Schedule: 2020 Workshop

For safety reasons, we have decided to postpone the 2020 Writing Workshop of San Francisco to Fall 2021. Sorry about this. If you are interested in being notified when a 2021 date is unveiled, keep an eye on our calendar here, which also lists upcoming online conferences that we are organizing in lieu of in-person events.



8:30 – 9:30: Check-in and registration at the event location. Check in and get comfortable.

There will be 3 classes/workshops going at all times during the day. Agent pitches and critique consultations overlap with the sessions below. The schedule of presentation topics below is subject to change, but here is the current layout:

BLOCK ONE: 9:30 – 10:30

1. Writing for your Audience: Middle Grade vs. Young Adult, taught by Shirin Leos. The reality of publishing today is that you have to know your genre, and no two genres are more fluid or easily confused than MG (middle grade) and YA (young adult). In this workshop, we will explore how the two genres are currently perceived by the publishing industry, and consequently which attributes agents and editors will expect your submissions to deliver. We will discuss how to determine whether you are, in fact, writing an MG or YA, and how to shape your book with this knowledge in order to maximize its chances of success.


BLOCK TWO: 10:45 – 11:50

2. How to Think Like a Developmental Editor (and Write Well), taught by Shirin Leos. A professional writer is a professional rewriter, so the adage goes. In the publishing industry, the first edit—long before line- or copy-editing come into play—is called the developmental or “dev” edit. It aims to shape the book; to challenge and thus cement its structure; and ultimately to deliver a more competitive product. Thinking like a developmental editor can help you mold your book for success even as you write; it can eventually help you edit yourself so that the book you submit is the book an editor is looking for. In this seminar, we will discuss developmental vs. line- or copy-editing, what dev editors consider when editing and exercises that can help you dev-edit yourself.


LUNCH ON YOUR OWN: 11:50 – 1:15

Lunch is on your own during these 85 minutes. There are lots of options, including onsite restaurants, and nearby places to eat.

BLOCK THREE: 1:15 – 2:30

1. “Writers Got Talent”—a Page 1 Critique Fest with participating literary agents and editors. In the vein of “American Idol” or “America’s Got Talent,” this is a chance to get your first page read (anonymously — no bylines given) with attending agents commenting on what was liked or not liked about the submission. Get expert feedback on your incredibly important first page, and know if your writing has what it needs to keep readers’ attention. (All attendees are welcome to bring pages to the event for this session, and we will choose pages at random for the workshop for as long as time lasts. All submissions should be novels or memoir—no prescriptive nonfiction or picture books, please. Do not send your pages in advance. You will bring printed copies with you, and instructions will be sent out approximately one week before the event.)

2. The Dos and Don’ts of Pitching Picture Books: What Agents and Editors Need to See, taught by Emma Sector. I’ll answer questions like; Do I need to work with an illustrator to develop my story? How many pages should a picture book be? What’s trending right now? Then, we’ll go into how best to pitch you picture book, answering questions like; What’s going to catch an agent’s eye? Are comparison titles really that important? And, what should I look for when researching agents?

BLOCK FOUR: 2:45 – 3:45

1. Pacing Tricks to Keep Readers Turning the Pages, taught by Heather Chavez. Creating a propulsive story isn’t just about knowing when to amp up the urgency; it’s also about knowing when to slow it down. Make your thriller or mystery unputdownable by mastering the elements of pacing, including action, dialogue, scene length, and word choice. We’ll look at examples of how these elements are used in current published works. By finding your story’s rhythm, readers can connect to your characters while also furiously turning pages well past bedtime.


BLOCK FIVE: 4:00 – 5:00

1. Agent Secrets–Shhhhh! taught by Laurie McLean. In this informative talk about the agent-author relationship, the co-founder of Fuse Literary shares what you need to know before, during, and after you find a literary agent and start working together. There will be plenty of time for questions. And by the end of this workshop, you will understand what an agent does, what they don’t do, and how to craft a prosperous working relationship.

2. Characterization and Point of View – How to Bring Your Characters to Life, taught by Michael Carr. Lajos Egri said, “Living, vibrating human beings are still the secret and magic formula of great and enduring fiction.” Learn tips and techniques (from a literary agent) that bring your heroes, villains, and secondary characters to life.


At 5 p.m., the day is done. Speakers will make themselves available by the workshop’s bookstore station for a short while to sign any books for attendees.