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Bay to Ocean Writers Conference 2024
Session Descriptions

Publishing, Marketing, Promotion / SPECIALTY, INSPIRATION

Publishing, Marketing,  Promotion

9:00AM – 9:50AM
Personal Brand Strategy for Writers
James Irwin

Writers are pressured to develop their online "platform" with seemingly endless sources of advice, tips & tricks, and channel hacks. A tsunami of information and options that can seem overwhelming without a strategic framework to help make choices about where to put your time and energy. Learn to cut through the noise to create a personal brand and content strategy. Strategize on how to determine objectives, find the right digital marketing elements, and optimize your investment so you have a platform that best serves your purpose and propells you into the limelight.

JAMES IRWIN is a writer of stories real and unreal; essayist, media critic, and journalist; founding editor of four periodicals; associate editor of the Atlantic Journal of Communication; and media artist. Awards include San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, National Endowment for the Arts, National Endowment for the Humanities, and Rockefeller Foundation. He has spoken widely on arts, culture, and business, and taught at multiple universities. He was a global marketing communications leader for Deloitte, held similar roles at EY and Comcast, and previously ran his own consulting firm in San Francisco. He lives in New Jersey.

10:00AM – 10:50AM
Stop Struggling With Social Media - Everything You Need to Know to Harness the Power of the Internet
Amy Schisler

Are you confused by social media? Do you spend too much time wondering what to post and how to boost engagement? Learn about the latest trends in social media, the best techniques for posting, how to save time creating and scheduling posts, how often to post, what to write, and how to engage your followers. You’ll leave the workshop with the confidence that you, too, can gain followers and share your message with the world.

AMY SCHISLER, author of inspirational fiction and spiritual speaker, has published numerous books, including the award-winning Chincoteague Island Trilogy. A former librarian, Amy enjoys a busy life on the Shore where she volunteers at her Church, runs a Girl Scout Camp every summer, and always makes time to be with her precious granddaughter. The recipient of numerous national literary awards, including the Independent Publisher, Oklahoma RWA, Indies, and Golden Quill Awards, as well as honors from the Eric Hoffer Book Award, Amy's writing has been hailed "a verbal masterpiece of art" and "Everything you want in a book."

11:00AM – 11:50AM
Making Money As a Freelance Writer
John Riddle

Every freelance writer dreams about making money using their gift of creative communication.In this workshop, which is part memoir, part inspiration and lots of suggestions on how to successfully navigate the publishing world, you will learn how to make money as a freelance writer. Whether you are a new writer, or one who has lots of experience getting published, the tips and ideas will help you meet your goals: more bylines, and more checks!

JOHN RIDDLE is the author of 36 books & has worked as a ghostwriter on numerous projects. His byline has appeared in major publications all across the U.S., and he has written articles for over 200 websites. Since 1996 he has been working out of his home office in DE as a full-time freelance writer, author, ghostwriter & donut eater.

1:30PM – 2:20PM
Let's Chat About AI: How Is AI Impacting Writers and Publishers

Gregg Wilhelm

AI is everywhere so no surprise it's here in our writerly world. ChatGPT, Anyword, Rytr, Jasper, Copy, Paragraph, Sassbook, Inkforall; it seems like there'ss an AI generator generating AI generators. Artificial intelligence pushes us to consider what it means to be a storyteller. We will examine AI's impact on writers as artists and publishers as businesses, its attack on originality and its impact on the marketplace.  Are writers obsolete or is there something we humans still bring to exploring the human condition? Is every function of a publishing house primed to be automated? Let's be mindful of the gloom but let's try to look past the doom.

GREGG WILHELM is the Director of Mason Creative Writing, which includes BFA and MFA in Creative Writing programs at George Mason University. He also co-founded Watershed Lit: Center for Literary Engagement and Publishing Practice at Mason. His expertise covers book publishing, arts administration, and higher education. He started his career at Johns Hopkins University Press, launched three imprints including one with a major independent bookseller, founded the nonprofit literary arts organization CityLit Project in Baltimore and launched its CityLit Press imprint, and held adjunct and leadership positions at several institutions. Gregg's poetry, fiction, and essays have appeared in numerous publications; every word was his own.o

2:30PM – 3:30PM
Are you Publicist Ready?
Cherrie Woods

Over 3 million books are published yearly in the U.S., and more than 1.7 million of them are self-published. How does an author stand out in this crowded book world? One solution could be to hire a publicist. But then there's the task of finding a publicist who will work for a single author and who's the right fit for you and your book. And what does "prepared" even look like? In this workshop, PR veteran, book publicist, and author Cherrie Woods will share six things authors need to know to answer that question.

Veteran communications professional CHERRIE WOODS is widely known as a book publicist and workshop facilitator. She has presented workshops and participated on panels for authors at libraries, writing centers and conferences throughout the U.S. Woods is also an award-winning poet and the author of Where Do I Start? 10 PR Questions and Answers to Guide Self-Published Authors.

Specialty, Inspiration

9:00AM – 9:50AM
Facing Your Writing Fears

John DeDakis

Not only is writing a lonely process, it can be downright scary especially if you're shy, or an introvert. And, when it comes to mustering the courage to share our work with others, fear can quickly turn to terror. In this session, which includes brief writing exercises, we'll look at understanding what frightens us--and how to get beyond those fears.

JOHN DEDAKIS Award-winning novelist, writing coach, and manuscript editor John DeDakis is a former editor on CNN's "The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer." DeDakis is the author of five mystery-suspense-thriller novels. In his most recent novel, FAKE, protagonist Lark Chadwick is a White House correspondent defending against "fake news" in the era of #MeToo. DeDakis, a former White House correspondent, regularly leads writing workshops at literary centers and writers' conferences. He is also the host of the video podcast "One-to-One" on YouTube, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Originally from La Crosse, Wisconsin, DeDakis now lives with his wife, Cindy, in Baltimore, Maryland.  Visit for more information.

10:00AM – 10:50AM
A Place to Stand: Staying Grounded in the Writing Life
Kris Faatz

Writers live in a delicate balance. Our work, whether we write "true" stories or not, often comes from our most real selves. Sharing it, we strap ourselves in on an emotional rollercoaster: acceptance and praise can send us over the moon, while rejection can leave us feeling pressured to change, questioning who we are and what we do. This session explores the challenges of taking our writing seriously and taking the risk of sharing it. We'll talk candidly about those challenges and the effects they can have on us and our work, and uncover strategies for refocusing and reconnecting with the writing that matters to us. The session will include journaling and creative exercises sure to inspire.

KRIS FAATZ (rhymes with skates) is a Baltimore-area writer and musician. Her short fiction has appeared in journals including Santa Barbara Literary Journal, Typehouse, and Streetlight Magazine, and most recently was longlisted for Dzanc Books's 2023 Disquiet Prize. Her first novel, To Love A Stranger (Blue Moon Publishers, 2017), was a finalist for the 2016 Schaffner Press Music in Literature Award. Her second novel, Fourteen Stones, was released in 2022 by The Patchwork Raven (Wellington, NZ). Kris teaches creative writing online and with the Community College of Baltimore County, and is a performing pianist.

11:00AM – 11:50AM
The Disappearing Bookshelf: Why You Should Write KidLit in the Era of Book Challenges
Panel: Laura Shovan, Heather Murphy Capps, Meg Kuyatt Eden

According to PEN America, nearly 900 different books were banned in the first part of the 2022-2023 school year. Libraries are also facing book challenges, with children's literature being a common target. With so much contention about what kids read, why should authors consider writing for teens and young readers? Join children's authors Heather Murphy Capps, Meg Eden, and Laura Shovan for a frank discussion of the current state of kidlit, the unique joys and challenges of writing for readers in this age category, and why children still need books about a wide variety of characters, topics, and life experiences.

LAURA SHOVAN is an author, educator, and Pushcart Prize-nominated poet. Her chapbook, Mountain, Log, Salt, and Stone won the inaugural Harriss Poetry Prize. Her work appears in journals and anthologies for children and adults. Laura's award-winning middle grade novels include The Last Fifth Grade of Emerson Elementary, Takedown, and the Sydney Taylor Notable A Place at the Table, co-written with Saadia Faruqi. Laura is a poet-in-the-schools for the Maryland State Arts Council and serves on the faculty of Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her children's poetry collection, Welcome to Monsterville, won a poetry prize from the Purple Dragonfly book awards.

MEG EDEN KUYATT teaches creative writing at colleges and writing centers. She is the author of the 2021 Towson Prize for Literature winning poetry collection “Drowning in the Floating World” and children’s novels, most recently “Good Different,” a JLG Gold Standard selection (Scholastic, 2023). Find her online at

HEATHER MURPHY CAPPS writes Upper Middle Grade books about history, social justice, science, & magic. As a biracial author, Heather is a passionate advocate for diversity in publishing. Her debut novel, Indigo and Ida, has been called “moving and inspiring,” and has received two starred reviews.

1:30PM – 2:20PM
Archetypes, Metaphors, and Mental Musings – How Do Your Writing Ideas Manifest?
Dennis Lawson

Is your writing merely a function of your rational/logical mind or is there something matchless, energetic, almost spiritual about how you choose to apply language? Learn mindful and intuitive exercises you can quickly apply to your writing discipline. You'll gain personal insight into your process using a variety of methods from expressive writing and mindfulness exercises to Jungian archetypes and Improv. Step through the doorway of the non-conscious mind to reveal your inner wisdom in this interactive session sure to set your writing world on fire.

DENNIS LAWSON's academic background in psychology and decades of experience as a Martial Arts competitor, teacher, and coach allow him to offer a comprehensive mind, body, and spirit centered approach to hypnosis and coaching. Dennis published Talking Kenpo--Best Practices in Martial Arts Training in 2012. The book is available on Mr. Lawson is a certified NLP practitioner and holds diverse coaching certifications including Maximum Productivity (Time Management) from Brian Tracy International and Life (Spiritual) Coaching from Edgar Cayce's Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.). Dennis assists his clients to discover their hidden patterns, allowing them to fulfill their dreams.

2:30PM – 3:30PM
Art at Night (but During the Day): Ekphrastic Writing
Jen Pitoniak

Many of you have enjoyed our Art at Night: Ekprhastic Writing Program during Thursdays with ESWA.  Meet Jen live and in person as she unwinds more artists for you, and frees your inner writer with this special ekphrastic session sure to set your creative muse on fire!

An award-winning educator on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, artist JEN PITONIAK currently teaches both adaptive and traditional art to students of all aptitudes and grade levels in Wicomico County. In previous phases of her life, she has worked in jobs as diverse as children’s minister, intern for The National Clearinghouse on Runaway and Homeless Youth, and as assistant to a private investigator—all of which have added panache to her art. A Regional Representative for the Maryland Art Education Association, Jen also serves on the advisory council for The Water’s Edge Museum in Oxford, Maryland. Although she enjoys working in and exploring all artistic forms, her preferred medium is currently acrylic paint.  Jen is primarily a semi-abstract painter and loves transforming both traditional and non-traditional canvases into something different and whimsical.

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