Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Too Many Choices, Part I

When planning a writers’ conference, selecting and scheduling sessions is always a dilemma. How many choices should the conference offer? Either there are too few and you sit in on sessions that have little to offer you, or there are too many and you miss out on one or more interesting sessions because they conflict.

One of last year’s participants missed out on several sessions she wanted to attend, and she suggested on her evaluation form that we offer workshops more than once. We took her comment very seriously. After all, there’s a reason it’s called the Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference with an apostrophe after the s. The conference belongs to the writers who attend, not to IWC or the Conference Committee. Unfortunately, repeating sessions limits the number we can offer overall, and the Committee believes that most participants would rather have too many choices. So after careful consideration, that’s what the Committee opted to provide.

The 2017 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference will have three blocks of time with three choices each, so you may miss something you want to hear. The actual schedule hasn’t been set yet, so these blog posts won’t tell you which ones conflict. But the next three weeks will describe each of the nine choices and give you the opportunity to rank them in advance.

Writing a Great American Romance Novel

Keynote speaker Catherine Lanigan will present a workshop called “Writing a Great American Romance Novel.” The session will cover both craft and business issues, and the business issues in particular apply across genres.

Catherine is the author of over forty fiction and nonfiction titles, including the novelizations of Romancing the Stone and The Jewel of the Nile. She is known primarily for her contemporary romance novels, such as the Shores of Indian Lake series for Harlequin Heartwarming. She has also written historical fiction, romantic suspense, true stories, books regarding angelic intervention in human life, a craft book, and a screenplay. You can learn more about her at

How to Build Suspense into Your Fiction

This session by mystery and suspense writer Libby Fischer Hellmann also transcends genre. Libby is a master at creating suspense in her award-winning books. In this interactive workshop, you will learn how to use tangible techniques to build suspense in your own work, regardless of what type of fiction you write or are considering.

After leaving the nation’s capital and a career in broadcast news 35 years ago, Libby moved to Chicago and has been writing gritty crime fiction ever since. Her nominations and awards are too numerous to mention here, but you can read about them and her many books on her website at 

Connecting to the Unconnected: Exploring the Novel-in-Stories

How can a writer combine stand-alone but related short stories into a novel? This workshop by Melissa Fraterrigo is for everyone who missed last year’s breakout session by Cathy Day or who attended that workshop but wants more.

Melissa Fraterrigo is the author of the forthcoming novel Glory Days (University of Nebraska Press) as well as the short story collection The Longest Pregnancy (Livingston Press). Her works, both fiction and nonfiction, have appeared in more than forty literary journals and anthologies and have been nominated for awards on multiple occasions, including winning the Sam Adams/Zoetrope: All Story Short Fiction Contest. She teaches classes on the art and craft of writing at the Lafayette Writers’ Studio in Lafayette, Indiana. You can learn more about Melissa and the Lafayette Writers’ Studio at

These are just three of the many reasons to attend the 2017 Steel Pen Creative Writers’ Conference on October 28. Join us at the conference center at Fair Oaks Farms just off I-65 near Rensselaer, Indiana.

Registration will open June 1, and the registration link will be posted at You can find additional information about the conference there, too.

Next week we’ll cover three more choices.

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