Thanks to Everyone Who Made JRWC13 a Success!

Over 325 writers converged in Richmond last weekend for three days of exploring the craft, business, and community of writing. Thank you to our speakers, moderators, vendors, and attendees for bringing to life the 2013 James River Writers Conference and continuing the 11-year tradition. We’re already processing your feedback to build the 2014 Conference! (more…)

Register today for JRWC13





As we prepare for the 11th Annual James River Writers Conference on October 19-20 at the Greater Richmond Convention Center, we eagerly anticipate the arrival of hundreds of attendees and dozens of speakers, ready to exchange tips, confess struggles, and forge relationships that will fuel literary successes yet untold. We look forward to seeing those of you who have registered! To those of you still on the fence, check out what you risk missing: Chip Kidd, Christopher McDougall, Carey Albertine and other speakers on Saturday, First Pages Critiques and Pitchapalooza on Sunday, and a weekend full of inspiration and connection. Learn more and register.


Chip Kidd’s TED talk on book design has been viewed over 775,000 times and was called one of the funniest of 2012.  Meet the King of Covers in person at JRWC13. He will present “Fail Better,” in which he recounts examples from his career of over a quarter-century where he failed utterly and used those circumstances as an opportunity to do something better than he did in the first place. After the usual process of drinking and crying, of course.


Learn more and register.


Conference Speaker Preview: NYT bestseller Christopher McDougall

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…)

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

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

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

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…)

Meet Literary Agent April Eberhardt

april eberhardt

Recently, JRW Board Member Robin Farmer had a chance to chat with April Eberhardt. Eberhardt is a self-described “literary change agent” who is not wedded to the old model of publishing. She will share her forward-thinking ideas about agenting at the James River Writers Conference when she joins us this October. (more…)

Meet Literary Agent Deborah Grosvenor

Literary Agent Deborah Grosvenor

Want to pitch to the literary agent who discovered Tom Clancy? Deborah Grosvenor saw The Hunt for Red October long before it hit the bookstores shelves. Maybe she’s destined to find her next big client at the James River Writers Conference when she joins us this October. Deborah will be taking pitches and sitting on panels throughout the two-day conference. We were honored when she took a moment to chat with us about the publishing world. (more…)

2013 James River Writers Conference Registration is Open

As the JRW Conference Chair, I’m pleased to announce that registration for the 2013 James River Writers Conference  is open! Between now and August 31, 2013, please take advantage of early-bird pricing, and JRW members, enjoy the benefit of priority registration for the pre-conference master classes and one-on-one sessions until August 16, 2013.




The James River Writers Conference brings together writers of various backgrounds and genres—nonfiction and fiction, poetry, journalism, and more—to support one another and learn together. This year’s lineup continues the tradition: a National Book Award winner and bestsellers; a writer of space and robots and suburban motherhood; picture book authors and a war correspondent; editors, agents, book doctors, and an app developer; debut authors and career novelists; new faces and JRW successes; steampunk airships and ultramarathoners; Birds of a Lesser Paradise and Mockingbird….I hope you’ll take a moment to browse the conference website and meet the talented folks coming to Richmond.

bod_kristi_austinOur collegial atmosphere is one reason author and national speaker David Henry Sterry called the James River Writers Conference “one of the best writers conferences in America” in a recent Huffington Post article. Thank you, David! And thank you to all the writers who attend each year.

If you like what you see—and I think you will—I hope you’ll join us, October 18-20, 2013, for the 11th annual James River Writers Conference.

— Kristi Tuck Austin, JRW Conference Chair

Learn more about the 2013 Writers Conference

Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris

dawnsearlylight by steampunk authors Tee Morris and Pip BallantineKathleen Sams Flippen, Writer/Owner of Spaces by KSF, interviews Pip Ballantine and Tee Morris, Steampunk proponents and authors of Phoenix Rising, The Janus Affair, and Dawn’s Early Light. Featured speakers at the James River Writers 2013 Annual Conference, the husband and wife team talk goggles and airships, social media and networking, how to juggle creation and marketing, and how to rise and stay afloat in the ever-changing world of the written word.