Rappahannock Writers Conference

The Rappahannock Writers Conference is for all aspiring writers and local authors in our community. It is held annually on the first Saturday of November at no cost. This is a special opportunity to learn, network, and grow as a writer. Past and present partners include NSWC Federal Credit Union, University of Mary Washington Continuing and Professional Studies, and Riverside Young Writers. The Riverside Young Writers has a separate Teen Track listed below the main sessions.

Pre-register for the main conference or the teen track to receive weekly email writing tips and information on special writing events and library resources in the lead-up to the conference.

Though pre-registration may be full, you are still welcome to attend the conference.


2019 Writers Conference: Saturday, November 2, 2019, 9:00-4:15 at the University of Mary Washington Stafford Campus

9:00-9:30 Registration [Atrium]

9:30-9:45 Welcome Session [University Hall]

10:00-11:00 Workshop Sessions I

Tell Your Story: Writing Memoir - Candice Ransom [University Hall]

It’s said that everyone has a story to tell and plenty of people are telling theirs. Memoirs lead the list in today’s nonfiction. In this workshop, we’ll differentiate between memoir and autobiography. We’ll learn how to hone an idea into a narrative that speaks to everyone. Details will cover voice, structure, truth, and what to do about those you’re writing about who are still alive. An extensive, annotated reading list will be provided.

Growing as a Writer - Suzi Weinert [Room 217]

Spirit, spark, strategy, search, stamina, skills, sacrifice, solutions, survival, success, satisfaction.

The Essence of Dialogue: Its Ultimate Nature - Judy Kelly [Room 252]

From this presentation, attendees will understand and be able to use dialogue with meaning and purpose. The presentation will address dialogue as used in novels and short stories. It is an in-depth analysis of how dialogue relates to character, plot, tone, and setting through examining samples of dialogue to understand what makes it great dialogue. This will be an opportunity for writers of all levels to look at their dialogue to sharpen their skills and give more definition to their characters and to carry out the overall purpose and plot of their story.

Plot: How to Craft a Page-Turner - Erica Orloff [Room 259]

How do you keep readers turning the pages? Do you worry about running out of story? Are you stuck in the boggy middle of your book? In this class, author Erica Orloff will spell out how to craft personal stakes for your characters that keep your novel pushing forward. Attendees will do a hands-on exercise to help them clarify what, exactly, their characters’ motivations are—and how that extends to plot. Learn how to raise the stakes and how to keep your pacing moving.

11:15-12:15 Workshop Sessions II

Hook Your Readers: Point of View and How to Use It - Linda J. White [University Hall]

What makes a reader say, “I couldn’t put that book down”? Often it’s because the author has learned how to use deep POV. On the other hand, poorly crafted POV can keep your reader from being immersed in your story. Let’s talk about this important technique. 

Crafting the Food and Travel Essay - Colin Rafferty [Room 217]

The places we go and the foods we eat can provide us with a wealth of material for writing, but how can we use words to convey the complex sensory details of unfamiliar things and locales? In this panel, author Colin Rafferty explains how to craft an engaging narrative from the raw materials of travel and food, shows how other writers have done it and provides useful prompts for telling your own stories of the wide world.

Making a Living as a Writer - Lindley Estes [Room 252]

You really can make a living as a writer, but you have to be prepared to work and work hard. From full-time journalism, teaching writing, freelancing and finding time to write while employed outside of the field, this talk offers advice on how to become a career writer.

Integrating Dialogue with Action in Science Fiction - Jim and John Gaines [Room 259]

This workshop will explore how to integrate dialogue with human, alien and robotic characters in both conflict and non-conflict situations. How can characters communicate across species barriers? What limitations will they have? What logical means exist to bridge communication barriers? Where to stop talking and start fighting and vice versa? How can dialogue add humor and perspective to sci-fi? The speakers will offer examples from their novels and will encourage participation and examples from attendees.

12:15-2:00 Lunch, Networking Time, and Vendor Tables [Atrium]

2:00-3:00 Writing as a Business Panel Discussion with Rick Pullen (Moderator), Tracy Causley, Chris Jones, James Noll, and Candice Ransom [University Hall]

Most writers hope to make money or earn a living from their writing. Join traditionally-published and self-published authors as they discuss the various aspects of writing as a business and answer audience questions.

3:15-4:15 Workshop Sessions III

The Idea Box - Traci Hunter Abramson [University Hall]

Have you ever wondered if your idea could become a novel? Do you want to know how to plot a story and make it come to life? The Idea Box discusses Traci Abramson's plotting methods and helps other writers discover their own magic as they bring their ideas to life.

Writing the Memoir - Douglas Jones [Room 217]

Through writing, you can explore and focus on the most meaningful and memorable parts of your life. Thomas Larson writes that “memoir is most successful when it is not the ‘story of a life,’ but a focused part of that life--a dozen summers spent working on a grandfather’s farm, a long relationship with a dying relative, the first year of law school.” In this workshop, we’ll discuss strategies for writing our stories, look at some excellent examples, and do some timed writing with a specific prompt.

Finding Your Characters' Voices - Wendy Latella [Room 252]

Do you want to learn how to make characters come alive? Do your readers connect with your characters and care about what happens to them? This workshop will teach you how to create characters with unique voices and backstories, which will make them interesting to your reader.

Hanging Out a Shingle: DIY Author Websites - Nate Hoffelder [Room 259]

An author's website is their online office and storefront, but it doesn't have to be a stodgy one. In this session, you will learn how with just a little work you can rapidly transform your author website from blah to boss. A good website doesn't have to cost thousands of dollars; your site can be a simple as a single page and still present a professional face to reviewers and help you connect with fans.


Riverside Young Writers Teen Track

All Workshops in Room 210

10:00-11:00 Workshop Session I: Finding Your Characters' Voices - Wendy Latella [Room 252]

Do you want to learn how to make characters come alive? Do your readers connect with your characters and care about what happens to them? This workshop will teach you how to create characters with unique voices and backstories, which will make them interesting to your reader.

11:15-12:15 Workshop Session II: Writing the Memoir - Douglas Jones [Room 217]

Through writing, you can explore and focus on the most meaningful and memorable parts of your life. Thomas Larson writes that “memoir is most successful when it is not the ‘story of a life,’ but a focused part of that life--a dozen summers spent working on a grandfather’s farm, a long relationship with a dying relative, the first year of law school.” In this workshop, we’ll discuss strategies for writing our stories, look at some excellent examples, and do some timed writing with a specific prompt.

2:00-3:00 Writing and Critique Session

Bring a one- to three-page sample of your writing or participate in a guided writing exercise. There will be feedback from fellow writers as part of the session.

3:15-4:15 Workshop Session III: Plot: How to Craft a Page-Turner - Erica Orloff [Room 254]

How do you keep readers turning the pages? Do you worry about running out of story? Are you stuck in the boggy middle of your book? In this class, author Erica Orloff will spell out how to craft personal stakes for your characters that keep your novel pushing forward. Attendees will do a hands-on exercise to help them clarify what, exactly, their characters’ motivations are—and how that extends to plot. Learn how to raise the stakes and how to keep your pacing moving.


The conference is sponsored by the University of Mary Washington Continuing and Professional Studies.
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