We’re offering small breakaway sessions all weekend where writers can sit down with agents, authors, and editors to discuss everything from pitching to craft. Advanced registration is required for all sessions, with applicable prices listed below. 

Breakaway sessions are only open to conference attendees. If you are interested in a session but have not yet applied to the conference, please apply here

Round Table Talks

The First Three Pages with Cherise Fisher of Wendy Sherman Associates and Kanishk Tharoor, author of Swimmer Among the Stars 
Saturday, September 7, 10:00am – 11:10am 
Location: 6th Floor Lounge

Ever hear someone describe a book by saying, “It’s great, you just need to get through the first 100 pages!” It is nearly impossible for a writer to expect readers to hold on that long. The first few pages of your book are critical: Agents decide whether to keep reading and consider you for representation within that span, and editors decipher whether a book is right for their list in that short window, too. Join in the conversation as an author and agent discuss what makes those first pages pop.

The First Three Pages is free with panel enrollment, but space is limited and advanced registration is required. You can sign up here.

Writing Dialogue with Brendan Kiely, author of Tradition and Yoojin Grace Wuertz, author of Everything Belongs to Us 
Sunday, September 8, 11:30am – 12:40pm
Location: 6th Floor Lounge 

Crafting compelling dialogue is one of writing’s biggest challenges. George Saunders says, “The biggest pitfall is the assumption that dialogue in fiction should mimic dialogue in real life. So there’s lots of faithful rendering that should get left out.” But if our dialogue shouldn’t mimic real life, how can we make it believable? Join the discussion as two authors share their approach to crafting dialogue—learn what strategies they use, if any, to convey authentic conversations, and how they manage to filter out the real life talk that does not translate to the page.

Writing Dialogue is free with panel enrollment, but space is limited and advanced registration is required. You can sign up here.

Character is Plot; Plot is Character with  Christine Pride, editor and author, and Paul Vidich, author of The Coldest Warrior
Sunday, September 8, 3:00pm – 4:10pm
Location: 6th Floor Lounge 

Most people read fiction not so much for plot as for company. In a good piece of fiction, you can meet someone and get to know her in depth, or you can meet yourself in disguise, and imaginatively live out and understand your passions. Once you create convincing characters, everything else should follow easily. F. Scott Fitzgerald said, “Character is plot, plot is character.” Out of character, plot grows easily when the character is confronted with conflicts that require the character to make choices. Character and conflict are at the heart of a novel.

Character is Plot; Plot is Character is free with panel enrollment, but space is limited and advanced registration is required. You can sign up here.

Approaching Race as a White Writer with Brendan Kiely, author of TraditionJess Row, author of White Flightsand Rob Spillman, author of All Tomorrow’s Parties Sunday September 8, 4:30pm – 5:40pm
Location: 6th Floor Lounge 

Approaching Race as a White Writer is free with panel enrollment, but space is limited and advanced registration is required. You can sign up here.

Practice Your Pitch ($50)

Practice Your Pitch: Fiction with Samantha Fingerhut of Compass Talent and Monica Odom of Odom Media Management
Saturday, September 7, 4:30pm – 5:40pm
Location: 6th Floor Lounge

Practice Your Pitch is for writers who are working on honing their “pitch” but don’t feel ready to officially pitch an agent at a one-on-one meeting. Each writer will have a chance to “practice their pitch” in a supportive environment and receive real-time feedback from the agents. Writers will also benefit from hearing the agents’ feedback on their peers’ pitches and engage in a group discussion about their work. 

Please note these key differences between a one-on-one agent meeting and a Practice Your Pitch round table session: 

— The agents and editors will not read a sample of your work in advance. 
— This session is not the appropriate forum to ask whether an agent would like to consider your work for representation. The goal is to receive feedback on your work in progress in a supportive group environment.
— Depending on the workshop size, each writer will have approximately 3 minutes to present their project. The rest of the 70-minute session will be dedicated to agent feedback and group discussion. 


Craft Workshops ($50)

Novel Structure, or How to Find Your Book’s Inherent Shape, with Ted Thompson, author, The Land of Steady Habits
Saturday, September 7, 11:10am – 12:40pm
Location: 6th Floor Lounge

Anyone who has taken a writing workshop while working on a novel knows that while they can be helpful on a single chapter, the format isn’t suited to address many of the larger issues at play in a novel. I’ve found, in reading early novel drafts, that those issues are almost always structural, and that many of them could be considerably improved if the writer were aware of some basic principles. This class is a chance to discuss those, addressing not only what gives a long narrative movement but also ways to locate and honor each project’s individual shape. No two novels can be built exactly the same, which is what makes them so difficult, but they do function with the same physics, so to speak. We’ll try to get to the bottom of what exactly those forces are, then talk about the ways to apply them to our current projects.


Research for Writing with Tracy O’Neill, author, Quotients 
Saturday, September 7, 3:00pm – 4:10pm
Location: 6th Floor Lounge

Many prose writers conduct thorough research for their work. Whether writing historical fiction, memoir, or even science fiction, research can help you to think through the textures of world, character, structures of power, and culture. This workshop will explore some techniques for conducting that research, using research to generate ideas for creative work, and integrating information into your manuscript.


Depth and Drive: Breathing Life into your Characters, with Judy Sternlight, independent editor and co-founder of 5E 
Sunday, September 8, 10:00am – 11:10am 
Location: 6th Floor Lounge

A clear, compelling plot and vivid settings are crucial to good storytelling, but if your characters are flat, your job as a writer isn’t done. This session focuses on how to enrich your characters, making them live on the page. Through a mix of creative brainstorming and craft talk, we’ll touch on character objectives, back-stories, points-of-view, dialogue, subtext, and the concept of status shifts that occur when your characters are fighting for what they need.