Connecticut Fiction Fest 2017 Schedule of Workshops and Presenter

Friday, September 8, 2017 – 4:00 – 6:00 PM


Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 7:30 – 8:30 AM


Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 8:30 AM


Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 9:10 AM


Characters should possess a variety of traits that develop as a result of their experiences. Multicultural women’s fiction author Ursula Renee discusses ten factors to consider when creating complex diverse characters.

BIO: Ursula Renee

Ursula Renée writes historicals with diverse characters who must overcome internal and external conflicts to reach their Happily-For-Now. She prefers the time periods between the roaring twenties and the psychedelic sixties, when women were challenging the norms of society.


This workshop is a hard look at the bones of bestselling fiction based on Dwight Swain’s revolutionary approach to storytelling. Whether you call it “scene and sequel” or “action and reaction,” this basic storytelling pattern allows you to pace your plot, escalate your action, and find your story’s heat and flow with a clear structural strategy that simplifies the process of planning, drafting, and revising your book.

BIO: Damon Suede

Damon Suede has been a full-time writer for print, stage, and screen for over two decades and currently serves on the RWA board of directors. He has won some awards, but counts his blessings more often: his amazing friends, his demented family, his beautiful husband, his loyal fans, and his silly, stern, seductive Muse who keeps whispering in his ear, year after year.


This workshop will cover techniques to define deep POV as it pertains to: showing versus telling, character driven vs. plot driven, back story and intimacy, filler/buffer words, overuse of “to be” verbs, and descriptive narrative and pacing. Learn how to tell your story from the inside out, rather from the outside in.

BIO: Barbara Longley

Award-winning, international Amazon bestselling author Barbara Longley learned early on how to entertain herself with stories. She has lived on a commune in the Appalachians, taught on an Indian reservation, and traveled from coast to coast. Now she divides her time between Minnesota and the Smoky Mountains of Tennessee. Barbara holds a Master’s in Education and taught for many years. She enjoys exploring things mythical, metaphysical, paranormal and anything newsworthy. Much of what she learns makes its way into her stories, where all things are possible. 

Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 10:20 AM

MANUSCRIPT CRITIQUES (Must be preregistered)


Writing is hard no matter how many books you’ve written. Once you become published, though—whether you’re a pantser or a plotter—you need to become more efficient. You don’t have time to flail. In this workshop, we’ll go over prewriting work that will make the process go more smoothly. We’ll identify and strengthen the following story elements: story premise; emotional value; goal, motivation, and conflict; turning points; character arcs; antagonist; and key story questions.

BIO: Erika Kelly

Award-winning author Erika Kelly has been spinning romantic tales all her life—she just didn't know it. Raised on the classics, she didn't discover romantic fiction until later in life. From that moment on, she's been devouring the genre and finding her true voice as an author. Over three decades she's written poems, screenplays, plays, short stories, and all kinds of women's fiction novels. Married to the love of her life and raising four children, she's lived in two countries and seven states but now makes her home in Connecticut.

New York Times
 bestselling author Kristan Higgins breaks down the single thing to which she attributes her success: revisions. What to cut, what to add and the wisdom to know the difference; comments from her myriad editors that have made her a better writer; tips on faster pacing, more layered characterization, better dialogue, deeper point of view, plus a martini recipe or two and her trademark visuals make this a can’t-miss workshop.

BIO: Kristan HIggins
Kristan Higgins is the New York Times, USA TODAY and Publishers Weekly bestselling author of sixteen novels, which have been translated into more than two dozen languages and have sold millions of copies worldwide. Her books have received many awards and accolades, including starred reviews from Kirkus, the New York Journal of Books, Publishers Weekly, Library Journal and Booklist. She is a two-time recipient of Romance Writers of America RITA Award and a six-time nominee for The Kirkus Prize for best work of fiction. Kristan lives in Connecticut with her heroic firefighter husband, their long-lashed children, two frisky dogs and an occasionally friendly cat.

Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 11:30 AM

EDITOR/AGENT ROUNDTABLES (No charge, but must be preregistered)


Do you write Navy SEAL heroes or Special Ops heroines? Are any of your characters falling in love with an active duty military person? Join U.S. Naval Academy graduate, former Naval Intelligence Officer, and Navy Veteran Geri Krotow to learn how to make your characters the most realistic while incorporating the tried-and-true craft techniques that make a romance novel great. Geri will present her experiences, from being in one of the first several classes of women at Annapolis (what's it really like to go to school with all those men?); serving as an Aviation/Air/Anti-Submarine Warfare Intelligence Officer in a squadron of mostly men during the Cold War; serving on a Joint Command Staff in the War on Drugs; and more recently serving as both a military and diplomatic spouse alongside her Navy pilot husband. Are you interested in what it's like to live and serve in the U.S. Embassy in Moscow, Russia? Or what the U.S. Marines do at the embassy? Geri has the answers for you! Bring your questions as this will be interactive, to include how Geri kept her writing career going while enduring 13 military moves in 27 years. 

BIO: Geri Krotow

A U.S. Naval Academy graduate and former Naval Intelligence Officer, Geri Krotow left the Navy after nine years to pursue a writing career. She has traveled the world, living in such far-flung places as Whidbey Island, Washington State, and Moscow, Russia. Geri enjoys creating love stories that stand the test of time, and with settings that she has personally experienced. She is the author of the Silver Valley PD series for Harlequin Romantic Suspense, set in south central Pennsylvania where she has "settled" down with her family after 27 years of Navy moves.


E-mail marketing is the No. 1 overlooked means of reader engagement when authors evaluate their overall platform. Being able to directly reach your readers, or most avid fans is a powerful capability that every author should have. Thankfully, it’s easy to get started with e-mail newsletters, and it doesn’t require technical know-how.

BIO: Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman has 20 years of experience in the publishing industry, with expertise in digital media strategy for authors and publishers. She's the co-founder of The Hot Sheet, the essential publishing industry newsletter for authors, and is the former publisher of Writer's Digest. She has been interviewed and featured by NPR, PBS, The Washington Post, the National Press Club and many other outlets.

In addition to being a columnist with Publishers Weekly and a professor with The Great Courses, Jane maintains an award-winning blog for writers. She's delivered keynotes on the digital era of authorship at many conferences, speaks regularly at industry events, and has served on panels and national foundations. Her essays have been published in numerous anthologies and she is the author of the upcoming book, The Business of Being a Writer (March 2018).

Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 12:40 – 2:00 PM


Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 2:10 PM

MAKING A SCENE! (2 hrs.)

Who likes conflict in their lives? In real life, many of us avoid conflict, but in fiction, we need to seek it out. So how do you get your characters in your stories in conflict in a scene that escalates and grows more intense—and feels real? With the use of improv exercises to create the three-layer argument, participants will learn each part of a scuffle as well as when to say, “Enough” and get out.

BIO: Alisa Kwitney

Alisa Kwitney's newest novel, Cadaver & Queen, will be published by Harlequin Teen in 2017. She has also written contemporary romance and women's fiction for HarperCollins, Atria and Random House. A former editor at Vertigo/DC Comics, she recently founded and edits Liminal Comics, an imprint of Brain Mill Press. She also teaches in McDaniel College's romance writing program.


Join Kensington Publishing Corporation editor Elizabeth May for a spotlight presentation. She will provide an overview of each of Kensington’s lines, instructions on how to submit a manuscript, a guide to deciding to which editor to submit, Q&A, and more.

COMPANY DESCRIPTION: Kensington Publishing Corp.

Founded in 1974, Kensington Publishing Corp. is located in New York City and is known as “America’s Independent Publisher.” It remains a multi-generational family business, with Steven Zacharius succeeding his father as President and CEO, and Adam Zacharius as General Manager. As the foremost independent commercial publishing house in the United States providing hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, and digital releases, Kensington publishes the books that America wants to read. Kensington publishes over 500 fiction and nonfiction titles each year. Its diverse imprints include Zebra, Pinnacle, Dafina, and Lyrical Press which are well known for providing readers with a range of popular genres such as romance, women’s fiction, African American, young adult and nonfiction, as well as true-crime, western, and mystery titles.

IT’S ALL IN THE WORDS (Short Story Making) (2 hrs.)

Arrive ready to work in this short-story maker. By the end of the session, writers will have a completed short story—and an understanding of how they may spur themselves back into productivity with some simple writing exercises.

BIO: Heather Graham

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Heather Graham has written over two hundred novels and novellas including category, suspense, historical romance, vampire fiction, time travel, occult and Christmas family fare. She has 60 million books in print and has been honored with awards from booksellers and writers’ organizations for excellence in her work, including the Silver Bullet from the International Thriller Writers, where she also served as Thriller Master in 2016. She is a recipient of the Lifetime Achievement Award from RWA.  Her books have been selected for numerous book clubs, and she has been featured in numerous national media features. Heather loves travel and anything that has to do with the water and is a certified scuba diver. She also loves ballroom dancing and spearheads several charitable endeavors. Married since high school graduation and the mother of five, her greatest love in life remains her family, but she also believes her career has been an incredible gift, and she is grateful every day to be doing something that she loves so very much for a living.

Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 3:20 PM

MAKING A SCENE! (continued)

IT’S ALL IN THE WORDS (Short Story Making) (continued)


A school librarian and author of 15 romance novels, Jeannie Moon has had her ups and downs managing time. Part inspirational talk and part down-and-dirty methods, this class will inspire participants to find the best method to get off the hamster wheel, be more productive, and have significantly less stress. Using examples from many popular methodologies, Jeannie helps participants establish a routine, learn the difference between a true plan and a to-do list, and help with manageable, meaningful goals. Having fought depression, Jeannie knows how doing too much can sap away energy and affect a person's health. Attendees will leave the workshop with the tools to establish a workable plan to support a demanding schedule.

BIO: Jeannie Moon

Jeannie Moon has always been a romantic. When she's not spinning tales of her own, Jeannie works as a school librarian, thankful she has a job that allows her to immerse herself in books. Married to her high school sweetheart, Jeannie has three kids, three lovable dogs, and resides on Long Island, NY. If she's more than ten miles away from salt water for any longer than a week, she gets twitchy.

Saturday, September 9, 2017 – 4:30 – 6:00 PM


Saturday Evening Special Event & Desserts – 8:00 PM

PUTTING THE REAL IN THE UNREAL: Ghost Hunting with Paranormal Investigator Jim Chianese

Jim Chianese, Cofounder and Lead Investigator of Connecticut Ghost Investigations, will give a lecture on what really happens during a paranormal investigation. He will walk you through a typical investigation from start to finish while explaining and demonstrating his team’s protocols, equipment, investigative techniques, and evidence review techniques. He will then present actual evidence from his investigations.

BIO: Jim Chianese

Jim Chianese is a 27-year veteran of the US Navy, a Reiki master, reflexologist, and paranormal investigator with Connecticut Ghost Investigations. He holds a Master’s degree in Operations Management and is the owner of Stone Owl Coaching and Wellness, LLC.

Sunday, September 10, 2017 –  7:30 – 9:00 AM


Sunday, September 10, 2017 – 9:10 AM


A discussion, as well as a question-and-answer session, about the pros and cons of going for a Master of Fine Arts in writing. What to expect, what not to expect. Attention will be paid to typical curricula, colleges offering MFAs in our area, costs, and benefits.

BIO: Philip Cioffari

Philip Cioffari holds a Ph.D. in literature from NYU. He is a professor of English at William Paterson University in New Jersey. His novels include The Bronx Kill; Catholic Boys; Dark Road; Dead End; and Jesusville. His story collection, A History of Things Lost or Broken, won the Tartt Fiction Award and the D.H. Lawrence Award for fiction. His short stories have appeared in more than fifty magazines and journals. He wrote and directed the independent feature film Love in the Age of Dion, which won numerous awards at film festivals.


Has writing gotten harder, instead of easier? Do you find yourself questioning why you became a writer? If so, join Casey Wyatt and Gail Chianese and discover your love of the wonderful world of writing again. During this interactive session, they will share their tips and tricks for overcoming the “I Don't Wannas,” dealing with looming deadlines and finding joy in a blank page.

BIO: Gail Chianese & Casey Wyatt

Gail Chianese spends her days juggling her tasks of being an editor, a wife, and a mom to three fabulous kids while writing contemporary romances featuring sassy heroines and smoking-hawt heroes. Originally from California, she’s lived in eight states, three countries and now calls Connecticut home, where she lives for the fall when the world explodes in color. She is the author of the West Side Romances and the Changing Tides series, putting her years of experience as a Navy wife to good use.

Casey Wyatt grew up in a mid-size Connecticut town where nothing exciting ever happened. To stem the boredom, she spent plenty of time reading fantasy and sci-fi novels and imagining her own adventures in her head. Not much has changed since she’s grown up, only now she's a multi-published author of paranormal romance and urban fantasy novels. In her spare time, she loves all things geeky, hangs out in museums, and collects stray cats.


Corpses pop up in every genre, from family funerals to violent crimes to creatures that won’t stay buried. This workshop introduces authors to the specifics of the postmortem, from time of death estimates to Y-incisions. Get the facts for your fiction – we’ll cover it all from cadaver to slab!

BIO: Geoff Symon

Geoff Symon is a Federal Forensic Investigator, Polygraph Examiner, teacher, and consultant. His participation in high-profile cases includes the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion and the Chandra Levy investigation, among countless other cases over his 20-year career. He has specified and certified training in the collection and preservation of evidence, blood-spatter analysis, autopsies and laboratory techniques. His Forensics For Fiction book series makes his forensic expertise accessible to authors of all genres.

Sunday, September 10, 2017 – 10:20 AM


It used to be that a thriller was a thriller. Whether political, criminal or legal, any plot that was structured around a mystery and whose driving force was based in suspense was placed inside this broad genre. But thrillers now fall into a variety of subgenres based on their structure and specific subject matter. Is it an Agatha Christie whodunnit? Is it a John Grisham courtroom drama? Maybe it's a David Baldacci political mystery? Or is it part of the new breed: a Gone Girl thriller that lives inside the mind of an unreliable narrator? Authors wanting to branch out into the thriller space need to understand the subcategories and have a clear sense of where they want to build an audience. We will break down the crucial elements of this new subgenre, from plot to character development to narration structure, and dive into the twisted psychological themes that have made these thrillers so popular.

BIO: Wendy Walker

Wendy Walker is the author of the national and international bestseller All is Not Forgotten (St. Martin’s 2016), with rights sold in twenty-two languages. Film rights have been sold to Warner Brothers with Reese Witherspoon and Pacific Standard producing. She previously published two novels and edited multiple compilations for the Chicken Soup for the Soul series. Prior to her writing career, Wendy practiced family law, having earned her J. D. from Georgetown University Law Center and her undergraduate degree from Brown University. Wendy also worked as a financial analyst at Goldman, Sachs & Co. Wendy's next thriller, Emma In The Night, is an August 2017 release.


This workshop will help you take the sex scene beyond the bedroom (and no, we don’t mean getting your characters to do it on the kitchen table!) Learn how to write sizzling sexual scenes that further your character’s developmental arc and drive the story forward. No gratuitous scenes allowed! We’ll help you navigate language, emotion and tension techniques no matter whether the bedroom door is cracked open just a little or if you’ve flung it wide open for the neighbors to see.

Content will focus on showing participants not only how to write better sex, but how to weave love scenes more seamlessly into their stories as well as strategically use them for character growth and plot development. The session will also cover how to maintain tension after a sex scene and include a checklist that participants can use when writing and editing their own scenes.

BIO: Stefanie London & Regina Kyle

Stefanie London is the USA Today bestselling author of over ten contemporary romances with humor, heat, and heart. Her book, Pretend It’s Love, was a Romantic Book of the Year finalist in 2016 with the Romance Writers of Australia. Stefanie currently writes for Harlequin and Entangled Publishing, and recently signed a 3-book deal with Sourcebooks Casablanca at auction for her Bad Bachelors series. Originally from Melbourne, Australia, Stefanie now resides in Toronto, Canada, and is an active member in the Toronto Romance Writers chapter of RWA.

Regina Kyle is a criminal appellate lawyer by day and a steamy romance novelist by night. She writes for Harlequin Blaze and Entangled Indulgence. Her books have received 4-star and Top Pick reviews from Romantic Times, Fresh Fiction, Harlequin Junkie and Smexy Books, among others. Triple Dare, the third book in her Art of Seduction Series for Blaze, was a 2016 Booksellers' Best
award winner.


Have you ever read a book with a heroine you thought was too stupid to live? Or a story where the hero did something so out of character, it made you want to throw the book across the room? Having a snappy plot is great, but it's the characters that make us fall in love with a book. If you have ever struggled to make your characters pop off the page this work shop will help you change that. We'll be exploring human behavior, family dynamics and personality traits to help you build deeply layered characters that will touch anyone's heart.  

BIO: Jamie Pope

Jamie Pope is an award-winning romance writer, teacher and boot-buying addict who sometimes goes by the name of Sugar Jamison. When she isn't juggling her split personalities, you can find her hanging out on social media or binge watching 90's sitcoms. 

Sunday, September 10, 2017 – 11:30 AM


Are you a character- or plot-driven writer? The answer to that should be both. It doesn't matter where you start in your writing process, in the end, the best books meld character to the plot. The tools that allow us to do that? Voice and theme. In this class, you will learn about these concepts and how to use tools, theories, and models derived from decades of research in cognitive-behavioral psychology to conceptualize and write more authentic and three-dimensional characters—the kind of characters with personality and voice strong enough to drive your story's action. 

BIO: Jessica Bayliss

Jessica Bayliss is a licensed, practicing clinical psychologist with more than fifteen years of experience and training in the cognitive-behavioral model. But she's also a writer, so she gets the challenges that authors face when trying to craft the perfect book. Her short fiction has been published in several anthologies and literary magazines,  and she is an associate editor for Allegory eZine. Look for her YA horror novella (Broken Chords, Leap Books) in October 2017 and her debut novel (Ten Past Closing, a YA thriller from Sky Pony Press) in the spring of 2018.


Ever want to go deeper than the byline? From OJ to JonBenet to Casey Anthony, we'll discuss investigative concepts and techniques in the stories behind the headlines. Using the good and bad of a notorious case as a starting point, we'll provide a gritty realism you can use in your own stories.

BIO: Geoff Symon

Geoff Symon is a Federal Forensic Investigator, Polygraph Examiner, teacher, and consultant. His participation in high-profile cases includes the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Space Shuttle Columbia explosion and the Chandra Levy investigation, among countless other cases over his 20-year career. He has specified and certified training in the collection and preservation of evidence, blood-spatter analysis, autopsies and laboratory techniques. His Forensics For Fiction series makes his forensic expertise accessible to authors of all genres.

Sunday, September 10, 2017 – 12:40 – 2:00 PM


Sunday, September 10, 2017 – 2:10 PM


Ever get stuck in the middle of your work in progress and even outlining doesn't help? This workshop will explore the causes of saggy middles, how to firm them up, and help you brainstorm some specific solutions with a presenter who has finished every manuscript she's started.

BIO: Corrina Lawson

Corrina Lawson is a former reporter who has ten published romance novels, all with a geeky angle. She is co-editor of and a contributor to the B&N SF/F and Heroes & Heartbreakers blogs. Her superhero power is multitasking.


Take a scintillating stroll through the different methods and tools an author can use to draw the reader into characters’ emotions. Techniques for POV/deep POV, backloading sentences/word choice/moral dilemmas, unexpected character reactions/responses, magnifying small moments, internal narrative, yearning, and setting will be discussed.

BIO: Jamie Beck

Jamie Beck is a former attorney with a passion for inventing realistic and heartwarming stories about love and redemption, including her popular St. James and Sterling Canyon series. A Romance Writers of America Honor Roll author, her books have been translated into multiple languages. In addition to writing novels, she enjoys dancing around the kitchen while cooking and hitting the slopes in Vermont and Utah. Above all, she is a grateful wife and mother to a very patient, supportive family.

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Fiction Fest 2017
Norwalk Inn and Conference Center
​99 East Ave, Norwalk, CT
September 8-10, 2017