of this workshop is to leave you with useful tips on how to develop the perfect agent query list for your writing career so you can catch the big fish! Tracey Lyons - Keeping the Sexy in Sweet (craft track)
Have you ever wanted to dip your toes into the waters of writing sweet romance but didn't think you had what it takes? With sweet and inspirational books taking a bigger share of the marketplace, many writers are trying their talents in this area. In this workshop bestselling, sweet, inspirational author, Tracey Lyons will show you how to keep the balance between sexy and sweet in your writing. Just because your book is a sweet or inspirational work doesn't mean readers don't want to see the sexual attraction between the hero and heroine. Tracey will show you how you can successfully keep your readers turning the pages without going behind the closed bedroom door.
Liz Maverick and Megan Frampton - Making it Stick: Using Ensemble Casts, Sequel Baits, and Seeding to Hook Readers (business track)
Writing a series is clearly a winning strategy when it comes to getting readers to return to your work over and over again. Just look at J.R. Ward, Kristen Ashley, and Courtney Milan. But it's not as simple as throwing a batch of brothers into the same small town. In this workshop, Liz Maverick and Megan Frampton discuss specific techniques that will make your series "sticky." The discussion includes the elements of successful series, how to build an overall series arc, develop relationships amongst supporting character that make readers want to know more, write scenes where several characters are present (and possibly talking all at once), and set up stories for future books when you don't even know their full plots yet.
Susan Meier - Let Conflict Tell Your Story For You (craft track)
Good books are about people. Great books are about people in trouble. Not just external trouble, but real, gut-wrenching, soul-hurting trouble. Most of us can give our characters believable external struggles and even get them beyond those struggles, but what about that internal struggle? Can a leopard really change his or her spots? And if so how? What do editors and agents mean when they say your character has to grow? Join Susan Meier for LET CONFLICT TELL YOUR STORY FOR YOU. Learn the basis for every internal struggle and how to achieve believable character growth that can carry your whole story and give your characters a real happy ending.
Susan Meier - Know Your Story (craft track)
You’ve got a great idea, but it isn’t always easy to get an idea to translate into a clear, concise story. Luckily, there are tools to help you figure out how to turn an idea into a story that could become a great book. Join Susan Meier as she discusses loglines, core story questions, back cover blurbs, mini synopses and growth paragraphs and shows you how to use these tools to turn an idea into a story.
Tanya Michaels - Bringing the H.E.A.T. (craft track)
Romance novels run the gamut from G-rated to X-rated, but whether your book is sweet or erotic, you can use Heightened Emotion, Awareness & Tension to create strong character chemistry and make your readers swoon. Join an award-winning six-time RITA finalist for a discussion about intimacy (both emotional and physical) that includes supporting examples from many authors/subgenres.
Tina Moss, Yelena Casale, and Lisa Gus - Dispelling the Myths of Small Press (business track)
In the age where digital publishing has continued to rise, authors have more options than ever before. Will I self-publish? Will I try the traditional route? Will I be a hybrid author? And the often enigmatic, should I go with a small press?
In this workshop, we explore the unsung hero of the publishing journey, the small press. We’ll discuss what it means to publish with a small press, how it differs from an author’s other options, and how it can launch a writer’s career.
By dispelling common myths surrounding small press, discussing what to look for in a small press, pointing out red flags, and distinguishing it from other publishing options, we bring to authors the full array of what it means to be small press.
Victoria Pinder, Kristin Wallace, and Rossie Cortes - Rock Your Book Launch (business track)
Three published authors give you the tools and insight to launch your book with a bang. We’re doing this in three 20-minute sessions, “speed dating” style and covering topics like building a newsletter list, developing your brand, marketing tips and tricks, blog tours, paid advertising, and writing a killer blurb. Come join us and learn how you can make a publishing splash.
Kim Rocha and Kim Lowe- Great Expectations: Building Successful Partnerships with Readers, Bloggers, and Assistants (career track)
Following their popular panel, A Tale of Two Bloggers, Kim Rocha and Kim Lowe return to explore how authors can build successful partnerships with others vested in romance publishing – readers, bloggers, and assistants. Social media has given readers greater access to romance authors. Kim and Kim discuss strategies for interacting with readers to increase book sales while maintaining a professional relationship.
Meanwhile, bloggers continue to grow in number and influence in promoting author brands. Kim and Kim guide authors through the rewards and challenges of interacting with reviewers and bloggers. Finally, Kim and Kim advise on how to hire an assistant as a resource to balance writing the next best seller, promoting it to readers, and enjoying the fruits of success.
Ann Rose - Quelling Your Query Conundrums (beginner track)
You wrote a book. It’s not just any book. It’s the best book ever written. But now what? If you are looking for an agent or publisher the fact is, you will have to craft a query letter. A one page document that tells them about the plot of the book, without giving too much away, your writing credentials, all the important marketing info on the novel (word count, genre, etc.) and hook them into wanting to read more.
Well agents and editors get hundreds of these letters a week, so perfecting that pitch is sometimes easier said than done.
In this seminar, Ann will invite attendees to send their query letters and choose a few to workshop through during the presentation, showing them it’s not just about what you say in the query, but how you say it. She will go over the query letter structure, developing a hook, talk about how to personalize (without sounding creepy, or like a stalker), and go over some very important do’s and don’ts. As a literary agency intern, Ann reads hundreds of letters a week, and can help attendees craft a letter that will allow them to stand out in the slush pile.
Megan Ryder - Storyboarding for Success (craft track)
Have you heard the saying, a picture is worth a thousand words? A plot board, or story board, is a visual representation of your book. It’s a visual view of your book, a quick overview, of the flow of your story. It allows you to quickly see an overview of your book without having to read paragraphs in a synopsis or notes in a notebook. It also facilitates plot brainstorming and helps keep you writing during the process. In this workshop, we’ll discuss how to set up your storyboard for brainstorming, writing and revising your manuscript.
Jessica Scott - Trust: Building Connections Between Your Characters and Your Readers (craft track)
Trust underlies every human interaction but building believable relationships on the page is more difficult than it sounds. What makes characters’ interactions on the page believable and how can you use signals from every day life to make your characters relationships deeper? What are common mechanisms that authors use to signal trustworthiness and do they work?
According to sociological and psychological research, trust is built by several mechanisms: genuine care, openness, self sacrifice, and willingness to be vulnerable.
This workshop will present techniques for writing characters who signal to other characters and your readers that they are trustworthy and how to build trust with each other page by page.
Joanna Shupe, Megan Frampton, Nancy Herkness, Elizabeth Hoyt, and Damon Suede - What I Wish I'd Known Five Years Ago (career track)
Being a romance writer is not for the faint of heart. Not only do we need to keep on top of deadlines, we must adapt to the ever-changing publishing landscape at the same time. In this panel moderated by Joanna Shupe, several bestselling and award-winning authors discuss their careers, their mistakes, and the advice they would give to other authors looking to make it in romance.
Jen Talty - How to Get the Most Out of a Writer's Conference (beginner track)
This workshop is designed to help writers reap the benefits from the time and money invested in a writer's conference in order to obtain optimal results. Our goal is to help every writer, published and unpublished, make their conference experience the best they can be and achieve their career goals.
We cover strategies for how to efficiently plan for a conference, how to select the workshops that will benefit you the most, how to socialize and mingle with those who can help your career. Tips will include pitching techniques and tactics so you’ll be prepared for the opportunity to discuss your book. Finally, we will go over an After Action Review and Follow-up so every conference you attend is a great success.
Jen Talty - Upping the Stakes (craft track)
There are two things no good story can be without: Character and Conflict. When I talk about Upping the Stakes, I’m talking about escalating the conflict with your character and their goal.
There are two types of conflict: Internal and External. You need both in order to make well-rounded, three-dimensional characters your readers will connect to. External conflict drives your plot. It’s the physical thing your main character wants/needs. Internal conflict deals directly with goals and motivation and how your character handles the conflict he/she is facing when your story begins. Internal conflict will show your character arch in direction relation with the external conflict. This workshop will discuss different ways to continue to increase the level of conflict through the use of narrative structure.
BA Tortuga - Deep In the Heart of Dialogue (craft track)
Let’s talk, y’all. Have you ever wondered why it’s so darn hard to pace your dialogue? Hell, have you ever wondered why one character can get to the heart of the matter in three words and another can ramble for five hundred words and never say anything?
Any writer knows that natural dialogue is important for establishing great characters. The struggle is real to keep things flowing, but also to provide all the information the reader needs to know.
Research posits that there are three circles to every conversation, very similar to a three act play. Most of the time people stay in the outer circle, talking about the weather or their kids’ school projects. The second circle is where so many romance conversations take place. People who love each other dip into that more intimate arena all the time, discussing personal information such as likes and dislikes and family history.
Then, when the hard conversations need to happen, people jump into the third ring like members of the Polar Bear club; in and out of the freezing water in mere seconds, and wondering why they’re so shocky when it’s all over.
So, how do you get to the tender spots when your characters are avoiding them and playing helicopter around conversational gambits that don’t matter? Using the circles of conversation theory, you can create a structure which allows you to create realistic dialogue that follows a natural progression, without forcing your characters to hit the hot buttons at the wrong time.
Carol Van Den Hende - Millennials: Applying Generational Insights to Writing (craft track) Have you noticed how much press there is about Millennials? Come to this workshop to learn about the importance of the Millennial generation, the key events that have formed generational values, and how that drives both perception and real challenges for this cohort. We'll discuss how you can reach this large audience and depict them authentically.