The 12th Annual James River Writers Conference is October 17-19 with One-on-One Meets with Literary Agents, Pitchapalooza and Award-Winning Authors & Editors. Register Today! Stretching the Boundaries of YA Lit: Find Out What Book are Grabbing the Interest of Today's Kids. Get your ticket for the July 31st Writing Show!

News and Events

Conference Speaker Preview: NYT bestseller Christopher McDougall

September 23rd, 2013

JRW Member Kristen Green recently interviewed Christopher McDougall, the author of the NYT best seller Born To Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen. The book told the story of Mexican Indians that run hundreds of miles without injury in thin homemade sandals and sparked a debate about the running shoe industry. McDougall told Kristen that he originally set out to write a book about ultra marathoners, and it didn’t dawn on him to incorporate the Tarahumara Indians and a race he ran with them in Mexico’s deadly Copper Canyons until after it happened. McDougall, a featured speaker at the James River Writers Conference in October, is at work on an as yet untitled book about World War II resistance fighters due out next spring. He is also writing a screenplay of Born to Run.

Question 1: You are a former war correspondent for the Associated Press and a freelance magazine writer, so I assume you’re accustomed to cranking out copy. Was it painful for you spend so much time on one subject in order to write Born to Run? What was your process?

It was a really difficult learning process. Whenever you jump up in length, I think it’s a whole new discipline. For the AP, it’s 500 to 600 word stories, and that was its own discipline. You have to get it all super condensed into a very tight space. Then you move up to magazines where you’re like 2,000 to 5,000 words, and it’s like you’re looking across the sea and you can’t see the horizon, and it just seems way too far for anybody to swim. Then you learn that, and you jump it up to 100,000 words. What made the difference for me with Born to Run was I finally figured out to just make each chapter its own 2,000-word story. (more…)

August Writing Show Recap: Interviewing Skills: Crime and Punishment Style

September 23rd, 2013

It was 9 a.m. Dr. Lauren Huddle strode down the hall to the lab, her white coat pristine, her stiletto heels clicking loudly on the marble floor.

“Greg, I would like to know the make-up of this DNA sample,” she said crisply to the young, tattooed lab tech. “Within the next thirty minutes.”

“Sure thing, Doc,” Greg said with a grin. “Anything for you.”

Dr. Huddle frowned. She rarely smiled and never joked with the lab technicians or her colleagues. Murder was not a laughing matter.

Dr. Lauren N. Huddle is not a character in a television crime show. She currently is the Forensic Pathology Fellow at the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner in Richmond. She does not wear high heels to work. She spends time in ditches with snails and maggots. (more…)

Twitter Chat with Tee Morris on October 9 from 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m.

September 22nd, 2013

Please join James River Writers on Wednesday, October 9th at 7:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET to participate in a Twitter chat with Conference Speaker Tee Morris to talk about all things writing related.

Tee has been writing adventures in far-off lands and far-off worlds since elementary school. Inspired by numerous Choose Your Own Adventure titles and Terry Brooks’ Shannara series, he wrote not-so-short short stories of his own, unaware that working on a typewriter when sick-from-school and, later, on a computer (which was a lot quieter…that meant more time to write at night…) would pave a way for his writings.

Tee co-authors The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences series with his wife, Pip Ballantine. When Tee is not creating something on his Macintosh, he enjoys a good run, a good swim, martial arts (which he will start up again, someday), and putting together new playlists to write by. His other hobbies include cigars and scotch, which he regards the same way as anime and graphic novels: “I don’t know everything about them, but I know what I like.” (And he likes Avo and Arturo Fuente for his smoke, Highland Park for his scotch!) He enjoys life in Virginia alongside Pip, his daughter, and five cats.

Here is how the Twitter Chat will work: (more…)

JRWC13 Speaker Preview:
How Pip Ballantine & Tee Morris Write Together

September 12th, 2013

How do two people write one story? Philippa “Pip” Ballantine and Tee Morris have not only managed to write a novel together, but they’ve even successfully done it three times in their outrageously fun steampunk-spy series, The Ministry of Peculiar Occurrences.

As we draw ever closer to their appearance at this year’s James River Writers Conference, this dynamic duo has collaborated yet again to share with our members how they write as a team.


Collaboration is nothing new and it seems to be a trend with new authors and writing groups. There are teams like Terry Pratchett & Neil Gaiman, Sharon Lee & Steve Miller, or the numerous pairing-up’s that Baen Books is known for that make collaborations look like a great way to create a bestselling epic. It’s also easy, right? You take the idea, split up or divvy the work, and then at the end — ba-da-bing-ba-da-boom — you have a manuscript, right?

Not by a longshot.

When authors collaborate, it’s different from team to team. What is essential in a successful collaboration is to tell a story—the same story—while remaining true to your own style. We both have unique writing styles, but we also have writing styles that are compatible with one another. It is that compatibility that led us to working together, and yeah, probably getting married.

No, we’re not suggesting you marry your writing partner or partners. We just got lucky that way.

But we digress… (more…)

Beth Phelan, Literary Agent

September 10th, 2013

PHELAN-photoGetting to know the agents you pitch gives you an advantage, whether you’re adding a query to the slush pile with fingers crossed or pitching face to face at a conference like JRWC. We’re excited to announce that literary agent Beth Phelan from the Bent Agency will be joining us at this year’s James River Writer’s Conference. For those who want to know more about this agent eagerly looking for new writers, read on to see her interview with JRW Board member Kris Spisak. (more…)

JRWC13 Speaker Preview: An Interview with the Book Doctors

September 10th, 2013

BookDoctors_02Maybe you’ve heard word of the Book Doctors and their Pitchapalooza. Maybe you’ve had the joy of seeing it live yourself at past James River Writers Conferences. The concept of presenting your elevator pitch to a panel of book marketing experts in front of a live audience might sound intimidating, but once you know Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, co-founders of The Book Doctors, you can see how educational and entertaining the experience can be.

Recently, local author and JRW board member Erica Orloff had the chance to chat with Arielle and David. Here’s a sneak peak of their conversation:

Question 1: For newbie conference attendees, what do you think should be the “plan of attack” when attending a writing conference?

The primary reason to come to JRW is to learn and to connect with other writers, not to self-promote. A lot of people come to do the latter and they turn their fellow attendees and agents/editors off. That said, come with your pitch for your book down pat (both a one sentence and one minute version) so that if you’re asked about it, you are comfortable talking about it. Talk to as many people as you can. If you get some time with a professional, ask them about themselves and what advice they have. If you sign up for one-on-one sessions, make sure to do your research beforehand. For one, you want to be sure you’ve signed up with someone who represents books like yours. And two, it’s nice to show an agent you’ve done your homework. (more…)