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.
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 18, 2023.
As of 8/20/23
Special Guest Speakers
JASMIN IOLANI HAKES is is the author of Hula, her sweeping debut novel. An Oprah Daily pick, it’s been named one of the “Best New Books to Read” this summer by ELLE. In a starred review, Booklist calls it “[An] immersive and astute debut … a deeply affecting story of mothers and daughters and what makes a family.” And author Myriam Gurba (Mean and Dahlia Season) concludes, “Hula immerses readers in a place they won’t find on any map sold to tourists, Hawaii for Hawaiians. Ferociously beautiful and beautifully ferocious, Hula is a novel soaked in the spirit of Haunani-Kay Trask.” Born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii, Jasmin’s essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee.
CRISTINA LEPORT is the author of Dissection. New York Times Bestselling Author Lee Child (Jack Reacher series) describes it as “High stakes, breathless suspense, and real insider authenticity – a terrific debut.” Internationally bestselling Tess Gerritsen concludes, “With a terrifying premise and riveting medical details, Dissection moves at a frantic pace.” And from Kirkus: “The blending of medical emergencies with political thriller tropes is relatively uncommon … LePort uses her own experience as a cardiovascular specialist to enhance an already engaging actioner.” Born in Bologna, Italy, Cristina is also Chief Medical Officer and co-founder of Genescient, a biotech company devoted to genetic research on aging and the amelioration of chronic diseases.
DEREK “D.J.” WILLIAMS is the author of Hunt for Eden’s Star, the first in his epic, globally inspired YA Beacon Hill series. Kirkus Reviews lauds, “Williams’ series opener moves briskly … fast-paced action and a rich setting boost the beginning of a promising paranormal saga.” “A blistering, high-stakes, fast-paced supernatural thriller that’s impossible to put down.” Ryan Steck, editor-in-chief of The Real Book Spy, adding the novel “[I]ntroduces a compelling new hero and takes readers on an unforgettable adventure where countless twists and turns await.” A television producer and director, Derek’s previous books include Walking Lazarus, a mystery, and an international thriller. The Auctioneer. The next in his Beacon Hill series, Secrets of the Highlands, is out November.
Authors & Industry Experts
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
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,” a 2022 Hugo Award finalist.
- SESSIONS: “Writing the Unknown with What You Know”
CONOR BLACK is the author of In The Wind, book one of the Nate Vigil Thriller series. Vigil, a prequel novella, can be downloaded for free at his website: https://conor.black. His novels feature lone wolf heroes, cunning conspiracies, and artful violence. Bad people do bad things in his books—but unlike your boss, or the evil billionaires that always seem to get away with it in the real world—justice is served by THE END, no matter how high the cost. Conor also writes Urban Fantasy and Science Fiction under various pseudonyms. He’s earned coin as a strength coach, a web designer, and a federally licensed motor carrier. He sold his most recent business in 2021 to focus on writing—a natural progression. At age 16, the first story he ever submitted won the Current Science science fiction short story contest; he’s been writing ever since.
- SESSIONS: ” Newbie Mistakes and How to Fix Them,” “Many Paths, One Goal: Indie Author Sustainability,” “The No-Outline Alternative” and Early “Bard” Read & Critique: Thriller, Action, Urban Fantasy
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Thriller, action, urban fantasy; first 10 pages (or multiple columns up to 10 pages), cover letter
GRETA BORIS is the USA Today Bestselling author of The Seven Deadly Sins Murders, a psychological suspense series and The Mortician Murders, a cozy paranormal series. She hails from sunny So. Cal. where—based on her books, which are all set there—things are darker than you’d expect. Her stories have been called atmospheric and un-put-down-able. To learn more, visit her at GretaBoris.com and grab a free novella while you’re there. Along with author Megan Haskell, together they are The Author Wheel, publishers of books, courses and a popular podcast dedicated to help writers keep their stories rolling.
- SESSIONS: “Getting to the Heart of Your Author Brand” (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 10 pages), cover letter
GAYLE CARLINE is a humor columnist for an Orange County newspaper who transitioned from traditional publishing to indie. She is the author of the popular Peri Minneopa Mysteries, including Freezer Burn, Hit or Missus, The Hot Mess, Clean Sweep, Murder Bytes and A More Deadly Union, featuring a housecleaner-turned-detective living in the OC. Other titles 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. Writing as G.S. Carline, her latest is the epic historical fantasy Dragon Shadows trilogy, comprised of Blood Dragon Rising, Moon Dragon Falling and recently released finale, New Dragon Soaring.
- SESSIONS: “Rhythm, Pace and Amusement,” and “Your Book is Your Business” and “What’s the Point?”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, mystery, humor, columns; first 10 pages (or multiple columns up to 10 pages), cover letter
KRISTI (K.A.) FOX is the USA Today bestselling author of the YA urban fantasy Murphey’s Law series, comprised of The Devils Own, Judas Kiss, and Earthly Shadows. In it, the Devil’s estranged daughter must grapple with the inheritance of her’s father’s infernal powers and combat succumbing to them in effort to protect those she loves. 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. She can be found online on Facebook as imkafox and KrystaFoxAuthor.
- SESSIONS: “Collaborating with Creatives,” “Crafting Delicious Fiction Readers Will Crave,” “The Power of Shorts: Jump-Start Your Career by Writing Short Stories for Market” and “Writing Good, Bad and Ugly Better”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Sci-fi/fantasy urban fantasy, contemporary and paranormal romance; first 10 pages, cover letter
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 remained 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 a USA Today Bestselling author whose novels include the international award-winning Game of Love, and the Fortuny Bay series. Fascinated by the human species, Ara writes about choices, relationships, and second chances in coastal or small-town settings. When not devising hopefully-ever-after stories or navigating the ever-evolving strategies in the entertainment industry, he is evangelizing the value of coffee and chocolate to anyone who’ll listen.
- SESSIONS: “Front Story: Pouring the Foundation of a Powerful Tale,” “Start-up Strategies: Building a Successful Series” and “Story Beats: Your Story’s Pulse”
MEGAN HASKELL pens tales of Myth, Magic & Mayhem featuring kick-butt heroines and monsters of every shape and size. She’s the award-winning author of The Sanyare Chronicles and the Rise of Lilith series. and co-founder of The Author Wheel, a podcast and courses designed to help writers “keep their stories rolling.” A Southern California transplant, she’s living the dream of writing while raising her two daughters in Orange County.
- SESSIONS: “Getting to the Heart of Your Author Brand” (with Greta Boris)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Science fiction, fantasy, commercial fiction; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
GAIL VIDA HAMBURG is an award-winning journalist and author. Her first novel, The Edge of the World, about the impact of American foreign policy on individual lives, was nominated for the James Fenimore Cooper Prize and is a text in many university post-colonial studies, war studies, and creative writing programs around the world. Liberty Landing, the first in a trilogy about the American Experiment, was a finalist for the PEN/Bellwether Prize for Socially Engaged Fiction. Her theater work includes the forthcoming Hush, a political rock musical, the story book for Hurricane, a Broadway-bound musical based on the life Rubin Hurricane Carter, and a forthcoming play, The Urn.
- SESSIONS: “Light, Not Heat: Writing Political and Social Fiction”
RYAN HUNTER is a technologist and AI engineer with a diverse career spanning twenty years. His work encompasses digital security, virtual reality game programming, and technical consulting for authors. Trained in over a dozen programming languages, he specializes in linear algebra, physics, and graphics programming—vital elements in AI research and development. Currently, Ryan operates as a freelance consultant, utilizing his broad skillset to solve complex technological challenges. His rabid consumption of fiction and experience as a video game reviewer and novelist-in-progress also brings a unique perspective on the intersection of AI and authorship, with his current research exploring the untapped potential and common pitfalls of this burgeoning field.
- SESSIONS: “AI, The Writer: Pitfalls, Potential, Practices” and “Writer’s Watercooler: Red Flags & Cautionary Tales”
JEFF POLLAK is the author of First Second Coming, his debut novel, and its forthcoming sequels. A supernatural romantic suspense in which the New Testament God retires after more than two thousand years of service, only to be replaced by a new deity who must decide the fate of humanity under new management, the novel is currently being adapted for film by Voyage Media. A former trial attorney who spent his career in and around civil litigation, Jeff is now retired, pursuing his passion of writing fiction.
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Suspense, sci-fi, fantasy and historical; up to 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
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 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 30 years at writing conferences internationally and at San Diego Writers, Ink, a nonprofit literary center she cofounded. Her memoir, When Your Heart Says Go, will be released October 10, 2023. Judyreeveswriter.com.
- SESSIONS: “Creating Atmosphere and Mood,” “Tell Me a Story—Using the Techniques of Fiction to Craft a Compelling Memoir” and “Time in Memoir—A Chronology of Its Own”
- Advance Submission Critique: Memoirs, narrative non-fiction, women’s fiction; up to 10 pages double-spaced
PAT SPENCER has published fiction and nonfiction with three different traditional book publishers, a major newspaper, and a national trade journal without the aid of an agent. She indie-published Story of a Stolen Girl, an international thriller intensely focused on the cost of human trafficking. Golden Boxty in the Frypan, a historical fiction, is under contract with Pen It Publications, and the Sticks in a Bundle trilogy, a historical/literary fiction crossover, is signed for a three-book contract with Scarsdale Publishing. Additionally, Pat’s short stories have appeared in a variety of online journals, such as the Literary Yard, Scarlet Leaf Review, and Potato Soup Journal, and her A Healing Place won the 2019 Oceanside Literary Festival.
- SESSIONS: “Yes, You Can Traditionally Publish Without a Literary Agent!”
JANIS THOMAS is the author of such domestic suspense novels as All That’s Left of Me and What Remains True, both with Lake Union, 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, speaker, and editor. Co-Director of the SCWC, her latest novel is the paranormal thriller Finding Grace, which Kirkus Reviews calls “An authentically creepy tale.”
- Sessions: “In the Beginning,” Storyteller’s Toolbox 1 & 2″ and “Sustaining Suspense in Every Genre”
CARL VONDERAU writes domestic suspense and thrillers, following a career in banking. His novel, Murderabilia, won the Lefty award in 2020 for Best Debut Novel, the San Diego Book award for Best Mystery, and the Kops-Fetherling Gold Phoenix award. Kirkus Reviews declared it, “An explosive premise … and a clever solution.” While New York Times bestselling author Karin Slaughter (The Good Daughter) enthused, “[A] story that will lay a cold finger of dread on the back of your neck … a terrific book.” He also has a short story in the Crossing Borders anthology. A new domestic suspense novel, Saving Myles, is out from Oceanview in August. Carl is also president of the San Diego chapter of Sisters in Crime.
- SESSIONS “Putting Heart Into Thrillers”
ZEPHYR is a writer and retired civil engineer. Their debut novel, The Advocacy (written under the nom de plume, Melissa Fischer), is a work of literary fiction informed by years spent living and working in Africa. The Advocacy was a 2019 Foreword Indies Finalist in multicultural fiction. The website https://www.melissaannfischer.com/ won the silver website award from the 2021 Independent Publishers Book Awards. Zephyr is currently writing Trauma Integration in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), a work of nonfiction based on their ten years supporting infants in the NICU. Zephyr is a certified Castellino prenatal and birth therapy practitioner and registered biodynamic craniosacral therapist practicing in Santa Monica, CA, to support trauma integration in infants of all ages. More at https://www.kilometerthirteen.com/.
- SESSIONS: “Separating Chaff from Wheat: Writing Fiction from Real-Life Experience”
Agents & Editors
KELLY BERGH is an agent at Lucinda Literary. She is building a list in adult practical nonfiction, specifically in the categories of health and wellness, spirituality, and popular science, and selectively takes on children’s and gift books/decks in the same areas. For the SCWC, Kelly will also be scouting submissions for Lucinda Lit. colleagues in a variety of genres, including adult fiction, literary fiction, family sagas, psychological thrillers, narrative nonfiction & voicey memoirs, essay collections, and select YA with a focus on underrepresented voices.
- STATE OF THE AGENTS PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Practical nonfiction in health and wellness, spirituality, popular science and memoirs; adult & literary fiction, family sagas, psychological thrillers and select YA; first 10 pages, double-spaced, cover letter.
ANNIE BOMKE is a literary agent with over a decade of experience in the publishing industry. Her books include Gus Moreno’s critically acclaimed literary horror novel This Thing Between Us, the Macavity Award winning Dodging and Burning by John Copenhaver, and People magazine pick Double Exposure by Ava Barry. Her interests span a range of genres—from hard-nosed business books to otherworldly historical novels. Authors have called her the pH test for good writing, and a bedrock for literary quality control.
- STATE OF THE AGENTS PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Commercial, literary, historical, women’s & upmarket fiction, mysteries, police procedurals, thrillers, horror; self-help, business, health/diet, cookbooks, memoir, relationships, current events, psychology, and narrative nonfiction; first 10 pages, double-spaced, cover letter
CATHIE HEDRICK-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 AGENTS 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
STEVEN HUTSON is an agent with WordWise Media, which he founded as an editorial service in 2005. Branching out as a literary agent in 2011, he’s landed author-client deals with such publishers as Dutton, Thomas Nelson, Tyndale, Potomac, David C. Cook, Praeger, Writer’s Digest Books, and others, in myriad genres. Looking to expand the firm’s list, his interest in multiple genres is expansive.
- STATE OF THE AGENT PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Pretty much all fiction except erotica, picture books, poetry and short story collections; Nonfiction is open; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
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: “Editing Explained (with Laura Perkins),” “Slice of Life: Sculpting Your Memoir’s Story,” “Soul Therapy: The Spirit of Writing Memoir” and Read & Critique: Memoir/Narrative Nonfiction
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Memoir, personal stories, wellness, self-help, personal transformation, metaphysical; 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 Witch: Query Letter Critique” and “Pitch Witch: What’s Your Book About?“
- 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: “Editing Explained” (with Cherie Kephart), Rogue Read & Critique: SciFi/Fantasy and “Writing Coach 101: Saving Time, Money, and Your Sanity”
- 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.
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, nonfiction, memoir, short stories; 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,” and Rogue Read & Critique: All-Genre
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Mainstream, historical and genre fiction, romance; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
CARLISLE WEBBER is an agent with Fuse Literary. She is looking for high-concept commercial fiction in middle grade, young adult, and adult, and is especially interested in stories by and about people of color; with both visible and invisible disabilities and illnesses; who are economically disadvantaged; who are gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or queer; or who are members of religious minorities.
- STATE OF THE AGENT PANEL
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Commercial & women’s fiction, thriller, mystery, suspense, horror, middle grade & YA (any genre); first 10 pages, double-spaced; cover letter