Staffers conducting optional Advance Submission Critique, followed by one-on-one consultation, are indicated beneath their respective bio. The deadline to submit material is January 10, 2021. Advance Submission Reader selection opens November.
Special Guest Speakers
DENNIS K. CROSBY is the author of Death’s Legacy, a supernatural thriller. In it, Reaper of Souls Kassidy Simmons must solve the untimely deaths of mortals in her quiet New York town, while overcoming personal fear and addiction to battle forces of the Angel of Death. Growing up in Oak Park, IL, Dennis completed his undergraduate work at the University of Illinois at Chicago with a degree in Criminal Justice, then spent six years working as a private investigator. During that time he developed an affinity for writing poetry. While working on a Master’s Degree in Forensic Psychology, Dennis transitioned into social service. He has spent the last twelve years working with adult men and women experiencing challenges with mental health and addiction. Death’s Legacy is his debut novel.
JOY LANZENDORFER’s nonfiction has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, The Washington Post, Smithsonian, and many others; her fiction in Tin House, The Guardian, The LA Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, and elsewhere. “Sleep Disturbance,” originally published in The Forge Literary Magazine, was included in The Best Small Fictions 2019. Joy’s debut novel, the historical family saga Right Back Where We Started From, will be released May, 2021, from Blackstone Publishing, also one of the largest independent audiobook publishers in the U.S.
ISLA MORLEY’s debut novel, Come Sunday, won the Janet Heidinger Prize for fiction and was a finalist for the Commonwealth Prize. It has been translated into seven languages. Her follow-up, Above, was an IndieNext Pick, Best Buzz Book, and a Publishers Weekly Best New Book. Of her latest novel, The Last Blue, Booklist proclaims, “Morley has constructed a memorable and moving narrative, complicated by the troubles of the past and shadowed by the risk of betrayal, which probes what it means to truly be seen and understood for oneself.” And Fiction Addiction effuses, “It’s not often you read a book that is so perfect in every way. This is a book that will grab you from the first page and will leave you in tears at its ending.” Having grown up in South Africa during apartheid, the child of a British father and fourth-generation South African mother, she graduated from Nelson Mandela University in Port Elizabeth with a degree in English Literature.
Authors & Industry Experts
NATHAN AGIN is an actor, online marketer, and audiobook narrator/producer. He has completed over 20 audiobooks, including for HarperCollins and Lioncrest Publishing, as well as for “indie” authors Chris Fox, Sean Platt, and Johnny B. Truant. He has also narrated 100+ articles for New York Times best-selling author Mark Manson. As an author, Nathan self-published and narrated his own book, A Beginner’s Meditation Course. He brings over ten years of web design, email marketing, and social media experience to his work as an audiobook coach and consultant. Learn more at audionathan.com.
- SESSIONS: “Ace Your Next Public or Zoom Reading”
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,” Cyber Social, Introductions
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
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: Cyber Social, 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), and Ten Year Dance (2017). 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. Always a sucker for a hopeful ending, he writes contemporary romance stories. He is a public speaker and a workshop leader for the Southern California Writers’ Conference, Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference, Santa Barbara Writers Conference, and others. His most recent novel, 15 Days With You, is now out.
- SESSIONS: “Immaculate Conception: Your Story’s DNA” and “Story Beats: Your Narrative Pulse”
JASMIN IOLANI HAKES‘ essays have appeared in the Los Angeles Times and the Sacramento Bee. She is the recipient of a Squaw Valley LoJo Foundation Scholarship, a Writing by Writers Emerging Voices fellowship, and a 2018 Hedgebrook residency. Her sweeping Hilo-set debut novel Hula, which garnered a Southern California Writers’ Conference Best Fiction award two years ago, sold at auction to Scribner, and is due for release in 2021. A California resident, she was born and raised in Hilo, Hawaii.
- SESSIONS: “We Are What Happens To Us”
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)
ROBIN “R.D.” KARDON is the award-winning author of Flygirl, a work of fiction inspired by her own aviation experience. It was a solo Medalist for General fiction in the 2019 New Apple Literary Summer EBook Awards, and an Award Winning Finalist in the 2020 International Books Awards in the categories of Best New Voice and General Fiction. Angel Flight, her second novel, examines the personal and professional pressures faced by Captain Tris Miles as she plans and executes a critical “angel flight,” designed to carry a critically ill woman from a remote area in Canada to the US for medical treatment while struggling with a new relationship. Robin herself had a twelve-year flying career as a corporate and airline pilot. Holding an Airline Transport Pilot certificate and three Captain qualifications, she has traveled the world over in every type of airplane from small single-engine Cessnas to the Boeing 737.
- SESSIONS: “Memoir or Novel: What Exactly are you Writing?” and “Taming the Tech: Incorporating Technical Expertise without Losing the Reader”
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)
BETHANY LOPEZ is a USA Today bestselling author of more than thirty books. She is a lover of all things romance, which she incorporates into the stories she writes, no matter the genre. Her debut novel, Ta Ta for Now!, was self-published in 2011, when, by her own admission, she had absolutely no idea of what she was doing. Eight months later Bethany attended her first SCWC, took everything she learned, and got back to work. She published two more books in the Stories about Melissa young adult series in 2012, XOXOXO and Ciao, then turned to the new adult market with her Friends & Lovers Trilogy, Make it Last, I Choose You, and Trust in Me. Jumping genres yet again, Bethany released her first YA contemporary fantasy, Nissa: A Contemporary Fairy Tale, followed by an NA romance set in college, Indelible. Her Time for Love, Three Sisters Catering, The Lewis Cousins Series’–and others–followed, with her most recent addition being Frat House Confessions: Brody.
- SESSIONS: “Setting, Selling and Staying the Series Course,” “Staying Relevant: Building a Long Term Career and Remaining Fluid”
- Advance Submission Critique: Young adult, new adult, romance; first 10 pages double-spaced; up to 10 pages double-spaced
JUDY REEVES is a writer and educator with more than 20 years of experience as a workshop leader. She is the author of four books on writing, including A Writer’s Book of Days, named a “hottest book for writers” by Writer’s Digest magazine. The other books are Writing Alone, Writing Together, A Creative Writer’s Kit, and The Writer’s Retreat Kit. She teaches creative writing at UCSD Extension, holds private workshops, and speaks at writing conferences internationally. In addition to her work as a writer and writing provocateur, Judy co-founded The Writing Center, a nonprofit literary arts organization and is executive director of San Diego Writers, Ink. Her latest book, Wild Women, Wild Voices, is now out, from New World Library.
- SESSIONS: “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
MICHELE SCOTT is the New York Times and USA Today best-selling author of numerous titles. Under her own name, she’s written the popular equine–themed Michaela Bancroft mystery trilogy and YA Vivian Taylor Horse Lover’s Mysteries, along with her wine-themed Nikki Sands Mysteries. As A.K. Alexander, she’s penned such stand-alones as Mommy May I?, The Cartel, and Covert Reich, along with the PSI Trilogy and Holly Jennings Thrillers, the latest of which is Deadly Affiars.
- SESSIONS: “Express, Don’t Explain” and “I Don’t Care, and That’s Your Problem”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Women’s fiction, suspense, mystery; first 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, 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.
- SESSIONS: “Deeply Personal and Purposefully Poignant” and “Suspense–In EVERY Genre”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Women’s fiction, suspense, mystery; first 10 pages double-spaced
MARY VENSEL WHITE‘s debut novel, The Qualities of Wood, was published by HarperCollins. Called “quite simply, truly beautiful” by Caroline Smailes (The Drowning of Arthur Braxton), the book was the first published by the company’s digital imprint, Authonomy, only a year prior to hardcopy. Her latest, Bellflower, is an experimental “novel-in-moments” that Scott Pack (Weightless Fireworks) declares, “A remarkable feat.” A graduate of the University of Denver and DePaul University, Chicago, Mary’s work has appeared in The Madison Review, Catapult, The Rumpus, The Write Launch, The Wisconsin Review, Author Magazine, and elsewhere. She is also a contributing editor at LitChat.com and owner of TypeEighteenEditing.com, a reader at Craft magazine, and new adjunct professor of writing at Concordia University in Irvine.
- SESSIONS: Read & Critique (All-genre)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Contemporary fiction; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
CLAUDIA WHITSITT is an award-winning author and former educator who has published five mysteries and four works of middle grade historical fiction to date. The fourth installment in her Vietnam era Kids Like You series, Battle Lines, which follows Between the Lines, Beyond the Lines, and Broken Lines, is now out. Claudia’s novels feature strong heroines and address social issues which continue to plague our country. When she isn’t writing, she’s visiting schools and teaching writing to middle grade students. She’s known for her kind nature, even when telling you that your works sucks, and will make you want to become a better writer.
- SESSIONS: “Infusing Micro-tension into Your Story” and “Supporting Cast: Crafting Purposeful Secondary Characters”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Middle-grade fiction, mystery; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter
GWENDOLYN WOMACK is the author of The Memory Painter, her enchanting debut novel which, in a starred review, Library Journal declared, “It’s best not to try to analyze the ambitious plot of this thriller, which combines romance, fantasy, and adventure; just hang on for a wild and entertaining ride around the world and through the centuries back to ancient Egypt.” The Fortune Teller, a USA Today and Los Angeles Times bestseller, followed. Of it Publishers Weekly effused, ”With considerable attention to historical detail, Womack gives the readers windows into life in ancient Gundeshapur, Renaissance-era Milan and Paris, and revolutionary Russia….the journey is delightful.” The Time Collector, a thriller focused on psychometrists, is her latest.
- SESSIONS: “Intuitive Writing: Strengthening Your Sixth Sense at the Keyboard” and “Perfecting Page One”
Agents & Editors
HOLLY KAMMIER is a former journalist who has worked everywhere from CNN in Washington, D.C. and KCOP-TV in Los Angeles, to the NBC affiliate in small-town Medford, Oregon. The UCLA honor grad currently splits her time between San Diego, CA and Henderson, NV. She recently published her second book, Kingston Court, a chic lit novel with an edge. Holly is an avid reader with a passion for timeless books and beautiful writing. Along with novelist Jessica Therrien, she 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 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 in 1999, 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, published under MarketingtheMuse Publications. MarlaMiller.com is a resource center for writers with emphasis on marketing information in publishing/epublishing.
- SESSIONS: “Pitch Witches: What’s Your Book About?” (with Jennifer Silva Redmond) and “The Emotional Hook: Reeling Readers in from the Start”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, narrative and prescriptive non-fiction, columns (Note: anything emphasizing medicine or psychology, Marla’s your reader); first 10 pages, cover letter
LEE OBRIEN is a junior agent at Irene Goodman Literary Agency. Across all age categories, he’s looking for fast paced stories with a strong commercial hook, as well as quieter, character-driven stories that can still keep the pages turning. He’s especially interested in books with clear stakes and an immersive world, as well as anything with lots of atmosphere, magic, monsters, intrigue, or a plot full of twists and turns. He is actively seeking underrepresented voices, including BIPOC, LGBTQIA, and disability #OwnVoices, and has a particular soft spot for queer romance, whether it’s a first crush or an epic love story. Lee uses any pronouns.
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Action/adventure, children’s, commercial, fantasy, general, historical, horror, LGBTQ, literary, middle grade, mystery, romance, sci-fi, thriller, young adult; first 10 pages double-spaced, 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 non-fiction. 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 and What It Isn’t,” “Pitch Witches: What’s Your Book About?” (with Marla Miller) and “Putting POV in Perspective”
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, non-fiction, 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
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: TBA
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Fiction, all genres; first 10 pages, cover letter
CHRISTA YELICH-KOTH has been a freelance editor since 2013. She’s worked with published (award-winning and bestselling) and first-time authors and loves working with both new and veteran writers. Her main focus is science fiction, fantasy, and thrillers, both YA and adult. Her goal as an editor is to help enhance the beauty of the author’s voice/style while working through anything that bogs the story down, making them feel uplifted and encouraged as a writer. Christa has also published eight books to date, including her award-winning sci-fi series, the Eomix Galaxy novels, and internationally bestselling books, the Detective Trann series, and a sci-fi graphic novel and follow-up comic book series. She is currently finishing up the third book in her YA fantasy series, the Land of Iyah trilogy.
- SESSIONS: Read & Critique (Mystery, Sci-Fi, Fantasy)
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Science fiction, fantasy, thrillers; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter with brief summary (no more than one page)
AYLA ZURAW-FRIEDLAND is an agent with the David Black Agency, which she joined in 2019. Previously, she worked as an editorial assistant and assistant editor at Beacon Press in Boston, and as a development editor for encyclopedias at Oxford University Press. She received her BA in English and Creative Writing from Connecticut College in 2015, and her writing can be found in GAY the Magazine and Publishers Weekly. She is interested in literary fiction and nonfiction that inspects queer experiences and narratives, and would love to see pitches from BIPOC and disabled writers from a diversity of backgrounds. A few of her favorite contemporary writers are Carmen Maria Machado, Kristen Arnett, Hanif Abdurraqib, Helen Oyeyemi, Daniel M. Lavery, Raven Leilani, Candice Carty-Williams, Kacen Callendar, Alexander Chee, Akwaeke Emezi, and Samantha Irby.
- ADVANCE SUBMISSION CRITIQUE: Literary fiction, non-fiction; first 10 pages double-spaced, cover letter