Log in
logo For the South Carolina Writers Association.

2024 Storyfest logo


Friday, Sept. 27-Sunday, Sept. 29

DoubleTree by Hilton Columbia

2100 Bush River Road, Columbia, SC 29210

(Hotel room rate is $169 (plus tax & fees) for 1 King
or 2 Queen Beds. Reserve your room.)

2024 STORYFEST Session Descriptions:

(Subject to change without notice; locations TBA.)

Friday, September 27

Pre-Conference Masterclasses

(These are add-on events for conference registrants with an $85 additional fee. Non-conference registrants also may register for Tiffany Yates Martin's Masterclass ONLY for $85 by selecting that class as a "ticket type" in the registration form.)

1-3:30 p.m. - Masterclass #1: Renee Fountain: From Query to Contract: Mastering the Submission Process. Before you try to hook that agent or query that publisher make sure your submission is solid. Whether you write fiction or nonfiction, have a work in progress or a complete manuscript, this class will guide you through the process of crafting compelling submission materials, as well as provide essential tools and strategies to effectively communicate your project to literary agents and publishers. You'll learn how to: craft a dynamic query letter; create a true synopsis (hint: there's spoilers!); write a solid nonfiction book proposal; and the do's and don'ts of pitching. We'll also discuss how an agent views your material and the importance of the first five pages. By the end of this class, you'll be armed with the knowledge and confidence to navigate the world of publishing and increase your chances of securing representation and/or publication. *As a special offer to attendees, you can submit your query and first five pages for valuable feedback. 

Limit: 30 registrants

1-3:30 p.m. - Masterclass #2: Janisse Ray: Magical Craft of Creative Nonfiction. Two things are necessary for great writing. You need craft and you need a deep connection to mystery. In this masterclass with acclaimed author Janisse Ray, you will learn both. Ray teaches best practices for making your creative nonfiction come alive through craft — including writing in scene, using the senses, building tension, and showing emotion. As well, she will guide you into deeper sources of power, how to tap that power, and how to transfer it to the page. You will leave this masterclass with practical advice, numerous handouts, and at least 21 ways to make your words say more than what’s on paper. 

Limite: 30 registrants

1-4 p.m. - Masterclass #2: Tiffany Yates Martin: Mastering the Holy Trinity of Story: Character, Stakes, and Plot. Successful stories rest on a foundation of three key storytelling elements: character, stakes and plot. If any of these crucial tentpoles aren't rock-solid, the whole story may collapse — leaving you stuck on the slush pile or losing reader engagement. Authors often think they've adequately developed these basic elements in their stories, but in this practical, actionable workshop, you'll dig much deeper into how to create believable, three-dimensional characters readers invest in; how to establish compelling stakes that propel them through the story by digging deeper than just "goal-motivation-conflict'" and a clear five-step process for creating an airtight plot. We'll analyze published stories to see what makes these elements work (and what makes them falter), and you'll leave with the knowledge and tools (like helpful worksheets and checklists) to develop and strengthen your own stories. Learn how to ensure these crucial story elements are fully developed and polished to set your story apart and hook readers, agents and publishers from page one.

Limit: 30 registrants (open to public for fee)

3-5:45 p.m. - Registration

3:45-4:45 p.m. - Mindy Friddle: Write Your Novel: Tips to Propel You from Inspiration to Final Draft. Do you have a terrific idea for a novel but aren't sure how to proceed? Perhaps you are halfway through a draft and feel stuck? Maybe you're seeking ways to revise a baggy first draft into a cohesive narrative? This class will focus on ways to kickstart the writing and revising process to create a compelling novel. You'll learn about tools to structure your ideas and fine-tune the framework of your novel as well as discover techniques to help you channel your creativity – even when inspiration is running dry.

3:45-4:45 p.m. - Barbara V. Evers: Crafting Critters as Characters: Animals make great characters in books, but how do you pull this off effectively? From children's books such as Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz to cozy mysteries such as Spencer Quinn's Chet and Bernie Mysteries to Faith Hunter's Jane Yellowrock series, amazing animals leap off the page in wonderful narratives. This workshop will delve into how and why you might add animals as characters instead of props. We will look at: What are our favorite animal characters and why? What relationships do we see between animal characters and human characters? How do those relationships impact the story? What must the author do to ensure the animal's point of view represents an animal instead of a human personality with an animal's body? Why do many readers label books with animal characters as Middle Grade or YA? What would cause the book to be seen as adult? Why do cats possess a predominant space in literature and are often seen as evil or dangerous?

6 p.m. - Welcome Remarks, SCWA President Ash Smith

6:15 p.m. - Dinner

7 p.m. - Keynote Address: Screenwriter Alan Roth: AI And More: What Lies Ahead For Authors and Screenwriters. The presentation will focus on the advent of AI, how it affects authors and screenwriters, and its implications both in the near term and moving forward. The entertainment industry has been described as an intersection of art and commerce, and it is at that intersection that AI stands. There is danger ahead, but also opportunity.  Other current trends in writing will also be examined.

(These authors/agents/editors will offer individual critiques or pitch sessions on Saturday and Sunday for an extra fee of $75 for each session: Jessica Berg, Renee Fountain, Andrew Geyer, Alex Rath, Chad Rhoad and Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana. Sign up for these add-ons at registration; you will be informed later of details for your submissions and the schedule for your session(s). You may register for as many as you wish for a $75 fee for each session.)

Saturday, September 28

8-9 a.m - Breakfast

9 a.m. - Keynote Address: Tiffany Yates Martin, The Happy, Harsh Truths of a Writing Career. The statistics for developing a successful writing career can be daunting for authors, who often enter this field with high expectations. But understanding and accepting the realities of the business can free an author to dictate her own path and consciously create a career that can insulate her from the publishing business' frequent ups and downs, and offer more autonomy, creative fulfillment and satisfaction. Despite the challenges of the current publishing industry, authors have more ways than ever to practice their craft and reach readers, and you can grow and sustain a happier writing career on your own terms, even in a field where so much is out of your control.

10-11 a.m. - Breakout #1 / How to Get Your Book to the Screen: Alan Roth. This presentation will focus on the steps an author needs to follow to adapt their book for the screen, including the actual creation of the screenplay and how to market the project to producers and networks. The discussion will cover creative considerations and an insider look at how things actually work in the industry.

10-11 a.m. - Breakout #2 / Who's Saying What? And How? And Why?: Scott Gould. Scott Gould’s 2022 novel, The Hammerhead Chronicles, features seven narrators who take turns telling a story that explores the effects of grief, racism, homophobia, revenge, love and loss in a small, fictitious South Carolina town. Using various sections of the novel, Gould will discuss the juggling act required to write a book with so many distinct voices. (He may also bow in the direction of Faulkner's As I Lay Dying, as well as contemporary novels that feature multiple narrators, such as Tommy Orange's There, There and All the Light We Cannon See by Anthony Doerr.) Questions and comments will be welcomed.

10-11 a.m. - Breakout #3 / Novel vs. Story Cycle: Andrew Geyer. So you've got a book in you, but you're not sure how to write it. Or you're working on a novel, but you're stuck on page 25 (or page 50, or page 75), and you can't figure out how to get things moving again. Or you've published some good short stories, but you can't seem to sustain a book-length narrative (and no one wants to publish a miscellany of short fiction). The purpose of this session is to help you build your book . . . and get it published. We'll talk about the pros and cons of three book-length forms — novel, story cycle and composite anthology — and strategize about how to put each one together. We'll also discuss the advantages and pitfalls of collaboration. Learn which path is best for you from a writer/editor/teacher who's been doing all of the above for decades . . . and helping other writers learn to do it, too.

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Breakout #4 / Queryfest: Jessica Berg, Renee Fountain and Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana. Much sought-after agents will read and critique your query letters. A valuable tool for authors seeking representation — and a big hit at previous conferences.

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Breakout #5 / Secrets, Twists and Reveals: Tiffany Yates Martin. Secrets, surprises, and twists are powerful narrative tools. They can conjure questions and mystery in readers' minds that raise suspense, stakes and reader investment — and knowing how to use them effectively can create some of the most memorable moments of your story. Stories with dangling questions and startling reveals keep readers hooked throughout, not knowing what comes next, eagerly turning pages to find out. But pulling off a successful reveal is a tricky tightrope act between giving readers enough information to feel invested and holding back enough to keep them hooked. It's the striptease of literature: show too much and you lose all the excitement and buildup. Too little and nobody cares. Learn how to pull off successful reveals by mastering three key elements: what and how much to keep as reveal, when to reveal it, and how to unspool unspool the hidden information for maximum suspense and impact. We’ll explore the difference between good mystery and bad mystery, narratively speaking — how to avoid being coy or cryptic, and losing or annoying your reader. You'll learn how to plant readers' feet and still create powerful questions in their minds that propel them through the story — and how to make sure the payoff packs a punch when it's finally revealed.

11:15 a.m.-12:15 p.m. - Breakout #6 / Self-Publishing: The Truth Behind the Stigma: Nicole Jock and Nicholas Read. A presentation providing a brief history about self-publishing and how "independent assisted self-publishing houses" came to be. Attendees will learn the pros and cons of self-publishing, the differences between self-publishing vs. traditional publishing and self-publishing vs. hybrid and vanity publishing. Attendees will further learn about the stigmas associated self-publishing and see that what once was considered a scar is now a tattoo on the industry. Participants will become familiar with the self-publishing process from the initial "author discovery call" through to their newly published book's final proof and beyond. This will be an immersive conversation about the self-publishing world where audience participation, feedback and commentary will be welcomed.

12:15-1 p.m. - Lunch

1-2 p.m. - Keynote: Toxic Nostalgia: Grady Hendrix. On his way to winning book awards and hitting the New York Times bestseller list, Grady Hendrix made every mistake possible. He made mistakes no one even knew were possible. If your career is a car, he kept driving his off a cliff. And most of these unforced errors were because he was nostalgic for a past that didn’t exist in the first place. In this speech he’s going to tell the hair-raising story of how one idiot at a keyboard almost blew himself up because he couldn’t lose his illusions, and the crippling credit card debt that resulted from his stupidity.

2-2:50 p.m. - Breakout #7 / Why the First 10 Pages Are Critical and How to Get Them Right: Jessica Berg. The first 10 pages of manuscript are crucial for capturing the reader's attention and setting the tone for your story. In this workshop, we will start with a brief introduction to the importance of a strong opening. Then, we will dive into the key elements of an engaging opening, including hooks, character introductions and scene setting. We will analyze successful examples from various genres and discuss why these beginnings work. After each analysis, a guided writing exercise will allow participants to apply what you've learned. We also will have peer reviews to receive feedback on work and learn from others. By the end of the workshop, attendees will have a solid draft of their opening and a clear understanding of how to create an irresistible start to their story, giving them the confidence to captivate readers from the very beginning.

2-2:50 p.m. - Breakout #8 / Today's Publishing World Panel with Grady Hendrix, Renee Fountain, Lynn Cullen and Nicholas Read. Barbara V. Evers, facilitator. The publishing industry today generates around $28 billion in revenue in the United States every year. While that number has been flat for the past four years, the industry continues to experience some sizable shifts, including the emergence of ebooks, audiobooks and generative AI. The self-publishing market is booming, with a 17 percent annual growth rate, significantly outpacing the traditional publishing market’s 1 percent growth, indicating a dynamic and expanding arena for new creators. The industry has seen shifts in trends relating to the most popular genres, with young adult, romance, fantasy, mystery and thriller, historical fiction, science fiction, self-help, and memoir the most popular genres in 2024. This panel of experts will discuss these and other trends in the publishing world today, helping you understand a navigate this important area for all writers.

2-2:50 p.m. - Breakout #9 / Query Writing: Marisa Zeppieri-Caruana

3-3:50 p.m. - Breakout #10 / Excavation Memory into Poetry: Jennifer Bartell Boykin. We all have those memories that when we share them with others, they say, "That’s not how it happened." Our truth comes from the how and what we remember. Our truth is our witnessing, a way of reclaiming concealed stories of our past, our loved ones, of our towns, of our neighborhoods, and of our childhoods. Memory is a conduit into the present and the future, sometimes showing us things we have forgotten or have yet to remember. In this workshop, we will excavate memory to build poems that stitch together a new quilt of experience. We will examine ways in which we can structure a memory poem around time and space. Come with at least three memories in mind.

3-3:50 p.m. - Breakout #11 /Writing Sci-Fi and Apocalyptic: Alex Rath. He will discuss how he writes science fiction and post-apocalyptic novels and stories, many with a heavy military focus, even though he's never served in the military, and still gets praise from veterans for "getting it right." He  also will discuss how to write these things in shared universes and co-writing with another author and making everything come out seamlessly in the end. Come ready with questions!

3-3:50 p.m. - Breakout #12 / Unpacking Your Writing: Grady Hendrix. If you want to write, you need to cut the fat away from the bone, slash through thickets of cliches and stereotypes, and learn to shock, outrage and surprise the reader so they'll sit down, shut up and listen to what you have to say. In this workshop, Grady Hendrix will show you how to destroy your writing in order to save it with a series of simple practical exercises that will make you hate him forever.

3:50-4:15 p.m. - Break/Exhibits

4:15-5:15 p.m. - Breakout #13 / Writing Historical Fiction: Lynn Cullen

4:15-5:15 p.m. - Breakout #14 / Speed Pitching: Kasie Whitener. Face off with a fellow attendee and deliver your best two-minute pitch, then listen to theirs. Move down one and repeat with another attendee. In all, you'll pitch as many as 15 times in 40 minutes, getting better every time. It's practice, baby! And practice makes perfect!

4:15-5:45 p.m. (90-minute session)- Breakout #15 / Live Edits: Tiffany Yates Martin. In more than 30 years in the publishing industry, with major "Big Five" houses and others, small presses and indie authors; award winners, bestsellers and newer writers, Martin has worked on thousands of manuscripts and knows what makes story work. Bring in a portion of your work-in-progress (one page, standard industry formatting). Martin will edit attendee submissions on the spot (randomly selected and anonymous, unless you choose to identify yourself) so everyone can see and participate in the process and witness firsthand the effect judicious editing can have on in the impact of a story and how well it engages readers. This workshop will not only help you improve your WIP based on the class feedback, but offer a visual, visceral and enlightening way to learn to polish your own stories by analyzing other people's, learning to assess and address what agents and editors see on the page, and what makes story truly effective.

5:15- 6 p.m. - Exhibits, Book Signings, Cocktails

6 p.m. - Dinner on your own

7:30-9:30 p.m. - Reading/Open Mic: Michael Murray, facilitator/host. Open Mic is a volunteer, all-genre event wherein participating attendees who wish to read will sign up throughout Saturday and up to 30 minutes after the event begins. The host will welcome the attendees, instruct them to keep to the 6-minute time limit, and then read for his own piece before introducing the first name on the sign-up sheet. He will alert the second and third names they’ll be next. Once the first reader begins, the host will time the reading and alert the reader at the 3:00 mark. Then subsequent readings will follow suit.

Sunday, September 29

8-8:45 a.m. - Breakfast

8:15-9:15 a.m. - SCWA Membership Meeting

9:15-10 a.m. - Keynote Address: Lynn Cullen

10-10:50 a.m. Breakout #16 / Develop Your Memoir: Writing Prompts from a Memoirist and Developmental Editor: Cinelle Barnes. Develop your memoir with memoirist, developmental editor and Pulitzer Prize for Memoir juror Cinelle Barnes. In this immersive, generative workshop, we will learn and practice three prompts Barnes uses when developing her books and working with debut memoirists. These prompts focus on the who (characters), when (timelines and plots), and how (form and subplots) of memoir, and altogether carve compelling, publishable stories out of lived experiences. Take home worksheets provided at the workshop will continue to aid you after the session, allowing you to write a summary and synopsis at your own time — two key elements in book proposals and agent pitches. 

10-11:30 a.m. (90-minute session) - Breakout #17 / How to Train Your Editor Brain: Tiffany Yates Martin. Writers read — it's advice authors are given only slightly less often than "writers write." But reading for enjoyment isn't the same as reading (or watching) analytically as a writer to understand and learn craftIn this workshop, Martin will teach you the most powerful way to improve your own storytelling and self-editing skills: by learning to analyze and evaluate other people's stories with an editorial eye. We'll explore analytical skills for developing and deepening your knowledge of story craft that you can practice every day, by doing things you're already doing — reading books and watching movies and television. In this fun, practical workshop, we'll explore crucial skills in objectively seeing — and evaluating — only what's on the page, spotting things you may have been blind to in your own work, and how to make sure your vision and intentions are coming across to the reader. You'll never look at story the same way again — and that's the best way to internalize storytelling skills that will make you a stronger writer.

10-10:50 a.m. Breakout #18: Plot Your Novel Using Percentages: Jessica Berg. Understanding the structure of your novel in terms of percentages can help you maintain pacing and balance throughout your story. In this workshop, participants will learn how to divide their novels into key sections using a percentage-based approach. This method ensures that each part of the story receives appropriate attention, leading to a well-paced and balanced narrative. We will discuss the major plot points (e.g., inciting incident, midpoint, climax) and their typical placements within the narrative. Through practical exercises, attendees will outline their novels, applying these structural principles to create a cohesive and well-paced story. By the end of the session, participants will have a clear roadmap for their novel, with a balanced distribution of key events and turning points.

11 a.m.-noon - Breakout #19 / Writing Children's Literatures: Dinah Johnson. This workshop is for those who are beginning to write picture books as well as children's book writers who are honing their craft. Attendees will consider the range of the children's literature world through examining several works of outstanding fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and alphabet books. Dinah Johnson will use one of her own books as examples of how an idea is translated into a query or rough draft, which eventually becomes a polished manuscript and, finally, a finished book.

11 a.m.-noon - Slushfest with Andrew Geyer, Chad Rhoad, Renee Fountain and Jessica Berg. Will your work grab an editor or agent? In Slushfest, attendees will 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!

12:15-12:30 p.m. - Final Remarks: Ash Smith

Connect with SCWA

Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software