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.


Panel #1:

"Writing for Middle Grade & Young Adult Readers."

Russell Davis, Moderator, with Candace Nadon, Rick Wilber, and Heather Sappenfield.

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

Writing for middle grade and young adult readers is a special skill, where knowing 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.


Workshop #1:

"Unclogging Our Pipes: How to Beat Writer's Block." Instructor: Russell Davis.

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

There's a lot of mythology in the writing community about what writer's block is -- or isn't -- and a lot of advice on how to overcome it. This workshop will explore some of those ideas, as well as present a series of potential solutions on how to overcome writer's block permanently.

Workshop #2:

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

Saturday, July 21, 2:00 - 4:00 pm, 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.  

Workshop #3:

"The Stories We Crave."

Instructor: Heather Sappenfield.

Sunday, July 22, 2:00 - 4:00 pm, 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.


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.

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.


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.

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.