2018 Conference Presenters


Keynote Speakers


Sharyn McCrumb, is best known for her Appalachian "Ballad" novels, including the New York Times best sellers The Ballad of Tom Dooley, The Ballad of Frankie Silver, and Ghost Riders, which won the Wilma Dykeman Award for Literature from the East Tennessee Historical Society and the national Audie Award for Best Recorded Book. Other best sellers include She Walks These Hills and The Rosewood Casket. Her current novels are Prayers the Devil Answers, the story of the last public hanging ever carried out in the United States, and The Unquiet Grave, the story of West Virginia's Greenbrier Ghost.

In April 2014, Sharyn McCrumb was awarded the Mary Frances Hobson Prize for Southern Literature by North Carolina's Chowan University. Named a "Virginia Woman of History" in 2008 for Achievement in Literature, she was a guest author at the National Festival of the Book in Washington, D.C. sponsored by the White House.

Her novels, studied in universities throughout the world, have been translated into eleven languages, including French, German, Dutch, Japanese, Arabic, and Italian. She has lectured on her work at Oxford University, the University of Bonn-Germany, and at the Smithsonian Institution; taught a writers workshop in Paris, and served as writer-in-residence at King College in Tennessee and at the Chautauqua Institute in western New York. She served as Keynote speaker at HRW's Inaugural Writers Conference in 2009.

St. Dale, The Canterbury Tales in a NASCAR setting, in which ordinary people on a pilgrimage in honor of racing legend Dale Earnhardt find a miracle, won a 2006 Library of Virginia Award as well as the AWA Book of the Year Award. McCrumb's other honors include: AWA Outstanding Contribution to Appalachian Literature Award; the Chaffin Award for Southern Literature; the Plattner Award for Short Story; and AWA's Best Appalachian Novel. She was recently named "Best Mountain Writer 2013" by Blue Ridge Country Magazine. McCrumb was the first writer-in-residence at King College in Tennessee. In 2005 she honored as the Writer of the Year at Emory & Henry College.


Born in Boston, Massachusetts, Ingrid Thoft is the author of the critically acclaimed Fina Ludlow series. Each novel in the series, LOYALTY, IDENTITY, BRUTALITY, and DUPLICITY (January 2017) features the Boston private investigator who tangles with the city’s criminal element and her family of personal injury attorneys. The series has been called “sizzling” by Entertainment Weekly and “dazzling” by Publishers Weekly.

BRUTALITY won the Shamus Award for Best P.I. Novel. LOYALTY was nominated for the Shamus Award for best debut P.I. novel and received the Spotted Owl Award for best debut mystery by a Pacific Northwest writer. The novels are currently being developed into a TV series by ABC studios.

Ingrid earned a certificate in private investigation from the University of Washington in her quest to create a believable private investigator character. She also is a graduate of Wellesley College.

Ingrid lives in Seattle with her husband and is a member of Seattle7Writers, a collective of Pacific Northwest authors whose mission is to foster and support passion for the written word.


Literary Agents & Indie Publisher


Author of seven books, L. Diane Wolfe is the senior editor at Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. Her book titles include How to Publish and Promote your Book Now! and Overcoming Obstacles With SPUNK! The Keys to Leadership & Goal-Setting. Wolfe's young adult series,"The Circle of Friends," which includes Lori--Book 1, Sarah--Book 2, James--Book 3, Mike--Book 4, and Heather--Book 5, has been described as “encouragement personified.”

Known as “Spunk On A Stick”, Wolfe, who is a member of the National Speakers Association, conducts seminars on marketing, book publishing, websites, leadership, and goal setting.

Wolfe maintains several websites & blogs, including the Insecure Writer’s Support Group.

Wolfe opened Dancing Lemur Press, L.L.C. in 2008. It now boasts over 30 titles, including several best sellers and award winners.

Dancing Lemur Press is seeking:
  • Nonfiction: Self-help, family & relationship, inspirational, and business & economics. We are looking for fresh perspectives and new information & ideas. No poetry.

  • Science fiction: Prefer adventure/space opera genres. Salacious, negative and R-rated material will not be considered.

  • Fantasy: All genres, including paranormal. No young adult or salacious, R-rated material considered.

  • New Adult/Young Adult: Seeking fresh stories in all genres, especially contemporary. Prefer an inspirational or more wholesome slant - no salacious, R-rated material considered.

  • Middle Grade: Select middle grade accepted, all genres. History aspect a plus. No picture books.

  • Paranormal: Romances, light horror, mystery, etc. Salacious, negative and R-rated material will not be considered.

  • Mystery/Thriller: No salacious or R-rated material considered.

  • Christian: Nonfiction, inspirational, and contemporary fiction.



  • Caitie Flum joined Liza Dawson Associates in July 2014 as assistant and audio rights manager. She graduated from Hofstra University in 2009 with a B.A. in English with a concentration in publishing studies. She interned at Hachette Book Group and Writers House. She was an editorial assistant then coordinator for Bookspan, where she worked on several clubs including the Book-of-the-Month Club, The Good Cook, and the Children’s Book-of-the-Month Club.

    Caitie is looking for commercial and upmarket fiction with great characters and superb writing, especially historical fiction, mysteries/thrillers of all kinds, romance, and book club fiction. She is open to science fiction and fantasy that crosses over to a young adult market.

    She is also looking for Middle Grade and Young Adult projects, particularly romance, historical fiction, mysteries and thrillers, science fiction and fantasy, and contemporary books with diverse characters.

    In nonfiction, she is looking for narrative nonfiction, especially history that’s impossible to put down, books on pop culture, theater, current events, women’s issues, and humor.

    Caitie would love to see:
  • A mystery featuring an investigative journalist. Think Rory Gilmore doing her dream job Women’s fiction with millennials (THE ASSISTANTS)

  • Historical fiction from perspectives we usually do not see and untold stories (BETWEEN SHADES OF GRAY)

  • Multi-POV told from different sibling perspectives. Characters that are lovable and flawed like the Bravermans

  • Adult and YA books that feature a child-free MC who doesn’t change her mind

  • LGBTQ+ projects from all genres and age groups

  • YA SFF, please send me your epics. If it has huge battles, sweeping love stories, and twists and turns (THE CROWN’S GAME, ILLUMINAE)

  • Middle grade projects that have a voice that sounds like a kid, but also has beautiful writing (SOME KIND OF HAPPINESS, THE REAL BOY)

  • Any feminist projects, fiction or nonfiction, but the feminism needs to be intersectional Complex, difficult girls/women as the main character (ALL THE RAGE), characters making decisions readers might not agree with

  • Narrative nonfiction looking at the impact pop culture can have on American culture at large, especially written by diverse voices.




  • Literary Agent, Steven Salpeter, is a literary agent at Curtis Brown, Ltd. A graduate of the University of Florida, Steven edited Tea and founded the Palmetto Prize for Fiction.

    He began his publishing career at Writers House and Brandt & Hochman before moving to Curtis Brown to assist Mitchell Waters and help Timothy Knowlton manage many of the agency’s venerable estate clients, including W. H. Auden, Stanley Ellin, John Knowles, Alfred Lansing, and Ayn Rand, among other bestsellers and literary award winners.

    He is now actively building his list, seeking literary fiction, fantasy, graphic novels, historical fiction, mysteries, thrillers, young adult, and authors who can blend elements of these genres. Steven is also interested in narrative nonfiction, gift books, history, humor, and popular science. He lives in New York City.



    Literary Agent, Dr. Uwe Stender, founder of TriadaUS Literary Agency, is a Full Member of the AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives).

    He is interested in all kinds of nonfiction and fiction. In nonfiction, he is completely open to any project, from Memoir, Pop Culture, and Health to How-to, Gardening, History and everything in between, including non-fiction for children.

    In Children's fiction, he is looking for YA, Middle Grade and Picture Books. In adult fiction, his tastes trend toward Women's Fiction, Psychological Suspense, and Mysteries. As an immigrant to the USA himself, he is always eager to bring projects from underrepresented voices into the world. So surprise him, his tastes are eclectic, and he may just love what you wrote!

    His favorite five novels right now are: Caraval, The Underground Railroad, Der Nasse Fisch, Kafka On The Shore, The Young Elites, and Wonder.


    Other Breakout Session Presenters


    Michael Khandelwal is an award-winning writer and teacher. He contributes editorials, profiles, and feature articles to Coastal Virginia Magazine, teaches poetry and fiction workshops for the Norfolk-area literary center Muse Writers Center, (for which he is a founder and serves as Executive Director), is a past web content management specialist for The American Council on Education, and is the past President of the 2008 Electoral College of Virginia.



    Christopher De Matteo holds a BA in History and a BA in Political Science from the University of Virginia's College at Wise, and a MA in History from Old Dominion University, where he worked as a Teacher's Assistant, and a Masters of Teaching in Secondary Education from VCU. He is currently a teacher in the Richmond area. Chris has presented research at undergrad and graduate research conferences, and has been published in several journals, in both history and fiction. He has a love of science fiction and an obsession with world building; he is working on his first novel.



    Holly Day has worked as a freelance writer, indexer, and editor for more than 25 years. She has over 7,000 published articles, poems, and short stories, and more than a dozen published books of fiction and nonfiction.

    Her book titles include Insider's Guide to the Twin Cities, Walking Twin Cities, Music Theory for Dummies (also released in Dutch, German, Portuguese, Spanish, French, Persian, Polish, Italian, and Russian editions), Music Composition for Dummies (also released in German, Portuguese, and Spanish editions), Guitar All-in-One for Dummies, Piano All-in-One for Dummies, Nordeast Minneapolis: A History, A Brief History of Stillwater, Minnesota, The Book Of, and the poetry books The Smell of Snow, Late-Night Reading for Hardworking Construction Men, and Ugly Girl.

    Her writing has been nominated for a National Magazine Award, a 49th Parallel Prize, an Isaac Asimov Award, eight Pushcart awards, and three Dzanc Book's Best of the Web awards. She is the recipient of two Midwest Writer's Grants, a Plainsongs Award, the 2011 Sam Ragan Prize for Poetry, and a Dwarf Star Award from the international-juried Science Fiction Poetry Association. Holly She teaches writing classes for children and adults at The Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis, Minnesota.



    Dr. Colin Sargent is an acclaimed novelist and playwright from Maine. A graduate of the United States Naval Academy, he has an MFA from Stonecoast and a Ph.D. in Creative Writing from Lancaster University. Sargent is the founding editor of Portland Magazine – and a relative of John Singer Sargent, who strides through his latest novel, The Boston Castrato along with a host of true-life characters. The Boston Castrato was published in 2016 by Barbican Press of London and Hull, UK. According to London's Morning Star the novel is "an extraordinary literary expression of the American nightmare."

    Sargent's other best-known works include: his debut novel Museum of Human Beings, included in the National American Indian Heritage Month Booklist, which delves into the heart-wrenching life of Jean-Baptiste Charbonneau, the son of Sacagawea; the play 100 Percent American Girl; and poetry books Luftwaffe Snowshoes, Blush, and Undertow.



    Annmarie Lockhart is the founding editor of vox poetica, an online literary salon dedicated to bringing poetry into the everyday, and unbound CONTENT, an independent publisher for a boundless age.

    A resident of Englewood, NJ, she lives, works and writes 2 miles east of the hospital where she was born. She hosts vox poetica’s 15 Minutes of Poetry, a podcast for poets, writers, and artists (https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/vox-poeticas-15-minutes-of-poetry/id385446030?ls=1).

    Annmarie has led writing workshops and presentations for a number of literary festivals and she facilitates an ongoing interactive session on writing collective poetry for Camp Discovery, a day camp for cancer survivors based in Philadelphia, PA.

    Ten years of Annmarie’s poetry, short fiction, and creative nonfiction can be found in some anthologies and at fine journals and publications including Peacock Journal, The Blue Mountain Review, Anti-Heroin Chic, Hobo Camp Review, Nailpolish Stories, Literally Stories, Poetry Breakfast, Sensations Magazine, and unFold, among others.



    Diane Fine has been a professional screenwriter and "script doctor" in Hollywood for over 20 years. Her credits include Storm starring Martin Sheen and Luke Perry, Firetrap starring Dean Cain, Lori Petty, and Mel Harris, Art Heist starring Ellen Pompeo and Billy Baldwin, and Purgatory Flats starring Brian Austin Green, Nick Turturro, and Gregg Henry. The BET movie-of-the-week she co-wrote, Fire & Ice, starring Kadeem Hardison and Lark Voorhies, was one of the highest-rated MOWs in BET's history and was nominated for an NAACP Image award.

    A graduate of USC's School of Cinematic Arts, Diane has taught screenwriting, creative writing, and elements of storytelling courses to children, teens, and adults in Los Angeles. After recently relocating to Norfolk, she currently teaches Screenwriting and Film Production at Old Dominion University as well as at the Muse Writers Center



    Jenna Jaxon is a multi-published author of historical romance in all time periods because passion is timeless. She has been reading and writing historical romance since she was a teenager. A romantic herself, she has always loved a dark side to the genre, a twist, suspense, a surprise. She tries to incorporate all of these elements into her own stories. She’s a theatre director when she’s not writing and lives in Gloucester, Virginia with her family, including two very vocal cats.

    She is a PAN member of Romance Writers of America as well as an active member of Chesapeake Romance Writers, her local chapter of RWA. She has three series currently available: The House of Pleasure, set in Georgian England, Handful of Hearts, set in Regency England, and Time Enough to Love, set in medieval England and France. This March Kensington Publishing will release the first book her Widows’ Club series, To Woo A Wicked Widow in both print and ebook.



    Skye Zentz grew up in Norfolk, VA, in a house full of strange musical instruments, star wars figures, and love. She taught herself to sing by osmosis, soaking up the influence of her very musical family, and humming along with the Motown anthems she learned on Oldies 95.7.

    Over the last decade, Skye has made a name for herself in the Hampton Roads area with her infectious, uplifting energy, honest lyrics and memorable melodies. Her releases have earned her multiple local nominations for Song of the Year (both in the 2007 Portfolio Music Awards and the 2013 and 2014 Veer Music Awards). Her debut album, Legitimate Bohemia, was nominated for Album of the Year at the 2008 Portfolio Music Awards. She took home the Veer Music Award for Best Acoustic/Folk in 2013 and Best Busker in 2015. A versatile artist, Skye spreads her music from concert halls to nursing homes and schools, from public libraries to coffeehouses and living rooms. Skye's music explores themes of infatuation, commitment, freedom, and time, inspired by her own experiences and complemented by the insight found in mythology and traditional folk tales

    Skye has performed at the NAMM show in Anaheim, California, and taught ukulele and songwriting workshops. She currently teaches at The Muse Writers Center, in Norfolk.



    Libby Kurz holds a BS in Nursing and an MFA in Creative Writing. Her work has been published in The Poet’s Billow, Relief Journal, Driftwood Press, Literary Mama, and Ruminate. Her poetry was awarded first prize in the New Voices category of the 2017 Poetry Society of Virginia Contest. A veteran of the US Air Force, she now resides in Virginia Beach with her family. When she’s not keeping tabs on her three kids, she works as a registered nurse and teaches writing workshops.



    Allison Joseph lives in Carbondale, Illinois, where she directs the MFA Program in Creative Writing at Southern Illinois University. She serves as poetry editor of Crab Orchard Review. Her books and chapbooks include What Keeps Us Here (Ampersand Press), Soul Train (Carnegie Mellon University Press), In Every Seam (University of Pittsburgh Press), Worldly Pleasures (Word Tech Communications), Imitation of Life (Carnegie Mellon UP), Voice: Poems (Mayapple Press), My Father's Kites (Steel Toe Books), Trace Particles (Backbone Press), Mercurial (Mayapple Press), Mortal Rewards (White Violet Press), Multitudes (Word Poetry), The Purpose of Hands (Glass Lyre Press), Double Identity (Singing Bone Press), Corporal Muse (Sibling Rivalry), and What Once You Loved (Barefoot Muse Press).

    Her latest book is Confessions of a Barefaced Woman (Red Hen Press, 2018). She is the literary partner and wife of poet and editor Jon Tribble.



    Sarah Hill has made a career out of social media by being in the right place at the right time. She helped CNN adopt Facebook, live tweeted major news events, brought daily forecasts to the country via social media for the Weather Channel, and now she's using hew knowledge for her own creative projects. The founder of the Hampton Roads Social Media Collective, Sarah spends more time on her phone and computer than she cares to admit. She's currently the Content Strategist for Old Dominion University Distance Learning and a teacher at the Muse Writer's Center in Norfolk. She starts graduate school in the fall so she may earn a Master's Degree in Digital Communications.



    Dr. John McCarthy has been a devout consumer of words for all his life, and a producer since he was a teenager. He writes for the sheer joy of playing with words.

    Act One of his adult life was as a student and then teacher, teaching composition, business and technical writing and creative writing in Houston Texas. At the beginning of Act Two, he had a mid-life crisis and left a perfectly good tenured associate professorship because he was tired of doing his best writing in red on the bottom of other people’s stuff. After a series of temp jobs, he landed a job as a technical proposal writer, a career that has paid the bills ever since. Surprisingly, the proposals he has written represent some of John’s best fictional work.

    For the past few years, John has been teaching seminars and just generally hanging out at the Muse Writer’s Center in Norfolk, VA, where he moderates the Writers Supporting Writers group.

    John is currently interested in how words and pictures come together, manifested most clearly on his web page and in cartoons he draws. He also likes words spoken, an interest which led him to Toastmasters, PechaKuchaNight, the WHRO Writer’s Block, and to one of the workshops he’s presenting at the Conference.

    John likes to read good stuff. If there’s something he can do to help people write good stuff that he wants to read, he’s willing to make the effort.

    When asked what he writes, John usually replies, “words.” The problem is, when he gets an idea, he never knows in which form it will be expressed until the idea tells him what it wants to be. Most recently, a lot of ideas want to be poems.

    John has published (but not much) in small magazines and professional publications. He holds a Ph.D. in Composition & Rhetoric from Miami University.



    Dr. Jennifer Malia is an English professor at Norfolk State University, where she is working on a children's picture book and a mother-daughter memoir about her journey with her daughter on the autism spectrum. Her personal essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, New York Magazine, Glamour, Woman's Day, Good Housekeeping (US & UK), Cosmopolitan, Redbook, Country Living, Dr. Oz The Good Life, and Special Broadcasting Service (Australia), among others.

    She holds a Ph.D. and M.A. in English Language and Literature and a M.S. in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages from the University of Southern California. She also earned a B.A. magna cum laude in English from Bowdoin College. She has been to twenty countries around the world, including a four-year stay in the United Arab Emirates working as Assistant Professor of Writing Studies at the American University of Sharjah.



    Peter H. Porosky has been a college teacher since 1965. He has taught at the University of Arizona, George Washington University, the University of Maryland (both in the United States and Europe), Johns Hopkins University, and Elizabeth City State University (North Carolina). He also originated and served as a Director of two major writing programs at the University of Maryland (Creative Writing) and Johns Hopkins. In addition, he has taught online for the University of Phoenix and Elizabeth City State University.

    Currently, Peter has been hired by the United States Government in Washington, D.C. to teach Federal employees the New Grammar and other researched innovations concerning the English language and the writing process. He is also a professional creative writing consultant for major writers throughout the United States.

    He has been a practicing freelance writer for the same length of time, having published five trade books and three novels, plus numerous short stories, poems, articles and translations (Russian). A major textbook on technical communication, Producing Technical Information was just published by Cognella Press. He lives with his wife Linda in Norfolk, Virginia.



    Author Allie Marie grew up in Virginia. Her favorite childhood pastime was reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries. When she embarked on a new vocation writing fiction after retiring from a career in law enforcement, it would have been understandable if her first book was a crime story. Researching her own family tree inspired her to write the True Colors Series instead. The other stories are patiently waiting their turn.

    Her debut novel, Teardrops of the Innocent: The White Diamond Story, was a 2015 New England Readers’ Choice Award Finalist in paranormal. The second in the series, Heart of Courage: The Red Ruby Story, released in May 2016, earned Best Book in the 2017 IRC Awards. February 2017 saw the release of the third book, Voice of the Just: The Blue Sapphire Story. The fourth book, Hands of the Healer: The Christmas Emerald, will be released in early 2018. A fifth and final book in the True Colors Series will be released later in 2018.



    Frank Milligan has published both fiction and non-fiction. He has taught business and creative writing at Northern Virginia Community College, and currently teaches creative writing at the Christopher Wren Association of the College of William and Mary, various Arts centers, and other venues.

    His traditionally published book, Time to Write: Discovering the Writer Within After 50, 2008, Quill Driver Books, won a National Mature Media silver award, and his short fiction and non-fiction have won local, state, and regional awards.

    Frank holds a bachelor’s in psychology, a master’s in business and public administration, and a master of arts in writing (fiction) from the Johns Hopkins University.

    Frank retired from his first career as a counterintelligence agent, federal criminal investigator, and law enforcement senior executive to pursue his second-career goal of becoming a writer. He is immediate past president of the Chesapeake Bay Writers and does consulting, training, and coaching in business writing and creative writing. He is currently seeking representation for his first novel, a thriller.



    OPEN MIC HOST

    Michael Khandelwal is an award-winning writer and teacher. He contributes editorials, profiles, and feature articles to Coastal Virginia magazine, teaches poetry and fiction workshops for the Norfolk-area literary center Muse Writers Center, (for which he is a founder and serves as Executive Director), is a past web content management specialist for The American Council on Education, and is the past President of the 2008 Electoral College of Virginia.


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