Genre Fiction Workshops, Panels and Events

To register for the full conference and enroll in a workshop or critical seminar, click on the button below. All keynote talks, panels, one-day workshops, readings and special events are included in general registration, as is attendance at the Poetry Symposium each afternoon. All three-day Workshops and three-day Critical Seminars require an additional fee of $200.


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Genre Fiction Panel #1: "Epic Writing Fails." Russell Davis, Moderator, with David Anthony Durham, Candace Nadon, Clay Reynolds, and Michaela Roessner.

In this light-hearted panel, we'll discuss the times that the writing didn't go so well -- and how we solved it (or didn't).

Friday, July 20, 8:30 - 10:00 am, Taylor Hall 200

To see full biographies of the panelists, click each speaker's name below:

Russell Davis, Moderator

David Anthony Durham

Candace Nadon

Clay Reynolds

Michaela Roessner


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Genre Fiction Workshop #1: "Dying is Easy. Comedy is Hard." Instructor: Michaela Roessner.

Thursday, July 20, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 229

Even if you never intend to be a humorist or a comedian, as a writer it’s important to understand comedy and learn some humor-writing techniques (yes, comedy skills can be learned!). Humor is an integral part of who we are as human beings. (Keep in mind that the best of Shakespeare’s plays all have humorous threads.) Even when writing serious tales, eventually you’ll find that an ability to weave in some warm humor here and there, some comedic bits, the slightest tang of levity or hint of effervescence, will give those solemn, heavy-themed tales (and their characters) a three-dimensional quality, an accessibility and a humanity that they’d otherwise lack. This presentation will go into depth about the uses of humor in all kinds of narratives. We'll look at examples from a variety of authors; we’ll explore (and have fun with!) a few of the basic techniques for writing humor in order to give everybody a good running start on this important skill set; and I'll provide resources so participants can continue to develop their comedic abilities. Yes, we can do all of this in an hour!

Michaela Roessner
Michaela Roessner is visiting Professor of Genre Fiction in Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing. She holds an MFA in Popular Fiction from the University of Southern Maine. She has published four novels, as well as assorted short fiction and nonfiction in publications that include Asimov’s Magazine, The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, OMNI Magazine, Canada’s Room Magazine and anthologies that include Full Spectrum 2 and Intersections. Her first novel, Walkabout Woman, won the Crawford and John W. Campbell awards. She has also had work short-listed for the Calvino Prize, the Tiptree Award, and the Millennium Publishing short fiction contest. Her current major projects include a number of short fiction pieces, finishing up her novel The Waters of Babylon, completing the last of her trio of novels that center around the early life of Catherine de Medici, and participating in several group ekphrastic commissions.​

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Genre Fiction Workshop #2: "'Winter is Coming:' What Fiction Writers Can Learn About Plotting from HBO's Game of Thrones." Instructor: Candace Nadon.

Saturday, July 22, 8:30 -10:00 am, Taylor Hall 200

A successful plot depends upon how well the writer manages the complex interaction of plot and character to create an engaging story. One of the most important tools the writer has to develop story is the management of the incremental rise and fall of tension, yet the deft handling of tension is also one of a writer's greatest challenges. Increasing the tension too rapidly exhausts readers, while increasing it too slowly bores them. David Benioff and D. B. Weiss' adaptation of George R. R. Martin's Game of Thrones novels shows how the masterful development of tension continually engages the audience. In this workshop, we will discuss the techniques Benioff and Weiss use to manipulate tension and how writers can apply these techniques to their own writing, regardless of the genre in which they are working.

Candace Nadon
Candace Nadon is Visiting Professor of Genre Fiction in Western's Graduate Program in Creative Writing. has an MFA in Fiction from Stonecoast Low-Residency MFA in Creative Writing and a PhD in English with Creative Concentration from Georgia State University. Her fiction, poetry, and lyric essays have appeared or are forthcoming in Hartskill Review in The Fourth River, Platte Valley Review, Dogwood: A Journal of Poetry and Prose, and Mary: A Journal of New Writing, among others. She edited the book Our Place Two, and contributed to the forthcoming textbook Primary Research and Writing. Candace is a fifth generation Coloradan and currently lives in Durango, Colorado, where she teaches at Fort Lewis College and is working on a novel.

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Genre Fiction Workshop #3: "Write What You Know." Instructor: Russell Davis.

Sunday, July 23, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 204

One of the most commonly shared pieces of writerly advice is to write what you know. But what does this really mean and how can writers use it to bring verisimilitude to their fiction? In this workshop, we'll explore what this adage really means for fiction writers, and how to use what you know to write successfully in genres from science fiction to mystery to romance. Examples from published works of other authors will be included in the discussion, and part of the workshop will be dedicated to generating an idea list to take with attendees when they leave the conference.

Russell Davis
Russell Davis is Director of Western’s Genre Fiction Concentration. He has written and sold numerous novels and short stories in virtually every genre of fiction, under at least a half-dozen pseudonyms. His writing has encompassed media tie-in work in the Transformers universe to action adventure in The Executioner series to original novels and short fiction in anthology titles like Under Cover of Darkness, Law of the Gun, and In the Shadow of Evil. He has also worked as an editor and book packager, and created original anthology titles ranging from westerns like Lost Trails to fantasy like Courts of the Fey. He is a regular speaker at conferences and schools, where he teaches writing, editing and the fundamentals of the publishing industry. He is a past president of the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, and his newest work, The End of All Seasons, is a collection of short fiction and poetry that came out in 2013.


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All three-day workshops meet Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 7/20, 7/22 and 7/23, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration.

Genre Fiction Three-Day Workshop: “The Long and Winding (and Frequently Bumpy and Terrifying) Path of a Writer.” Instructor: David Anthony Durham.

Location: Taylor Hall 204

Award winning author David Anthony Durham will present an intimate, wide-ranging workshop and discussion about life as a publishing novelist, from the joys of publication and interacting with readers, to the perils of a changing publishing landscape, creative blocks and the difficulties of balancing artistic work within otherwise busy lives. Over the course of three days, everyone will offer short samples of their writing for discussion and critique. This could be new flash fiction, a query letter, a book synopsis, or a proposal. We’ll keep the focus open so that participants can choose what’s most useful for them to get feedback on. 

Day One will focus on the early stages – finding your voice as a writer, discovering stories that matter to you, building a writing discipline, learning how to revise and persevere with a project, and how to assess when it’s time to scrap it and move on. David will discuss finding an agent, navigating the submission process, understanding a publishing contract, and how to prepare for publication day.

Day Two will zoom through the writer’s high life – book tours, foreign rights sales, movie options, interviews, and rave reviews. All the good stuff that it’s so fun to dream about!

Day Three will focus on the difficulties of sustaining a literary career. David will look at missteps and mistakes that writers often make, and discuss how to survive them and recover.

David Anthony Durham
David Anthony Durham, this year's Writing the Rockies Genre Fiction Keynote speaker,  is the author of seven novels: The RisenThe Sacred BandThe Other LandsAcacia (John W Campbell Award Winner, Finalist for the Prix Imaginales), Pride of Carthage (Finalist for the Legacy Award), Walk Through Darkness (NY Times Notable Book) and Gabriel’s Story (NY Times Notable Book, Legacy Award Winner). His writing ranges from literary novels of the African-American experience, to historical fiction set in the ancient world, to fantasy and science fiction. His novels have been published in French, German, Italian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Spanish and Swedish. He writes for the Wild Cards series of collaborative novels, edited by George RR Martin, with stories appearing in Fort FreakLowballHigh Stakes and forthcoming in Texas Hold ‘Em. Other short fiction has been anthologized in UnboundUnfetteredIt’s All Love, and in Gumbo: A Celebration of African American Writing. Four of his novels have been optioned for development as feature films. He has taught at the Clarion Science Fiction Workshops, at the University of Maryland, the University of Massachusetts, Colorado College, the Zora Neale Hurston / Richard Wright Foundation, Cal State University and Hampshire College. He’s currently on the faculty of the Stonecoast MFA Program of the University of Southern Maine, where he often works with aspiring science fiction and fantasy writers in the program’s Popular Fiction Concentration.

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All three-day Critical Seminars meet Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 7/20, 7/22 and 7/23, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration.

Genre Fiction Critical Seminar: "Crime and Mystery in the West." Leader: Clay Reynolds.

Taylor Hall 226

In this seminar, we will explore the nature of crime and mystery writing, first generally and then in the West. Special emphasis will be given to considering the traditional crime and mystery categories of fiction with the major players—Dashiell Hammet, Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, and so on, and the subcategory of the “noir” novel, as well as western crime and mystery writers such as Tony Hillerman, Loren D. Estleman, Cormac McCarthy, John Nichols, and others. The operative question is what differences are there between writing crime and mystery fiction in a western setting as opposed to writing it in an urban or more populous region. More to the point, though, will be an analysis of what makes fiction work well, regardless of category. We will be considering the fundamental elements of fiction writing and how they can be adapted or shaped to the crime and mystery category. Students will be asked to participate in exercises that will illustrate the points of the discussion. Limited to 10 participants.

Clay Reynolds
Clay Reynolds, Professor of Arts and Humanities and Director of Creative Writing at the University of Texas at Dallas, is the author of twenty volumes, including nine novels and one collection of short fiction. A Pulitzer Prize nominee in 1992 and an NEH Fellow for the same year, his work has been honored with awards by the Writers’ League of Texas, The Texas Commission for the Arts, Western Writers’ Association, and other literary and writing organizations. With more than 1,000 additional publications to his credit, he also was editor for the crime and mystery section of the library reference series, What Do I Read Next?  for the years 2007-2008. His website is

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