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Writers' Day History

Fall 2018

Immersion Begins with "I" with Suzanne Strempek Shea and Jonathan Green Authors and journalists Suzanne Strempek Shea (This is Paradise) and Jonathan Green (Sex Money Murder: A Story of Crack, Blood and Betrayal) began their careers as freelance writers, went on to publish numerous books, and continue to write for a variety of publications both regional and international. Much of their research has been done via immersing themselves into a community, family, subject's life and daily work. This talk looked at how and why they've followed some of their most memorable subjects, and what some of the challenges of the process are. Each author also talked about the books, newspapers, magazines, and specific stories and writers influential to them in this work. The session included a writing exercise to get attendees thinking about what projects they want to immerse themselves into, and how they might get started in a process that often results in full and rich notebooks.

Publishing: The Long and Short of It with Lisa Romeo
Do you see yourself writing a book? Articles? Essays? Blog posts? Op-Ed pieces? All of them? In this session, attendees explored with Lisa Romeo the many options for publishing the story they want to tell. Some writers aim for a book from the start but might be wise to begin by writing about their chosen topic in short forms: articles, opinion pieces, and personal essays for newspapers, magazines, and websites. Advantages to starting short include building craft skills, making research discoveries, earning paychecks, experimenting with different ways to present material, gaining reader feedback and general focus for the work - and perhaps even attracting an agent or publisher. Lisa shared her own experience publishing short pieces on the way to writing Starting with Goodbye: A Daughter’s Memoir of Love after Loss, and offered advice on finding venues, submitting work, and transitioning back and forth from short to long.

Spiritual Writing with Sophfronia Scott
Just what is spiritual writing? What riches might be found along the path to it? How much faith, if any, does one need in order to explore the “spiritual” in writing? Who is the audience for this kind of writing? Is it OK to be funny in this often very-serious genre? Is it OK to write about tragedy? MFA faculty member Sophfronia Scott, whose titles include the recent acclaimed memoir This Child of Faith, joined MFA Director Leanna James Blackwell in a lively discussion of those topics and more. The session included readings by the author and a question-and-answer session. Attendees found inspiration, serious insight and, yes, also laughter, as they learned about the many dimensions of this popular genre from two veteran authors.

Fall 2017

“Mining the Personal for your Nonfiction” with Patricia Reis
Author, visual artist, filmmaker, and therapist Patricia Reis discussed using personal experiences, memories, documents, letters, diaries, and more to craft nonfiction of any length. Topics included using personal elements and materials in nonfiction rather than fiction, how resources can be gathered, what it's like to present a relative's story - and your own - so candidly, and dealing with family reactions while a project is in process and after it's published.

"Standing Your Ground: Reading in Public" with Charles Coe
For writers who want to become more comfortable and effective reading their work in public, Charles Coe is the man to see. The award-winning poet and singer described tools and techniques that can help in preparing and delivering a reading. He also worked with a few volunteers willing to read before the group and coached them on their presentations.

"Swimming With the Current" with Ellen Meeropol, Joan Dempsey, and Meredith O'Brien
New England authors Ellen Meeropol (Kinship of Clover), Joan Dempsey (This is How it Begins), and Meredith O'Brien (Mr. Clark's Big Band) discussed how current events in their hometowns and in the larger world have inspired their engrossing fiction and nonfiction. Incorporating topics including cults, racial diversity, homophobia, and a community in grief, the trio's work had us thinking about how to use current events as our own springboards. A brainstorming session was included.

Spring 2017

Panel, "Finding Inspiration" with John Sheirer, Mary Heather Noble, Dave Stern

Flame to the Wick: A Panel on Inspiration

Nature, family, a beloved pet, personal experience, and stories about others have been among the inspirations of the three accomplished writers on our inspiration panel. Learn how they've mined and used the power behind the ideas that have moved them, hear about the paths of their projects, how an original idea grew and changed, and ponder how you can find your own enduring flame to light your way over the course of a short or long writing project. A question-and-answer session will follow the authors' presentations.

"Podcasting" with Bernadette Duncan Harrison

Podcasting for Writers 101

Whether you are an author, editor, or freelance writer, you can springboard your career with these proven formulas for success with podcasting. Simple fundamentals of podcasting will help you connect better with potential readers. You’ll learn about sponsorships (and earning money), common mistakes, how to create content, and more.

"Writing Hard Stories" with Melanie Brooks

It’s a Family Story, but it’s Still Your Story of Being in That Family

When we venture to write memoir about the family experience, including the family experience of trauma, it’s necessary to steel ourselves for the inevitable conversations with family members during your process or after publication. Trying to navigate those sometimes turbulent waters and still maintaining ownership of the stories we have to tell can be an ongoing challenge. It definitely has been for this author.

Fall 2016


The Journey of a Freelance Piece with Author Suzanne Strempek Shea

How does a freelance piece go from an idea to a story found within a magazine on the newsstands? The story behind a recent Yankee Magazine story was told by its author, Suzanne Strempek Shea, who shared notes from her editor, Mel Allen, on the process of getting a piece accepted and published. Suzanne has freelanced for Yankee over the past 26 years, 25 of them working with Mel Allen. Her most recent story, “The Promised Land,” detailed the story of Blue Star Equiculture, a draft horse rescue in Suzanne’s home village of Bondsville, Mass. This talk was of special interest to those interested in freelancing, and included information on how to pitch a freelance piece, what happens when it’s accepted, the relationship between author and editor, the various staffers who appear along the path, working with the assigned photographer, and spreading the word that the magazine is out.

Persistence Pays Off; or, The Rocky Road to Publication with Author M.P. Barker

If you've been trying to land a contract with a traditional publisher, finding an agent and an editor who'll say "yes" can seem like a quest for the Holy Grail. Author M.P. Barker has been there, done that, and was happy to share her experience and advice. She slogged through dozens of rejection letters before her historical novel, A Difficult Boy (Holiday House, 2008), found a publisher. In this workshop, she discussed why you might want to find an agent for your work; how to match your project with the right agent or editor; how to polish your query letter and synopsis; and how to plan a successful submission strategy. She also discussed querying etiquette, how to tell when "no" might mean "maybe," and shared her experience with turning a "no" into a "yes." She even gave a little advice for taking the sting out of those rejections.



Revising Your Creative Prose with Author Penny Guisinger

It’s through the revision process that any piece takes shape, gains focus, and emerges as a finished work. In this session, author Penny Guisinger provided tools and approaches for revising prose (fiction or nonfiction). She talked about bringing a cold eye to the page, looking for unnecessary words, and mining an early draft for those gems that emerge as the heart of a finished piece.

Spring 2016

Elise Erickson - So You're Looking For an Agent?

This talk was for writers wondering what an agent does and how to best search for one. Attendees heard from Manhattan literary agent Elise Erickson of the Harold Ober Agency about her work and world, what she hopes for in a story and an author, and how things proceed from there to and through publication. In addition, long-time Writers’ Day participant, Christina Cooper, weighed in on how she found her own agent for her middle-grade children’s book. A limited number of free mini one-on-one sessions with Elise Erickson were offered.

Bunny Goodjohn - Image Gold Rush: Mining Photographs for Narratives

We have all been fixed at some point in our lives inside photographs that deliver stories—our own, our family's, our friends’, and those of total strangers. Some photos hand over the truth of a precise shutter moment on a particular day, while others seem to represent the distillation of an entire childhood. With Bunny Goodjohn, participants took a deep look into photographs to discover their poetic seams. 

Frances Brown - Audiobooks with ACX: Sounds Fantastic! 

Producing audiobooks has never been easier than with ACX, an Amazon company. This step-by-step presentation took us from start to finish on how to turn your book into a recorded masterpiece, and all at NO up-front cost to the author. Taught by a multi-published author, Frances Brown, who’s done it multiple times.

Jacqueline Sheehan - Novel 101

What makes a novel irresistible? Why do some novels keep us up all night and some books stay on our nightstands for months? There is nothing basic about writing a novel, yet all writers must accomplish the same basic goals to create and complete one.

Dawn Metcalf - "Why YA?" or "Smells Like Teen Spirit" 

Young Adult literature is some of the most challenging, most thought-provoking and most rewarding writing out there today, which makes it both hard to resist and hard to do well. It’s not enough that your main character is sixteen anymore, they have to have an emotional roller-coaster that resonates as personal and true as they grow throughout the narrative from child to adult. Dawn Metcalf explored the world of YA lit with concrete examples of why some of the bestselling stories strike home for young and old readers alike. Particular focus was on how to craft authentic voices, avoid stereotypes or tropes and how to include technology in this fast-paced world.

Lisa C. Taylor - Liars, Criminals, and Lovers: The World of the Story/Fiction 101 

It is the character first that taps a reader on the shoulder. Writers shape characters by adding habits, gestures, and obstacles. Lisa C. Taylor teaches students of all ages, helping them to take that first good idea to a completed work. In an atmosphere of respect and humor, Lisa taught us how to put a character through necessary paces so that he or she reveals both flaws and humanity.

Fall 2015

Bernadette Duncan Harrison, Nina Gaby, Bunny Goodjohn, and Ellen Meeropol - Writers of a Certain Age Panel

Four authors who were in mid-life when their first books were published, Ellen Meeropol, Nina Gaby, Bunny Goodjohn, and Bernadette Harrison lead us along the paths they took to writing, shared how they fit writing into their already very busy lives, and discussed how only at this age could they become the writers they were meant to be. Writers of any age, including those who have been around more than a few decades, gained much from this panel discussion.

Alexis Paige - Making Memoir Come Alive with Craft

A common misconception is that only those with zany, traumatic, or death-defying experiences have stories worthy of memoir. But the truth is that even the most hair-raising life story can fall flat on the page, while the seemingly banal can sing. The difference between a memoir that soars and one that flops comes down to craft, just as with any writing in any genre or form. So how do you fashion your raw material into gripping narrative nonfiction? Master memoirists borrow liberally from novelists to make their stories come alive. This workshop explored how raiding the novelist's toolbox can help writers of memoir to hone their craft. Alexis focused in particular on narrative structure, voice, writing cinematic scenes, and mining metaphor for patterns that deepen theme and story. This workshop offered both macro- and micro- strategies, along with practical tips and prompts to take home to your writing practice.

The Memory as Artist with Doug Anderson 

Most of us can agree that a memoir is composed of events that actually happened. However, it is not so easy in some cases to know the facts. We have only our memory of it, and to be honest, memory is something of a trickster. Memory will creatively structure things in order to make sense of them. Doug ran into this problem with his own memoir about the Vietnam War. Doug’s talk involved the artistic challenges posed by memory and the way he responded to them.

Nell Lake - How I Went Deep: Writing Intimate Stories about Other People—With No Regrets

Compelling stories often take readers deeply into characters’ lives. A big part of a writer’s work is to shape readers’ experience of characters’ personalities, challenges, strengths, weaknesses—a process that can be both fascinating and challenging. For her book, The Caregivers: A Support Group’s Stories of Slow Loss, Courage, and Love, journalist Nell Lake spent two years immersed in the lives of members of a support group for family caregivers. In this session, Nell talked about the experience of growing closer to her subjects, and of seeking to portray them with accuracy and care. She lead a discussion about writing narrative—whether fiction or nonfiction—with intimacy, compassion, and respect.

Dogs on the Page with Helen Peppe and Suzanne Strempek Shea

Whether we make them up or use our own, dogs walk into our stories and make themselves at home. How do they aid characterization? Plot? Story? Physical and sensory setting? Timing? Are they characters themselves? How do we make our writing about dogs, with dogs, for dogs, different than all that’s been done? Is this possible? Toto drives plot and develops character, but can a dog get in the way of story, slow momentum, distract the reader? Helen and Suzanne explored and discussed how dogs can play powerful roles in all genres.


Spring 2015

Roland Merullo - The Demons of the Blank Page
This talk focused on the non-craft obstacles to writing success: Writer’s Block, Procrastination, Perfectionism, Time Management, Choosing Readers, Dealing with Advice and Criticism. "Writing success—however the writer defines that—is not merely a question of mastering the craft," Roland Merullo says, "it's also intimately linked to our own state of mind, conquering the 'demons' that get in the way when we sit down to work.” 

Charles Coe - Writing About Those Close to You: The Joys and Terrors
Writing about complicated relationships with the people in your life can be a challenge. What do you have the right to share with the world about someone else? How can you tell stories that are honest but fair?

Penny Guisinger - You Should Get a Grant for That! Applying for Funding to Support Your Writing – A Nuts and Bolts Approach
Who gets these grants anyway, and how do you really apply for them? There is money out there for writers and other artists, and while it’s not always easy to find, Penny shared the things you can do to narrow your searches, write better proposals, and make your application stand out in the slush pile.

Bruce DeSilva - Writing the Crime Novel, or Five Ways to Grab Attention
Bruce DeSilva turned to fiction after working as a journalist for 40 years. He briefly sketched how he became disillusioned with his original craft, how fiction gave him a fresh avenue for addressing serious issues that continue to concern him, and how an unusual combination of circumstances and luck contributed to his success as a fiction author. He also included practical and inspirational words of advice about how to go about completing a novel, even if you are working a full-time job.


Fall 2014

Cait JohnsonUtilizing the Child Voice
This presentation introduced compelling examples of a child’s voice in writing and included an exercise to help attendees see through a child’s eyes and express what we see in an honest way.

G. Michael DobbsInterviewing 101:
The presentation discussed topics including interviewing techniques, how to prepare, ways to break the ice, and the need for preliminary research. For more information click the link below.

Dave PattersonAdvice from a Reluctant (but Successful) Blogger
Patterson discussed the importance of blogs and how you can make your blog work for your web presence.  

Judy Polan - The Joys and Quandaries of Freelance Writing
Judy Polan, who switched careers from a successful singer-songwriter to that of a busy design and travel writer, offered ways to find your voice as a freelancer, create pieces that might fit into more than one publication, locate the proper home for your work, and navigate the editing process.

Ellen Meeropol - Hearing Voices and Seeing Scenes: Building Blocks of Writing Fiction
Attendees used exercises and discussion to create a grounded sense of place in which characters flourish. They also explored the art of balancing summary and scene. 

Suzanna Strempek Shea - My Hometown
Attendees examined strong examples of fiction that use home turf to great advantage and discussed pitfalls. 

Dana Sawyer - Wrangling the Lengthy Writing Project
Sorting through stacks of research and choosing a structure are just some of the challenges facing writers of longer and researched works. We learned how Sawyer kept his lengthy and involved projects on track and stayed energized.

Kate Forest - Self Care Yoga® and Creative Connection for Writers
This session taught simple yoga sequences to release tension in the back, neck, shoulders, hands, and mind in just a few moments. The session also included reflective writing.

 Spring 2014

Elizabeth Peavey - The Best Truth: How Honest Are You Willing to Be?
Discussion about memoir writing. 

Frances Susanne Brown - Mining History: A Story Seed Goldmine
In this session participants explored some roles history can play, enabling writers to create and publish unique pieces.

Helen Peppe - From “The Diving Board”– Characters Who Are Alive and Kicking
Helen's presentation discussed the emotional and legal implications of writing about real people when family, class, race, and sex enter the story. 

Suzette Martinez Standring - The Art of the Column
Discussion about writing columns.

Jan Freeman - The Publisher's World
Jan talked about founding Paris Press, her publishing background, and the skills needed to run a nonprofit publishing company.

Gail Donovan - Writing for Young Readers: Creating the Books that Made You Fall in Love with Reading

T. Susan Chang - Finding Flavor in Food Writing: or Escape from "Delicious!"
We spend most of our lives describing food as “delicious!” or “mmm!” or merely grunting. We never talk and eat at the same time. T. Susan Chang discussed how to mine our language for a vocabulary to talk and write about food.

 Fall 2013

Allan Hunter - Writing Your Memoir: Practical Guidelines to Help you Bring your Project to Completion (and enlist some powerful skills in the process)
Talks about strategies for writing a memoir.

Janice Beetle - How to Connect with the Media 
Presentation with Judith Kelliher on connecting the world of writing with media. For more information on Janice visit:

Judith Kelliher- How to Connect with the Media
Presentation with Janice Beetle on connecting the world of writing with media. For more information on Judith visit:

Nuala Ni Chonchuir - Writing Winning Short Stories
Author of books including the newly published short story collection Mother America, talked about what makes a great short story. For more information on Nuala visit:

Jim Brosnan - Remembering: An Exercise in the Personal Essay
This talk included an overview of the elements that create an interesting personal essay including setting, sensory details, character development and internal and external dialogue, and possible links with historical moments. For more information on Jim visit:


Spring 2013

Lise Haines - The Journey of the Novel
Talked about a novels path from start to finish and added in her own experience as a writer. For more information on Lise visit:

Steve Strimer - The Benefits of Small Press
Taught the advantages to having a small press.

Suzanne Strempek-Shea - The Nonfiction Book Proposal 101
Focused on the components that can make or bread a non-fiction book proposal. For more information on Suzanne visit:

Susan Stinson - Researching the Novel
Discussed strategies behind doing research that will light up your book. For more on Susan visit:

Fall 2012

Aine Greaney - Fitting a Writing Practice Into Even the Busiest Schedule
Author of Writer With a Day Job, described how to continue to fit writing into even the busiest schedule. For more information on Aine visit:

Anthony D'Aries - Turning Essays into Book Chapters
Author of The Language of Men: A Memoir, on essays and how to turn them into a book. For more information on Anthony visit:

Jacqueline Sheehan - Using Psychology to Create Memorable Fictional Characters
Author of the novel Picture This, taught us how to use psychology to create memorable fictional characters. For more information on Jacqueline visit:

Kate Whouley - When Your Characters Are Real
Author of Remembering the Music, Forgetting the Words, on writing nonfiction. For more information on Kate visit:

Spring 2012

Peter Sarno, Publishing an E-Book
Founder of PFP Publishing, Sarno discusses the process of publishing E-Books. For more information on Peter and PFP Publishing visit:

Shonna Humphrey - Self-Editing
Author of Show Me Good Land, shows how a hands-on approach is designed to reduce editing to its most basic forms. For more information on Shonna visit:

Morgan Rogers - A First Novelist's Journey
Author of Ruby Red Heart in a Cold Blue Sea, Morgan Rodgers took participants through the journey of her first novel. For more information on Margan visit:

Elizabeth Searle - Writing Fiction
Elizabeth Searle helped participants fill there writer’s toolkit with information and inspiration for living your version of the writer’s life. For more information on Elizabeth visit:

Fall 2011

Adam Braver - Fiction with Historical Facts
Adam Braver spins his novels from historical incidents or persons, as he did with November 22, 1963, which fictionalizes the day on which President John F. Kennedy was assassinated, and with others in which Abraham Lincoln was illuminated via 13 different perspectives, and in which Sarah Bernhardt made her farewell tour of America. Participants received inspiration about and information on how to write their own fact-based fiction. For more information on Adam visit:

G. Michael Dobbs, Freelancing 101
As managing editor of Reminder Publications’ five publications, and as a writer whose work has been featured in publications as diverse as The Valley Advocate, Video Watchdog, USA Today and Rod Serling Twilight Zone Magazine, G. Michael Dobbs enlightened and informed participants about the world of freelance writing as seen from both sides of the editor’s desk.

Richard Hoffman - Making a Life (Not a Living!) of Poetry, or How Do I know What I Think Till I see What I Say?
Acclaimed poet, memoirist and current chair of PEN New England discussed the ways of reading and writing of poems and how they shape reality. For more information on Richard visit: 

Richard Michelson - Writing for Children
Richard Michelson’s 15 books for children have received honors including’s 12 best Children’s Books of the Decade, for his 2008 Martin Luther King And Abraham Joshua Heschel's Amazing March Toward Freedom and have brought him international acclaim and awards. The joys and challenges of writing in a very popular genre were featured in this veteran author’s talk. For more information on Richard visit:

Jeff Herman - Insider Secrets to Getting Your Book Publishes
Participants enjoyed a rare opportunity to glean insider insight from a veteran agent whose Jeff Herman Agency has represented 500 authors and whose legendary Jeff Herman’s Guide to Book Publishers, Editors and Literary Agents is in its 21st edition, having sold more than 400,000 copies. For more information on Jeff visit:

Deborah Levine Herman - Spiritual Writing: From Inspiration to Publication
The title of this talk is also that of a book by a Herman, who uses her gifts to help writers discover their authentic selves, often through the process of writing about the spiritual. Learn about writing in this popular sub-genre and how to go about getting spiritually related pieces to editors and publishers. For more information on Deborah visit:

Spring 2011

Jonathan Green - Immersion Journalism
The Art of Immersion Journalism by Jonathan Green, the recipient of the Amnesty International Media Award for Excellence in Human Rights Journalism.For more information on Jonathan visit:

John Talbot - Publishing
A primer on the publishing process and finding and working with an agent. For more information on John and Talbot Fortune Agency visit:

Lewis Robinson - Starting a Work of Fiction
Starting a Work of Fiction by Lewis Robinson, author of the short story collection Officer Friendly and Other Stories and the novel Water. For more information on Lewis visit:

Judy Polan - Songwriting
A Printer on songwriting by singer/songwriter, poet and writer...known through-out New England as "The Gold Glitter Queen." For more information on Judy visit:

Kim Dana Kupperman - Writing an Essay
The art of writing an essay by managing editor of The Gettysburg Review and critically acclaimed essayist. For more information on Kim visit:

Fall 2010

Barbara Roche - Blogging
Blogging by B. J. Roche, former Boston Globe writer and founder of the blog For more information on Barbara visit:

Thomas Shea - Interviewing
The art of interviewing by longtime Springfield Republican columnist and reporter.

James Kelly - Fantasy Writing
Writing fantasy by Hugo and Nebula Award-winning author. 

Diane Lake - Screenwriting
Introduction to screenwriting by Diane Lake, principal screenwriter of the Oscar-nominated film, Frida. For more information on Diane visit:

John Sheirer - Self -Publishing
A primer on self-publishing by veteran self publisher. For more information on John visit:

Spring 2010

John Sheirer - Self-Publishing
A Primer in Self-Publishing, an author of traditionally published and self-published books. Dor more information on John visit:

Mel Allen - Freelance Writing
A fifth editor of Yankee Magazine, Allen discusses his successes in free lancing writing.

Leigh Montville - Art of Writing Biographies
The Art of Writing Biographies led by New York Times bestselling author and former Sports Illustrated reporter.

Jane Yolen - Writing for Children
Writing for children presented by children's book legend. For more information on Jane visit:

Roland Merullo - Fiction
Starting a fiction book by fiction and non-fiction author. For more information on Roland visit:

M. P. Parker - Research Writing
An award-winning historical novelist shared her tips with participants. For more information on M.P. visit: