General Schedule (specific panels/workshops, time assignments, and speaker bios are below).

8:30 to 9:00: Registration packet pickup

9:00: Welcome and housekeeping notes

9:30 to 10:30: Session 1 workshops and panel discussions

10:45 to 11:45: Session 2 workshops and panel discussions

12:00 to 2:00: Speed Dating with Editors and Lunch.

2:15 to 3:30: Keynote panel — reading and discussion with featured authors

3:45 to 4:45: Session 3 workshops and panel discussion

4:45 to 6:00: Boxed wine happy hour, author signings, general milling about and merriment


Panel discussions and craft workshops

Below are times and summaries for our craft workshops and panel discussions so far (a few more will be added shortly).

Presenter bios are included at the bottom of this page.  

Session 1: 9:30 to 10:30


The Editor's Panel

What makes a story/poem/essay stand out in the slush pile? What do editors love? What are their secret pet peeves? This panel of literary magazine and small press editors is here to pull back the curtain and let you know what happens behind the scenes of the submission and rejection and acceptance process and answer your questions about publishing and the writing life. 

Publishing, cross-genre. Panelists: Nate Brown (American Short Fiction), Paula Whyman  (Scoundrel Time),  Marcos Martinez (Stillhouse Press), Allison Wright (Virginia Quarterly Review), Mark Drew (Gettysburg Review). Moderated by Joe Killiany (Barrelhouse)


Action Writing that Moves

Ah, it's that dreaded part of your story when your characters have been chatting and navel-gazing for way too long and now they actually have to get up and do something.  Yes, that part of your story that suddenly feels like an instruction manual: Mary threw the vase at Tom's head but it missed by three inches. Tom walked toward Mary and took his left hand and grabbed her blue t-shirt in his clenched fist and then he moved his right hand upward six inches into the air and then moved it down to hit her. By this time, he was close to her so he also took his right foot and wrapped it around her left foot to trip her but at the same time she was bringing both her hands around his throat. Agggh! We'll analyze various successful examples of action writing in both commercial and literary fiction and identify specific tips to help you write action scenes that are clear, smooth, and irresistibly engaging.

Fiction workshop with Amanda Miller


It's All About Us: Diversity in Speculative Fiction

Wait, hear me out: science fiction is not just about white guys in labs, or robots in space--it's also about us, ALL of us, our families and our communities. Developments in science and technology affect people of all genders, races, and nationalities, so we should all have a voice in exploring the changes we'll face. What lies in your future? How will climate change, genetic manipulation, or artificial intelligence affect you in the decades to come? And which presses are looking for your stories? Join us to start imagining--and writing--the world of the future!

Fiction workshop with Tara Campbell (Treevolution, Circe's BicycleBarrelhouse Fiction Editor). 


To Make the World in Words: Writing Poetry from Real Life

Our best material often comes from our lived experience, but that doesn’t make it any easier to write. Writing from real life presents its own thorny set of questions: How true does this have to be? What will people who know me think? This is real, but is it interesting? The poets on our panel will discuss how to navigate these questions and more, including the advantages poetry has over fiction and non-fiction when getting to the truth. 

Panelists: Dan Brady (Strange Children, Barrelhouse Poetry Editor), Celeste Doaks (Cornrows and Cornfields), Gina Myers (Philadelphia, The Tiny Editor)


Essaying and the Image

We find ourselves in a literary moment that is reconsidering the role of image in the essay. Writers like W.G. Sebald, Judith Kitchen, D.J. Waldie, and Kristen Radtke have been asking how we might effectively and artistically integrate image into essayistic form—and as literary nonfiction is published, increasingly, on digital platforms where imagery is essential to the reader’s experience of the work, the question is relevant to all of us. But it’s not an easy one to answer. To paraphrase longtime Fourth Genre editor Bob Root, the imagessay is a hybrid literary form, and like any hybrid literary form it offers challenges to artist and audience alike. This session will examine the role of image in the essay. During the first thirty minutes, workshop leader Kerry Folan will read from her imagessay “After the Death” and offer a short craft talk. During the second thirty minutes, participants will engage in a writing workshop, in which they create an imagessay of their own.

Nonfiction craft workshop with Kerry Folan


Finding time to write is like nailing jello to a tree

Just need the time to write?  Don't we all!!! Join this extraordinary panel of productive writers who SOMEHOW find time to write and do everything else -- and we get to learn their secrets! When Jim's kids were 0, 3 and 5, he worked full time at NIH, had a part-time security job, went to grad school at night, and spent a weekend a month doing Air National Guard duty, but managed to write an award-winning short story collection! Shelby has 4 kids, is a lawyer and a yoga instructor, has a husband who is an Ambassador and still found time for grad school and to write a book. Melissa teaches full-time at American, has three kids and her book, Flood, came out last summer to rave reviews (then there was the book tour!) -- she's also taking editorship of the Grace and Gravity series. Chris teaches full time at Rutgers, part-time at A Writer's Circle and NYU, has two teen age daughters who go to a ton of activities, and still writes and publishes. Cerece works full-time in International Development, has two children, writes super-cool science fiction novels, promotes the books at several Comic-Cons a year, is launching a new indie-sci platform for books -- Oh and they are all still married! Let's find out how they do this !!! The panel will tell their stories and give advice on how to manage all of their passions -- work, home and writing!

Moderator: Hildie Block Panelists:  Jim Mathews, Shelby Harper, Christina Kapp, Melissa Scholes Young, and Cerece Rennie Murphy.

Session 2: 10:45 to 11:45

Fracturing Form in Nonfiction

This craft session will get individuals to throw their voice in an effort to help them find it again, and to perhaps see it anew. To do this, they will look at excerpts from a few personal essays (e.g. "The Glass Essay" by Anne Carson, "I remember, I remember," by Mary Ruefle, "Notes from a Hypothetical Novel" by James Baldwin) and discuss how these authors use blank space, research, conceit and omission to demonstrate a more complex “I.” After discussion, writers will start playing around with their own writing, using tactics one might see in an actual arts and crafts class: they will cut, paste, and move their sentences around to see their work in a new light. The goal will be for writers to explore the range of possibilities for writing nonfiction, and to consider changing and fracturing their form based on their topic or subject matter.

Nonfiction workshop with Laura Gill

Stop Making Sense: How to Write Dialogue that Drives Character and Story Development

Too often, conversations in fiction look a lot like conversations in real life, which means they're boring and rarely reveal much about either character. The goal of this workshop is to demonstrate how the simple act of having characters never directly respond to each other can bring new insight into who the characters are, and make the story both more surprising and engaging. This workshop will use a variety of examples to illustrate the concepts. Participants will also have a chance to practice writing their own dialogue and sharing what they come up with.

Fiction. Craft Workshop with Giano Cromley (What We Build Upon the Ruins, The Last Good Halloween). 

Everything Is Genre: Writing Literary Speculative Fiction

Genre fiction plays a big role in modern literature, in terms of sales, cultural impact, and its influence on pop culture. Not only can genre fiction—defined as sci-fi, fantasy, magical realism, and all subgenres therein—draw in readers, it has the potential to reshape how they think about the world and their place in it. Despite this, there's always been a weird tension between "genre" and big-L Literary fiction that doesn't have to exist. This panel will discuss how that tension can be alleviated, and how to write fiction that is imaginative and strange without sacrificing the intangibles of literary fiction: character, plot, tone, and long-reaching artistic merit.

Fiction. Panel discussion with Dave K, (The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado), Justin Sanders (For All the Other Ghosts), Jennifer Lee (Baltimore Review), Sarah Pinsker (Nebula and Sturgeon award winner), and moderator Jen Michalski (The Summer She Was Under Water, From Here, The Tide King, JMWW Editor). 

Poetry of Engagement

For many of us, poetry is a powerful way to engage with the world, to grapple with the larger social, political, and human issues at work in our lives. But what happens when our world is in turmoil and some of our most important values are called into question? What is our responsibility as writers to support our community and take on political concerns in our writing? What communal and social roles can and should poets play in times of turmoil? And how do we keep from feeling silenced or overwhelmed by events? This panel will discuss how poets engage social and political concerns in their writing, as well as the role of poetry in the larger community.

Panel discussion with Holly Karapetkova (Washington Writers Publishing House), Susan Mockler (Noisy Souls), Sarah Trembath (This Past Was Waiting for Me), Katherine Young (Arlington Poet Laureate), Brother Yao.


Words that Matter: Using Your Writing Skills in Service to Others

As writers, we often see our craft as a lonely one. But there are ways to use our skills, talents and abilities to positively impact the lives of others. So, how might you do that? Using the presenter's experience writing with patients with cancer at West Virginia University's Cancer Institute's chemotherapy center as a guide, the session will explore ways to use writing for health, healing, and in other positive ways to enhance our communities. The session will touch on the practice of narrative medicine, a growing area of healthcare that integrates creative writing and narrative skill to the practice of medicine, and which may generate new opportunities for writers.

Panel discussion with Renee Nicholson (Narrative Medicine, WVU Health Science Centre), D'Real Graham (826 DC), Lacey Dunham (PEN/Faulkner Writers in Schools). 


Session 3: 3:45 to 4:45

Does Size Matter? Publishing Big and Small

Does size matter in publishing? What are the many paths from page to print? Writers will share their experiences publishing with traditional houses, university presses, reprints, and hybrid publishers. We'll talk about the pros and cons of size, how to hustle for publicity, and whether to invest in your own marketing plan.

Panel discussion with Melissa Scholes Young (Flood), Sarah Trembath (This Past Was Waiting for Me), Leslie Pietrzyk (Silver Girl, This Angel on My Chest).


Against Organic Storytelling: How to Write Better Stories Faster

If you’ve ever spent months—or even years—allowing a short story or a novel to move organically only to discover that you still don’t have a clue where it’s going or what it’s about, I’ve got good news for you: It doesn’t have to be this way. A commitment to line-level artistry need not condemn you to an eternity of artful (and aimless) meandering. But,  in order to become a more efficient writer, you may need to adopt potentially radical and new-to-you strategies for containing your prose. In this talk, I’ll introduce you to the notion of pre-fab storytelling structures, expose you to the work and ideas of writers who have adopted this strategy, share an editor’s-eye view of successful pacing, and offer you some templates and tips to get you started.  

Craft workshop with Sarah Anne Strickley (Fall Together)


Prose Brevity

Flash fiction and nonfiction (essay and memoir) are distinct genres that all show us the world from a fresh perspective. The best flash is urgent, captures our imagination, and leaves us breathless. Panelists will discuss the tools to help you write great flash. You will spend part of the hour writing your own flash piece.

Panel discussion/craft workshop with Tara Campbell (Treevolution, Circe's Bicycle), Tyrese Coleman (How to Sit), and Jan Elman Stout


When Enough is Enough: What Makes Short Poems Poems

Minimalism, compression, brevity. Whatever you call it, a certain critical mass is required in order for a poem to be a poem. Publishers, editors, and practitioners will discuss their penchant for short poems and what, to them, is required for entry into poemdom. 

Panel discussion with Chris Tonelli (Birds LLC), Ross White (Bull City Press), Crystal Smith (Backbone Press), and Jane-Rebecca Cannarella (HOOT).


Editors and Panelists

Dan Brady is the author of the poetry collection Strange Children (Publishing Genius, 2018), and two chapbooks, Cabin Fever / Fossil Record (Flying Guillotine Press) and Leroy Sequences (Horse Less Press). He is the poetry editor of Barrelhouse and lives in Arlington, Virginia with his wife and two kids. Learn more at

Tara Campbell ( is a fiction editor at Barrelhouse and an MFA candidate at American University. Prior publication credits include SmokeLong Quarterly, Masters Review, b(OINK), Booth, Spelk, Jellyfish Review, Strange Horizons, and Queen Mob's Teahouse. Her debut novel, TreeVolution, was published in 2016, and her collection, Circe's Bicycle, was released in spring 2018.

Giano Cromley is the author of the story collection What We Build Upon the Ruins, and the novel The Last Good Halloween, which was a finalist for the High Plains Book Award. His writing has appeared in The Threepenny Review, Literal Latte, the Chicago Tribune, and the German edition of Le Monde diplomatique among others. He is the recipient of an Artists Fellowship from the Illinois Arts Council, and he is the chair of the Communications Department at Kennedy-King College in Chicago.

Lacey N. Dunham is the Writers in Schools Director at the PEN/Faulkner Foundation, where she leads the development of new initiatives and partnerships. She has fifteen years of experience in arts, publishing, and literacy and writing education, and has worked for Politics & Prose and 826DC, among others. Lacey is also fiction editor at the literary journal Necessary Fiction and formerly worked for A Public Space, Electric Literature, served as a judge for the Minnesota Book Awards, and has edited several anthologies. Her fiction, essays, and reviews have appeared in Ploughshares (online), Midwestern Gothic, The Other Stories, The Collagist, and Full Stop. Find her on Twitter @bookbent.

Kerry Folan’s creative nonfiction has appeared or is forthcoming in the, Literary Hub, the Southeast Review, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and River Teeth, among others. She received her MFA from George Mason University, where she was awarded the Mary Roberts Rinehart Nonfiction Award and a Thesis Fellowship. She is now an Assistant Professor in the English Department at GMU and lives on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.

Laura Gill is a writer and photographer living in Washington, D.C. She earned her MFA from Bennington College, and her essays are forthcoming in Agni, The Carolina Quarterly and Swamp Ape Review. Other essays have been published in Electric Literature, Entropy, Windmill, Memoir Mixtapes, Solidago, and The Blue Mesa Review.

D’Real Graham has helped inspire students to develop zany stories across the 826 National network of writing and tutoring centers since 2007. A former in-school volunteer and full-time staffer, D’Real has five years of hands-on experience managing programs at 826michigan. Before relocating from the midwest to Washington, D.C., late-Spring 2017, D’Real served as a Commissioner on Human Relations, a Community-Police Relations Task Force sub-committee member focused on incentivizing residency for first responders, and an advisor at Radical Washtenaw in Ypsilanti, MI. He currently studies creative writing in addition to gender, culture and representation at Howard University. D’Real enjoys designing hashtags, traveling by bicycle, and eating pistachios.

Dave K's work has appeared in Front Porch Journal, Cobalt, The Avenue, Welter, Queen Mob’s Teahouse, [PANK], and on the LED billboard in Baltimore, MD’s Station North Arts District. He is the author of The Bong-Ripping Brides of Count Drogado (November 2017, Mason Jar Press). 

Jennifer Lee is a graduate of the Johns Hopkins MA Writing Program and an editor at the Baltimore Review. Her work has appeared in JMWW, Phoebe, the Bellevue Literary Review, The Greensboro Review, Monkeybicycle, and elsewhere. Her work has won the Maryland Writers’ Association short fiction prize and has been nominated for a Pushcart Award. She is currently hard at work on a looming science fiction project, among other things. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, where she teaches middle school math and pursues her interests.

Jen Michalski lives in Baltimore, Maryland. She was voted one of the best authors in Maryland by CBS News, one of "50 Women to Watch" by The Baltimore Sun, and "Best Writer" by Baltimore Magazine (Best of Baltimore issue, 2013). Her debut novel THE TIDE KING was published by Black Lawrence Press (2013; winner of the Big Moose Prize and "Best Fiction,"Baltimore City Paper, 2013), and also her second novel, THE SUMMER SHE WAS UNDER WATER (Black Lawrence Press, December 2017, originally published by QFP). She is the founding editor of the weekly literary journal jmww, host of the monthly reading series Starts Here! in Baltimore, and interviews writers at The Nervous Breakdown.

Amanda Hart Miller is the faculty advisor of the Hedge Apple, the literary magazine of Hagerstown Community College, where she teaches English and Creative Writing. Her work has appeared in The Potomac Review, PANK, Bartleby Snopes, and elsewhere, and she has an M.A. in Fiction Writing from Johns Hopkins University.

Gina Myers is the author of two full-length poetry collections, A Model Year (2009) and Hold It Down (2013), as well as several chapbooks, including most recently Philadelphia (Barrelhouse, 2017). In addition to poetry, she has published numerous essays, reviews, and articles for a variety of publications, including Hyperallergic, Frontier Psychiatrist, Fanzine, The Rumpus, and The Poetry Project Newsletter, among other places. Originally from Saginaw, MI, she now lives in Philadelphia, PA, where she works as a web content writer and social media specialist, co-edits the tiny with Gabriella Torres, and runs the Accidental Player reading series. Find her online at

Renée K. Nicholson is assistant professor in the Programs for Multi- and Interdisciplinary Studies Program at West Virginia University, the author of the poetry collection Roundabout Directions to Lincoln Center (Urban Farmhouse Press, 2014) and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology Bodies of Truth: Personal Stories on Illness, Disability, and Medicine (University of Nebraska Press, 2019). Renée was the 2011 Emerging Writer-in-Residence at Penn State-Altoona, and her writing has appeared in Poets & Writers, Moon City Review, The Superstition Review, Electric Literature, The Gettysburg Review and elsewhere. Her creative collaborations include a narrative medicine project writing with over fifty patients with cancer receiving care at the WVU Cancer Institute. She was awarded the Susan S. Landis award for Distinguished Service to the Arts by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History in 2018.

Leslie Pietrzyk is the author of the novel Silver Girl, released in February 2018 by Unnamed Press, and called “profound, mesmerizing, and disturbing” in a Publishers Weekly starred review. Her collection of unconventionally linked short stories, This Angel on My Chest, won the 2015 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was published by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Kirkus Reviews named it one of the 16 best story collections of the year, Her previous novels are Pears on a Willow Tree and A Year and a Day.

Sarah Pinsker is the author of the novelette Our Lady of the Open Road, winner of the Nebula Award in 2016. Her novelette In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind, was the Sturgeon Award winner in 2014 and a Nebula finalist for 2013. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Lightspeed, Daily Science Fiction, Fireside and Uncanny and in anthologies including Long Hidden, Fierce Family, Accessing the Future, and numerous year's bests. Sarah's first collection, Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea: Stories will be published by Small Beer Press in 2019.

Justin Sanders is a ghost from Baltimore and the author of for all the other ghosts: true fiction. His words have recently appeared in The Avenue Journal and on the city's walls. 

Sarah Anne Strickley is the author of the forthcoming short story collection, Fall Together (Gold Wake Press, 2018). She’s a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing fellowship, an Ohio Arts grant, a Glenn Schaeffer Award from the International Institute of Modern Letters, and other honors. Her stories and essays have appeared in Oxford American, A Public Space, Witness, Harvard Review, Gulf Coast, The Southeast Review, The Normal School, the Cincinnati Review, and elsewhere. She’s a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and earned her PhD from the University of Cincinnati. She teaches creative writing and serves as faculty editor of Miracle Monocle at the University of Louisville.

Sarah Trembath is an instructor in the Writing Studies Program at American University. She is a graduate of Temple University in Philadelphia and Howard University in Washington, DC. She is a poet and performance artist whose work has appeared in The Rumpus, Everyday Feminism, Azure, and Sally Hemings Dreams 'zine. Her first book, This Past Was Waiting for Me, is expected out this Spring. She lives in Anacostia, SE with her husband and son.

Paula Whyman is the author of You May See a Stranger, a linked story collection that won praise from The New Yorker and a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Paula was awarded the 2017 Towson Prize for Literature. Her writing has appeared in McSweeney’s Quarterly, Ploughshares, VQR, and The Washington Post, and on NPR’s All Things Considered. She is a fellow of The MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, VCCA, and The Studios of Key West, and Vice President of The MacDowell Colony Fellows Executive Committee. Before earning her MFA, Paula edited books for the American Psychological Association. She is the founder and editor of Scoundrel Time literary journal. 

Melissa Scholes Young is the author of the novel Flood. Her writing has appeared in the Atlantic, Washington Post, Narrative, Ploughshares, Poet Lore, and Poets & Writers. She’s a Contributing Editor for Fiction Writers Review and Editor of the Grace & Gravity anthology. She is an Associate Professor in the Department of Literature at American University in Washington, D.C.