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Writers' Workshops

Love to write? You’ve come to the right place. In these dynamic presentations you’ll hear about the writing journey from successful published authors. Festival guests will have the opportunity to hear about the writing journey from successful published authors from genres across the board. Check out our lineup below from our 2021 Festival.

Our 2022 lineup will be announced at a later date.

Presented By:


The Writing Process: Non-Fiction  |  March 27, 2021 at 11 a.m.

Available to a limited in-person audience or online.

Inspired by actual events at work, at home or while traveling halfway around the world, sometimes the most unbelievable stories aren’t found in fiction at all, but in nonfiction. The personal experiences and ideas that shape our lives in the most profound ways must be shared in order to help others and recording them on paper is often the best place to start.

Whether you specialize in creative nonfiction, memoirs, articles or even blogs, this workshop will offer both beginners and experienced writers an opportunity to hone their craft and will answer many of the most common questions related to publication. A panel of current nonfiction authors will also discuss their experiences creating and publishing their work.


  • Drew McLellan — Co-Author of “Selling Authority”
  • Stephen Woessner — Co-Author of “Selling Authority”
  • Jackie Haley — Author of “Brenda's Wish”
  • Adam Carroll — Author of “The Build a Bigger Life Manifesto and Mastery of Money for Students”

Moderator: Dr. Anthony Paustian — Author of “A Quarter Million Steps”

Registration Deadline: March 23, 2021

Max Allan Collins  |  April 3, 2021 at 9 a.m.

Available online only.

Learn from the masters, Max Allan Collins and his wife Barbara Collins, as they each present their Top 5 Fiction Writing Tips and then field questions from the class. Together, Max and Barb have published the "Trash & Treasures" mystery series. Max is a Mystery Writers of America Grandmaster and New York Times bestselling and author of “Road to Perdition”, “True Detective,” the Quarry series, “Girl Can’t Help It” and many more.

Registration Deadline: March 30, 2021

Murder We Wrote  |  April 3, 2021 at 11 a.m.

Available to a limited in-person audience or online.

Everyone loves a good mystery! Whether you want to write and publish mysteries, or simply love to read them, you will want to participate in this panel discussion. Three Iowa murder mystery authors with very different styles of writing will discuss their books, the sources of their ideas and their experiences in getting published. Hear how three apparently normal Iowans arrived at the decision to spend their time writing about the most heinous and permanent of all crimes, and how they chose their style of mystery writing. The authors' insights regarding researching, writing, editing and marketing their stories will be shared. Add the mention of a few fascinating characters, intriguing plot twists, compelling relationships and the ongoing battle between good and evil and you have the makings of a memorable experience. Bring your questions for the discussion and join the panel at the end for book signings.


  • Joe LeValley — Author of “Burying the Lede,” a mystery/thriller
  • Bill Zahren — Author of the “Kingman & Reed” mystery series
  • Mary Lee Ashford — Author of the “Sugar & Spice” mystery series

Registration Deadline: March 30, 2021

Story Elements in Young Adult Fiction  |  April 10, 2021 at 11 a.m.

Available to a limited in-person audience or online.

Calling all teen writers and aspiring young adult (YA) novelists! Join us for a hands-on writers’ workshop with author Katie Kennedy. We’ll explore a range of story elements in YA fiction, including characterization, voice, scenes, setting and the all-important first ten pages. Katie will share her writing tips and publishing experience. There will be plenty of writing prompts with time to write so bring your paper or laptop — and join the fun!

Registration Deadline: April 3, 2021

Iowa Author Panel  |  April 17, 2021 at 11 a.m.

Available to a limited in-person audience or online.

Looking to write a novel or short story, but aren’t sure where to begin? Join us as fantastic local novelists discuss their processes and challenges and share their publishing experiences. From first ideas to research and editing to creating the all-important opening scene, we’ll have it covered. Bring your questions for an in-depth look at how to begin your fiction-writing quest. After our discussion, the authors will host a book signing. You might win one of their latest novels!


Moderator: Kay Fenton Smith

Registration Deadline: April 13, 2021