All workshops and events will take place at the conference hotel, the Sonesta Irvine, located at 17941 Von Karman Avenue, Irvine, CA 92614. Workshops summaries can be found on the Workshops and Events page, and within the working Schedule (when it becomes available).
Staffers conducting optional Advance Submission Critique, followed by one-on-one consultation, are indicated beneath their respective bio. The deadline to submit material is August 22, 2021. (Reader selection will open once the majority have been confirmed.)
Special Guest Speakers
RYKA AOKI is a poet, composer, teacher, and novelist whose books include He Mele a Hilo and two Lambda Award finalists, Seasonal Velocities and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul. Ryka’s work has appeared or been recognized in publications including Vogue, Elle, Bustle, Autostraddle, PopSugar, and Buzzfeed. Her poetry was featured at the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center, and she was honored by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people.” Publishers Weekly hails her latest novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, [A] beautiful, satisfying story of redemption and families of choice.”
Authors & Industry Experts
AS OF 7/27/21
WES ALBERS is Director of the Southern California Writers’ Conference. For more than a decade he has helped to facilitate over $4 million worth of first time book and movie deals for emerging authors through the SCWC and his personal contacts. His own writing draws from over twenty years in the San Diego Police Department, first as a patrolman, then sergeant. He now serves as Detective Sergeant in charge of Border Investigations, as well as Staff Sergeant supervising the Emergency Negotiations Team, a hybrid team of hostage negotiators from the SDPD, the FBI, and NCIS. Of his debut novel, Black and White (ZOVA Books), New York Times bestselling author Gayle Lynds (The Book of Spies) hails, “Gritty and rewarding… A top-notch cop novel. Watch out, Joseph Wambaugh!”
- SESSIONS: “How to Make the Most of the Conference,” No-Host Mixer, Introductions
GRETA BORIS is the USA Today Bestselling author of the 7 Deadly Sins, a series of psychological suspense novels from Fawkes Press. Her new series, The Mortician Mysteries, will launch in 2022 from Criptik Press, her own imprint. She’s also the co-author of PUBLISH: Take Charge of Your Writing Career and co-founder of The Author Wheel, an online resource for writers that helps them save time, save money, and get clarity to keep their stories rolling. To learn more, visit her at GretaBoris.com and grab a free community exclusive novella while you’re there.
- SESSIONS: “Indie or Traditional? Assessing Your Author Personality for Publishing Success” (with Megan Haskell)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Mystery, thriller, suspense, historical fiction, upmarket women’s fiction, young adult, and middle grade; first 10 pages (or multiple columns up to 15 pages), cover letter
GAYLE CARLINE began life as a software engineer until she chewed her way out of the cubicle to become a storyteller. In addition to writing a humor column for her local Orange County newspaper, she is the author of the fun and entertaining Peri Minneopa Mysteries, including Freezer Burn, Hit or Missus, The Hot Mess, and Clean Sweep, featuring a housecleaner-turned-detective living in the OC. Her recent releases include the stand-alone From the Horse’s Mouth: One Lucky Memoir, and the first of a new equine-themed murder-mystery series, Murder on the Hoof. A More Deadly Union, featuring housecleaner-turned-detective Peri Minneopa, is her latest.
- SESSIONS: “Rhythm, Pace, and Amusement” and “What’s the Point? Story, Subtext, and Plot”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, mystery, humor, columns; first 10 pages (or multiple columns up to 10 pages), cover letter
KRISTINE FOX is a proud military brat who grew up all over the world and is now happily settled into a home base in the Midwest. Writing Young Adult Urban Fantasy as K.A. Fox, she is a USA Today Bestselling Author and her multiple award-winning debut novel in the Murphy’s Law series has been internationally published. Writing bestselling short romances as Krysta Fox, she ranges from contemporary (Surprised Under the Mistletoe) to the paranormal (the Surprise Shifters series) and has released over seventeen titles since September 2020 with plenty more to come. She can be found online on Facebook as imkafox and KrystaFoxAuthor.
- SESSIONS: “The Power of Shorts: Jump-Start Your Career by Writing Short Stories for Market”
MICHAEL STEVEN GREGORY, Executive Director of the Southern California Writers’ Conference, is an award-winning filmmaker and screenwriter. He has scripted network series, directed television and features, and been involved as a writer, producer or director in over 150 short films. His longform projects include the doculogues We, The Writer and We, The Screenwriter, the romantic-comedy A Valentine Carol, and groundbreaking Don King Presents: Prizefighter, for 2K Games. His books include Disc Golf: All You Need to Know about the Game You Want to Play, which remains a bestseller over a decade after publication. Michael is also the owner of AuthorEdge, a transmedia content producer for publishers. He was recognized as Man of the Year from San Diego Writer’s Monthly, and is a recipient of the Odin Award for Lifetime Achievement from the San Diego Writers/Editors Guild.
- SESSIONS: No-Host Mixer, Introductions
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Screenplays, TV and short-form scripts; first 15 pages in proper format, cover letter
ARA GRIGORIAN is the international award-winning author of Game of Love (2015), Ten Year Dance (2017), and his latest 15 Days With You (2019). Ara is a technology executive in the entertainment industry. True to the Hollywood life, Ara wrote for a children’s television pilot that could have made him rich (but didn’t) and nearly sold a video game to a major publisher (who closed shop days later). Fascinated by the human species, Ara writes about choices, relationships, and second chances. He is a public speaker, a story coach, and a workshop leader. His most recent novel is a YA Urban Fantasy series, co-written with Brian Lemmons, planned for a 2022 release. Additionally, Ara and Brian’s feature-film screenplay for the adaptation of a thriller novel is currently in pre-production.
- SESSIONS: “Collaborating with Creatives,” “Start-up Strategies: Building a Successful Series” (both with Brian Lemmons), “Front Story: Pouring the Foundation of a Powerful Tale” (with Janis Thomas)
MEGAN HASKELL is the award-winning author of the dark fantasy adventure series, The Sanyare Chronicles, co-author of Aspiring to Author: A Guide for Your Publishing Career, and Program Director of O.C. Writers, a community of published and aspiring authors in Orange County, California. Called “a must read” by bestselling YA author, Sherry Ficklin, Sanyare: The Last Descendant (Book 1) received a Readers’ Favorite Bronze award and was an IAN Book of the Year Award Finalist in Adventure Fiction. Megan lives in Orange County, California with her husband, two young daughters, and one ridiculously energetic dog. You can find her online at MeganHaskell.com, OCWriters.Network, and Facebook.
- SESSIONS: “Indie or Traditional? Assessing Your Author Personality for Publishing Success” (with Greta Boris)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Science fiction, fantasy, commercial fiction; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
MELANIE HOOKS started out spinning tales on playgrounds as the perennial ‘new kid’ as an Army brat. These days she’s found new audiences in podcasts (Classic Movie Recall), journalism (Pasadena’s ColoradoBoulevard.net), TV writing (Quarterfinalist for NBC Universal’s ‘Writers on the Verge’) and screenwriting (‘Queen of Wishful Thinking’). She loves classic film, comedy, sci-fi/fantasy and historical fiction. Someday she will figure out how to merge Room with a View with Galaxy Quest … and it will blow your mind!
- SESSIONS: “Audio Books: Beyond the Basics” and Rogue Read & Critique: SciFi/Fantasy (with Laura Perkins)
CHERIE KEPHART served as a Peace Corps volunteer in Zambia on a water sanitation and health education project before returning to the United States with an African souvenir she didn’t expect: a debilitating illness that went misdiagnosed for years and nearly killed her. Aionios Books publisher Gerardeen M. Santiago, PhD, describes her just-released A Few Minor Adjustments as, “[A] memoir that reads like a novel. It contains all the elements of a compelling read: a great story, with perfect pace, and a seasoned/mature writing style.” Kirkus Reviews declares it, “A rich and complicated story, told on each page with clear dialogue and memorable anecdotes.” A graduate of the University of Auckland, New Zealand with an M.A. in Medical and Cultural Anthropology with First Class Honors, Cherie also holds a B.A. in Communications from UCSD and a Certification in Scientific and Technical Writing. In addition to her extensive technical writing, Cherie also has notable experience as both a ghostwriter and editor.
- SESSIONS: “Soul Therapy: The Spirit of Writing Memoir” and Read & Critique: Memoir/Narrative Nonfiction
BRIAN LEMMONS began his career as a back up dancer where he completed four U.S. tours. However, his passion for storytelling inspired him to put away his dancing shoes and turn his attention to film and television as an actor, writer, producer, and director. Brian has appeared in numerous TV series, commercials, and films over the past three decades. His work on the Bibleman Adventure series starring Willie Aames, earned him 5 Gold IRMA Awards. He graduated with distinction from the University of Missouri-Kansas City Film program where he later became an adjunct professor. His debut novel is a YA Urban Fantasy series, co-written with Ara Grigorian, planned for an early 2022 release. Additionally, Brian and Ara’s feature-film screenplay for the adaptation of a thriller novel is currently in pre-production.
- SESSIONS: “Collaborating with Creatives” and “Start-up: Building a Successful Series” (both with Ara Grigorian)
REINA MENASCHE calls her first love writing fiction, though she is also a professional social worker, certified public school counselor, university instructor, and actress. Her second novel, Silent Bird, was released in December 2013. Her first novel, Twice Begun, was honored in the romance category of the 2013 San Diego Book Awards, and her other fiction has been recognized in contests by organizations such as the San Diego Writers and Editors Guild and Southern California Writers Conference. In 2013 Reina began hosting East County Magazine’s Bookshelf radio program on KNSJ fm in San Diego, interviewing “local literary luminaries.” Her novel Silent Bird was recipient of a 2009 SCWC Outstanding Fiction Award. Her latest, a ghost story, is The Spirit of Shy Moon Lake.
- SESSIONS: “Character Therapy: You’re the Shrink!”
JAN JURGENS STEELE grew up in the burbs of Chicago and after thirty-two years of shoveling snow, moved to San Diego with her husband and children. She has taught everything from Kindergarten through high school but found her passion for writing years later while living as an expat in Asia for four years. She is a contributing author of Chicken Soup for the Soul, Miracles and More (2018), an MFA student at UC Riverside, and shares a blog with her sister-in-law (killingjunecleaver.blogspot.com). Inspired by the many frustrations of parenthood and ever-present fear of failure, her debut novel Shoes on the Stairs centers around a mother’s struggle to accept what she has left behind after her death.
- SESSIONS: “Characters: The Trauma of it All”
JUDY REEVES is a writer and teacher who has published four books on writing including the award-winning A Writer’s Book of Days, and, most recently, Wild Women, Wild Voices. Her work has appeared in the San Diego Reader; The Frozen Moment; Connotations Press; Serving House Journal; Waymark; Expressive Writing, Classroom and Community, and other journals and anthologies. She is also an editor for manuscripts, journals, and chapbooks. She has been leading writing groups and teaching creative writing for 25 years at writing conferences internationally and at San Diego Writers, Ink, a nonprofit literary center she cofounded. Judyreeveswriter.com.
- SESSIONS: “First Day/First Page,” “I/Then, I/Now: Voices in Memoir” and “Little Things Mean a Lot: Using Small Details to Create a Big Impact”
- Advance Submission Critique: Memoirs, narrative non-fiction, women’s fiction; up to 10 pages double-spaced
JANIS THOMAS is the author of such domestic suspense novels as All That’s Left of Me and What Remains True, and three critically acclaimed humorous works of women’s fiction—Something New, Sweet Nothings, and Say Never—as well as the mystery Murder in A-Minor. She has written more than fifty songs and two children’s books, which she created with her dad, is a passionate writing advocate, a popular workshop leader and speaker, and editor.
- SESSIONS: “Deeply Personal and Purposefully Poignant,” “Front Story: Pouring the Foundation of a Powerful Tale” (with Ara Grigorian) and “Plot vs. Character: What’s Driving Your Story?”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Commercial and women’s fiction, romance, first 10 pages double-spaced; cover letter
MARY VENSEL WHITE‘s debut novel, The Qualities of Wood, was published by HarperCollins, the first book published by the company’s digital imprint, Authonomy, only a year prior to hardcopy. Her novel, Bellflower, is an experimental “novel-in-moments” that Scott Pack (Weightless Fireworks) declares, “A remarkable feat.” A third novel, Starling, will be out in late 2021. Mary’s work has appeared in The Madison Review, Catapult, The Rumpus, The Write Launch, Author Magazine, and elsewhere. She edits fiction and nonfiction projects at TypeEighteenEditing.com, is an adjunct professor of English and writing at Concordia University in Irvine, contributing editor of The Riverside Quarterly, and vice president of the California Writers Club, Orange County branch.
- SESSIONS: “Middle Grade and Young Adult Fiction: Know Your Audience and Get the Voice Right” and Read & Critique (All-genre)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Contemporary fiction; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
Agents & Editors
AS OF 7/29/21
CATHIE H. ARMSTRONG is an agent with The Purcell Agency. She deliberately keeps her author list small in effort to give her authors the time dedication each deserves. She looks for manuscripts that catch her attention within the first few pages. If you can evoke an emotional reaction in the opening pages—make her laugh out loud, cause her pulse to race, make her cry, etc.—you’ve likely got a winner. While never interested in sci-fi or fantasy, some paranormal aspects in the vein of Victoria Laurie’s Abby Cooper and Ghost Hunter Series, or a more contemporary version of something akin to Karen Marie Moning’s Highlander Series may will be considered.
- STATE OF THE AGENT PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Young adult, new adult, contemporary romance, general women’s fiction and suspense; BIPOC, Own Voices, and LGBTQ+; first 10 pages, double-spaced, cover letter
TARA GILBERT is an agent with Corvisiero Literary, which she joined in 2018 after interning at Entangled Publishing. A voracious reader with a broad range of tastes, she is looking to expand her list and is interested in adult, new adult, young adult, and upper middle-grade fiction in a variety of genres, including romance, fantasy, science fiction, contemporary, and graphic novels.
- STATE OF THE AGENT PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Adult, young adult, new adult fiction, including anything LGBTQ+ ; first 10 pages, double-spaced, cover letter
JOLENE HALEY is an agent with the Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, which she joined in 2020 after having been in the publishing industry since 2012. She has worked for literary agencies and publishers like The Bent Agency, Corvisiero Literary Agency, Entangled Publishing, and Swoon Romance, and has an extensive background in marketing. Her well-rounded experience provides a unique perspective and a solid foundation to support authors as they build their careers.
- STATE OF THE AGENT PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Commercial women’s fiction, romance (all subgenres), mystery/crime, horror, and immersive literary fantasies, young and middle-grade adult, especially contemporary, mystery, magical realism, romance, and horror; nonfiction: lifestyle, health, wellness, self-help, spiritualism, and true crime; ; first 10 pages, double-spaced, cover letter
HOLLY KAMMIER is the co-owner of Acorn Publishing, a collective of award-winning, best-selling authors. A writer herself, Holly is a former journalist who has worked everywhere from CNN in Washington, D.C. and Channel 13 News in Los Angeles, to the NBC affiliate in small-town Medford, Oregon. The UCLA honor grad lives in her hometown of San Diego, close to her extended family and friends. She recently completed her third novel, Lost Girl, expected for release in early 2020. Holly is an avid reader with a passion for timeless books and gorgeous writing. She also enjoys long walks on the beach, pink peonies, and spending time with her family.
- SESSIONS: “Acorn Publishing: Exploring the Benefits of Hybrid Publishing” (with Jessica Therrien)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, all genres; first 10 pages, cover letter
MARLA MILLER is an author and freelance editor. She wrote for the OC Register’s lifestyle magazine for 16 years before becoming founding editor-in-chief of an O.C. coastal lifestyle magazine. Her first book, All American Girls, the only authorized biography of the iconic World Cup/Gold Medal winning U.S Women’s National Soccer Team, was published by Simon & Schuster, and her sports oriented columns appeared in Oxygen.com. Marla launched MarketingtheMuse Workshops in 2003, motivated by her recognition that most traditionally published authors receive little help from “big house” marketing departments. Her experience in the entrepreneurial author movement includes “with author” bylines for two indie books, The Booty Bible and Decode the Black Box of Group Health Insurance, along with her own Days Gone By and first e-novel, Deadly Little Secrets. MarlaMiller.com is a resource center for writers with emphasis on marketing information in publishing/epublishing.
- SESSIONS: “Pitch Witches: Query Letter Critique” and “Pitch Witches: What’s Your Book About?” (with Jennifer Silva Redmond), ” Read & Critique: “Cold Openings: Your First Five Pages”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction; narrative and prescriptive non-fiction; columns (Note: anything emphasizing medicine or psychology, Marla’s your reader); first 15 pages, cover letter
LAURA PERKINS has penned five young adult fantasy novels and serves as a freelance editor and writing coach. She has an extensive background in facilitating groups as well as conducting personal feedback sessions, assisting clients with motivation issues, goal setting and strength assessment. She brings first-hand knowledge and experience in many areas writers often use as their story worlds, including the Criminal Justice Department, probation, psychiatric facilities, wilderness programs, adventure sports, middle schools and high schools – internationally and in the states. She has lived in Europe and South America and traveled extensively internationally and domestically. While her passion is fantasy, young adult, character driven fiction and sci-fi, she works with many different genres. Under the pen name Mercy Hollow, she is the author of the dark fantasy novels Scythe – Legions of the Claimed and the second book in the series Grim – Legions of the Claimed.
- SESSIONS: “Car Chases, Fist Fights, and Battles – Oh my!,” “Mining Your Story’s World, One Tool at a Time” and Rogue Read & Critique: SciFi/Fantasy (with Melanie Hooks)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fantasy, young adult, sci-fi, fiction; first 10 pages (or multiple columns up to 10 pages), cover letter
JENNIFER SILVA REDMOND spent more than a decade as editor-in-chief/acquisitions editor at Sunbelt Publications before becoming a freelance publishing consultant and editor. On the staff of the Southern California Writers Conference and San Diego Writers, Ink, she was also prose editor for A Year in Ink Vol 3, and co-founder of the Sea of Cortez Review. Her essays, articles, and short fiction have been published in various anthologies, such as Latinos in Lotusland, and national magazines. She is always looking for “great new stuff” and has a wide circle of agents, editors, and publishers with whom to share marketable fiction and nonfiction. More information, a short list of edited titles, and client testimonials can be found at www.jennyredbug.com.
- SESSIONS: “Content/Structural Editing—What It Is, When You Need It, and How to Prepare for It,” Early “Bard” Read & Critique “Pitch Witches: Query Letter Critique” and “Pitch Witches: What’s Your Book About?” (with Marla Miller) and “Putting POV in Perspective”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, short stories; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
TINA P. SCHWARTZ is an accomplished author and literary agent at The Purcell Agency, which she founded in 2012. She sold her first book in 2004, and sold ten nonfiction titles for one author to traditional publishers in the teen and youth markets. Since opening the agency, she has sold several young adult and middle grade novels, along with nonfiction works for teens.
- STATE OF THE AGENT PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Middle-grade, young adult, realistic fiction, coming-of-age, sports, romance, friendship, family, #ownvoices; non-fiction, and LGBTQ; first 10 pages, double-spaced, cover letter
LAURA TAYLOR is an author and freelance editor, whose work has received endorsements from Pat Conroy, W.E.B. Griffin, and Stephen King. She is the recipient of numerous awards for her writing, including 6 Romantic Times Lifetime Achievement, Reviewer’s Choice, and Career Achievement Awards, 2 Maggie Awards from GRW/RWA, 2 Golden Heart Finalist Awards (RWA), an RWA RITA Finalist Award, and a Golden Rose Award from the Gold Coast Chapter of RWA. Having sold over a million books in print, an additional 550,000 digital editions have been downloaded by e-book readers. Her novels feature sassy, strong-willed heroines and determined alpha male heroes. Her romance e-books include: Desert Rose, Midnight Storm, Heartbreaker, More Than Friends, Fallen Angel, Wilder’s Woman, Warrior Series Boxed Set, Moment By Moment, The Christmas Gift, Anticipation, Seduction, Surrender, Sublime, and the Love at the Beach Boxed Set.
- SESSIONS: “Indie Excellence: Glocalization and the Key to Survival,” “Post Conference: Where Do You Go from Here?” and Rogue Read & Critique
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Mainstream, historical and genre fiction, romance; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
JESSICA THERRIEN is the author of the young adult paranormal fiction series Children of the Gods. Book one in the series, Oppression, became a Barnes & Noble best-seller shortly after its release. Aside from her wildly popular trilogy, Jessica’s work can also be found in a published collection of flash fiction stories called Campaigner Challenges 2011. Out of over 350 submissions her story, “The Soulless,” won first place for people’s choice and fourth place in the judging round. After being published by a small press out of Los Angeles and hitting the #3 best-selling book for Teens on Barnes & Noble, Jessica discovered that the world of traditional publishing isn’t for everyone, got her rights back and, with novelist Holly Kammier, co-founded Acorn Publishing, a new model approach for enabling quality authors to indie publish under a single imprint.
- SESSIONS: “Acorn Publishing: Exploring the Benefits of Hybrid Publishing” (with Holly Kammier)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, all genres; first 10 pages, cover letter