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Join Us at the DSM Book Festival for the Iowa Author Panel on April 17

2021 Iowa Author Panel

April 12, 2021

Looking to write a novel or short story, but aren’t sure where to begin? Join us for the Iowa Author Panel as three national award-winning novelists share their writing and publishing journeys. Nicole Baart, Tracey Garvis Graves and Kali White VanBaale will discuss their fiction-writing processes and share their best writing tips. From first ideas, to research and editing, we’ll have it covered. Bring your questions for an in-depth look at how to begin your fiction writing quest. In the meantime, here is a preview from the authors.


Nicole Baart

Nicole Baart Headshot

Nicole Baart writes domestic suspense — books that fall in the sweet spot between women’s fiction and mystery. She is a New York Times bestselling author, collaborator, ghostwriter and speaker. Nicole has written 12 books for publication and says that she still has so much to learn. Her advice for writers is to never stop learning. “Attend conferences, sign up for Zooms, read craft books, read books in your genre and diverse books outside of your genre.” Her upcoming novel Everything We Didn’t Say was inspired by her love for (and sometimes frustration with) her hometown. “Small-town living is often sweet — but also difficult and complicated,” she says. “We sometimes say that our town is surrounded by rolling hills because that’s where we bury our secrets. So, this book is about small-town secrets and what happens when they start to surface.”

Tracey Garvis Graves

Tracey Garvis Graves Headshot

Tracey Garvis Graves is a New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling author of contemporary fiction. She knows how to silence her inner critic and finish novels, including her most recent title, The Girl He Used to Know. For Tracey, one way to do this is to begin with what she calls a zero draft. “It’s not even a first draft because it’s so messy that no one but me can follow it,” she says. “Then I move on to the first draft, and I keep drafting until I’ve done as many as it takes to end up with a polished manuscript.” Tracey will share her unique pathway to publication for her first smash success, On the Island, along with a preview of her forthcoming book, Heard it in a Love Song. The authors will also discuss the balance between writing, research and strategies for reaching “The End.”

Kali White VanBaale

Kali White Vanbaale Headshot

Kali White VanBaale is an award-winning author and creative writing professor of novels, short stories and essays. Her latest novel, The Monsters We Make, was inspired by the real missing persons cases of Johnny Gosch, Eugene Martin and Marc Warren Allen in the Greater Des Moines (DSM) during the 1980s. Kali was nine years old when Eugene Martin went missing a few blocks from the hotel where her family stayed that week. “I have a distinct memory of … looking at the downtown Des Moines skyline and thinking, Someone out there is stealing children, and it terrified me,” she says. “The three cases — Eugene’s in particular — have both haunted and fascinated me for over thirty years, and for nearly a decade I’ve known I wanted to write about them.” Kali will talk more about her novels and how she enriches dramatic stories with the layered psychology of family dynamics and relationships.

We hope to see you on the Saturday, April 17 for great fiction writing insights, a few sneak-previews of the authors’ upcoming books and a chance to win an autographed novel! The Iowa Author Panel is available to a limited in-person audience or online. Please register by Tuesday, April 13 at DSMBookFestival.com.

The Greater Des Moines Partnership calendar of events is a one-stop resource for activities taking place throughout the region. Find networking information for Greater Des Moines (DSM) businesses or events specific to Downtown DSM.

Kay Fenton Smith

Kay Fenton Smith is an author and writing coach with the Des Moines Writers' Workshop. She is a promoter of Iowa's literary community and a member of the DSM Book Festival Planning Committee. She can be reached at KayFentonSmith@msn.com.