2020 Keynote Speakers

Michelle McCullough

Opening Keynote Speaker
Michelle McCullough
Author, Speaker, podcast host of Make It Happen and DreamBoard Media CEO

Michelle is a seasoned speaker and former corporate trainer, who teaches high performance and leadership strategies that boost employee engagement and retention. She’s the author of four bestselling books including "Make It Happen Blueprint" & The Time Blueprint for Entrepreneurs".

In addition, Michelle is the CEO of DreamBoard Media, a boutique digital marketing agency. Michelle also serves as partner and managing director for Startup Princess, an international business and blog, listed by Forbes as “One of the top 10 resources for Women Entrepreneurs”. She’s worked with top brands like Visa Small Business, UPS Store, AWeber and more. Michelle has spoken for the Air Force Reserve, Goldman Sachs, Ancestry.com, Utah National Guard, and more. She’s been featured on entrepreneur.com, in the 40 under 40, Fox TV and NBC Affiliates and has been interviewed for television and radio over 200 times, including Good Morning America and The Today Show. Her own radio show "Make It Happen" entertains and educates experts & business leaders weekly. Since its inception, the podcast has had over 1.5 million downloads.

Dan Wells

Closing Keynote Speaker
Dan Wells
New York Times bestselling Author and co-host of the Hugo-winning podcast Writing Excuses

Dan Wells is best known for his horror series I Am Not a Serial Killer, of which the first book is now an award-winning movie through IFC Midnight. His other novels include The Hollow City, Extreme Makeover, Partials, and Mirador.

He has written for television on the upcoming science fiction series Extinct, and he wrote and produced the horror comedy stage play A Night of Blacker Darkness. He co-hosts the Hugo-winning podcast for aspiring writers called Writing Excuses, which has expanded to include its own writing conference. Dan lives in northern Utah with his wife, 6 children, and more than 400 board games.

2020 Schedule

Date Time Session Session
October 9, 2020 10:00 AM Welcome, Announcements, Flash Fiction Contest Kick Off
  10:20 AM Opening Keynote Presentation - Michelle McCullough - Make It happen: High Performance Practices for Writers
  11:30 AM J. Scott Savage - Keeping it Simple and Powerful: Creating Better Queries
  12:30 PM Dennis Gaunt - It Came From the Slushpile
October 15, 2020 6:00 PM Liz DeBetta - Subversive Stories: Writing the Self Angela Johnson - Pros and Cons of Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing
  7:00 PM Writing Contest Update
  7:10 PM Steven Clark - Location, Location, Location Brock Jones - Poetry's Place In a Prose World
October 22, 2020 6:00 PM Talia Rothschild & Ashleigh Harvey - Coauthoring: How to Successfully Collaborate Without Wrecking Your Friendship Johnny Worthen - The Muddled Middle
  7:00 PM Writing Contest Update
  7:10 PM Julie Wright - Dialogue: Did I Really Say That Out Loud? Jared Quan - Work/Life Balance
October 29, 2020 6:00 PM Julie Nichols - How is This the Story of Your Life? Julie Wright - Swipe Right. The Laws of Attraction for Romance Writers
  7:00 PM Writing Contest Update
  7:10 PM Melissa Dalton Martinez - How to write your book's front cover copy, back cover copy, and online descriptions that sell! Chris Jones - Eat Your Words--Six Ways to Earn Money From Writing You Never Thought of Before
November 5, 2020 6:00 PM JoLyn Brown - How to Keep Writing When You Feel Like a Fake Rod Miller - How to Build a Book without a Blueprint
  7:00 PM Writing Contest Update
  7:10 PM J.R. Johansson -Using Conflict, Pacing and Tension to Create a Book the Reader Can’t Put Down Amy Michelle Carpenter - Editor's Help: Getting A Killer First Chapter
November 6, 2020 10:00 AM Welcome, Final Announcments, Intros
  10:20 AM Melissa Dalton Martinez & April Hiatt - Author and Book Branding: What this REALLY means and how to do it well! A good brand = good sales!
  11:20 AM Closing Keynote Presentation - Dan Wells
  12:30 PM Writers Academy Awards - Facebook Live!

* Schedule is subject to change.

Flash Fiction Writing Contest

The FIRST EVER Writers Academy Flash Fiction Writing Contest is a chance for attendees to write a short 1,000 word piece to win prizes such as free manuscript reviews, consultations and more! It's super simple.

There will be two elimination rounds and a new piece will be required for those who proceed. Finalists will be announced at the Writers Academy Awards event on Friday, November 6.

Every conference attendee receives 1 entry into the contest!

2020 Pitch Session Agents

Michaela Whatnall

Michaela Whatnall
Dystel, Goderich &c Bourret

Michaela Whatnall joined Dystel, Goderich & Bourret in 2019 in the company's West Coast office, where they assist Michael Bourret in addition to growing their own list. After graduating from Emory University with a degree in English and linguistics, Michaela completed the Columbia Publishing Course. Their background in school and library marketing accounts for their strong interest in children’s literature, from picture books up through middle grade and young adult novels and graphic novels. They also seek adult literary fiction, speculative fiction, sci-fi/fantasy, and narrative nonfiction.

Mina Hamedi

Mina Hamedi
Janklow & Nesbit Associates

Mina Hamedi grew up in Istanbul, Turkey and is of Turkish/Iranian descent. She received a B.A. from NYU's Gallatin School and an M.F.A. in Nonfiction from Columbia University's School of the Arts. She works for the literary agent Lynn Nesbit at Janklow & Nesbit Associates, where she is also building her own list, focusing on literary fiction and experimental non-fiction. You can query her at mhamedi [at] janklow [dot] com.

2020 Presenters

Johnny Worthen

Johnny Worthen
The Muddled Middle

Johnny Worthen is an award-winning, multi-genre, tie-dye-wearing author, voyager, and damn fine human being! Trained in literary criticism and cultural studies he earned his Bachelors and Masters degrees from the University of Utah. Beyond English on a good day, he speaks Danish and reads Latin. He is a Utah Writer of the Year.

An avowed Deconstructionist, Johnny writes up-market stories from the inside out, beginning with theme and pursuing an idea through whatever genre will best serve it. So far he has published fiction novels as mystery, young adult, comedy, urban fantasy, horror and science fiction, both traditionally and indie.

A frequent presenter and panelist at writing conferences and fan conventions, he is active in local communities of artists and writers. A long-time volunteer for the League of Utah Writers, the state’s oldest and largest writing organization, he has served several high positions of leadership there, including President from 2018-2020.

When not writing his own stuff, Johnny edits professionally for a small dark fiction press in Los Angeles and teaches Creative Writing at the University of Utah as an Associate Instructor. He lives in Sandy Utah with his wife, sons and cats. There’s also a lawn.

johnny@johnnyworthen.com
Brock Jones

Brock Jones
Poetry's Place In a Prose World

Brock Jones is an assistant professor of English at Utah Valley University and the author of Cenotaph (University of Arkansas Press, 2016), a finalist in the 2016 Miller Williams Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in the Iowa Review, Lunch Ticket, Ninth Letter online, Poetry Daily, Raleigh Review, Sugar House Review, War Literature and the Arts, and others. Brock received his PhD in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Utah. He’s a veteran of the U.S. Army and served three tours of duty in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He currently lives with his wife and daughter in Spanish Fork.

Dennis Gaunt

Dennis Gaunt
It Came From the Slushpile

Dennis Gaunt got into writing when he pulled a magic pen from a stone. At least, that's what he likes to tell people. The truth is that he has been working as a slushpile reader for Deseret Book and Shadow Mountain publishers since 2000, and in that time, he's read it all and then some. He's seen the mistakes others have made, and iseager to share that knowledge with others so they don't make those same mistakes. He is a published author with both Deseret Book and Covenant Communications, and has taught and spoken at writing conferences all over the country for many years. He enjoys photography, playing the guitar, Disneyland, and Godzilla movies. He also hates onions.

J. Scott Savage

J. Scott Savage
 

J. Scott Savage is the author of the Case File 13 middle-grade series published by Harper-Collins, and the Farworld and Mysteries of Cove middle-grade fantasy series, both published by Shadow Mountain. Case File 13: Zombie Kid received a starred Kirkus review, was a Junior Library Guild Select Book, and was nominated for the Louisiana Young Readers Choice Award. The first book in the Mysteries of Cove series, Fires of Invention, is a nominee for the 2017-18 Young Hoosiers Award, and the second book in the series, Gears of Revolution, has been nominated for a Cybils Award. He is also the Writer in Residence for a low-income Charter school in Salt Lake City. Scott lives in Utah with his amazing wife, four children, and five grandchildren. He is represented by Michael Bourret of Dystel, Goderich, & Bourret, and has presented at hundreds of schools and conferences across the country.

Jared Quan

Jared Quan
Work/Life Balance

Jared Quan was born in Phoenix, Arizona to Chinese American Father and a Caucasian mother. He writes Novels, Short Stories, Essays, Poetry and Media Articles. In 2010 he published his first Novel Ezekiel’s Gun, from 2011-2013 he had various media articles published on SI.com blogs and yahoo.com, in 2014 he published the novel Changing Wax and Unclassified, also short stories Pathological Passion and Classified, in 2016 he published his short story Prepped in the Horror Writers Association Anthology, in 2018 the essay Star Trek Vs. Orville was published in the BYU Leading Edge publication, he also published the short story The Last Outpost on Zombie Highway in the Year of the Monkey Anthology, in 2019 he published his short story Please Don’t Stop the Music in the Utah Humor Anthology, and in 2020 his poem Really Random and Ridiculous Ride-Share Rumors was published in the Blue Quills Anthology.

His work has received a Silver Quill Award from the League of Utah Writers for his story, Prepped. His book Changing Wax was a recommended read on the Writing Excuses Podcast. He has received volunteer recognition awards, one from the Governor of Utah Gary Herbert, two from the Lt. Governor of Utah Spencer Cox, one from President Obama, and one from President Trump for his dedication to the writing community in Utah.

Jared Quan moved to Utah in 2002. He has served on the Board of Directors for several non- profit organizations in Utah including, TedXSaltLakeCity, Storymakers, The League of Utah Writers, UVU Book Academy, West Jordan Arts Council, The Cultural Arts Society of West Jordan and the Eagle Mountain Arts Alliance. He has also been in key volunteer roles with LTUE and SLC FanX. He currently lives in Eagle Mountain Utah, with his wife and five children.

Jared Quan

Julie Wright
Swipe Right. The Laws of Attraction for Romance Writers

Julie Wright is the author of over twenty novels, including Lies Jane Austen Told Me and Lies, Love, and Breakfast at Tiffany’s with Shadow Mountain’s Proper Romance line. She is a Whitney Awards winner and a Crown Heart recipient. She is represented by agent Sara Crowe. She loves reading and writing, playing on the beach or hiking with her husband and kids, and watching her husband make dinner.

Jared Quan

Rod Miller
How to Build a Book without a Blueprint

Rod Miller is an award-winning author of novels, short stories, poetry, history, and magazine articles, with fifteen books and inclusion in numerous anthologies to his credit. Recognition for his work includes Western Writers of America Spur Awards (four), Westerners International Poetry Awards (two), Academy of Western Artists Poetry Book of the Year, a Western Fictioneers Peacemaker Award for a novel, and 2012 Writer of the Year for the League of Utah Writers. Rod can be found online at writerRodMiller.com and writerRodMiller.blogspot.com.

Talia RothschildAshleigh Harvey

Talia Rothschild & Ashleigh Harvey
Coauthoring: How to Successfully Collaborate Without Wrecking Your Friendship

Talia Rothschild, Italian American, is passionate about stories in many forms—music, dance, photography, film and, of course, great novels. She believes in thick hot chocolate and creamer in your tea. When she's not happily writing, she's mothering the sweetest baby girl and making memories with her husband. Her debut book The Immortal Game, coauthored with A. C. Harvey, hits the shelves May 2021.

Ashleigh Harvey is teaching high school physics and bringing her writing dreams to life. English-born and world-traveled, she loves filling her life with new adventures, such as visiting a new country or exploring the Wild West with her husband. She also finds escape in movies, literature, music, and yearly comic conventions. The Immortal Game is her debut novel, created alongside Talia, her close friend.

Chris Jones

Chris Jones
Eat Your Words-Six Ways to Earn Money From Writing You Never Thought of Before

Christopher JH Jones (alias Mr. C and Cj Lehi), after decades without success, quit writing in 2013. After trying repeatedly to grow up—without discernible success—he repented, and has gone on to publish several books in multiple genres. He is known for his business book, From Poop Into Gold: The Marketing Magic of Harmon Brothers, and other nonfiction titles; for his true-crime historical thriller series Trinity Flynn; and for Twelve Upon a Time, his collection of original fairy tales. A prolific writer of short fiction as well, Cj has published two short-story collections and been featured in six anthologies.

His latest labor of love is founding Drabatic Press. We’re all still waiting to see how that turns out.

Cj resides in Lehi, UT, with his wife Jeanette, their eight children, three children-in-law, one murderous cat, and a stray hummingbird. He loves Twitter, (@cjhjones), Instagram (@iamchrisjones) and visitors to his website (iamchrisjones.com).

Liz DeBetta

Liz DeBetta
Subversive Stories: Writing the Self

Liz DeBetta holds a PhD in Humanities & Culture with certificates in Women’s and Gender Studies and Creative Writing at Union Institute & University, an MA in English from the City University of NY (College of Staten Island), and a BA in Theatre/Speech from Wagner College. She is a Lecturer of English at Utah Valley University, and the writing and performance mentor for Act Risk No More an non-profit theatre group. She is a member of Actor’s Equity and SAG-AFTRA and her writing has been published on DearAdoption.com, SeveranceMag.com and in #MeToo: Essays About Why This Happened, What it Means and How to Make Sure it Never Happens Again. Liz is interested in writing for healing and social change from a feminist perspective within the field of adoption culture to shed light on the often untold stories of adoptees and first mothers.

J.R. Johansson

J.R. Johansson
Using Conflict, Pacing and Tension to Create a Book the Reader Can’t Put Down

J.R. JOHANSSON is the author of the Night Walkers Series (INSOMNIA, PARANOIA and MANIA) as well as standalone novels, CUT ME FREE, THE ROW and TO THE BONE. Her books have been published in over a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. She has a B.S. degree in public relations and a background in marketing. She credits her abnormal psychology minor with inspiring many of her characters. When she’s not writing, she loves reading, playing board and video games, and sitting in her hot tub. Her dream is that someday she can do all three at the same time.

JoLyn Brown

JoLyn Brown
How to Keep Writing When You Feel Like a Fake

JoLyn Brown began seriously pursuing writing twelve years ago after she attended her first writing conference. She has a passion for helping new writers find their confidence and voice. She writes religious themed nonfiction and fiction and is working on her first fantasy novel. After publishing six books traditionally, she is now stepping into the world of self-publishing. Currently she is fulfilling a life goal of finishing her bachelor’s degree in English where she’s discovered a passion for many of the classic literary authors. She’s been married fourteen years and has two children. She has no pets, but has started a rather complicated relationship with houseplants. The results of that endeavor are still pending.

Melissa Dalton MartinezApril Hiatt

Melissa Dalton Martinez & April Hiatt
Author and Book Branding: What this REALLY means and how to do it well! A good brand = good sales!

Melissa Dalton Martinez has worked in the publishing industry on and off as a PR and marketing manager, marketing consultant, and media professional since 2000. Melissa graduated from Utah Valley University in 2003 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Management and Communications. Right out of college she started working as a the public relations coordinator for the niche publisher Covenant Communications, Inc. Over the course of her career she has ran her own businesses, spoken at countless conferences, helped coordinate many events, worked with radio, TV, newspapers, movies, podcasts, YouTube shows, and is the producer and host of her own TV mini-series, The Book Break. As part of The Book Break, Melissa also does book recommendation segments on Utah’s ABC, NBC, CBS, and FOX stations. In addition to The Book Break show and book recommendation segments, Melissa works as a private marketing, media, and publishing consultant for perspective authors, authors, and publishers. Recently, Melissa has also taken on the role of publisher, and is currently working on the production of multiple books that will be published in 2021.

April Hiatt is a website designer, trainer, and owner of Powered By You Websites. She specializes in working with authors, life coaches and small businesses to carry their branding through to their websites. Her passion is for the individual or small business to have a memorable online presence. After graduating from BYU, April worked for the Applied Technology Center, training adults to succeed in business. She then ran her own business as a software trainer and virtual project manager for several years while raising her kids. In 2014 April began working with individuals and small businesses to help build their branding in podcasts, social media, videos and websites. There she found her passion—customized website design. April has created websites for authors, life coaches, political candidates, therapists and more, and loves to see others’ visions brought to life on their websites. She believes a website is a reflection of you and your business, so it should showcase who you are and what you can do for others as well as highlight your overall branding so you are easily recognizable.

Steven Clark

Steven Clark
Location, Location, Location

Since retiring, my writing has become somewhat eclectic. I started writing novels in the mystery/thriller genre, then moved to Native American Fiction with my next two, and my last was a moderately steamy contemporary romance set in Southwest Colorado. I frequently write for regional newspapers and am a monthly columnist for the Sanpete Messenger newspaper. My wife and I reside in beautiful downtown Chester, UT.

Julie Nichols

Julie Nichols
How is This the Story of Your Life?

Julie J. Nichols is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Literature at UVU. She received her PhD from the University of Utah in fiction writing and has also been a massage therapist and practitioner of the alternative energy healing modality Integrated Awareness. She's published many stories and reviews, including the collection "Pigs When They Straddle the Air" (Zarahemla 2016). She's also recently earned a certificate as a writing coach. She's a mom and grandmother living in Provo with her cowboy husband, with whom she rides their Tennessee Walkers and watches British murder mysteries while they eat whole foods and chocolate cake.

Amy Michelle Carpenter

Amy Michelle Carpenter
Editor's Help: Getting A Killer First Chapter

Amy Michelle Carpenter is a developmental editor with Eschler Editing and a professional blogger. She’s written hundreds of blogs and news articles for local and national companies. She also has a children’s story in an anthology.

As the daughter of an Army officer, she grew up traveling the country and has lived by sandy beaches, southern woods, towering cities, and the rocky mountains. Now, she resides in the countryside of Tooele, UT with her husband and baby girls. She enjoys seeing what wildlife and farm animals dare venture into her yard only to be chased by her toddlers. Wherever family is is home.

BECOMING HUMAN, her young adult sci-fi, tells the story of a girl from an austere planet who discovers what it means to be human.

Angela Johnson

Angela Johnson
Pros and Cons of Self Publishing and Traditional Publishing

Angela Johnson has a love for the written word and the adventures one can take while reading. She writes the stories she wants to read: clean romance novels based in the Regency Era. Her debut novel, The Earl of Arundel, was released in June 2020. She has a BS in English from Utah Valley University, a MPC from Weber State University, an MA in publishing from Western Colorado University and is working on an MFA in creative writing. She loves to travel to collect ideas for writing.