Workshops and Presenter Bios for 2018 Summer Conference

The following are the workshop descriptions and presenter bios pertaining to the West Virginia Writers 2018 Summer Conference.  

Please check back here for updates which will appear in REDUPDATED 5/9/18



Fran Allred, also a co-owner of We Edit Books, was a reporter and editor for two West Virginia daily newspapers for a combined 35 years. She was the first woman to be named top newsroom editor of a daily newspaper in West Virginia. She was elected to the Marshall University Journalism Hall of Fame. Fran believes writers should self-edit, find friends and fellow writers to critique their work, and make every attempt to improve their writing skills. All of that still doesn’t equal a trained, experienced, impartial editor whose goal is to help writers find success.

Mickey Johnson has been an editor for more than 35 years. Most writers who have worked with him will tell you it seems much longer. A Huntington resident, he has edited newspapers and books in six states, written and published two books, and has affectionately annoyed countless reporters and authors. The aim in every instance was to improve their work, and to help them reach higher in attaining their goals. He believes that success is best achieved by developing and maintaining a partnership between author and editor. As co-founder of We Edit Books, he borrows his guiding principle from legendary Charles Scribner’s Sons editor Max Perkins: The book belongs to the author.

Workshop: The Editing Edge - Every author’s goal is to see her or his dream on the printed page. Huntington editors Fran Allred and Mickey Johnson will explain how comprehensive and professional editing can provide writers with the advantage they need to convince publishers to seriously consider their work. And, most important, to get it in front of readers. Allred and Johnson also will demonstrate how editors can assist writers in steering their work toward consistency in clarity of style, dialogue, development of plot and characters, and the use of precise language. The workshop also will focus on the importance of creating a strong relationship between author and editor.


BIO: Belinda Anderson is the author of four books, published by Mountain State Press. Her first three books are short story collections: The Well Ain't Dry Yet, The Bingo Cheaters and Buckle Up, Buttercup. Her most recent book, Jackson Vs. Witchy Wanda: Making Kid Soup, is a middle-grade novel.  Her literary work was selected for inclusion on the first official literary map of West Virginia, published by Fairmont State University.  Belinda also works individually with other writers and presents workshops for children as well as adults. During one presentation, a third-grader asked her if she was famous. “Yes,” she said immediately. She also might have actually said out loud, “In my own mind, anyway.”  She is the Writer-in-Residence at the Federal Prison Camp for women in Alderson, where she teaches five different writing courses. “It has been a profound experience,” she says.

WORKSHOP #1:  Poetic Devices in Prose - Come explore techniques for elevating your craft. Play with poetic devices that add interest, rhythm, lyricism and punch to any type of writing.

WORKSHOP #2: Story Starters - You want to write, but how to shift your creative mindset from neutral into forward motion? This workshop provides story starters and strategies for you to take home to keep the creative juices flowing. If you’re looking for ideas, you’ll find fodder for new work. If you’re already engaged in projects, join us and discover a new creative perspective.



BIO: LAURA TREACY BENTLEY, poet, novelist, and point-and-shoot photographer, is the author of a new chapbook/artbook, Looking for Ireland: An Irish Appalachian Pilgrimage, a psychological thriller set in Ireland, The Silver Tattoo, a short story prequel, Night Terrors, and a poetry collection, Lake Effect. Laura has been widely published in the United States and Ireland and received a Fellowship Award for Literature from the WV Commission on the Arts. She was featured on A Prairie Home Companion, Poetry Daily, O Magazine, and honored to read her poetry with Ray Bradbury in 2003 and to sign with Nora Roberts in 2017.

WORKSHOP:  Page to Stage: The Last Poem   (Advanced Poetry Workshop with two Friday sessions for up to 15 pre-registered students)   The power of poetry is our focus. Students will bring fifteen copies of one powerful poem to read aloud that is one page or less long. Every student will receive 15 different poems to read and keep.  Students will write a draft of a brand-new poem on Friday and meet again in late afternoon to refine and polish it in small critique groups. Friday evening they will read their new poem on the Assembly Hall stage before an audience.

To register for this workshop, please send an email with your intention to do so to Conference Coordinator and WVW President Eliot Parker at


BIO: A.J. DeLauder is a playwright, actor, and teacher. He has authored eight full-length plays, including Gracefully Ending, winner of the 2016 AACT NewPlayFest and published by Dramatic Publishing. Select productions/developments include with the Baltimore Playwrights Festival, Barter’s Festival of Appalachian Playwrights, Pocahontas County Drama Workshop, and FreeFall Baltimore. For 2018, three of his plays are being published by Vintage Publishing, and his play The Redemption of Rube Moats will have its world premiere with Lab Theatre Projects of Tampa, Florida. He is a co-founder of the O.R.B. New Play Reading Series with Theatre on the Lake (MD) and a proud member of the Dramatists Guild.

WORKSHOP #1: Desire and Subtext in Dialogue: Bridging the Gap Between Wants and Needs (Play Writing).  You don't mean that... Or do you? This class will focus on how characters get what they want without having to blatantly ask for it. You know, just like we do in real life. This class will also examine what it means to write dialogue that is “on the nose,” how to spot clichés, and how to edit dialogue so that it doesn’t languish and seem overwritten. And of course, we’ll perform it all!

WORKSHOP #2: Metaphorically Speaking (Play Writing).  A Long Day’s Journey into Night, A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesman. Theatre is chock full of metaphors, motifs, and symbols, from play titles to set designs to monologues. These tropes communicate a playwright’s intentions in ways that mere words simply can’t. In this class, writers will select a metaphor and build all aspects of a scene (lighting, sound, set design, and dialogue) around that trope to illustrate a deeper truth about their characters and the world in which they live.


BIO:  Heather Day Gilbert  is the award-winning, bestselling author of eight independently published books, and she is currently writing a three-book cozy mystery series for Kensington Books. Proud of her West Virginia heritage, Heather has set two of her series in our mountain state. Heather is represented by Julie Gwinn at The Seymour Agency. Find out more at

WORKSHOP #1: THREE STAGES OF BUZZ-BUILDING - Authors have to be more involved in marketing their books than ever before. Effectively building buzz for your book involves three stages—pre-release, release, and post-release buzz building. The tips from this session will help you launch your book effectively and maintain a growing reader/marketing platform.

WORKSHOP #2: INDIE PUBLISHING FROM THE GROUND UP -  In this session, we will examine the four key elements you will have to manage (outsource or become proficient at yourself) when you become an independent publisher of your novels: Editing, Cover Art/Blurb, Formatting/Uploading, Marketing.


BIO - John Patrick Grace says “If you can tell a joke, you can write humor” (Or at least have one of your characters get the reader to crack a smile or even laugh out loud.)  While not known as a humorist himself, Grace has edited a number of memoirs where humor was part of the mix.  A former Associated Press reporter (Chicago), editor (New York) and foreign correspondent, Grace runs Publishers Place in Huntington, a regional 501-c-3 nonprofit publishing consortium.  He also writes a weekly column for The Huntington Herald-Dispatch.   He is the author or coauthor of six nonfiction books.

WORKSHOP #1: Writing Fiction from Real-Life Experiences, Personalities - There’s actually a classic French term for such novels - “Roman a Clef” (novel with a key) -  A novel that tells the story of real people, often using fictitious names.  In our country, in books and films, we’re used to seeing the tagline “Based on a True Story.”  At the not-for-profit regional publisher where I am executive director, this is the only kind of fiction we publish.  Highly successful examples: Father’s Troubles by Carter Taylor Seaton, Witness at Hawks Nest by Dwight Harshbarger. And Breakdown at Clear River by Elliot Parker.  As I am by training and craft a nonfiction editor, I can find my editorial sense better in a roman a clef than I can in what I call “made-up fiction.”  I have coached and edited the above and other “life-based” novels and will be glad to let folks in on the tricks of the trade, as I have absorbed them thus far.

WORKSHOP #2:  Humor Writing - Humor today is in short supply.  The syndicated columnists who made us laugh have mostly graduated to whatever comedy club the Afterlife may provide:  Art Buchwald, Lew Grizzard, Russell Baker, Molly Ivins and Irma Bombeck.  We’re down to Dave Barry and (we hope) some unknown kid who’s keeping his high-school newspaper readers in stitches week to week.  What to do?  What is the alchemy of humor writing?  Can just anybody do it?  And why do it at all?  Some ideas as to how to leaven your writing with wit, even if it’s simply whimsy,  irony or drollerie.


BIO – Marc Harshman's third full-length collection of poems, as yet untitled, has just won the 2017 Blue Lynx Prize and will be published later this year. His fourteenth children’s book, FALLINGWATER, co-written with Anna Smucker, was published by Roaring Brook/Macmillan in 2017. His poetry collection, BELIEVE WHAT YOU CAN, was published in 2016 by West Virginia University Press and won the Weatherford Award from the Appalachian Studies Association. Periodical publications include The Chariton Review, Salamander, Shenandoah, and Poetry Salzburg Review. Poems have been anthologized by Kent State University, the University of Iowa, University of Georgia, and the University of Arizona. He is the seventh poet laureate of West Virginia.

WORKSHOP 1: MAPPING THE LANDSCAPE: DETAIL AND RECOLLECTION IN CREATIVE WRITING   For this workshop Mr. Harshman will invite participants to pursue a written exploration of a landscape through a series of prompts encouraging them to draw upon memories and senses in the creation of a poem, short story, or reminiscence.  A discussion of detail and free writing will precede the group activity.  Especially suitable for beginners.

WORKSHOP #2:  Research, Collaboration, and Invention:  The Creation of the Children's Picture Book Fallingwater…, by Anna Egan Smucker & Marc Harshman.   For this presentation, authors Marc Harshman and Anna Egan Smucker will discuss the process involved in researching, writing, and publishing their latest children's book, Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright's Masterpiece.  For this program the authors will share slides of both their book, as well as of the house itself at various stages in its construction.  As time allows, the authors will, as well, offer a writing prompt related to their presentation and save time for questions.  Make sure not to miss this discussion of one of the hottest American childrens’ titles published this past year by two of West Virginia’s own!

SATURDAY ENTERTAINMENT - RUNNING WITH WHISKEY: WORDS AND MUSIC FROM APPALACHIA -   Marc Harshman & Doug Van Gundy.   Popular fiddler, raconteur, teacher, and poet, Doug Van Gundy, joins forces with the Poet Laureate of West Virginia, Marc Harshman, to present a unique program of storytelling, music, and poetry grounded in the cultural richness of our mountain state of West Virginia.

The evening will include a taste of true “old-time,” traditional music from this state where Elizabethan English persisted longer than in Elizabethan England.  There will be storytelling and music that reflect these ancient antecedents.  There will be, as well, both music and poetry representing the contemporary concerns and joys of this resilient land and its people.

Doug Van Gundy is a champion fiddler, accomplished poet, and respected professor at WV Wesleyan College. There are few who know as much about our old-time music traditions as Doug.

Marc Harshman is a nationally acclaimed children’s book author, storyteller, and the poet laureate of West Virginia.

SHEILA McENTEE (editing panel)

BIO: Sheila McEntee has operated a home-based professional writing and editing business for more than 20 years. Her projects have included books, magazine and newsletter articles, academic papers and journal articles, brochures, video scripts, and training modules. From 2006 to 2014, Sheila served as editor of Wonderful West Virginia magazine. Her writing has been featured in Wonderful West Virginia, Goldenseal, and the Charleston Gazette-Mail, and on West Virginia Public Radio. Her essay “Oaks” appears in the newly published anthology Voices on Unity: Coming Together, Falling Apart from Mountain State Press.


BIO: Sherry’s passion for food, travel, people, and history led her to create her first book Taste of Tombstone in 1998. That same passion landed her a monthly food column in True West magazine starting in 2009. Since then she’s penned several books on the Victorian West and multiple magazine features. She is the past president of Western Writers of America and holds memberships in the James Beard Foundation, the Author’s Guild Women Writing the West, Single Action Shooting Society, and the Wild West History Association. Sherry is one of the original members of the Most Intrepid Western Author Posse and was sworn in as honorary Dodge City marshal during one of the “rides.”  Sherry has earned a Will Rogers Gold medallion for her Cowboy’s Cookbook and a Wrangler for her appearance in a Wyatt Earp documentary.  Monahan will serve as the keynote speaker for Saturday morning.

Workshop #1: A Taste of the West -- Sherry will share her vast knowledge about the food, spirits (the drinking kind), restaurants, and other tasty nuggets of the frontier. Learn how to use these details whether you write fiction or non-fiction.

Workshop #2: Researching the Details -- Learn how to comb through archives, online newspaper sites, and more with author Sherry, who is also a professional genealogist.


Bio: Cat Pleska is an author, educator, and storyteller. She is the author of Riding on Comets: a memoir, 2015, WVU Press, and is working on a collection of travel/personal essays, The I’s Have It, about traveling to Iceland and Ireland. She is a former book reviewer for the Charleston Gazette, a radio essayist for West Virginia Public Radio, and a manuscript reviewer for WVU Press. She teaches full time in the Master of Liberal Studies program at Arizona State University.

WORKSHOP #1:  The Literary Arts in Troubled Times: What do we write when current issues threaten to overwhelm us, our society, our lives? We have thoughts and feelings we’d like to address, sometimes because we are scared or angry or worried or, even, hopeful of the future. Let’s write about it in from prompts, models, ideas, discussion, and discover just how important our particular art is to address meaning in troubled times.

WORKSHOP #2: WORK! We hate it, we love it, it is us, it is someone we know, it is our past and it is our future. We all work, inside the home or out of it; in our minds and in our lives; with people and alone; for money or for something else. Let’s explore via prompts and models what WORK! means to us and what work can truly mean.


BIO: Before becoming a full-time writer, D.M. Pulley worked as a Professional Engineer, rehabbing historic structures and conducting forensic investigations of building failures. Pulley’s structural survey of a vacant building in Cleveland inspired her debut novel, The Dead Key, the winner of the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award. The disappearance of a family member formed the basis for her second historical mystery, The Buried Book. Pulley’s third novel, The Unclaimed Victim, delves into the dark history behind Cleveland's Torso Killer. She lives in northeast Ohio with her family and is hard at work on her fourth book.  Pulley will be the keynote speaker for the awards banquet on Saturday night.

Workshop #1: Facing the Blank Page-- In this generative workshop, discussion sessions and guided writing prompts will begin to demystify the creative process and strategies behind a solid writing routine. As a historical mystery writer and former engineer, D.M. Pulley shares how various life experiences and careers can enhance the writing process as well as the pitfalls and challenges of being an non-traditionally trained writer. Come and learn strategies to defeat writer's block and overcome page fright.

Workshop #2: First Draft's Done, Now What?-- Most writers will tell you the real work happens in the rewrite. Learn strategies to improve your first draft, cut out unnecessary exposition, add sensory details, and keep your reader turning pages. Attendees are encouraged to bring a single chapter or short work in progress to share and rework. D.M. Pulley will share first draft and second draft rewrites from her own novels.


Rachel Rinehart grew up in Chuckery, Ohio, and currently teaches at Marshall University in Huntington, West Virginia. Her poems have appeared in journals including The Southwest Review, The Georgia Review, New Ohio Review, Prairie Schooner, Massachusetts Review, Mid-American Review, and Colorado Review. Her poetry collection The Church in the Plains was selected by Peter Everwine as the winner of the 2016 Philip Levine Poetry Prize and was published by Anhinga Press in January 2018.

Workshop 1: Mining Metaphor - From the Greek word meaning “to transfer” metaphor is the driving force behind history’s most powerful poems. In this intermediate level poetry workshop, we’ll learn how to craft strange and vivid metaphors to help readers understand and experience our poems more deeply and how to mine the vocabulary of those metaphors to create richly layered meaning.

Workshop 2: Elegy: Writing Loss -- The elegy is an ancient form of poetry memorializing the dead, traditionally composed of three stages—lament, praise, and consolation. In this intermediate level workshop we’ll study the elegy’s evolution from a public expression of grief to a modern incarnation more personal and private, which grapples not only with the loss of people, but also of landscape, objects, and ways of life. Then, we’ll draw on our knowledge of genre conventions to write poems that commemorate our own losses.

Workshop 3: Ekphrastic Poetry -- Poets and painters have a long history of mutual inspiration and conversation. For example, in his iconic poem “Musée des Beaux Arts” about Pieter Brueghel’s painting The Fall of Icarus W.H. Auden writes “About suffering they were never wrong, / The old Masters…” In this intermediate level poetry workshop, students will be asked to bring a digital or hard copy reproduction of a published painting, photograph, or other work of art that inspires them. We’ll learn how to write poems that reflect and build on the intellectual and emotional resonance of art in other media.


Bio: Stephen W. Saffel, DEO (Dark Editorial Overlord, as named by his authors), Senior Acquisitions Editor, Titan Books.

WORKSHOP #1:  Tips For Pacing and Clarity - Modern audiences develop preferences based on media beyond the written word, and there are things the writer can do to satisfy those expectations. The great thing is that the writer frequently doesn’t need to compromise the quality of the writing.  Watching for certain tendencies in your writing will enhance your ability to avoid pitfalls.  They also needn’t be taken as hard-and-fast rules. Each individual writer has creative license to include personal and stylistic idiosyncrasies into his or her work. By noting them, however, I hope to help writers avoid things that have posed problems in other works of fiction. In general, consistency is a good thing—it keeps the reader on a smooth and even keel throughout the reading experience.


Bio: Michele Schiavone earned her Ph.D. at Stony Brook University, and has taught English at Marshall University since 1989. The non-fiction editor of Aethlon: The Journal of Sport Literature, Michele also freelances as a copy editor and proofreader. Over the years, she has worked on novels, memoirs, literary studies, and dissertations. Michele served as the Co-Editor of the Sport and Recreation section of the Encyclopedia of Appalachia (2006); thesis reader in Marshall’s Graduate College; and legal proofreader in a New York City law firm for six years. Schiavone is an Editing Panel presenter.



BIO:  Audrey Stanton-Smith is a writer and substitute teacher in Raleigh County. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from West Virginia University and spent more than a decade working as a newspaper reporter, writing about everything from police and courts to business, education and entertainment. She has also worked as a newspaper copy editor and assistant editor, and she is a former editor of West Virginia South magazine.

Audrey stepped away from her newspaper career in 2010 to devote more time to her family, which includes a husband, two sons, three ducks, a dozen chickens, a dog and a cat. Since then, her freelance articles have been featured in West Virginia South and other regional and online publications. She also enjoys creative writing and has been awarded prizes from West Virginia Writers, Inc., in contest categories including children’s books, playwriting, and humor. She has two books in the works and serves as secretary for West Virginia Writers, Inc.

WORKSHOP #1:  Writing for Magazines - In this workshop, we’ll discuss magazine editors’ pet peeves and preferences, writing query letters, how to turn your ideas into articles and columns, and how to get them published. Presented by Audrey Stanton-Smith, regular contributor and former editor of West Virginia South magazine.

WORKSHOP #2:  Using Real News to Inspire Fake Stories - Whether you’re a novelist, a short story writer, poet, playwright, screenwriter or comedian, your creative juices are sure to flow in this workshop designed for writers of all genres. We’ll use real clippings from real newspapers to inspire made-up stories, poems and plays. Then we’ll share them and talk about the importance of finding colorful ideas within our old black and white friend.


Anna Egan Smucker is an award-winning author of eight books. No Star Nights, her memoir about growing up in the steel mill town of Weirton, WV won the International Reading Association Children's Book Award. Golden Delicious:  A Cinderella Apple Story and Brother Giovanni's Little Reward: How the Pretzel Was Born represented WV at National Book Festivals. Fallingwater: The Building of Frank Lloyd Wright’s Masterpiece, co-authored with Marc Harshman, has garnered starred reviews and was named an Amazon Nonfiction Book of the Month. Recipient of a WV Arts Commission Artist Fellowship Award, her poems have been published in several anthologies.

WORKSHOP: Using the Treasure Trove of WV History to Craft Children's Picture Books -  In this session, Anna will show how she used an article from Goldenseal as the inspiration for her picture book Golden Delicious: A Cinderella Apple Story. Participants will then develop ideas for stories they would like to pursue and learn how to turn facts into a story.


Workshop #1 - Tools for Writers: Beyond the Pen  - There is no lack of on-line help for writers. So many, in fact, you can be lost in the choices. We’ll explore some writing, submission, and marketing options.

Workshop #2 - Writing Groups – Yes, No, or Maybe? - Writing groups can provide support, critique, and social interaction. We will look at how to provide meaningful feedback and maximize the positive experience of a writing group.


BIO: Sandy Tritt, the founder and CEO of Inspiration for Writers, Inc., an international editing and critiquing service, is a writer, ghostwriter, editor and speaker. The author of Everything I Know (Headline Books) and The PLAIN ENGLISH Writer’s Workbook, she has also ghostwritten more than a dozen nonfiction books, ten novels and two screenplays.

WORKSHOP #1 What Happens Next? -  What keeps your reader interested in your story? What makes him stay up way past bedtime to keep on turning those pages and reading, reading, reading? Well, there’s some psychology to it and there’s some logic to it. In this workshop, we will discuss plotting, scenes, and keeping those pages turning.

WORKSHOP #2  Breathing Life into Characters - Characters are the lifeblood of fiction, and the ability to create well-rounded, memorable characters is more craft than art. This workshop discusses how to breathe the breath of life into a limp, two-dimensional character so he jumps off the page and into the reader's heart. Because this workshop includes exclusive tips on adding personality to even the most lifeless character, it is as useful to the accomplished writer as it is the novice.


Doug Van Gundy is a champion fiddler, accomplished poet, and respected professor at WV Wesleyan College. There are few who know as much about our old-time music traditions as Doug.

WORKSHOP #1: Worth a Thousand Words: Exploring Ekphrasis - Ekphrasis is a rhetorical device by which one art form is used to explore, examine or comment upon another. (Keats’ “Ode on a Grecian Urn” and Auden’s “Musee de Beaux Arts” are two famous examples.) While we usually associate ekphrasis with writing about art, it can also refer to artworks generated in response to writing, or music, or other artwork. In this workshop we will read and discuss examples of ekphrastic writing, examine the relationship between the artwork and the corresponding piece of writing, and try writing some ekphrastic poems of our own .

WORKSHOP #2: There’s No Such Thing as Writer’s Block - Irish Poet Seamus Heaney once famously said that all writing consists of three parts, “getting started, keeping going, and getting started again”. Every writer has had problems with one or more of these parts in their writing, but each can be overcome, and usually fairly simply. This workshop will focus on a number of tried-and-true methods to get started or keep going in your own work, as well as adding freshness and energy to your writing. While tailored to poets, this workshop will be helpful to prose writers as well. Come prepared to write.


Bio: Nick White is the author of the novel How to Survive a Summer. He is an Assistant Professor of English at The Ohio State University's MFA Program in Creative Writing. His short stories, poems, and essays have appeared in a variety of places, including The Kenyon Review, Guernica, The Hopkins Review, Indiana Review,The Literary Review, Lit Hub, and elsewhere. His short story collection, Sweet and Low, will be published on June 5, 2018.

Workshop 1: Let’s Make a Scene: The Art and Craft of Memorable Moments in Fiction - Author Sandra Scofield in The Scene Book: A Primer for the Fiction Writer tells us that the scene is “the most vivid and immediate part of the story: it is in the scene that a writer captures the heart and imagination of the reader.” In this workshop, writers will explore the elements of crafting a good scene in their fiction. We will look to Scofield’s four basic elements of scenes and use them in writing our own.

Workshop 2: Character Bootcamp: Who Are the People We Create on the Page, and Why Should We Care About Them - Description: In this workshop, we will work on strategies for creating complex characters in our fiction and, then, how to express them vividly in our prose.