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: "Writing for Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers." Michaela Roessner, Moderator, with Candace Nadon, Rick Wilber, and Heather Sappenfield.

Writing for middle grade and young adult readers is a special skill, where knowing the the ever-changing market for your work is perhaps more critical than in any other category of fiction. Our panelists will discuss how to write for various age-groups, and what topics you should – or shouldn’t – cover in your story.

Friday, July 19, 8:30 - 10:00 am, Taylor Hall 200

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

Michaela Roessner, Moderator

Candace Nadon

Heather Sappenfield

Rick Wilber

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Genre Fiction Workshop #1: "Coping When Our Pieces Don't Sell." Instructor: Michaela Roessner.

Thursday, July 19, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 229

Dealing with rejection – how to learn from it, why to not take it personally, and (gasp!) how it can actually be turned to a writer’s advantage and increase a writer’s sales potential. This presentation will provide strategies for coping with rejection, including insightful advice culled from multiple editors and agents on why they reject pieces and why and when they do accept  pieces.

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: "'Talk to Me: Developing Voice in Young Adult Fiction." Instructor: Candace Nadon.

Saturday, July 21, 8:30 -10:00 am, Taylor Hall 200

Young Adult fiction lives or dies on the strength of the narrative voice, whether it be first or third person.  In YA fiction, the voice must be authentic, must propel the narrative forward, and must engage the reader so they feel a connection to the story being told - no easy task.  This workshop will provide you with tools you can use when developing narrative voice.  We will look at how YA writers such as Rainbow Rowell, David Levithan, Angie Thomas, and others develop voice and how you can use their and other techniques in your own writing.  Although this workshop focuses on YA fiction, the techniques discussed can be adapted for adult fiction as well.  

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: "The Stories We Crave." Instructor: Heather Sappenfield.

Sunday, July 22, 2:00 - 4:00, Taylor Hall 204

We all have those stories we can’t get enough of. The ones that satisfy, that we reflect upon, that we read time and again. What makes them so good? Incorporating Ursula Le Guin’s teachings about story versus plot and Aristotle’s tenets of story, this cross-genre workshop will explore the structural craft that makes great stories tick: the nexus of character and plot. It will then apply this to the stories we crave, and afterward, use it to enhance our own craft. Participants should come prepared with a story they love and a story they hope to write or are currently working on.

H. E., Heather Sappenfield writes nonfiction and fiction for adults and kids. Her nonfiction has appeared in Better Homes and Gardens, Mountain Flyer, Velo News, and The Writers Chronicle. Her fiction has won or been a finalist for many awards, including the Danahy Fiction Prize, the Writer’s Digest Contest, the Pushcart Prize, and the Flannery O’Connor Award. She has published two young adult novels: The View from Who I Was (Flux 2015) and Life at the Speed of Us (Flux 2016), which was a finalist for the Colorado Book Award and the Housatonic Award for Writing for Middle Grades and Young Adults. She was honored to be invited to the anchoring local author panel for this year's Colorado Teen Lit Con. She earned her MFA from Pacific University. Heather loves mountains, so she lives in a log home in Vail, Colorado, where she teaches narrative workshops at Colorado Mountain College and at a charter school for future Olympic skiers and snowboarders. If you visit Vail, you might find her skiing or pedaling along its backcountry trails. You can find out more about her at

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All three-day workshops meet Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 7/19, 7/21 and 7/22, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration.

Genre Fiction Three-Day Workshop: “Traveling Down the Road Not Taken: Writing Alternate Histories from Ancient Byzantium to Virtual Reality.” Instructor: Rick Wilber.

Location: Taylor Hall 204

Day One: Writing the road not taken. We will look at a few classic and new alternate-history stories and analyze the craft. We will find some turning points in history and then learn how to conjure up a different future from an altered past. We will discuss the two main roads used by writers of alternate histories: time travel with all its paradoxes, and multiverse stories, with their thousands of possible realities. We’ll brainstorm our own ideas for an alternate-history story.

Day Two:  Making the road not taken seem real. How to craft the characters, setting and plot for our own alternate-history story. We’ll talk about internal consistency necessary to the plot, the believability of fictionalized real characters from history, and the importance of time and place in setting.  

Day Three: Outlining and Sketching the alternate-history story. We’ll get busy writing our own alternate-history story, starting with a turning point, a character sketch, a plan for the plot, and just the right setting. We’ll be ready to write some flash fiction! What if John Wilkes Booth’s Deringer misfired? What if the Nazis had built the first atom bomb? What if Empress Julia Domna kept Rome from its fall? We’ll write that key scene where it all changes and history is altered.

Rick Wilber is an award-winning writer, editor and teacher who has published more than forty short stories, several novels and short-story collections, two edited anthologies, a memoir, and a half-dozen college textbooks on writing and the mass media. Of alien Morning, his new novel for Tor Books, award-winning science fiction and fantasy author Julie Czerneda says, “Brilliantly crafted, fiercely real, Alien Morning is first contact as it may very well happen: experienced by one, shared by all who subscribe. Relentless and original, this is science fiction that matters now. Highly Recommended.” Rick is at work on the next book in the trilogy, Alien Day. Rick’s most recent college textbook is the introductory text, Media Matters (Kendall Hunt 2017), which introduces students to the history, business structure and possible futures of books, newspapers and magazines, sound recording, film, television, public relations, advertising, mass media research, free speech issues, social media and more. The book was written with significant help from colleagues Edward Jay Friedlander, Kelli Burns, Roxanne Watson and Kenneth Killebrew. Previous college textbooks from Rick include Modern Media Writing (Cengage Learning, 2002), with Randy Miller; The Writer’s Handbook for Editing and Revision (NTC, 1996) and Magazine Feature Writing (St. Martin’s Press, 1994). He is also the editor of the recent anthology Field of Fantasies: Baseball Stories of the Strange and Supernatural (Night Shade/Skyhorse, 2014), featuring nearly two-dozen classic baseball fantasy stories by writers ranging from Stephen King and Stewart O’Nan to Karen Joy Fowler, Jack Kerouac, Rod Serling, John Kessel, Harry Turtledove, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Robert Coover, Kim Stanley Robinson, Louise Marley, Ron Carlson, W.P. Kinsella, and many others. Other baseball-themed work includes the baseball mystery novel, Rum Point (McFarland, 2009) and the memoir, My Father’s Game: Life, Death, Baseball (McFarland, 2007) about the caregiving role and about his father’s career in baseball. Broad Street Review said it’s a book “about the mythology of baseball … written with fine observation and wry understatement, and may well become a classic in the literature.” Wilber lives in the St. Petersburg, Florida area of the West Coast of Florida and that area’s barrier islands have often figured into his stories and novels. A longtime journalism and mass-media professor, Wilber is administrator and co-founder with Sheila Williams, editor of Asimov’s Science Fiction magazine, of the Dell Magazines Award for Undergraduate Excellence in Science Fiction and Fantasy Writing, awarded annually at the Conference on the Fantastic in Orlando, Florida. 


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All three-day Critical Seminars meet Thursday, Saturday and Sunday, 7/19, 7/21 and 7/22, from 10:15 - 12:15. Cost: $200 in addition to registration.

Genre Fiction Critical Seminar: "Science Fiction and Creation Epics: A World-building Primer." Leader: Frederick Turner.

Taylor Hall 226

World-building, as in Burroughs, Heinlein, Asimov, Stapledon, Lewis, Tolkien, Niven, Anderson, Banks, Bear, Brin and Robinson, is one of the core arts of science fiction. But it is not a new art: many of the great epics of cultures all over the world since Gilgamesh and the Book of Genesis have pioneered the techniques of creating a believable world and populating it with characters we root for or want to see get their come-uppance. This seminar will explore many of the vital issues: hard science vs. compelling fantasy; implied backstories; the problem of exposition; the tricky interface with theology; what makes a myth mythic; point of view; plausibility of the imagined culture with its technology, economics, and anthropology; evolutionary and ecological realism; the morality of literal planoforming or geoengineering; and other topics of practical interest to writers and critical interest to fans.

Frederick Turner was born in Northamptonshire, England, in 1943. After spending several years in central Africa, he was educated at the University of Oxford (1962-67), where he obtained the degrees of BA, MA, and BLitt (a terminal degree equivalent to the PhD) in English Language and Literature. Naturalized as a U.S. citizen in 1977, he is Founders Professor of Arts and Humanities at the University of Texas at Dallas. He has held academic positions at the University of California at Santa Barbara, Kenyon College (where he was editor of the Kenyon Review), and the University of Exeter in England. Among his many books are Natural Classicism: Essays on Literature and ScienceShakespeare and the Nature of Time, Paradise (poetry), and two science fiction verse epics: Genesis and Apocalypse. His work has been translated and published in Albanian, French, German, Japanese, Hungarian, Italian, Macedonian, Rumanian, Russian, Spanish, Turkish, Vietnamese, and other languages. He has lectured or given poetry readings at over two hundred institutions in the U.S., Canada, and Western and Eastern Europe.

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