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2024 Fall Conference Speakers

  Name and Session  Session Description  Speaker Bio

Amanda Zieba

The ABCs of Authorpreneurship

Looking to level up your authorpreneurship skills? Look no further. In this presentation, Amanda Zieba will walk you through 26 mini lessons, one for each letter of the alphabet, that will teach you how to improve your writing-business mindset, marketing, strategies and more. A is for Affiliate Links, B is for Blog, C is for Collaboration... With over a dozen years of self-publishing, content creation, and book selling under her belt, this word nerd has thrown a lot of strategy at the wall and is ready to tell you what sticks. (Or at least, what has worked for her!) Do you want to know the best thing about a story? Everyone has one to tell. And that’s why, as a word nerd, Amanda has the best job in the world. Amanda has written 13 books for a variety of ages and genres. She is the creator of Story Seedings and The Take Action Author Plan in which she teaches others how to start writing a novel, self-publish their book, market books, and level up their author career. She has presented at dozens of schools, conferences and retreats and also shares word nerd goodness for middle school reading/ELA educators through 5 GOOD THINGS for TEACHERS, TpT, YouTube. Amanda is a board member of the Mississippi Valley Writers Guild and also a member of the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
  Christine Keleny

Editing Vs. Proofreading

Ever wonder what is the difference between editing and proofing? How about the different types of editing, what to expect for cost for editing and proofing, and how to find an editor and proofer? Christine Keleny, editor and owner of CKBooks Publishing, will explain all of this and more.

1.What is proofing and the general cost.

2.What is editing — the basic types and the cost.

3.How to find an editor or proofer.

4.How to work with an editor and proofer — what they need from you, what you need from them.
Christine is an award-winning author, editor, book designer, and publisher. She loves writing and helping others publish the book of their dreams through her indie publishing company: CKBooks Publishing. Christine also teaches workshops for both youth and adults and speaks at writers conferences. You can find all of her books at

Joanne Nelson

Crafting Memoir: The Art of Close Attention

This interactive workshop focuses on exercises and discussion designed to reenergize rich moments of memory, create vivid sensory details, and structure narrative flow in compelling ways. We will practice paying close attention and learn how increased awareness of the present can help us craft our stories that must be told. Bring plenty of paper or a laptop, and a desire to spend time learning, laughing, and, of course, writing!

Joanne Nelson is the author of the memoir, This is How We Leave and the collection, My Neglected Gods, both published by Vine Leaves Press. Her writing appears in anthologies and literary journals such as Brevity, The Museum of Americana, and Redivider. Nelson writes creative non-fiction, essays, poetry, and commentaries on craft. 

Nelson leads retreats and workshops on topics related to meditation, writing, and creativity.  Nelson lives in Hartland, Wisconsin where she develops and leads community programs. She holds an MFA from the Bennington Writing Seminars and an MSSW from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.


Kim Suhr

The Battle to the Top of the Slush Pile

Join author Kim Suhr as she interviews local presses to find out what will make your work stand out! Kim Suhr is author of the story collection Nothing to Lose (Cornerstone Press, 2018) and Close Call (Cornerstone Press, Forthcoming in 2024). She is also co-author of the as-told-to memoir, Ramon: An Immigrant’s Journey. Kim holds an MFA in fiction from the Solstice Program  where she was the Dennis Lehane Fellow. Her writing has appeared in various publications and she is Director of Red Oak Writing where she leads Writers’ Roundtable critique groups, provides manuscript critiques and coaching. When she isn’t writing, she enjoys hiking, gardening, and being a fan-girl for her grown children in their various pursuits.

Maggie Ginsberg

The Roundabout Path to Publishing

Take her advice — or don’t. Maggie Ginsberg stumbled into freelance writing nearly 20 years ago as a 29-year-old married mom of young kids working in a completely different industry. As a DIY writer, she’s navigated both journalism and fiction on her way to building an unlikely career. In this session we’ll talk about faking it until you make it, the numerous avenues to building a portfolio, what editors are looking for and how to find your literary community in order to stay sane. Her experience may or may not apply to you, but we’ll leave plenty of time for questions so we can learn from each other in this last session of the conference. Maggie Ginsberg is a senior editor at Madison Magazine and author of the novel, STILL TRUE, which won the Wisconsin Library Association's 2023 WLA Literary Award for Fiction and was the single honorable mention for the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award. Her nonfiction magazine journalism has also earned numerous honors over the past 20 years, including from the City Regional Magazine Association, the American Society of Journalists and Authors and the Milwaukee Press Club. She lives in Lake Mills, Wisconsin, with her family and several neurotic pets. She’s happiest solo out on the trail, talking with other writers or melting into her recliner with a book.

Matt Cashion

Finding Your Zone: Starting, Sustaining, and Finishing Your Manuscript

This interactive workshop—intended for beginning and experienced fiction and nonfiction writers—will explore concrete ways to murder your critics (internal or otherwise), increase your creative powers, and build resilience. Once we’re in the zone, we’ll explore a range of concrete literary techniques to launch a first paragraph that will inspire you to develop, sustain, and finish a draft of your story, novel, or memoir. Matt Cashion’s novel _Our Thirteenth Divorce_ won the 2017 Edna Ferber Book Prize, and his story collection, _Last Words of the Holy Ghost_, won the 2015 Katherine Anne Porter Prize. A three-time winner of the Zona Gale Award for Short Fiction, he also won the 2023 Wisconsin People & Ideas fiction contest. Born in the North Carolina mountains and raised in coastal Georgia, he earned an MFA from the University of Oregon, and since 2006 he has enjoyed hiking, biking, kayaking, and running through Wisconsin’s beautiful Driftless region. He teaches Creative Writing at UW La Crosse.

 Michael Popke

Six Strategies for Launching a Successful Freelance Writing Gig

Many writers focus their creative energy on fiction projects, but paid nonfiction writing opportunities abound — if you know where to look. The challenge is finding those opportunities and proving you’re the right person for the job, which can be scary and frustrating. This session will present six strategies to help you move beyond that long-term work-in-progress by leveraging existing contacts to find new writing opportunities. Doing so will boost your name recognition in different markets, allow you to work with a variety of editors and clients, navigate competing deadlines, and write in multiple styles and voices. Michael Popke has written thousands of articles during his 34-year career as a newspaper reporter, magazine editor, and freelance writer. He owns Two Lakes Media Group in Sun Prairie, Wis., and his work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Goldmine, Isthmus (Madison), Shepherd Express (Milwaukee), Athletic Business, In Business, AQUA, Gameday Security, and other publications. Michael also has written for clients as diverse as Madison College, FieldTurf, Brinkley Sargent Wiginton Architects, the Association of Aquatic Professionals, and the Wisconsin Grocers Association. He was the draft editor for three nonfiction books and is represented by Tina P Schwarz.

Poet Fabu

Historial fact & Creativity in Poet Fabu's Narrative Poetry

As an African American poet, whose home is in Wisconsin, I utilize historical fact and creativity when I write narrative poetry.  I write primarily about the Black experience in the locations I know best and have researched extensively.   I write about Wisconsin where I presently live, the South where I was born and Africa (by way of Nairobi, Kenya) where I lived, studied, married and birthed my son.  Black history from the continent or the diaspora is little known.   My poetry informs and encourages Black people that we have contributed much to Wisconsin, America and the world.  My poetry inspires others to write inclusively about people as neighbors and their cultures.  t reminds all Americans of the truth of the African American experiences.  This workshop examines how historical fact is used creatively in my latest book, We Eat to Remember: Soul Food Poetry.

Fabu Phillis Carter is an educator, artist and community activist who designs innovative programs to benefit African American children, families, and elders in Madison. A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison with two masters; Afro-American Literature and another in African Languages and Literature, Dr. Fabu Carter has a PhD from The African Women Studies Centre, University of Nairobi, Kenya. Selected as the first African American Madison Poet Laureate (2008–2012), she is professionally known as Poet Fabu. She is a poet, culture columnist, storyteller and teaching artist who writes to encourage, inspire, and remind. Fabu is the author of eight books of poetry.  Her most recent award is the Black Caucus American Libraries Association (BCALA) 2024 Poetry Honor Award for We Eat to Remember:  Soul Food Poetry, her latest book.  This book is published by Ironer's Press and promotes a woman owned, Black owned, publishing company in Madison, Wisconsin.

Sue Berg

Demystifying the Elements of Mystery Writing

In this session, Sue will share her experiences about the craft of writing mysteries. Topics in the workshop will include finding the “nugget” on which to build your story, developing the plot so the story moves along, creating characters who are interesting and compelling, and writing endings that bring all of the elements of the thriller together to a successful and satisfying conclusion.  Sue will include examples from her own mystery series to demonstrate each of the topics. Sue is a retired teacher from Viroqua, Wisconsin, who began her writing career when she retired from teaching. Her Driftless Mystery Series has gained popularity as readers have become familiar with the complex characters, intriguing plots, and surprising twists and turns centered around the people and geography of the Driftless Area. When Sue is not writing she enjoys camping on the banks of the Mississippi River with her family, gardening, quilting, and cooking. She resides in the Driftless Area with her husband, Alan.

Terri Karsten

Down the Rabbit Hole: Research for Writers

This session goes beyond the limited doctrine of “write what you know,” and instead shows writers how to find answers for what they don’t know but need to learn in order to give their story verisimilitude. The session is geared toward writers of fiction and non-fiction (memoir or biography), and will provide practical suggestions for research, including different kinds of research such as primary, secondary and experiential, along with tips on how to find and use each type. Guidelines for how to judge the quality of the information, as well as several examples of good places to find different kinds of information will also be shared. Living in the shadow of the Mississippi River bluffs, Terri Karsten has been a writer and educator for many years. She has wide-ranging interests in history, cookery, travel, and the outdoors. Her writing is equally diverse, ranging from historical fiction novels to picture book folktales, with a good sprinkling of fantasy thrown in. Her novel, A Mistake of Consequence (2015, B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree) takes readers into Colonial America. Her second novel, When Luck Runs Out (2017) is an orphan train story for middle grade students. Her non-fiction books include a travelogue/memoir called Ireland: You Can’t Miss it!

TK Sheffield

Book Branding Bootcamp—Short Descriptions and Loglines

Stop BUSTING your brain to write short descriptions! This fun, hands-on writing sesh provides a formula for describing your novel in a few sentences.

Short, catchy descriptions are necessary for queries, sell sheets, Amazon author pages, and social media. This workshop gives authors ideas for hooks to engage readers and book buyers. You’ll leave this class with techniques for writing loglines, a list of writing resources, and new confidence about your marketing skills.

TK Sheffield writes stories for readers to laugh and escape. Her comic cozy mysteries, The Backyard Model mysteries are whodunnits served with a brandy old-fashioned and a side of cheese curds. The series has earned six awards, including an RWA Excellence in Mystery and a Top 100 Notable Indie from Shelf Unbound magazine. TK has degrees from UW-Madison and Mount Mary University, and she's on the board of the Wisconsin Writers Association, and a member of Blackbird Writers and Sisters in Crime. Her next mysteries, Model Wave and Model Ghost, release in 2024.


Valerie Biel/Sylvia Acevedo

Agent Search Tips, Tools, & Techniques

Are you considering the traditional publishing path and hope to partner with a literary agent? This session will empower you with the tools you need for an agent search and help you answer the questions: Do I really need a literary agent? Is my manuscript ready to query? How can I figure out who to query? What do I send to them?

We’ll work through a reliable query letter blueprint and explore the tools at your disposal to identify the best agents for your work, finishing up with how to keep your search organized and manageable.

Valerie Biel, an award-winning author and public relations professional, uses her 25+ years of publicity and marketing experience to assist other authors with their book launches, advertising, and promotional efforts. Her books include the Circle of Nine fantasy series—stories steeped in the myth and magic of Ireland's ancient stone circles, "A Fragment of Family" her newly released YA murder suspense novel, and "Haven," a contemporary middle-grade story that deals with the tough topic of domestic abuse through the eyes of a pre-teen. She’s a Wisconsin native, residing with her husband on a (tiny) portion of her family’s century-old farm.

Silvia Acevedo is an award-winning children’s book author and co-founder of Fantasy Art Workshop’s Illustration Intensive. She’s worked in New York publishing at Scholastic, Writers House, and Inkluded, a nonprofit championing diversity within the industry. She also led the Wisconsin chapter of the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators and has served on the board of the Wisconsin Writers Association. Silvia is thrilled to represent Wisconsin in THE HAUNTED STATES OF AMERICA (Godwin Books/Macmillan), which Kirkus called “an entertaining, fright-filled geographical tour.”


Literary Agents

   Name  Bio
   Cathie Hedrick-Armstrong

Cathie Hedrick-Armstrong is Literary Agent at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. A member of the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA), Cathie represents young adult and adult fiction in the categories of Women’s Fiction, Romance, Mysteries, Thrillers, and Fantasy.

When selecting a manuscript, Cathie is always looking for a story or writing that evokes an emotional response within the first few pages—curiosity, fear, sorrow, humor, etc. Currently, she’s especially interested in finding more authors from traditionally marginalized communities and experiences (i.e. BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and non-neurotypical).

   Jennie Goloboy

Jennie Goloboy joined the Donald Maass Literary Agency in 2017, after six years at a Twin Cities-based literary agency. She has a PhD in the History of American Civilization from Harvard, and published a book based on her dissertation, Charleston and the Emergence of Middle-Class Culture in the Revolutionary Era, in 2016. Her novel, Obviously Aliens, was published by Queen of Swords Press in 2021.

Jennie is particularly looking for fun, innovative, diverse, and progressive science fiction and fantasy for adults. She thinks that one of the most important jobs of science fiction is to imagine a future we want to live in.

Jennie is also looking for history for a popular, adult audience. She’s a particular fan of histories of an idea, and narratives about early America. She is not interested in historical novels, or in memoir.

   Kelly Van Sant

Kelly has over a decade of experience in the publishing industry. She cut her teeth in New York working at esteemed literary agencies before relocating to Minnesota, where she spent years as a contracts manager for various publishers. She is passionate about empowering writers to become informed and take creative control over their work and the trajectory of their careers. Kelly’s own career came full circle when she realized that her true calling was advocating on behalf of authors. She is now an agent actively building a client list, as well as kt literary’s contracts manager.

Kelly represents: 

YA - all genres; MG - all genres; Adult - SFF, commercial & bookclub fiction, contemporary romance; Non-fiction - Mind, Body, Spirit and other titles on occult, magical, and esoteric topics.

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