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STORYFEST 2023:

Friday, Nov. 3-Sunday, Nov.5

Columbia Metropolitan Convention Center

1101 Lincoln St., Columbia, SC 29201


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STORYFEST 2023 Session Descriptions:

(Subject to change without notice; locations TBA.)

Full 2023 Storyfest Schedule



Friday, Nov. 3

1-3:30 p.m. - Pre-Conference Workshops (Workshops/Masterclasses are add-on events with an $85 fee)
(Location: Darla Moore School of Business, USC, 1014 Greene St., Columbia, SC 29201; see room numbers with each session description.) 

Workshop #1: Market Your Book Skyward / Janisse Ray (Room 118)

Have you published a book? Did it make a mark? Are you working on one now?

Over 650 million books sell each year. The average amount spent yearly on reading is $113. Sixty percent of adults read at least one book in the past year. The average reading time is 20 minutes a day, although adults over 75 read twice that long. Since people are reading, why shouldn’t they be reading your book? First, they need to know about it!

I've been selling books for over 20 years. I've written or edited a dozen of them — some with major publishing houses, some with small presses, some independently. I've had publicists, no publicists, book tours, no book tours, big hotels, a friend's sofa. In every case, the marketing that I, myself, did made the most difference. I'll tell you why - because I showed up for the book and for the people who love stories and who wanted to read it.

This workshop is for published authors, writers who want to publish, writers with a book under contract, folks in public relations, and friends helping writer friends.

Maybe you think that publicity is not the job of the writer. Maybe you thought that once you did the hard work of writing the book that you'd be done. I'm telling you it's your job. I'm telling you that you're not done. Lots of people helped me and I'd like to help you. I'll tell you what I know. I'm not saying this is easy or that you won't have to work hard. But these ideas are solid gold. They work.

—Janisse Ray

Limit: 30 registrants

Workshop #2: How Publishing Works: Learn How to Work the System to Your Advantage / Amy Collins (Room 103)

There are a few critical elements for a successful writing career that go beyond simply being a great writer. It all starts with an understanding of HOW books get chosen by publishers and agents. An understanding of the business of publishing is essential — it can make or break an author's career.

The business side of publishing doesn't have to be scary or difficult, though. In this intensive workshop, Amy Collins with her background as a chain book buyer, director of sales for a top publisher, and now, literary agent with Talcott Notch will offer insights on managing your writing career as a business, and a much deeper understanding of how the publishing business works.

Effectively marketing, selling and promoting yourself and your work in a sustainable manner requires a solid author and proposal package, and this workshop will help you develop the materials you need to achieve both your creative and financial goals.

  • Understand who your readers are, and where they browse and shop.
  • Identify comp titles and authors in your genre/category.
  • Learn what marketing and pr impresses publishers and why.
  • Create an author and proposal kit DESIGNED to impress fiction agents and editors.
  • Learn how to use the data you uncover in this class to get out of the slush pile.

Whether you're an introvert concerned about being too pushy and "selling out" or a social gadfly with an established platform you'll end the day with an actionable, individualized plan to embrace the business side of your writing career without getting overwhelmed.

When you finish this class you will have:

  • A new set of tools that will help you find agents and publishers who are a better fit.
  • A list of comp titles that will be a better fit for your project and impress agents.
  • A DO-ABLE list of author market plans that make an impression.
  • A set of pitch letter tips that will increase your chances of getting requests to read your pages.

This session will forever change your relationship with comp title requests. Collins will go over HOW to find and how to use comp titles to pitch your idea and then prove that your idea is a great idea. Comp titles help "shorthand" your pitch and are the MOST effective way to let editors and agents know whether your manuscript is a good fit for them. 

In addition, comp titles in your market viability statement shows that books like yours are selling now. Learn how to find the BEST comp titles using websites, databases and a host of tools you may not have seen before. Learn how to use the data you uncover in this class to get out of the slush pile.

— Amy Collins

Limit: 30 registrants

Workshop #3: Before Fade In: Pre-Writing Tools To Help You Conquer Page One Of Your Screenplay / Geoffrey Gunn (Room 105)

Do you have a great idea for a film but no idea where to begin?

Or maybe you have too many ideas and don't know which one to follow?

Or perhaps you have an idea but aren't sure if it's a feature, TV series, or short?

Good news! In this workshop we'll focus on learning the fundamental "pre-writing" tools you can use to identify, test, and develop your idea into something you can confidently bring to page one of your screenplay. Topics covered will include:

  • Ideas and Inspiration
  • Titles and Loglines
  • Adaptations
  • Choosing Your Medium
  • Blue-Skying
  • Story Breaking
  • Beat Sheets, Outlines, and Treatments

- Geoffrey Gunn

Limit: 30 registrant

ALL OTHER EVENTS WILL BE HELD AT THE COLUMBIA METROPOLITAN CONVENTION CENTER, 1101 LINCOLN ST., COLUMBIA, SC 29201

3-6 p.m. Check-In: Lower-Level Registration Table, lobby near Richland and Congaree rooms.

4:30-5:30 p.m. - Friday Breakout /Developing voice and emotional truth in fiction, with author Halle Hill (Congaree Room, lower level)

5:45 -6 p.m. - Opening Remarks & Welcome (Congaree Room)

6:15-6:50 p.m. - Keynote: Ashley Poston (Congaree Room)

Bestselling author Ashley Poston started writing fan fiction as a young girl.  Since then, she's written nine novels that cross genre lines: romance, fantasy, YA and science fiction. "I don't write for the fame or the clout of it," says the Charleston, South Carolina, writer. "I just really like writing, and I like telling stories."

7-10 p.m. - Cocktail Party with cash bar & hors d'oeuvres (Congaree Room

Saturday, Nov. 4

8-9 a.m - Breakfast (Richland Room)

9:10 a.m. - Welcome (Richland Room)

9:15-9:55 p.m. - Keynote: Janise RayFive Challenges to Great Writing and How to Conquer Them (Richland Room)

Author Janisse Ray, whose first book, Ecology of a Cracker Childhood, sold a quarter of a million copies, has learned firsthand many roadblocks to great writing. Some are simple, such as forgetting that the real hero of the story is your reader, and some are complicated, such as believing in your own potential. But they can all be conquered. Don't miss an unforgettable and inspiring keynote from a writer and entrepreneur who has published a dozen books and taught hundreds of people through classes and writing courses. Bring your notebook. Ray puts the pow in powerhouse. She doesn’t hold back with insight, with foresight, with gumption, with grit. 

10-11 a.m. - Breakout #1 / Short Story 101 with Andrew Geyer, Halle Hill and Holly Goddard Jones (Senate Room)

What makes a great short story? Three acclaimed authors will talk about character, action, plot and voice in a wide-ranging discussion of one of fiction's most demanding forms.

10-11 a.m. - Breakout #2 / The Dreaded Comp Titles:  A Necessary Evil That Can Launch Your Career with Amy Collins (Carolina Room)

Comp titles are the most effective way to let editors and agents know whether your manuscript is a good fit for them. In this class, veteran agent Amy Collins will show you how to find and use comp titles to pitch your book idea. You'll learn how to use websites, databases and other tools to get a book contract.

10-11 a.m. - Breakout #3 / Adaptations and Pitching Your Novel as a Script with screenwriter Geoffrey Gunn and author Brad Land (Lincoln Room)

Land's brutal memoir, Goat, was turned into a 2016 film starring Nick Jonas and James Franco. Gunn and Land will talk about Goat’s journey from book to screenplay to movie.

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Breakout #4 / Write Your Own Story, with Janisse Ray (Senate Room)

You've been scaling the mountains of your colorful experiences, collecting anecdotes and images and metaphors. You've been journaling. You've been jotting down notes. Now it's time to think about writing with intent and telling your story. This class will cover the basics of memoir and personal narrative. You'll write about real life — your wonderful life — including your ideas and beliefs. We'll dive deep into craft, which is a lot like diving on a coral reef, so that you can make your stories come alive with the color and animation they deserve. Telling your story is important to your family, to all of us, and to human culture at large. So do it. Get serious and write about the things, large and small, that have happened to you. No writing experience is needed — all you need is the willingness to put pen to paper and see where it takes you. Come with a notepad or journal and some writing instruments. You will leave with a great start to something big.

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Breakout #5 / Crash Course:  Publishing World Snapshot, with Hub City editors Meg Reid and Kate McMullen (Carolina Room)

Join Meg Reid and Kate McMullen from Hub City Press as they demystify all aspects of publishing and the business of writing. They'll discuss publishing models, query letters, agents, and much more, followed by a Q&A.

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Breakout #6 / Poetry Session with Glenis Redmond (Lincoln Room)

Glenis Gale Redmond, a self-proclaimed native of nowhere, was raised in an Air Force family. A voracious reader, she got her first library card at the age of 5.  She studied psychology and — in the middle of a Ph.D. program for counseling — she changed careers and became a poet. Since then, she's performed everywhere, from the Peace Center for the Performing Arts in Greenville to the White House and the Library of Congress.

12:15-1 p.m. - Lunch (Richland Room)

1-1:40 p.m. - Keynote: Jason Mott (Richland Room)

Jason Mott went from answering phones in a call center — a job he hated — to a bestselling author with the publication of his first novel, The Returned, which was turned into a television series. His fourth novel, Hell Of A Book, won the 2021 National Book Award for Fiction. Mott draws on everything for his work, from classic novels such as Lord of the Flies to graphic novels to films by the Cohen Brothers. "In my heart, I'm a country boy," he told an interviewer once. "I love North Carolina and I love small-town life."

2-2:50 p.m. - Pitch Speed Dating (Richland Room)

Hone your pitching skills by pitching your book ideas to other conference-goers, writers, editors and agents in this fast-paced speed dating-style session.

2-2:50 p.m. - Breakout #7 / Writing The Breakout Novel: Julia Franks, Claire Jimenez and Jason Mott (Carolina Room)

Four authors tackle the challenges and rewards of writing a first novel.

2-2:50 p.m. - Breakout #8 / Writing Across Genres, Part One: Romance, YA Fantasy & Space Operas with Ashley Poston (Senate Room)

New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ashley Poston talks about writing in different genres — and what all successful books have in common.

2-2:50 p.m. - Breakout #9 / Poetry Roundtable with Art Turfa, Glenis Redmond and Ed Madden (Lincoln

3-3:50 p.m. - Breakout #10 / Photography, History: Capturing South Carolina with Cecil Williams and Joshua Parks (Lincoln Room)

A talk with Civil Rights era photographer and publisher Cecil Williams and Joshua Parks, author of The Green Book of South Carolina: A Guide to African American Cultural Sites.

3-3:50 p.m. - Breakout #11 / Who Dunnit? Learn How to Write a Page-Turning Mystery from Authors Susan Boyer, Deb Richardson-Moore and Yasmin Angoe with moderator Raegan Teller (Carolina Room)

3-3:50 p.m. - Breakout #12 / Writing Across Genres, Part Two: Mainstream, Literary Mysteries & Thrillers, with Charlie Lovett (Senate Room)

Charlie Lovett's 2014 novel, The Bookman’s Tale, took the literary world by storm. "There's mystery and suspense, murder and seduction," said one critic. The author of eight books, Lovett delights in mixing genres: romance, mystery, fantasy and thriller. His latest, The Enigma Affair, follows an assassin and a librarian as they unravel a literary mystery, decipher a coded message from WWII and fight fascists. "Rollicking," says Publishers Weekly. "The pages fly by."

3:50-4:15 p.m. - Snack Break (Richland Room)

4:15-5:15 p.m. - Breakout #13 / How I Learned to Stop Worrying (as much) and Love Exposition with Claire Jimenez (Lincoln Room)

Workshops are often full of maxims having to do with rates of revelation and the right way to introduce conflict: "Start with the trouble," "Start with the day that's different."  This isn't bad advice, but treating a story's exposition as something that must always be cut, buried, doled out or masked is a limiting practice, one that cheats you of a literary technique as ancient and effective as "once upon a time." This lecture will celebrate the joys of exposition and digression, pinpointing some specific strategies for its use and meditating on the ways that exposition, too, can create tension and narrative energy.

4:15-5:15 p.m. - Breakout #14 / The Spirit of Place in Creative Nonfiction with journalist Phoebe Zerwick (Senate Room)

Fiction writers know well the importance of capturing a sense of place to establish a setting. The spirit of a place is equally important in writing nonfiction, whether that's history, memoir or journalism. Phoebe Zerwick draws on her experience as an author, journalist and producer of multimedia stories for a workshop that will help writers rethink the meaning of place. The challenge for writers of nonfiction is to evoke that spirit through facts. The workshop will provide practical guidance on how to find these details through direct observation, interviews, and research to bring a place alive for readers. 

4:15-5:15 p.m. - Breakout #15 / Queryfest with agents Amy Collins and Renee C. Fountain and editor Aurora Bell (Carolina Room)

Two sought-after agents will read and critique your query letters. A valuable tool for authors seeking representation — and a big hit at last year's conference.

5:15-7:15 p.m. - Dinner (Richland Room)

5:15-7:15 p.m. - Exhibitors & Networking in lobby | Book signings at All Good Books table

6:15-7 p.m. - Author Reading (Richland Room)

7:15-10 p.m. - Open Mic | Birthday Party (Richland Room)

Sunday, Nov. 5

8-8:45 a.m - Continental Breakfast (Carolina Room)

8:15-8:55 a.m. - Membership Meeting (Carolina Room)

9-10 a.m. - Breakout #1 / Crossing the Line: The Role of Thresholds in Successful Stories with Susan Zurenda (Carolina Room)

9-10 a.m. - Breakout #2 / Nonfiction Book Proposals and Hybrid Memoirs with Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana (Lincoln Room)

9-10 a.m. - Breakout #3 / A Conversation with thriller writer Yasmin Angoe (Senate Room)

9-10 a.m. - Breakout #4 / Playing with Forms with Ed Madden (Senate Room)

10:15-11:15 a.m. - Breakout # 5 / Slushfest with agents and editors (Carolina Room)

Will your work grab an editor or agent? In a slushfest, attendees anonymously provide the first page of their manuscript to our panels of experts (agents, editors and publishers). If they stop reading, they'll explain why a professional might reject a submission. Get valuable feedback on your work!

11:20 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Being Successfully Published with John Sherrer, Claire Jimenez, Ruth Smryl and Michael McGandy (Carolina Room)

12:15-12:30 p.m. - Final Remarks (Carolina Room)

1 p.m. - Book Store Event at All Good Books with Keynote speakers Jason Mott, Janisse Ray and Ashley Poston






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