Virtual Literary Conference: Taking Care in Writing, Publishing & Building Community (Day 2)


As  COVID sweeps across the planet and through our lives, we continue to confront our vulnerabilities, both public and private. Hard truths about our nation are in sharp focus. How do we carve out purpose, chart a meaningful course, through troubling times that don’t seem to end?

Taking care of ourselves and others is one answer, and it can take many forms. Sometimes this means learning to dismantle oppressive systems and interrogate received ideas, as Mary-Frances Winters explores in Black Fatigue and Sejal Shah confronts in This Is One Way to Dance. Margaret Gibson inspires perspective with, “let the stones be read aloud, so that a human voice/might widen its reach, floating off among the stars like the ringing-through/of a great bronze bell like the audible layers of birdsong gradually moving west as dawn/brightens, or used to/and the great earth turns”

We hope you agree that engaging with and making art are transformational experiences that can offer solace, release, self-knowledge, and solidarity. It is in this spirit that you’re invited to join us for Taking Care in Writing, Publishing & Building Community. 

“We can train ourselves to respect our feelings, and to discipline (transpose) them into a language that matches those feelings so they can be shared.”  ― Audre Lorde, Poetry is Not a Luxury

Early Bird Rate: $195 (valid through January 13) | January 14 – 23: $225
Need-based Scholarships Available
Pitch Sessions: $20/Each (ineligible for scholarships)

SUPPORT THE CONFERENCE Your $195 donation will pay for a scholarship. Your gift in any amount makes a difference!  

CORPORATE SPONSORSHIP OPPORTUNITIES. Email Laura Hamilton at [email protected]

Registrants will have access to recorded events for 90 days following the conference.



10 – 11:15 am

Greater-Rochester Poets & Authors: Reading
Albert AlbanadoElizabeth Johnston AmbroseJessica CuelloTokeya GrahamTony LeuzziLytton SmithAngelique Stevens

Agent Pitch Sessions 
Meet one-on-one with an agent in a live 8-minute pitch session and receive valuable feedback from an expert. We’ll do our best to match you with your preferred agent.
Please note: There is an additional $20 registration fee for an individualized session (not eligible for scholarship). 

Associate Literary Manager Sarah Fuentes, Fletcher & Co., represents a range of literary and upmarket fiction and nonfiction, including narrative nonfiction, memoir, cultural criticism, history, and popular science writing. She studied Literature and Art History at Vassar College, and began her publishing career at The Wylie Agency.

Larissa Melo Pienkowski received her MA in Publishing and Writing from Emerson College, where she worked with the likes of Beacon Press and Barefoot Books before becoming the assistant publisher of Dottir Press. She joined Jill Grinberg Literary Management as an agent in 2020 and represents a wide range of adult and children’s fiction and nonfiction, with a deep-rooted passion and focus on championing the stories of authors from historically excluded backgrounds. The daughter of Brazilian and Polish immigrants, Larissa speaks Portuguese and Spanish.

11:30 am – 12 pm | Free to the Public | ASL Interpreted Keynote Address:

Kwame Dawes on Literary Citizenship
Often called ‘the busiest man in literature,’ Kwame is the author of 20 books of poetry and numerous other books of fiction, criticism, and essays. His most recent collection is City of Bones: A Testament (Northwestern University Press, 2017). He is Glenna Luschei Editor of Prairie Schooner and teaches at the University of Nebraska and the Pacific MFA Program.  He is Director of the African Poetry Book Fund and Artistic Director of the Calabash International Literary Festival.

Free Ticket

12:15 – 1:30 pm

Keynote Breakout Discussion
Moderator: Alison Meyers

War & Peace in the American Imagination
For decades the topic of war in novels, memoirs, poetry, journalism, and other genres has made a large claim on the American psyche. What lessons can we draw from literary works that interrogate experiences of war? Is war ever justified? Can literatures provide a roadmap to peace? What remains to be written, and for whom?
Panelists: Doug AndersonOmar El AkkadCeleste Schantz
Moderator: Kathy Engel

1:45 – 3 pm

4 over 50: Reading & Conversation with Debut Authors
Four mature authors read from their debut books, three released to critical acclaim and one forthcoming, and discuss their journeys to publication.
Panelists: Desiree CooperJimin HanJeffrey J. HigaDavid Mihalyov
Moderator: Alison Meyers

The Socially Challenged Body: Conversation with Riva Lehrer & Lennard J. Davis
Artist, author, and disability activist Riva Lehrer reads from her memoir Golem Girl, then is joined in conversation by Lennard J. Davis, scholar, National Book Award-winning author, and co-founder of the Modern Language Association’s Committee on Disability Issues in the Profession.

Little Magazines
What are the exciting and groundbreaking trends in magazine publication? What is the “right” magazine for your work? What are the career benefits of publishing in magazines? Is there a “secret” to getting your work accepted? Is there a prestige distinction between publishing online and in print? Knowledgeable publishers, editors, and contributors discuss these questions and more.
Panelists: Tony Leuzzi, contributor, The Brooklyn RailMarjorie Tesser, Editor in Chief, Mom Egg ReviewSusan Harris, Editorial Director, Words without Borders
Moderator: Jeffrey Lependorf, Executive Director, The Flow Chart Foundation

3:15 – 4:30 pm

Writing with Intention for Young Readers
Are young readers the audience you aim to inspire? What role can books for K-12 play in promoting critical thinking, compassion, social justice, and self- and planetary-awareness? If your goal is writing beautifully crafted content without diluting your message, don’t miss this opportunity to hear from Children’s and YA authors who write the kinds of books you wish were on the shelves when you were growing up.
Panelists: Robin FlaniganLinda Sue ParkAlex SanchezLeslie C. Youngblood
Moderator: Henry Ignacio Padrón-Morales, retired Dual Language educator and co-owner of Hipocampo Children’s Books , Rochester, NY

Non-Traditional Writing Opportunities
Many writers think of the traditional MFA program as the best or only route to career advancement. Depending on resources, life stage, background, history, and temperament, however, this may not be a viable, or even desirable, option for you. Attend this panel and learn about alternative resources for nurturing your writing journey.
Panelists: Cathy Linh Che, Executive Director, KundimanMeg Kearney, Director, Solstice MFA in Creative Writing ProgramMoheb Soliman.
Moderator: Alison Meyers

4:45 – 6 pm

Writing through Grief
From the pages of The Loss Foundation, “Writing about death is fairly easy I think. There is death in many great works of literature. Death is explored and represented in the creative arts. It is written about in religious texts, and biological textbooks. It is almost popular. Writing about grief is not so easy. Grief is the ugly aftermath. It is not heroic, tragic or romantic. It is brutal, it is complex, it is forever. It is also unpredictable.” Why and how do we chronicle our grief? How do we approach grief’s enormity? What lessons do we learn and impart during the creative process? What do we share, what remains private? Panel includes brief readings.
Panelists: Victoria ChangKathy EngelMargaret Gibson.
Moderator:  Charles Cote

Persona Poem: Workshop with Tim Seibles
Long considered a consummate craftsman of the persona poem, Tim Seibles has characterized the form as “[allowing] you to escape your own tired habits, to see in a way that you hadn’t considered.” (Pennsylvania Center for the Book). In this workshop, immerse yourself in examples from his award-winning oeuvre, respond to writing prompts, and push yourself into new creative territory. This is a rare opportunity to study with the poet who reflects, “Our lives are worth every risk, every manner of approach.” (Blue Flower Arts)

Art of the Memoir
The memoir has become a capacious space, flexible enough to accommodate essays, political discourse, inventive narrative, meditative reflection, hybrid work, and more. Three critically acclaimed memoirists read brief selections from their work, then discuss the power and potential of this generative genre.
Panelists: Athena Dixon, Patrice GopoMegan Stielstra.
Moderator: Angelique Stevens

6:15 – 7:30 pm

Research-based Narratives
Nonfiction books chock full of information derived from scholarly research need not be dry tomes confined to the classroom. Inquisitive readers seeking a deep dive into topics that inform our everyday lives and conversations can find satisfaction and inspiration from exploring these substantive works.
Panelists: Laura Warren HillPiper SledgeMary-Frances Winters
Moderator: Michael J. McGandy, Senior Editor & Editorial Director, Three Hills, Cornell University Press

Agent Pitch Clinic 
An expert imparts the dos and don’ts of pitching your manuscript; then, as time permits, provides constructive critiques of individual participants’ pitches.
Maggie Cooper is an agent with Aevitas Creative Management, representing adult fiction and select nonfiction projects. She actively seeks adult literary and book club fiction; beach reads and romance; creative nonfiction; and select reported and prescriptive nonfiction projects, with an emphasis on queer voices, non-white perspectives, and writers from communities traditionally not centered by mainstream publishing.

7:45 – 9 pm

Nightcap Reading
Makalani BandeleSarah FrelighAnastasia NikolisDavid RuekbergHolly Wren Spaulding