July Writing Show: Stretching the Limits of Young Adult Literature

July’s writing show welcomes the participation of the JRW Youth Advisory Board in discussing the limits or parameters of Young Adult literature.

Are there any topics in YA books that are taboo? Any lines in the sand that a YA author shouldn’t cross? If YA can tackle all manner of adult themes, then what differentiates it as young adult? Explore these topics and more with a panel of YA authors and members of JRW’s Youth Advisory Board.

Kristen-Paige Madonia

Kristen-Paige Madonia


James River Writers Conference 2014: Registration is Open!

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Click here to register today! Click here to become a sponsor for the JRW Conference

Visit our 2014 James River Writers Conference Home Page to learn all about the engaging speakers, informative panels, and hands-on Master Classes coming your way October 17-19! Register early to get a one-on-one with a literary agent or book doctor, included in the conference cost. We can’t wait to see you in RVA!

New at the 2014 James River Writers Conference: Critiques!

One of the unique aspects of the James River Writers Conference is that it has something for everyone. No matter what the next step in your writing journey may be, you will find something helpful at the conference. Our job is to help you meet your writing goals. With this in mind, we’ve added a new opportunity to the conference this year: critiques.

Ann Rittenberg

Ann Rittenberg

Over the years, people have told us how much they love the chance to meet one-on-one with an agent or editor. Unlike other conferences, this meeting is offered to conference goers without any extra fee. The one-on-one appointments are designed to give writers an opportunity to pitch their latest manuscript to a publishing professional. However, we also know that some writers are not quite ready to pitch; they would rather work on their craft a bit more. That’s where critiques come in. (more…)

Master Class with Literary Agent John Cusick

On August 29th, JRW will host a Master Class featuring Greenhouse Literary Agent John Cusick.  During the three hour class, Standing Out: Catching and Keeping an Agent, John will work with a small group of participants to identify key strategies to attracting the attention of the right agent and developing a successful relationship.

Registration for the Master Class will be capped at no more than twelve participants, as Mr. Cusick will work directly with each attending writer to hone their query letter and discuss their first two pages.  These items will need to be submitted in advance as double-spaced, 12pt font Microsoft Word documents.  Master Class attendees should be prepared to have their query letter and first pages shared with and critiqued by other class members. (more…)

June Writing Show Recap

by Kellie Larsen Murphy

Put Your Characters on the Couch: Psychoanalyze Your Fiction

The June Writing Show played to a nearly packed house at the Broadberry on a beautiful evening this June. Attendees were treated to a lively panel moderated by young adult author Gigi Amateau. The three panelists included Cleve Lamison, an actor, screenwriter, and novelist; Jon Sealy, a short story writer and novelist; and Ted Petrocci, a licensed mental health professional with over thirty years as a psychotherapist, trainer, and educator. (more…)

May 2014 Writing Show Recap with Fraga Studios

How many times have you bought a movie ticket at least partially based on the trailer? At least once and probably more, right? A really good trailer gets you to the theater for two hours. A bad one keeps you away. Today, trailers are not just for movies or television. Book trailers are popping up in all genres, from children’s books to suspense to non-fiction. A compelling book trailer can play a large part in an author’s marketing campaign. May’s Writing Show at The Broadberry focused on what makes a book trailer work, types of book trailers, and things to consider when making a trailer. Sharing their wisdom were Tom Sanchez Prunier, a freelance screenwriter and film producer, and Lew Fraga, a producer, writer, director, and owner of Fraga Studios.

Tom Sanchez

Tom Sanchez

What does a book trailer do? Tom and Lew believe a trailer gives the author a chance to say more than what’s on the book’s jacket. They believe a video ad attached to a book can be more cost-effective and far-reaching than a book tour. Used properly, it can be an integral piece in building an author’s brand.

By showing several trailers on screen, Tom and Lew emphasized the importance of showing—not telling—in creating a powerful trailer. Of course, every writer has heard this phrase repeatedly, but they stated it also applies to the video sneak peek into a book. As part of a total marketing campaign, Tom suggested a good book trailer is as important as your book cover. According to Tom and Lew, to make a trailer work, it should create emotional engagement, get to the point, respect the audience, have a clear message, hint at the story, and have a call to action (buy the book!). Unlike a movie trailer, the best book trailers don’t show the faces of the protagonists (or only briefly) or reveal too much of the story. Lew said, “Let the reader come up with a face.” A good trailer never shows credits and is generally under 2 minutes (1-1 ½ minutes is ideal). Bad editing, unrelated content, and excessive text can detract from any trailer. (more…)

April Writing Show and Master Class Recaps: Mining for Stories with Carrie and John Gregory Brown

April Writing Show Recap
Coloring Between the Lines: Using What You Know and Where You’re From in Fiction
by Kris Spisak, KS Writing

Surrounded by the Broadberry’s chic chandeliers, stomachs happy from a sumptuous spread, April’s Writing Show audience had a night to remember. Author and JRW advisory board chair Virginia Pye moderated the evening, introducing us to veteran novelists and professors Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown, who discussed mining one’s own geographical and personal history as a writer.  (more…)

How James River Writers Conference is Different

Speakers and attendees praise the James River Writers Conference for stellar programming, the same caliber seen at large, national conferences. Yes, we’re similar to those other conferences, but here’s how we’re different:

• JRW doesn’t count attendees by the thousands. A more intimate conference means we can focus more on each person’s needs and feedback.

• Published and not-yet-published authors are never separated. There are no published-only mingles or sessions. We’re in this together.

• You won’t pay for a lot of add-ons. The two-day JRW Conference registration includes
o All panels
o Pitch sessions with nationally recognized agents and editors
o Social hours
o Saturday events
o The Library of Virginia Literary Awards Luncheon
o Breakfast and lunch
o Pitchapalooza

• We’re eclectic. Many of us write widely: journalists also write novels, memoirists explore investigative nonfiction, and screenwriters compose poetry. Or maybe you’re a picture book author who wants to learn how poets select just the right word. JRW believes we can learn from one another. The conference offers crossover possibilities you won’t find at genre-specific events.

• We focus on business and craft. You can learn about marketing and voice. You can pitch and get your first page critiqued. JRW knows writing is an art and a business.

• Speakers don’t slip back to their hotel rooms between panels. JRW asks speakers to stay on-site throughout the weekend so you have time to talk with them between sessions and over a cup of coffee.

• You’ll visit the host city. JRW is excited to share a portion of our conference with all of Richmond—and share Richmond with our conference goers. We’ve set aside Saturday afternoon and evening hours for speakers to give open presentations at various downtown RVA locations.

• We rarely have signings. Unless there are extenuating circumstances (e.g. a speaker’s high demand and limited time), JRW Conference doesn’t hold signings. You shouldn’t have to wait in line to get ten seconds with a speaker. Signing tables shouldn’t divide us. Instead, approach authors as colleagues.

• Attendees have a forum to share their wisdom. Sunday lunch discussions allow attendees to share their experiences and learn from each other and speakers.

• We don’t come together only one weekend a year. James River Writers is here all year. We offer monthly Writing Shows and Writers Wednesdays, Master Classes, bi-monthly newsletters, weekly write-ins, awards, and contests. We also offer special events, such as Books and Brews local brewery tours.

• We’re a community. We want to be here for you when you’re an aspiring author, when you sign with an agent, and when you’re a multi-published bestseller. Let JRW be your literary home and form relationships to last a lifetime.

Article by Kristi Tuck Austin, Board Chair

Article by Kristi Tuck Austin, Board Chair

Five Questions with Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown

Married novelists Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown have spent their working lives writing and teaching side by side in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sweet Briar College, where John is the Julia Jackson Nichols Professor of English and directs the College’s Creative Writing program. Carrie now serves as Distinguished Visiting Professor at nearby Hollins University in Roanoke, Virginia. Carrie and John have published ten books between them and raised three children on the campus at Sweet Briar. 

James River Writers recently spoke with Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown, who discussed “using what you know and where you’re from in fiction” at JRW’s Writing Show on Thursday, April 24. The couple also taught Learning to See: A Master Class for Writers in the Art and Practice of Looking on Friday, April 25.

Five Questions with Carrie Brown and John Gregory Brown

Question One:

K: John, you wrote in the voice of a young girl (Meredith Eagen), a woman (Meredith’s stepmother Catherine), and a black man (Murphy Warrington) in your first novel, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, and you earned praise for creating authentic voices for these three characters. Writing in the voice of a person of another race can be risky, and you did not attempt to write Murphy’s dialogue the way a black New Orleans man of his time and class would have spoken. (more…)