Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference Speakers

Craft your best work with the help of these savvy experts. Plus, learn how to effectively position your novel in order to pitch to publishers or explore options beyond traditional publishing with the help of industry insiders. Writer’s Digest’s 90+-year history as the go-to resource for writers means we can bring the most knowledgeable, inspiring and helpful editors, literary agents, writers and publishing experts to share their expertise with you.

Check back often to see our growing list of speakers. And be sure to sign up for our e-newsletter to receive updates!

Martha Alderson, How Do I Plot a Novel, The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master

Martha Alderson


Martha Alderson, author of The Plot Whisperer: Secrets of Story Structure Any Writer Can Master, is known as “The Plot Whisperer” for the help she offers writers worldwide.

She is the founder of the award-winning blog The Plot Whisperer; the vlog: How Do I Plot a Novel, Memoir, Screenplay?; and International PlotWriMo. Her books include The Plot Whisperer series. She teaches plot to novelists, memoirists, and screenwriters privately and on-line.

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Porter Anderson

Porter Anderson

Journalist, Critic, Writer, Speaker in Publishing

Porter Anderson is a career journalist whose venues have included three of Time Warner’s CNN networks, the Village Voice, the Dallas Times Herald, Dallas Observer, D Magazine, the Tampa Tribune, the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, and other media.

Anderson’s roles in newspapers, magazines, network television, and online network news have included critic, reporter, editor, managing editor, news anchor, content coordinator and senior producer. Anderson’s weekly Porter Anderson Meets column appears in the The Bookseller magazine in Lon­don on Fridays. Anderson publishes frequent Writing on the Ether columns on the New York-based ThoughtCatalog.com site, and updates on all his columns can be found at PorterAndersonMedia.com

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Philip Athans, Athans & Associates Creative Consulting, The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction

Philip Athans

New York Times Bestselling Author of Annihilation, Baldur’s Gate, and Realms of the Elves

Philip Athans is the founding partner of Athans & Associates Creative Consulting, former senior managing editor for TSR/Wizards of the Coast, and the New York Times best-selling author of Annihilation and a dozen other fantasy and horror books including The Guide to Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction and the recently-released Devils of the Endless Deep.

He contributed an article on the state of the genres to the upcoming Writer’s Digest Books release of Writing Fantasy & Science Fiction and is hard at work on The Guide to Writing Monsters & Aliens, also for Writer’s Digest Books. Born in Rochester, New York he grew up in suburban Chicago, where he published the literary magazine Alternative Fiction & Poetry. His blog, Fantasy Author’s Handbook, is updated every Tuesday, and you can follow him on Twitter @PhilAthans. He makes his home in the foothills of the Washington Cascades, east of Seattle.

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Annie Bomke

Annie Bomke

Literary Agent, Annie Bomke Literary Agency

Annie represents a wide variety of fiction and nonfiction.

This includes: mainstream and literary fiction, historical fiction, multi-cultural fiction, thrillers, YA, self-help, business, health/diet, cookbooks, memoir, current events, psychology, narrative nonfiction, and humor. She does not represent sci-fi, romance, paranormal, fantasy, mid-grade, or children's picture books

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Larry Brooks, Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling

Larry Brooks

USA Today Bestselling Author of Darkness Bound, Bait & Switch, and Whisper of the Seventh Thunder

Larry Brooks is the bestselling author of six novels, all psychological thrillers. His latest novel is Whisper of the Seventh Thunder.

His five previous novels include the USA Today bestseller Darkness Bound, and Bait and Switch, a “Best Books of 2004” selection by Publishers Weekly. He is the author of Story Engineering: Mastering the Six Core Competencies of Successful Storytelling, winner of the 2011 Next Generation Indie Awards in the Nonfiction Book category, and Story Physics: Harnessing the Underlying Forces of Storytelling. He is also the creator of Storyfix.com, named one of the “101 Best Websites for Writers” by the readers of Writer’s Digest magazine. He lives with his wife, Laura, in Scottsdale, Arizona, and is currently working on his next thriller.

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Mary Buckham, Invisible Recruit series

Mary Buckham


USA Today Bestselling author Mary Buckham credits her years of international travel and curiosity about different cultures that resulted in creating high-concept urban fantasy and romantic suspense stories.

Her newest Invisible Recruit series has been touted for the unique voice, high action and rich emotion. A prolific writer, Mary also co-authors the young adult sci-fi/fantasy Red Moon series with NYT bestselling author Dianna Love.

Mary lives in Washington State with her husband and, when not crafting a new adventure, she travels the country researching settings and teaching other writers. She is also the author of the highly regarded book of writing instruction Writing Active Setting.

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Adam Cushman, President of Red 14 Films

Adam Cushman

President, Red 14 Films

Adam Cushman holds an MFA in fiction writing from Columbia University.

He is the President of Red 14 Films and the producer of over 100 cinematic book trailers. His novel CUT is published by Black Mountain Press.

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Christopher Farnsworth, author of the Nathaniel Cade

Christopher Farnsworth

Author, Nathaniel Cade series

Christopher Farnsworth is the author of the Nathaniel Cade series, about a vampire who works for the President of the United States.

Books in the series include Blood Oath; The President’s Vampire; and Red, White, and Blood, all available from G.P. Putman’s Sons. A short novella about Cade, The Burning Men, is available from Amazon.com. Christopher’s next book is a stand-alone thriller about the Fountain of Youth to be published by William Morrow in 2015. Prior to becoming a novelist, Christopher worked as an investigative and business reporter for several years, before selling his first script, The Academy, to MGM. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, the New Republic, Washington Monthly, and on The Awl.

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Jeff Gerke

Jeff Gerke


Jeff Gerke has been called the de facto gatekeeper of Christian speculative fiction.

After writing his own speculative fiction and spearheading the launch of a fiction imprint dedicated to Christian speculative fiction at a major Christian publishing company, Jeff branched out on his own to launch Marcher Lord Press, an Indie publishing house whose several major awards lend credence to its claim of being the premier publisher of Christian speculative fiction. His fiction how-to book The Art & Craft of Writing Christian Fiction is available through Amazon or Marcher Lord Press, and Plot Versus Character, his first craft book from Writer’s Digest Books, released in 2010. His new WD fiction craft book, The First 50 Pages, released in October 2011. Jeff lives in Colorado Springs with his wife and three children. Published Nonfiction Books: The First 50 Pages (Writers Digest) Plot Versus Character (Writers Digest) The Art and Craft of Writing Christian Fiction(Marcher Lord Press) Novels: Virtually Eliminated, Terminal Logic, Fatal Defect, Operation: Firebrand, Operation: Firebrand—Crusade, Operation: Firebrand—Deliverance.

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Deborah Halverson, Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, Writing New Adult Fiction, Honk If You Hate Me

Deborah Halverson

Author, Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, Writing New Adult Fiction, Honk If You Hate Me

Deborah Halverson edited children’s books for ten years—until she climbed over the desk and tried out the author’s chair on the other side.

Now she is the award-winning author of Writing Young Adult Fiction For Dummies, the forthcoming Writing New Adult Fiction, the teen novels Honk If You Hate Me and Big Mouth, the picture book Letters to Santa, and three books in Remix series for struggling readers. Armed with a master’s degree in American literature and a fascination with pop culture, she sculpts stories from extreme events and places—tattoo parlors, fast-food joints, and, most extreme of all, high schools.
In addition, Deborah is a freelance editor, writing instructor, and founder of the popular writers’ advice website DearEditor.com. She speaks extensively at workshops and conferences for writers and edits adult fiction and nonfiction while specializing in teen fiction and picture books. She has been working with authors—bestsellers, veterans, debut, and aspiring—for over fifteen years. The books she’s edited have garnered awards and rave reviews, and many of the aspiring writers she’s coached have landed agent representation and lucrative book deals. She lives with her husband and triplet sons in San Diego, California.

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Jonathan Maberry, Top Ten Horror Writers, Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Patient Zero, Ghost Road Blues, Dead of Nigh

Jonathan Maberry

New York Times Bestselling Author of Rot & Ruin, Flesh & Bone, and Code Zero

Jonathan Maberry is a New York Times bestselling author, as well as a multiple Bram Stoker Award winning horror and thriller author, editor, comic book writer, magazine feature writer, playwright and writing teacher/lecturer.

He was named one of the Today’s Top Ten Horror Writers and his books have been sold to more than two dozen countries. His novels nominated for awards include Rot & Ruin, Dust & Decay, Patient Zero, Ghost Road Blues, Dead of Night and The Wolfman.

His award-winning nonfiction works include The Cryptopedia, (co-authored by David F. Kramer), Zombie CSU: The Forensics of the Living Dead and Wanted Undead or Alive (co-authored by Janice Gable Bashman).

Jonathan’s Big Scary Blog (www.jonathanmaberry.com) focuses on the publishing industry. His interviews include Sandra Brown, Charlaine Harris, James Rollins, Harlan Coben, John Saul, Jonathan Kellerman, Barry Eisler, CJ Box, Laurell K. Hamilton, Dale Brown, Kevin J. Anderson and Joe Lansdale, among many other bestselling authors.

Jonathan has been a popular writing teacher and career counselor for writers for the last two decades. He teaches a highly regarded series of classes and workshops including Write Your Novel in Nine Months, Act Like a Writer, Revise & Sell, Experimental Writing for Teens and others. Many of his students have gone on to obtain representation and/or publish in short and novel-length fiction, magazine feature writing, nonfiction books, TV, film and comics.

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Josh Malerman, Novelist/Musician, Bird Box

Josh Malerman

Novelist/Musician, Bird Box

Josh Malerman is the author of Bird Box (out on ECCO/HarperCollins) as well as a member of the High Strung, with his childhood best friends, whose song "the Luck You Got" can be heard on Showtime's hit show Shameless.

In a slightly more perfect world, he'd release a book a month.

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Jill Marr, Acquiring Agent, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Jill Marr

Acquiring Agent, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

Jill graduated from San Diego State University with a B.A. in English with an emphasis in Creative Writing and a minor in History.

She has a strong Internet and media background and nearly 15 years of publishing experience. She wrote features and ads for Pages, the literary magazine for people who love books, and continues to write book ads for publishing houses, magazine pieces, and promotional features for television. After writing ad copy and features for published books for years, she knows how to find the "hook" and sell it.

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David Morrell, New York Times Bestselling Author of First Blood, The Brotherhood of the Rose, and Murder as a Fine Art

David Morrell

New York Times Bestselling Author of First Blood, The Brotherhood of the Rose, and Murder as a Fine Art

David Morrell is the author of First Blood, the award-winning novel in which Rambo was created.

He holds a Ph. D. in American literature from Penn State and was a professor in the English department at the University of Iowa. His numerous New York Times bestsellers include the classic spy novel, The Brotherhood of the Rose (the basis for the only television mini-series to be broadcast after a Super Bowl). An Edgar, Anthony, and Macavity nominee, Morrell is a recipient of three Bram Stoker awards from the Horror Writers Association as well as the prestigious Thriller Master award from the International Thriller Writers organization. His work has been translated into 26 languages. A popular writing instructor and speaker, he is also the author of The Successful Novelist, in which he discusses what he learned in his 42-year career as a published author. Please visit him at www.davidmorrell.net.

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Barbara O'Neal, The Lost Recipe For Happiness, How to Bake a Perfect Life and seven-time RITA award-winner

Barbara O'Neal

Author, The Lost Recipe For Happiness, How to Bake a Perfect Life and seven-time RITA award-winner

Barbara O’Neal is the author of more than 40 novels.

She sold her first novel in her twenties, and has since won many, many awards, including seven prestigious RITA awards from The Romance Writers of America. In 2012, she was inducted into the Romance Writers of America Hall of Fame. Her novel The Lost Recipe For Happiness went back to print eight times, was published in seven countries, and How to Bake a Perfect Life was a Target Book Club Pick, sold to more than a dozen countries, and continues to be a reader favorite. She travels internationally presenting workshops, hiking hundreds of miles, and of course, eating. She lives with her partner, a British endurance athlete, and their collection of cats and dogs, in Colorado Springs.

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Jordan Rosenfeld, Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time

Jordan Rosenfeld


Jordan E. Rosenfeld is author of Make a Scene: Crafting a Powerful Story One Scene at a Time (Writer's Digest), Write Free: Attracting the Creative Life (BeijaFlor Press, with Rebecca Lawton) and two suspense novels Night Oracle and Forged in Grace.

She is working on two forthcoming books for Writer’s Digest: A Writer’s Guide to Persistence and, with Martha Alderson, Deep Scenes.

Jordan is also Managing Editor at Sweatpants & Coffee, an online magazine (sweatpantsandcoffee.com), a former contributing editor to Writer's Digest magazine and her many publications include Alternet.org, Publisher’s Weekly, the San Francisco Chronicle, The St. Petersburg Times, Whole Life Times, The Writer magazine and many more. Her book commentaries have been featured on NPR-Affiliate KQED’s radio magazine, “The California Report.” Visit her website for classes, editing, and book information: www.jordanrosenfeld.net

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Helga Schier, Founder and Owner,withpenandpaper.com

Helga Schier

Founder and Owner,withpenandpaper.com

Helga Schier, Ph.D., is the founder and owner of withpenandpaper.com, an independent consultant and editorial services firm.

With over 20 years of experience in the book publishing industry, formerly serving as editor and executive editor in several publishing houses, Ms. Schier guides authors through the development and revision process. Handling a manuscript like a diamond in the rough, Helga’s editorial work focuses on the refinement of story, character, and stylistic issues, helping writers unlock the potential of their manuscripts. Her clients are published, self-published, and not-yet-published writers. Ms. Schier has published essayistic works on contemporary English and American fiction, and has translated several screenplays, memoirs, and a novel series. She is a member of the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the American Literary Translators Association, the Editorial Freelancers Association, and GLAWS.

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Phil Sexton, publisher of Writer's Digest

Phil Sexton

Publisher, Writer's Digest

Phil Sexton is the Publisher of Writer’s Digest.

Over more than 20 years in the book business, he has served in numerous capacities, including Vice President of Sales for F+W Media, Sales Director of Adams Media, Director of Merchandising for United Magazine Company and Independent Bookseller. He is the author of A Picture is Worth 1000 Words, Legends of Literature and The Writer’s Lab (Oct 2012), and co-author of The Writer’s Book of Matches. He is also the co-founder and co-editor of the much loved (and sorely missed) literary journal, Fresh Boiled Peanuts.

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Susan Shapiro, Journalist/Author/Professor, The New School, New York University

Susan Shapiro

Journalist/Author/Professor, The New School, New York University

Susan Shapiro, a Manhattan journalism instructor, has written for the New York Times, Washington Post, Newsweek, Salon, Psychology Today and Writer's Digest.

She's author of nine books including the acclaimed memoirs Lighting Up, Five Men Who Broke My Heart, Only As Good as Your Word and coauthor of the new memoir from Penguin, The Bosnia List.

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Ken Sherman, Literary Agent, Ken Sherman & Associates

Ken Sherman

Literary Agent, Ken Sherman & Associates

Ken Sherman is President of Ken Sherman & Associates, a Los Angeles based literary agency.

The company was established in 1989, and handles film, television, and book writers, as well as selling film and television rights for books and life-rights.

An agent for more than twenty years, Ken is also a popular and accomplished speaker, having taught and lectured extensively at venues including UCLA, USC, Loyola Marymount University, both in New Orleans and Los Angeles, The Santa Barbara Writers’ conference, the American Film Institute, The San Francisco Writers Conference, The Maui Writers Conference, Writer's Digest Conferences, The University of Oklahoma, Sherwood Oaks Experiment College, The Santa Fe Writers Conference, The Novelists, Inc. Conference in San Diego, The Aspen Institute, the Aspen Summers Words Writers Conference and The Eugene International Film Festival where he just received a lifetime achievement award.

Since graduating from the University of California-Berkeley with a major in psychology, Ken has returned numerous times to the classroom to teach his course, “The Business of Writing for Screen, Television and the Publishing Worlds,” at both USC and UCLA. He also co-taught a screenwriting class for many years at the Eugene International Film Festival.

Ken maintains strong community involvement as well, serving as an Arts and Cultural Affairs Commissioner for the City of West Hollywood, is a founding member of the British Academy of Film and Television/Los Angeles (BAFTA), and is a member of both the Academy of Television Arts and Science and the International Advisory Board of the Christopher Isherwood Foundation.

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Dan Smetanka, Executive Editor, Counterpoint Press

Dan Smetanka

Executive Editor, Counterpoint Press

Daniel Smetanka has worked in publishing for over twenty years.

As an Executive Editor at Ballantine/Random House, he acquired and published award-winning debut books including The Ice Harvest by Scott Philips, The Speed of Light by Elizabeth Rosner, Down to a Soundless Sea by Thomas Steinbeck, Swimming by Joanna Hershon, and Among the Missing by Dan Chaon, a 2001 finalist for the National Book Award. He's now Executive Editor for Counterpoint Press, one of the largest independent publishers in the country, one of the few located on the west coast. His fiction projects include works by Thomas Steinbeck, Scott Phillips, Craig Nova, Ilie Ruby, Neil Jordan, Dana Johnson, Isaac Adamson, Karen E. Bender, Joshua Mohr, Tara Ison, Maria Hummel, Thaisa Frank, Andrea Portes, Kim Addonizio, Tod Goldberg, and Laura Pritchett.

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Carlie Webber, Literary Agent, CK Webber Associates

Carlie Webber

Literary Agent, CK Webber Associates

Carlie Webber refused to major in English in college because no one would let her read Stephen King or R.L. Stine for class.

She took her love of young adult and commercial fiction to the University of Pittsburgh, where she obtained a Master of Library and Information Science. For ten years, she worked as a public librarian serving teens and adults, served on book awards committees, and reviewed books professionally for journals including Kirkus Reviews and VOYA. Wishing to pursue her interest in the business side of books, she enrolled in the Columbia Publishing Course and began working in literary agencies. She is seeking all genres of YA and middle grade, and in the adult realm she is looking for thrillers, mysteries, suspense, women’s fiction, contemporary science fiction and fantasy, horror, general and literary fiction, and contemporary romance. Some of her recent reads include Midnight Crossroad by Charlaine Harris, Panic by Lauren Oliver, and Inland<>/ by Kat Rosenfield.

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Fred White, Ph. D.

Fred White, Ph. D.

Professor Emeritus, Santa Clara University

Fred White, Ph.D., is professor emeritus at Santa Clara University. Fred has taught courses in writing and literature for nearly forty years.

He received his B.A. and M.A. degrees in English from the University of Minnesota (1967, 1973) and his Ph.D. in English from the University of Iowa(1980). In 1996, he won the Louis and Dorina Brutocao Award for Teaching Excellence. He is also the author of several books on writing and literary criticism, including The Well-Crafted Argument, 2nd edition (Houghton Mifflin, 2005), Lifewriting (Quill Driver Books, 2004), The Daily Writer (Writer’s Digest Books, 2008), The Daily Reader (Writer’s Digest Books, 2009), Where Do You Get Your Ideas? (Writer’s Digest Books, 2012), and The Writer’s Idea Thesaurus (Writer’s Digest Books, September 2014).

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