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Writers' Workshops

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Love to write? You’ve come to the right place. In these dynamic presentations, attendees heard about the writing journey from successful, published writers and local publishers. Festival guests had the opportunity to hear about the writing journey from journalists and successful published authors from genres across the board.

Event Schedule

9:30 a.m.  |  Thrill(er) Ride: Lessons Learned on the Journey to Becoming a Novelist— Hosted by Bookpress Publishing

This workshop is for fiction lovers. If you enjoy reading or writing novels, join award-winning author Joseph LeValley for a presentation and discussion of the lessons he learned while writing six mystery-thrillers. Five of LeValley’s books have been published, with the sixth scheduled for publication later this year. The published books have won three first-place awards and six other recognitions in fiction competitions in the U.S. and Canada. The workshop will cover a range of topics, such as: LeValley's true crime experiences as a reporter that inspired his writing, laying the groundwork for success; essential rules and tips for the writing process; the author as marketer; the changing world of publishing; and more. This promises to be a fun, interactive session for all who attend. 

11 a.m. | Iowa Nonfiction Author Panel – Hosted by Beaverdale Books  

Panelists: Kristen Anderson, William B. Fredricks, Beth Hoffman, Darcy Maulsby, Rob Sand

Moderator: Julie Gammack – Iowa Writers Retreat  

Iowa is home to an incredible array of writers.  Join a fascinating discussion by best-selling writers who will share their inspiration, their writing styles, and their fascinating careers.  

Kirsten Anderson shares her legal and personal journey of being fired by a toxic employer just hours after issuing a formal complaint. Anderson won her case. With her book, More Than Words: #TurnMeToo into #ISaidSomething, she has made it her mission to educate others about the complexities of sexual harassment, bullying, and retaliation in the workplace. By sharing the realities targets of harassment face, Anderson intends to educate readers, help targets move forward and initiate change in toxic work environments to eliminate harassment once and for all. 

William B. Friedricks is professor emeritus of history and former director of the Iowa History Center at Simpson College in Indianola, Iowa, where he taught for thirty-three years. His first book, Henry E. Huntington and the Creation of Southern California, won the Historical Society of Southern California’s Donald Pflueger Award for the outstanding book on Southern California history. Since then, he has written nine books focusing on Iowa topics, including histories of the Des Moines Register, the Iowa State Fair’s Blue Ribbon Foundation, and several biographies. His newest book is Saved by Schindler: The Life of Celina Karp Biniaz.

Beth Hoffman was living the good life: she had a successful career as a journalist and professor, a comfortable home in San Francisco, and plenty of close friends and family. Yet in her late 40s, she and her husband decided to leave the big city and move to his family ranch in Iowa—all for the dream of becoming a farmer, to put into practice everything she had learned over decades of reporting on food and agriculture. Bet the Farm is a first-hand account of the perils of farming today and a personal exploration of more just and sustainable ways of producing food. 

Darcy Maulsby has authored many books about the history of Iowa.  Her latest book tells how the Lincoln Highway became the first coast-to-coast highway in 1913, connecting New York City to San Francisco, passing right through Iowa, from Clinton to Council Bluffs. As much as 85% of the original highway is still drivable in Iowa, according to the Lincoln Highway Association. The Lincoln Highway in Iowa: A History shares fascinating history, contemporary stories, recipes and 100+ vintage and contemporary photos from sites along and near the Lincoln Highway, from Clinton and DeWitt in Clinton County to Council Bluffs in Pottawattamie County, and many communities in between. 

Rob Sand, author of The Winning Ticket and currently the State Auditor, gives an inside look at one of the most complicated yet seat-of-your-pants financial investigations and prosecutions in recent history. As the youngest attorney in his office, he was assigned a new case by his boss, who was days away from retirement. Inside the thin accordion binder Sand received was meager evidence that had been gathered over the course of two years by Iowa authorities regarding a suspicious lottery ticket. As the case builds toward a reckoning, The Winning Ticket demonstrates how a new day has dawned in prosecuting complex technological crimes. 

12: 30 p.m. | Children’s Book Author Panel – Hosted by Bookpress Publishing  

Panelists: Dr. Jill Friestad-Tate – Author of “Messages on the Moon”, Terri Leedom – Author of “My Silly Granny”, Ryan O’Connor – Author of the “Bobby the Bear” series, Jon Phillips – Author of “Joni’s Wish” 

Moderator: Danny Beyer – Bookpress Publishing

Authors write children’s book for many reasons. Whether it’s to encapsulate a personal story or educate and inspire young minds, children’s picture books can open a world of imagination. This panel discussion will not only focus on the various reasons as to why the authors chose to write their books, but also the process and approach they each took to writing them. 

2 p.m. | Iowa Fiction Author Panel – Hosted by Beaverdale Books  

Panelists: Sean Adams, Lan Samantha Chang, John Shors, Denise Williams

Moderator: Marc Dickinson – DMACC Celebration of Literary Arts   

Iowa is home to an incredible array of writers.  Join a fascinating discussion by best-selling writers who will share their inspiration, their writing styles, and their fascinating careers.   

Sean Adams is a graduate of Bennington College and the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He is the author of two books, The Heap, and his latest work, The Thing in the Snow.  His fiction has appeared in Electric Literature's Recommended Reading, The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, The Normal School, Vol. 1 Brooklyn, The Arkansas International, and elsewhere. He lives in Des Moines, Iowa with his wife, Emma, their daughter, and their various pets. 

Lan Samantha Chang was born in Appleton, Wisconsin, and attended Yale University, where she earned her bachelor's degree in East Asian Studies. She worked briefly in publishing in New York City, before getting her MPA from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and was a Wallace E. Stegner Fellow in Fiction at Stanford. She is the Elizabeth M. Stanley Professor in the Arts at the University of Iowa and the Director of the Iowa Writers' Workshop. She is the first woman, and the first Asian American, to hold that position. 

John Shors is a bestselling author of many novels including Beneath a Marble Sky.  His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into more than twenty-five languages.  John owns and operates a one-of-a-kind international touring company and guides travelers to many of the exotic locations featured in his books.   

Denise Williams wrote her first book in the second grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house. How to Fail at Flirting was her debut novel and she can usually be found reading, writing, or thinking about love stories.  Her newest books are The Fastest Way to Fall and Do You Take This Man. 

3:30 p.m. | Book Marketing 101 – Hosted by Bookpress Publishing 

With millions of books being released each year, positioning a new title in a congested market is becoming increasingly difficult. This workshop will walk authors (and soon to be authors) through the complicated world of book marketing and promotion. Topics will include author and book branding, tips to improving a book’s presentation, book pricing considerations, distribution strategies, promotional lead times, communication strategies, creating good metadata, industry standards and the marketplace, and many others.