WVW 2020 Conference Preview

The following is a preview of workshop presenters and their workshops for the 2020 WV Writers Summer Conference.  



Daleen Berry is a New York Times best-selling author of seven books and an award-winning investigative journalist and columnist. She has given a TED talk and has been an invited speaker at Johns Hopkins University, U.C. Berkeley, and Penn State University. She has appeared on The Bob Edwards Show, ABC, NBC, and CBS. Her memoir, Sister of Silence, was placed on WVU's Appalachian Literature list. Ms. Berry has written for the BBC, the Associated Press, the Daily Beast and Huffington Post. From 2018-2020, she crafted dozens of legal briefs, which led her to the West Virginia Supreme Court.


Say What? How to Craft Page-Turning Dialogue — Every writer wants to craft an award-winning manuscript capable of gluing readers to their seats. Of the more than 800 Amazon reviews Daleen Berry’s books have garnered, one phrase stands out: I couldn’t put it down. Learn how to write as if your life depended on it, and your readers will do the same. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, Berry explains how the fine art of the segue, which Merriam-Webster describes as “a transition made without pause or interruption,” can propel you from unpublished to published author. Berry will show you how to master the literary device that will leave your readers eager to turn each and every page—and longer for more.

Closet Skeletons and Other Thorny Nonfiction Issues — Daleen Berry got her start as a newspaper reporter and columnist, where she immediately turned inward for her material—writing about her children, her marriage, even her mental health. In 1991, Berry stunned her Preston County community with her brutal honesty when she wrote about her own depression and plans for suicide. Thirty years and two memoirs later, after letting umpteen skeletons out of her family’s closet, Berry will discuss the emotional and legal pros and cons of using yourself and your loved ones as writing material—and why fictionalizing real-life accounts may be smarter.

When a Literary Agent Isn’t, or How to Spot a Scam — Landing a literary agent is harder than ever. When Daleen Berry pitched the true story of the Skylar Neese murder to a San Francisco literary agent, the agent responded with an enthusiastic “yes” that same day, and later achieved a small bidding war for the book. Two years and three books later, Berry had been snookered into writing a 90,000-word book for $7,000—and then had her intellectual property stolen. Berry will teach you how to spot a real, bona fide literary agent, what you do—and do not—want in a legal contract, and how to avoid paying scammers for literary “best-selling book” awards that aren’t.



Austin S. Camacho is the author of seven novels about Washington DC-based private eye Hannibal Jones, five in the Stark and O’Brien international adventure-thriller series, and the detective novel, Beyond Blue. His short stories have been featured in several anthologies including Dying in a Winter Wonderland – an Independent Mystery Booksellers Association Top Ten Bestseller for 2008. He is featured in the Edgar nominated African American Mystery Writers: A Historical and Thematic Study by Frankie Y. Bailey. Camacho is also editorial director for Intrigue Publishing, a Maryland small press.


Conflict and suspense — two elements we have to lean hard on to create good fiction. Without conflict, there is no story. Conflict is what drives your story forward. And without suspense, readers have no reason to get to the end of your story.  Suspense is what draws your readers through the story to a satisfying conclusion. In this class I will show you how to use several kinds of conflict in your stories, and how to use suspense to keep your reader involved in your stories all the way to the last page.

Marketing plans — Promoting your book takes careful planning if you want to so you get the most out of your time and effort. There are dozens of possible techniques you can use to promote your work including advertising, social media and personal appearances. But what tools are best for you, and when should you use them? Answering those questions is the reason a book marketing plan is an essential part of the process. In this class I’ll explain how to build a great one.

Publishing Options — Should you be published by a large publisher or a small press or should you self-publish? Different writers will have a variety of reasons for that choice. In this session I will spell out the advantages and disadvantages of each approach and the many differences while letting the audience make up their own minds.



Award-winning author Abigail Drake has spent her life traveling the world and collecting stories wherever she visited. She majored in Japanese and Economics in college, and is a book hoarder, a coffee drinker, a linguistics geek, and an eternal optimist. She writes women's fiction and young adult fiction, and also enjoys blogging about her mischievous Labrador retriever, Capone. As sad as she is to admit it, her dog has become her muse. Abigail received an honorable mention in the Writer's Digest Self-Published E-book Awards, 2019 for one of her latest books Love, Chocolate, and a Dog Named Al Capone.


How to Make the Most of the Marketing Goldmine Hidden Inside Your Book — Have you wondered if there are better ways to market your book, and also yourself as an author? That you are missing a key element in the process, something other authors seem to already understand? You may be surprised to find out the answers are right in front of you, tucked inside the pages of your book. In this workshop, we’ll talk about how to explore the possibilities within your book, create your path to success, and implement your ideas. Marketing and author branding don’t have to be scary. Figure out the plan that works best for you.

Where Did Sanditon Go Wrong? The Rules of Writing a Good Romance — Jane Austen knew how to write a romance novel. But when Jane’s last novel, an unfinished manuscript called Sanditon, was recently made it into a television series, something went terribly wrong. In this workshop, Abigail Drake will discuss the rules of writing romance, and why they are so important. This concept does not simply apply to romance novels, however. Readers of all genres have unspoken expectations. Your job as a writer is not only to know these expectations, but also to fulfill them. Don’t pull a Sanditon. Give your readers what they want and keep them coming back for more.

How To Be a Hybrid, and Why It’s the Way of the Future — Many authors choose to be completely self-published, and others take the traditional route. What if you want to do both? In this workshop, Abigail Drake will share the details about how she ended up being a hybrid author, and why it works for her. She’ll also analyze the risks and benefits of both self-publishing and traditional publishing, and discuss how to find a reputable small press. Being a hybrid is the way of the future, but is it the right path for you?


Robert L. Fouch is an author and journalist who grew up in Petersburg, West Virginia, and now makes his home on Long Island. He is the author of three middle-grade children’s books, “Little & Big,” “Christmas Carol & the Defenders of Claus” and “Christmas Carol & the Shimmering Elf,” the latter two published by Sky Pony Press in New York. He has worked in the newspaper business for longer than he cares to admit, including 25 years at Newsday as a copy editor, page designer and feature writer. He has a bachelor’s degree in editorial journalism from Marshall and is married with a teenage son, who, alas, has outgrown the books he writes. 


What’s the Big Idea? Don’t just sit around waiting for inspiration to strike. Use these strategies to generate ideas that could turn into stories your readers will treasure. This workshop will have a children’s book focus, but some of the ideas could be applied to other genres.

Editing is Fun!  (No, seriously) — For those of us who aren’t literary geniuses whose every word is magic, editing is where the real writing begins. Develop strategies to make your writing tight, powerful and, oh yes, grammatically correct.

Agent Confidential — It’s no secret. The key to getting a literary agent is, of course, having a great story. But first you have to pitch that story. We’ll dive into how to write a great query letter, with examples of effective ones (and not-so-effective ones). We’ll also explore how to target the right agent for your story and what NOT to do when chasing that wonderful person who’s going to get you a book deal.



Pete Kosky is an award-winning songwriter and storyteller from South Charleston, West Virginia.  He is known for singing traditional ballads and songwriting.    His songwriting often focuses on historical themes with an emphasis on West Virginia.  He is also a past winner of the West Virginia liars contest.  Pete has two collections of short stories published by Mountain State Press, Mountain Tales & River Stories and Mountain Tales II.  His stories range from historically based tales with a supernatural bend to humorous tall tales, and vignettes of life in West Virginia.


Songwriting — This workshop will focus on what it takes to write a song.   Pete Kosky started writing songs when he was 16 years old and will share what he has learned.  He will share the various methods that he has learned and how to try and draw out the inner muse.   He will also discuss how to use narrative in songwriting, much like writing a short story, as well as address the poetic side of songwriting.  He will have a guitar and banjo to aid in instruction.  Please feel free to bring an instrument.

Short Story Writing — This workshop will focus on the basics of writing a good short story.  Such arenas as inspiration, setting, historical context, character and plot development, and genre will be explored.  Pete will also share various methods that have worked for him as a writer, including the importance of observation, attention to detail, creating your own world within your stories, challenging yourself to write, and having a good mentor.  Above all, this workshop hopes to convey that once you get started writing, there is really nothing like it for fun and escapism.



Kathy Manley lives in southern West Virginia and has been an educator in Logan County schools for over 35 years. Her writing has been featured in Hamilton Stone Review, Traditions: A Journal of West Virginia Folk Culture and Educational Awareness, and Fearless: Women’s Journeys to Self-Empowerment.  Her short stories have placed in West Virginia Writers’ Contests, and her memoir Don’t Tell’em You’re Cold released in October 2019, was a semi-finalist in William Faulkner’s Writing Competition. Katherine has won several prestigious teaching awards including finalist for West Virginia Teacher of the Year, Arch Coal Teacher of the Year, and Rocket Boys’ Teacher of the Year given in memory of their beloved teacher, Freida J. Riley of Coalwood, West Virginia.


Mining Your Memories: It’s All Coming Back to Me Now! You’ve been thinking about writing a memoir but need some new ideas on how to discover information from your past. Come to this session and learn how to revisit what defined you as a child, teenager, and adult. Be inspired as you discover how simple manipulatives can evoke strong memories and energize your writing. You will leave this workshop recharged after an hour of remembering and reminiscing!



Elizabeth Massie is a two-time Bram Stoker Award- and Scribe Award-winning author of novels, short fiction, media-tie ins, and more. Her novels and collections include Sineater, Hell Gate, Desper Hollow, Wire Mesh Mothers, Homeplace, Naked on the Edge, Dark Shadows: Dreams of the Dark (co-authored with Mark Rainey), It Watching, Versailles, The Tudors: King Takes Queen, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer: Power of Persuasion, and others. She is also the creator of the Ameri-Scares series of novels for middle grade readers, a series currently in development for television by Warner Horizon with Margot Robbie’s production company, LuckyChap, slated to produce.


Getting Started: Coming Up With Ideas and Landing the Perfect Opening — As writers, we occasionally hit a dry patch. We love the idea of writing, we love the end product of writing, but for some reason, we may feel like our creative well is nearly empty. We can’t come up with ideas. Not to worry! The well can always refill. This workshop will offer a variety of activities for developing basic story concepts and exploring ways to create beginnings that grab the reader. For writers just getting started or those looking for a boost.

Creating Realistic Characters Then Throwing Them to the Wolves — Characters are the humans or animals or, at times, objects, that face conflicts or crises in a story. And while we might love our characters, we can’t baby them. They’re going to have to struggle or even suffer one way or other. This workshop will offer a variety of activities to get into the hearts, minds, and souls of characters and to introduce characters into frightening situations to determine how they will react…or if they will even survive! For writers of all levels of experience.

(NOTE: Elizabeth will present the “Getting Started…” workshop once and the “Creating Realistic Characters” twice.)



Valerie Nieman’s fourth novel, To the Bones, a horror/mystery set in the West Virginia coalfields, has been acclaimed as “a parable of capitalism and environmental degradation.” She is also the author of Neena Gathering, a post-apocalyptic YA set in Appalachia. Her third poetry collection, Leopard Lady: A Life in Verse, takes place amid the grit and glamor of a mid-century carnival. Her work has appeared widely, from The Georgia Review to Poetry, and been included in numerous anthologies. A graduate of West Virginia University and Queens University of Charlotte, she teaches writing at NC A&T State University.


Behind the Masks — (Poetry) Persona poems are what happens when the voice gets inside you! We'll talk about taking on the identity of another, whether that is a famous figure or one who rises from the subconscious. We’ll see persona at work with illustrations from classic and contemporary authors, including some from the teacher's novel-in-verse. We will discuss approaches to finding and defining the voice of “the other” in your poems. There will be exercise takeaways.

What Work Is — (Poetry and Prose) Work provides “our daily bread,” but also shapes the substance of our lives, whether that work takes place in the home, in the shop or mill, on the farm or behind a desk. In this workshop for both poetry and prose we will look at ways to tap into the history and culture of work. A writing exercise will stimulate memory and imagination. Participants are asked to bring photographs of a family member or friend at work, as well as a tool or some other memento of the workplace.

Setting and Sensibility — (Prose) “Feelings are bound up in place,” said Eudora Welty. Setting, or landscape, is not just a collection of buildings or list of details, but can be an active participant in the weaving of your fiction or nonfiction. How our characters interact with their environment can shape the story in ways large and small. If your setting is well-remembered or well-imagined, that is, if it is realized, then it is far more than a stage set — it powers your writing. With a meditative exercise.



Bonnie Proudfoot moved to Athens, OH, from Fairmont, WV. She has Creative Writing MA from Hollins and one from WVU. She taught writing for over 20 years at Hocking College and currently teaches part-time for WVU. She received a Fellowship for the Arts from the West Virginia Department of Culture and History. She has published poetry and fiction in many journals, including the Gettysburg Review, Kestrel, Quarter After Eight, the Lyric, and Sheila-Na-Gig. Her short-short story won first prize in the Columbus Dispatch “Novelini” competition. Her first novel, Goshen Road, was published by Swallow Press in January of 2020.


Poetry of place — How do we get somewhere? We use a map! How mapping and visualization can lead us into imagery, memory, and more, and become a diving board into the space where poems are created. The workshop will include drawing “idea maps,” as a way to generate specific details, as well as reading examples of place-oriented poetry, and discussions of the ways to incorporate figurative language and sense imagery into your work. There will be time for writing and sharing.

In a flash! — What happens when you try to tell a whole story in under 500 words? It works! I once reduced a story that was 1000+ words to under 500 words (and won the Columbus Dispatch "Novelini" contest). This workshop will discuss narrative compression and expansion, and how less is often more.  It will include writing prompts for outlining and generating flash fiction, examples of flash fiction, and places to publish sudden fiction. There will be time for writing and sharing.

Starting in the middle — A tried and true approach to writing the short story, the screenplay, the memoir or the novel. I will share examples of stories that "begin in the middle - in medias res" and work backward and forward - with a discussion of craft and an exercise that encourages writers to think about cause and effect, how a character got somewhere and how the past influences the future in fiction. There will be time for writing and sharing.




Jake Stetler, is first and foremost, a storyteller. He is an award-winning screenwriter and filmmaker. His second feature film, A Stray Ember, is currently in post-production. He holds a certificate for feature film writing from UCLA Extension. He recently became an active member of the Western Writers of America. Mr. Stetler is a veteran of the U.S. Army and a former paratrooper. A devoted husband and father, he lives in Central Pennsylvania with his wife and four children.


Writing & Producing the Micro-Budget Screenplay — How to use available resources and crowdsourcing to back into your story Instructor Jake Stetler reveals the techniques that he employed to write and produce two feature films, No Sanctuary and A Stray Ember, on a budget. Learn how to take stock of the resources that you have available to craft a compelling story. Tap into your network to crowdsource props, talent, and cash. Share in the joys and challenges of production. Avoid common mistakes and delve into the creative process. Determine the rules of writing “no budget” films (and how to break them).

Into the Fray: A Primer on Genre Screenwriting — Love action, western, and thriller films?  Inspired to write a rip-roaring screenplay? Join instructor Jake Stetler as he provides examples from classic movies and some of his work to highlight the unique requirements of the genre. What are the writing challenges? How do you give the audience what they expect without falling into hackneyed tropes and cliches? Experience the elation of creating a well-told story in one of these exciting genres.