2013 James River Writers Conference – Pre-Conference Master Classes

Master classes will help you improve your craft and position yourself for success.  No need to be a master writer to attend.  We’ll help you get there!

All pre-conference master classes will take place on Friday, October 18, 2013, at the Virginia State Capitol. Directions and Parking Information.

Lunch is not included; however, a café is available on-site. You may choose up to three workshops, one in each time slot.

Master classes are available at an additional charge of $40 each to conference attendees. JRW members receive priority registration until August 16, 2013. Non-member registrations will be assigned after August 16 in the order received. Starting October 1, if classes are not full, non-conference attendee registrations will be considered.  Enrollment is limited. If filled, the $40.00 fee will be returned. No workshop cancellations accepted after October 1, 2013.

Concurrent Sessions, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

  • Getting in Your Character’s Skin with National Book Award-winner Kathryn Erskine –  This class is full.
  • DIY Book Apps with Michael Portis and Gigi Amateau  

Concurrent Sessions, 11:15 a.m.–1:15 p.m.

  • The Career Novelist with Paige Wheeler 
  • Growing Your Online Presence with Jon Van Zile and Erica Orloff  

Concurrent Sessions, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

  • Nailing the Spike: Creating a Compelling Short Story with April Eberhardt – This class is full.
  • The Secret: Award-Winning Author Brad Parks Finally Shares It with You  This class is full.

Please see below for detailed descriptions.




Concurrent Sessions, 9:00 a.m.–11:00 a.m.

Getting in Your Character’s Skin with Kathryn Erskine

Do you want to write characters that pop right off of the page?  Characters you and your readers really care about?  This master class explores how to get in your character’s skin and create him or her from the inside out. Erskine will engage participants in fun, easy exercises while covering elements of “character building.”

Kathryn Erskine, a lawyer-turned-author, grew up in six countries, an experience that helps her view life, and her writing, from different perspectives. Her novels include Mockingbird, a 2010 National Book Award Winner, The Absolute Value of Mike, Quaking, and her latest novel, set in Virginia, Seeing Red. While covering weighty topics, her books have warmth and humor, making difficult issues approachable. She is a writing instructor and workshop presenter.

DIY Book Apps with Michael Portis and Gigi Amateau 

Creating a book is simultaneously an artistic and entrepreneurial act. Beyond self-publishing and e-books, the 21st Century author can act as content creator and digital entrepreneur. In this dawning era of book apps, this session will examine the author’s role and a process for creating book apps. 

Michael Portis is an award-winning art director working primarily in interactive media for the last fifteen years. He’s designed campaigns for clients such as Disney/Pixar, Microsoft, Kraft, and Lexus. He’s worked with Disney Interactive, TBWA/Chiat/Day, and Deutsch Advertising among others. He also has an extensive background in multimedia design. Recently, he launched Three Hats, an app development company. The Chancey of the Maury River app developed with Gigi Amateau’s Dogtown Pursuits is its first production.

Gigi Amateau is the author of Claiming Georgia Tate (2005), hailed by Judy Blume: “It’s rare and exciting to discover a talented new writer like Gigi Amateau.” Come August, Come Freedom: The Bellows, The Gallows, and the Black General Gabriel was a Fall 2012 Okra Pick and Bank Street College’s Best Children’s Book of the Year. Born in Mississippi and now living in Richmond, Gigi has a BS from VCU and serves on JRW’s Advisory Board.

Concurrent Sessions, 11:15 a.m.–1:15 p.m.

The Career Novelist with Paige Wheeler 

Literary agent Paige Wheeler shares how authors can become career novelists, covering tips from learning the craft to handling the sweet smell of success and everything in between. 

Paige Wheeler is a founding partner of Folio Literary Management, LLC. Over the course of her career, Ms. Wheeler has worked as an agent in both a literary and entertainment capacity. Prior to FOLIO, Ms. Wheeler founded the literary agency, Creative Media Agency, which she ran for eight years. At New York-based Artists Agency, she repped writers, producers and celebrities for television. She also worked as an editor, for both Harlequin/Silhouette in NY and Euromoney Publications in London. Ms. Wheeler has worked with a wide variety of award-winning authors and celebrities, such as Nora Roberts, Robin Leach, Sheila Roberts, Gordon Elliott, Julie Hyzy, Bob Vila, Emilie Richards, Karen Salmansohn, Kate Kingsbury, and The James Beard Foundation, to name a few.

Currently she represents international and award-winning authors in commercial fiction and upscale fiction, which includes women’s fiction, mysteries, thrillers, psychological suspense; as well as narrative nonfiction and prescriptive nonfiction including self-help, how-to, business, pop-culture, popular reference projects and women’s issues.

Growing Your Online Presence with Jon Van Zile and Erica Orloff  

Bring your laptops for a hands-on session that delves into branding, search engine optimization, and more. Editing for Authors principals Erica Orloff and Jon VanZile will share insights from their almost 40 years of combined experience in publishing on every kind of project, from steamy romance novels to medical reference books.

Jon VanZile has spent the past 15 years working as an editor and writer, working with both fiction and nonfiction titles. His nonfiction specialties include medical and technical books. He has also edited dozens of novels and worked with authors to develop their projects for submission to major publishers. His past clients include national publishing and media companies such as NBC Universal, The New York Times Company, Tribune Company, Better Homes & Gardens, Oxford University Press, Hay House, Health Communications, Inc., Basic Health Publications, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, and many others.

Erica Orloff has published 25 novels under four pen names for Penguin, MIRA, Red Dress Ink, Jabberwocky, and Silhouette. She has worked in publishing since 1985 as a book editor, book doctor, ghost writer, copy editor, indexer, and book packager for publishers and clients ranging from St. Martin’s Press, Health Communications, Inc., New York University Press, Loyola Press, Pearson, McGraw-Hill, Houghton Mifflin, and others. She edits both fiction and nonfiction, including technical titles, and acts as a writing coach.

Concurrent Sessions, 2:00 p.m.–4:00 p.m.

Nailing the Spike: Creating a Compelling Short Story with April Eberhardt

Focus on the quick and dramatic arc (i.e. the spike) required to make a short story stand out, particularly in this competitive publishing environment. In the workshop, literary agent April Eberhardt will address key elements within a short story, including setting, character, point of view, conflict, plot and theme. 

April Eberhardt currently is a reader for the Best American Short Stories series published annually by Houghton Mifflin each October. Prior to becoming a literary agent, she served as head reader for Zoetrope: All-Story, Francis Ford Coppola’s literary journal. Short stories are a real love of hers, and she enjoys encouraging authors to write short stories as well as novels, as they are very different art forms and both have avid reading audiences.

The Secret: Award-Winning Author Brad Parks Finally Shares It with You

Outline your goals, manage your writing life, and create priorities so writing rises more to the fore during this interactive workshop with author Brad Parks.

Brad Parks is the only author to have won the Shamus, Nero and Lefty Awards. A Dartmouth College graduate, Brad spent a dozen years with The Washington Post and the (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger and is now a full-time novelist. His fourth Carter Ross thriller, The Good Cop, released in March.






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