Storymakers Conference Faculty

Intensive Instructors, Author Chat Special Guests, Returning Faculty, Debut Faculty

2020 Intensive Instructors

John Truby

John Truby

Intensive class: The Anatomy of Story

John Truby, author of The Anatomy of Story, has worked as a Hollywood story consultant and script doctor for Disney Studios, Sony Pictures, FOX, and HBO. Some of his students have gone on to pen some of Hollywood’s most successful films, including Sleepless in Seattle, Scream, and Shrek. PC Magazine calls Truby “the best script doctor in the movie industry.”

Rachel Aaron

Rachel Aaron

Intensive class: 2K to 10K: How to Write Faster, Write Better, & Write More of What You Love

Rachel Aaron is the author of twenty novels and the best selling writing book “2k to 10k: How to Write Faster, Write Better, and Write More of What You Love.” Her methods have helped thousands of authors from best sellers to newbies double their daily word counts without sacrificing quality. If you’re a writer struggling with limited time or just someone who wants to get books done faster, this is the course for you.

Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson

Intensive class: Magic Systems & Worldbuilding

Brandon Sanderson has published numerous novels with Tor-Elantris, the Mistborn books, Warbreaker, The Stormlight Archive, and the young adult Fantasy The Rithmatist. Five books have been published in the middle-grade Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians series. The Reckoners trilogy, which concluded with Calamity in 2016, was released by Delacorte. He was chosen to complete Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series; the final book, A Memory of Light, was released in 2013. Currently living in Utah with his wife and children, Brandon teaches creative writing at Brigham Young University.

Lisa Mangum

Lisa Mangum

Intensive class: Triangulating Your Characters: How Focusing on Character Relationships Drives Conflict & Plot

Lisa Mangum has worked in the publishing industry since 1997. She is currently the Managing Editor for Shadow Mountain Publishing and has worked with several New York Times best-selling authors, including Ally Condie, Brandon Mull, and Jason F. Wright.

Lisa is also the author of four national best-selling YA novels (The Hourglass Door trilogy and After Hello) as well as several short stories and novellas. She has edited multiple anthologies and has written a nonfiction book about the craft of writing using the TV show Supernatural. She currently lives in Taylorsville, Utah, with her husband, Tracy.

2020 Returning Faculty

Traci Abramson

Traci Abramson

Class: Characters in 3D

Traci Hunter Abramson was born in Arizona, where she lived until moving to Venezuela for a study-abroad program. After graduating from Brigham Young University, she worked for the Central Intelligence Agency for several years, eventually resigning in order to raise her family. She credits the CIA with giving her a wealth of ideas as well as the skills needed to survive her children’s teenage years. She loves to travel and enjoys coaching her local high school swim team. She has written more than twenty-five bestselling novels and is a five-time Whitney Award winner, including 2017 Best Novel of the Year.

Visit Traci’s website

Sarah Allen

Sarah Allen

Class: All That David Copperfield Kind of Crap: Hitting that Pitch Perfect Middle Grade Voice

Sarah’s debut middle grade novel WHAT STARS ARE MADE OF released from FSG/Macmillan in March. She received an MFA in creative writing from Brigham Young University and has had fiction and poetry published in magazines around the country. She is represented by Brianne Johnson at Writers House. She’s an ambivert with a personality part Wednesday Addams, part Buddy the Elf. She’s a major fan of Pixar, leather jackets, and Colin Firth.

Visit Sarah’s website

Lindzee Armstrong

Lindzee Armstrong

Class: Reader Magnets

Lindzee Armstrong is a USA Today bestselling and award-winning author of more than 20 romance novels. She is one of those writers who enjoys the business side of writing almost as much as the creative side. She has a bachelor’s degree in history education, and loves putting her teaching skills to use through helping other authors. Lindzee is married to her very own Prince Charming, and they are happily married and raising precocious twin boys in the Rocky Mountains.

Visit Lindzee’s website

Cindy Baldwin

Cindy Baldwin

Classes: Rewriting is the Heart of Writing, Why Kids Need Sad Books—And How to Do It Right

Cindy Baldwin is the critically acclaimed author WHERE THE WATERMELONS GROW (winner of the Oregon Spirit Book Award) and BEGINNERS WELCOME with HarperCollins. As a middle schooler, she kept a book under her bathroom sink to read over and over while fixing her hair or brushing her teeth, and she dreams of writing the kind of books readers can’t bear to be without. She lives in Portland, Oregon, with her husband and daughter.

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Julie Coulter Bellon

Julie Coulter Bellon

Class: Fifteen Minute Marketing for the Busy Author

Julie Coulter Bellon is the author of nearly two dozen romantic suspense books. Her novel All Fall Down won the RONE award for Best Suspense, Pocket Full of Posies won a RONE Honorable Mention for Best Suspense and The Captain was a RONE award finalist for Best Suspense. Most recently, her books The Capture and Second Look were both Whitney finalists for Best Suspense/Mystery.

Julie loves to travel and her favorite cities she’s visited so far are probably Athens, Paris, Ottawa, and London. In her free time she loves to read, write, teach, watch Hawaii Five-O, and eat Canadian chocolate. Not necessarily in that order.

Visit Julie’s website

Stephanie Black

Stephanie Black

Class: Dialogue: How to Get Your Characters to Sound Like Themselves

Stephanie Black’s eleventh novel, “To Die, To Sleep,” will be released in November 2019. She is a four-time Whitney Award winner for Best Mystery/Suspense and a finalist for Best Speculative Novel. She thinks the Storymakers Conference is one of the best events on the planet and loves to hang out with a bunch of people who understand hand-wringing over characterization, plot twists, and the challenges of semicolon usage.

Visit Stephanie’s website

Emily Bleeker

Emily Bleeker

Class: Don’t use that tone with me, mister!

Emily is a mom of four, an author and Chicagoland native. Her first novel, WRECKAGE, was released by Lake Union Publishing March 2015. Her second book, WHEN I’M GONE, hit shelves March 2016 and is a Wall Street Journal bestseller. Her third book, WORKING FIRE, met the world as an Amazon bestseller in August 2017. THE WAITING ROOM came out in August 2018. She’s learning to balance life as a stay-at-home mom with her life as a writer. Both come with a lot of laughter, tears and a shocking amount of Diet Coke.

Visit Emily’s website

Nicole Brouwer

Nicole Brouwer

Classes: Stepping Into the Arena: A Discussion of Vulnerability and Writing, How to be a Pacing Rock Star

Nicole was raised in Georgia, earned a degree in Social Work from BYU-Hawaii, and is now raising a family in Utah. She enjoys writing women’s historical fiction centered on Victorian era feminists. She’s currently working with her agent, Jenny Bent, to prepare her debut for submission. When she’s not writing, Nicole enjoys traveling, hiking, and nerding out over books with her friends.

John Brown

John Brown

Class: Make ‘Em Beg for More

John D. Brown writes action-packed page turners in the thriller, science fiction, and fantasy genres. He debuted with Tor Books and now publishes as a hybrid author.

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Ali Cross

Ali Cross

Class: A Save the Cat Deep Dive—Going Beyond the Outline

Ali Cross is a USA Today bestselling author of young adult fantasy and frequent speaker at industry events. Ali’s been publishing for ten years, during which time her books have won numerous awards from the Hollywood Book Festival to the Whitneys. She’s an oft-requested speaker at events across the Western United States for her industry and craft knowledge and approachable, easy presentation style.

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Bree Despain

Bree Despain

Class: Building Palaces out of Paragraphs: Writing Lessons from HAMILTON

Bree Despain is the award winning author of the Dark Divine trilogy and the Into The Dark trilogy. Bree rediscovered her childhood love for creating stories when she took a semester off college to write and direct plays for at-risk, inner-city teens from Philadelphia and New York. She now lives in Salt Lake City, Utah with her husband and two sons. Bree enjoys axe throwing and paddle boarding, and co-owns a women’s clothing boutique. Bree is currently a MFA student at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

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Rosalyn Eves

Rosalyn Eves

Class: Making the Ordinary Come Alive: Pacing Tips, Building Your Fictional World through Research

Dr. Rosalyn Eves draws from her experience as a PhD candidate writing about women in the American West as well as her novel research (for historical fantasies set in 19th century Europe and the 19th century American West) to introduce research with primary sources. Her YA fantasy trilogy, BLOOD ROSE REBELLION (the first of which won a 2018 Whitney for best YA fantasy), is published by Knopf/Random House.

Visit Rosalyn’s website

David Gill

David Gill

Classes: Big Ol’ Lumps or Grinding It Fine: How Building Backstory Is Like Cooking Grits the Way Your Grandmama Used to Make, My Precious Honey Duck: What Stylometrics Reveals about Our Work

David Macinnis Gill is the author of Uncanny, the Black Hole Sun series, and Soul Enchilada. His books have been ALA, Bank Street, and Kirkus Best Books for Young Adults. His short stories have appeared in literary magazines, and his biography, Graham Salisbury: Island Boy, was published by Scarecrow Press. He holds a bachelor’s degree in English/creative writing and a doctorate in education, both from the University of Tennessee, David is the Past-President of ALAN and a Professor at UNC Wilmington. He is also on faculty at the VCFA MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults.

Visit David’s website

Dustin Hansen

Dustin Hansen

Classes: Writing, planning, and building a graphic novel, Why We WANT to Write and the Power of FLOW.

Dustin Hansen has worked as a writer and artist in the film, video game, toy, and comic book world for the past 25 years. He’s a self identified geek, and a reluctant nerd, who is passionate about storytelling in any medium, including food.

Mette Harrison

Mette Harrison

Class: Unique Problems and Possibilities in Mystery

Dr. Mette Ivie Harrison is the author of many YA fantasies, the Linda Wallheim mystery series, and The Book of Laman with BCC Press.

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Amanda Rawson Hill

Amanda Rawson Hill

Class: Theme Workshop

Amanda Rawson Hill grew up wanting to join a moon colony or be a scientist that cuts into people’s brains. Now she’s more about getting to the “heart” of a story (though she’s still holding out hope for that moon colony.) Her MG debut, The Three Rules of Everyday Magic, was published in 2018. Her debut PB, YOU’LL FIND ME releases in Fall 2020, with more heartfelt and bittersweet books coming soon.

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Charlie Holmberg

Charlie Holmberg

Class: Worldbuilding: Creating Depth to Setting

Charlie N. Holmberg is the award-winning author of the Numina series, The Fifth Doll, and many others. Her Wall Street Journal bestselling Paper Magician series has been optioned by the Walt Disney Company. Charlie’s stand-alone novel, Followed by Frost, was nominated for a 2016 RITA Award for Best Young Adult Romance. Born in Salt Lake City, Charlie was raised a Trekkie alongside three sisters who also have boy names. She is a proud BYU alumna, plays the ukulele, owns too many pairs of glasses, and finally adopted a dog. She currently lives with her family in Utah.

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Melanie Jacobson

Melanie Jacobson

Class: Why You Need an MFA and How to Get a Free One

Melanie Jacobson holds an MFA in Writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She is the Whitney Award-winning author of several romantic comedies from Covenant. Her work in the national market is represented by Alyssa Henkin at Trident.

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J.R. (Jenn R.) Johansson

J.R. (Jenn R.) Johansson

Class: World Markets: What Else Is Out There?

J.R. JOHANSSON is the author of the Night Walkers Series as well as standalone thrillers CUT ME FREE and THE ROW. Her thriller/horror novels have been published in over a dozen languages and more than twenty countries worldwide. She’s also the creator of the Riveting Reads podcast and in her downtime, she’s an avid gamer and reader.

Visit J.R.’s website

Elana Johnson

Elana Johnson

Class: 20 Things to Master to Make 2020 Your Best Year Yet

USA Today bestseller Elana Johnson writes adult contemporary beach romance. She is the author of over 100 books across two names, and there’s nothing better than sun, sand, and swoon-worthy kisses! Learn more about her sweet beach romances at www.elanajohnson.com. As Liz Isaacson, she writes Christian cowboy romances, has hit the USA Today bestseller list, won multiple awards, and is regularly one of the Top 100 most-read authors in Kindle Unlimited.

Visit Elana’s website for Liz Isaacson

Janet Johnson

Janet Johnson

Class: The Nitty-gritty of Picture Book Writing

JANET SUMNER JOHNSON lives in northern Utah with her husband and three children. She sings in the shower, attends dance parties in her kitchen, and ruthlessly beats her kids at card games. She is the author of the picture book Help Wanted, Must Love Books (Capstone, 2020), and the middle grade novel The Last Great Adventure of the PB&J Society (Capstone, 2016).

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Jen Geigle Johnson

Jen Geigle Johnson

Class: 20 Rapid Release Your Way to a Six Figure Income

Jen Geigle Johnson discovered her love for British history while kayaking the Thames as a young teenager. Now an award-winning author, including the Praiseworthy top award for romance and the Foreword Indies Gold in romance, and mother of six, she loves to share bits of history that might otherwise be forgotten. With an active contemporary romance pen name, she has become a prolific author with more stories in her heart than can possibly be told.

Visit Jen’s website and her Sophia Summers website

Matthew Kirby

Matthew Kirby

Class: World Building 101, World Building 401

Matthew J. Kirby is the critically acclaimed and award-winning author of middle grade novels (The Clockwork Three, Icefall, The Lost Kingdom, and the Dark Gravity Sequence) and novels for young adults (A Taste for Monsters and the Assassin’s Creed series, Last Descendants). He has won the Edgar Award for Best Juvenile Mystery, the PEN Center USA award for Children’s Literature, and the Judy Lopez Memorial Award, and his books have been recommended by the ALA Best Fiction for Young Adults lists. He is also a school psychologist, and currently lives in Utah with his wife and three step-kids.

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Brittany Larsen

Brittany Larsen

Class: Allies, Authors, Agents of Change

Brittany Larsen has published three contemporary romances, Pride & Politics, Sense & Second Chances, and The Matchmaker’s Match with Covenant Communications and collaborated on a number of indie projects, including Wedding Belles and the ABC’s of Love Sweet Romance series. Although her focus is romance, with each of her stories, Brittany invites readers to challenge their assumptions about everything from religion to cowboys. She’s participated in many workshops about building allies and firmly believes we can make space for everyone.

Sara B. Larson

Sara B. Larson

Class: Is This a Kissing Book?

Sara B. Larson is the best-selling and critically acclaimed author of the YA fantasy DEFY trilogy (DEFY, IGNITE, and ENDURE), the DARK BREAKS THE DAWN duology, and SISTERS OF SHADOW AND LIGHT (TorTeen/Macmillan). She can’t remember a time when she didn’t write books—although she now uses a computer instead of a Little Mermaid notebook. Sara lives in Utah with her husband, their four children, and their Maltese, Loki. She writes in brief snippets throughout the day and the quiet hours when most people are sleeping. Her husband claims she should have a degree in “the art of multitasking.” When she’s not mothering or writing, you can often find her at the gym repenting for her sugar addiction.

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Martine Leavitt

Martine Leavitt

Class: Story of a Book

Martine Leavitt has published ten novels for young adults, most recently Calvin, which won the Governor General’s Award of Canada. My Book of Life by Angel was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and winner of the Canadian Library Association Young Adult Book of the Year. Other titles by Leavitt include Keturah and Lord Death, a finalist for the National Book Award, Tom Finder, winner of the Mr. Christie Award, and Heck Superhero, a finalist for the Governor General’s Award. Her novels have been published in China, Japan, Korea, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and the Netherlands. Currently she teaches creative writing at Vermont College of Fine Arts, a short-residency MFA program. She lives in High River, Alberta.

Lindsey Leavitt

Lindsey Leavitt

Class: Funny Feminists: How to Write Humor Even When Bros Say You Can’t

Lindsey Leavitt is the author of over a dozen books, including the COMMANDER IN CHEESE series, THE PAGES BETWEEN US, and GOING VINTAGE, recently optioned to Imagine Entertainment. Her work has won multiple awards, including YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, Amazon Best Book of the Year, and Banks Street Best Children’s Books of the Year. She’s currently working towards her MFA at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Most importantly, Lindsey was voted Class Clown of her high school and did not campaign for this title whatsoever.

Tricia Levenseller

Tricia Levenseller

Class: Make It More Inciting

Tricia Levenseller is the author of four YA fantasy books with Macmillan Publishers, including DAUGHTER OF THE PIRATE KING and her newest release, THE SHADOWS BETWEEN US. Initially from a small town in Oregon, Tricia now lives in Utah with her bossy dog, Rosy. She received her degree in English Language and editing, and she is thrilled that she never has to read a textbook again. When she’s not writing or reading, Tricia enjoys putting together jigsaw puzzles, playing volleyball, playing Overwatch with her siblings, and watching shows while eating extra-buttered popcorn.

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Victorine Lieske

Victorine Lieske

Classes: Marketing Your Book – The Whole Book Approach, Sweet Romance: How to Pull the Reader In, and Make Your Characters Fall in Love

Victorine’s first book, Not What She Seems, hit the NYT’s bestselling ebook list in March of 2011. Her first sweet romance, Accidentally Married, hit the USA Today bestselling list in January 2015. She has taught classes at many conferences including RWA national in July of 2019. Victorine and her husband live in Nebraska with their two children still left in the nest and three cats. She loves all things romance, and watches While You Were Sleeping about once every six months. When she’s not writing, she’s designing book covers for authors or making something with her extensive yarn collection.

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Annette Lyon

Annette Lyon

Class: The Hero’s Journey: It’s Not Just for Fantasy Anymore

Annette Lyon is a USA Today bestselling author, a 6-time Best of State medalist in Utah, and a Whitney Award winner. She’s the author of over a dozen books, including the Whitney Award-winning Band of Sisters, a grammar guide, and the World War II novel The Girl in Gray. She co-founded the Timeless Romance Anthology series and continues to be a regular contributor. She has received six publication awards from the League of Utah Writers, including the Silver Quill, and she’s one of the coauthors of the Newport Ladies Book Club series. She’s represented by Heather Karpas at ICM Partners.

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Patrick Madden

Patrick Madden

Class: Growth Through Borrowed Forms

Dr. Patrick Madden is the author of three essay collections, Disparates (2020), Sublime Physick (2016), and Quotidiana (2010). He co-edited After Montaigne: Contemporary Essayists Cover the Essays (2015) and co-translated the Selected Poems of Eduardo Milán (2012). He is co-editor of the 21st Century Essays series at Ohio State University Press, co-editor of the journal Fourth Genre, and vice president of the NonfictioNOW Conference. He holds a PhD in English from Ohio University and teaches at Brigham Young University.

Caitlyn McFarland

Caitlyn McFarland

Classes: Clothing and Textiles: Worldbuilding through Wardrobe, Multiple POVs: Balance, Pacing, and Voice

Originally from the Midwest, Caitlyn McFarland currently lives in Utah with her husband and three young daughters. She has a BA in linguistics, is the author of the Dragonsworn trilogy (Carina Press 2015), and has had two novellas published in Deep Magic E-zine (April 2017 and Winter 2019). Caitlyn also has over 20 years of sewing experience, and when not writing or running around after her daughters she can be found hunched over a sewing machine making elaborate costumes or creating products for her Etsy shop. Caitlyn is represented by literary agent Marlene Stringer of The Stringer Literary Agency.

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Jennifer A. Nielsen

Jennifer A. Nielsen

Class: Mastering the Middle Grade Novel

Jennifer A. Nielsen is a New York Times Bestselling author and Whitney Award winner, who writes books for young readers.

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Chersti Nieveen

Chersti Nieveen

Controlling the Reader’s Expectations: Advanced Plot Twists, Suspense and Intrigue

Chersti Nieveen [share-stee/neh-vene] has over 13 years of editing experience, including editing for NY Times bestselling authors. Clients include both indie and traditional authors, and even a few Hollywood actors. She graduated from BYU in editing. Find out more about Chersti at WriterTherapy.com or CherstiNieveen.com

Visit Chersti’s website

Lehua Parker

Lehua Parker

Class: Understanding IngramSpark

Lehua Parker writes Lauele Universe Stories for kids and adults. Her serials include the Niuhi Shark Saga, Lauele Fractured Folktales, and Lauele Chicken Skin Stories. She is also the founder of the Lehua Writing Academy and Makena Press.

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Jolene Perry

Jolene Perry

Class: Editing 101

Jolene Perry is a middle and high school teacher turned author, and a former “Author in Residence” at Alaska Pacific University. She began her publishing career in 2009, writes for Albert Whitman Teen and Simon Pulse, and is a three-time Whitney Award Finalist. She is represented by Amy Bishop of Dystel, Goderich & Bourret Literary Management. She’s been a literary agent intern and currently works as a freelance editor.

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Mike Perry

Mike Perry

Class: Get it Right: Police Procedure, Legal Matters, and The Criminal Justice System

Mike Perry is a long-time sufferer of “spouse of a writer syndrome” which has its ups and downs. Fortunately, his wife is a rockstar and is not at all responsible for his bio. He’s a veteran of the US Army where he worked as military police, he’s done private security, worked as a guard in the Las Vegas Women’s Prison (worst job EVER), and has spent the last 14 years as a prosecutor, working closely with local law enforcement, spending time on crime scenes, and logging a massive number of trials and hours in court.

Jenny Proctor

Jenny Proctor

Class: Saying More by Saying Less: The Art of Nuance and Subtlety in Fiction

Jenny Proctor lives just outside Charleston, SC with her husband, six kids and a myriad of pets. If given the chance, she would spend every afternoon reading or writing at the beach, and eating delicious food she didn’t have to cook herself. Jenny has four published novels, including contemporary romances Wrong For You (2017) and the 2016 Whitney Award winner in the Romance Category, Love at First Note. She is also a freelance editor specializing in romance.

Kathryn Purdie

Kathryn Purdie

Class: More to Win and More to Lose: Raising the Stakes

Kathryn Purdie is the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the BURNING GLASS series and the BONE CRIER’S MOON duology (HarperCollins). Kathryn is a trained classical actress who studied at the Oxford School of Drama and has taught writing classes at past Storymakers, Futurescapes, Writing and Illustrating for Young Children (WIFYR), Sundance Workshops, and was a keynote speaker for Writing for Charity. You can find Kathryn online at kathrynpurdie.com.

Janette Rallison

Janette Rallison

Class: Seriously Funny

USA Today, bestselling author, Janette Rallison/CJ Hill writes books because writing is much more fun than cleaning bathrooms. Her avoidance of housework has led her to writing 30 novels that have sold over 1,000,000 print copies and have been on many reading and state lists. Her books are fantasy, sci-fi, and romantic comedy because hey, there is enough angst in real life, but there’s a drastic shortage of humor, romance and hot guys who fight dragons. She lives in Chandler, Arizona with her husband, kids, and enough cats to classify her as eccentric. You can find Janette Rallison & CJ Hill here.

Rebecca Rode

Rebecca Rode

Classes: Copywriting: The Art of Persuasion, Character Agency

Rebecca Rode is an award-winning USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of YA speculative fiction. Her indie publications include the Numbers Game trilogy, the Ember in Space series, and numerous novellas. She also has traditionally published nonfiction and magazine articles. Rebecca is represented by Kelly Peterson at Rees Literary Agency.

Visit Rebecca’s website

Caitlin Sangster

Caitlin Sangster

Classes: Deep Point of View, Manuscript Liposuction with the Lit Service Podcast featuring Special Surprise Guest™

Caitlin Sangster is the author of the award-nominated Last Star Burning series. She has been writing since middle school and always thought of it as a silly sort of compulsive habit until she realized that people like reading stories and she liked writing them and there wasn’t much silly about that.

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J. Scott Savage

J. Scott Savage

Classes: The Finances of Publishing, What Happens When It Isn’t Happening?

J Scott Savage is the author of 17 published novels, many articles and short stories, and a new series of writing craft books. His novels have received starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Kirkus, been named Amazon Book of the Month, Barnes and Noble Select Book, and Junior Library Guild Selection. He has won several awards including a Whitney, and been on several state lists. He is represented by Michael Bourret of Dystel, Goderich, and Bourret.

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Tasha Seegmiller

Tasha Seegmiller

Class: Breaching Boundaries: Propelling Characters Through their Crossroads

Tasha Seegmiller believes in the magic of love and hope, which she weaves into every story she creates. She is an MFA candidate in the Writing Program at Pacific University, and teaches composition courses at Southern Utah University. Tasha married a guy she’s known since she was seven, is the mom of three teens, and co-owner of a soda shack and cotton candy company. She is represented by Annelise Robey of Jane Rotrosen Agency.

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Breeana Shields

Breeana Shields

Class: Beyond a Backdrop: Creating Unforgettable Settings

Breeana Shields is the author of The Bone Charmer (Page Street) and the Poison’s Kiss duology (Random House BFYR). She graduated from Brigham Young University with a BA in English. When she’s not writing, Breeana loves reading, traveling, and playing board games with her extremely competitive family. She lives near Washington D.C. with her husband, her three children, and two adorable, but spoiled dogs.

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Erin Stewart

Erin Stewart

Class: Tell Me What You Want: The Psychology Behind Believable Characters

Erin Stewart’s debut YA contemporary novel, SCARS LIKE WINGS, came out with Random House in 2019. Her book was a Book Expo-America Buzz Book selection and has been translated into more than 18 languages. With a background in journalism, Erin loves to write fiction based on real life, along with her weekly column in The Deseret News.

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A.L. Sowards

A.L. Sowards

Classes: Weaving Research into Your Writing, Trauma and Your Characters

A. L. Sowards grew up in Moses Lake, Washington, then came to Utah to attend BYU and ended up staying. Now she’s a busy mom with three children and a head full of story ideas. She enjoys reading, writing, learning about history, and eating chocolate, sometimes all at once. As an author, she is known for heart-pounding action, memorable characters, careful historical research, clean romance, and family-friendly language. Her novels include a Whitney Award winner and several Whitney finalists.

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Eric Taylor

Eric Taylor

Classes: Between the Scenes: Using Transitional Material to Develop Tension and Pull Your Story Forward, A Matter of Style: Expanding Our Writing Palette

Eric Taylor holds an MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from VCFA. Author of Using Folktales (Cambridge) and editor of Some Fruits of Solitude (Herald), he’s also published short creative non-fiction and poetry for children and adults. Several book manuscripts are currently under consideration. He’s presented craft classes at AWP, the New England Young Writers’ Conference at Breadloaf, the Northern Pen Young Writer’s Conference, and others. He’s also taught writing and editing at the college level.

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Kelsey Thompson

Kelsey Thompson

Class: The Final Draft: Advanced Self-Editing

Kelsy Thompson is a freelance writer and editor from Ogden, Utah. She has served as managing editor at distinguished literary journal Weber—The Contemporary West and is currently an acquisition editor for YA imprint Flux and MG imprint Jolly Fish Press. Kelsy has edited everything from award-winning books to passion projects, and loves working hand-in-hand with authors to make their manuscripts shine.

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Ilima Todd

Ilima Todd

Class: Subtext Speaks

Ilima Todd was born and raised on the north shore of Oahu and currently resides in the Rocky Mountains. She never wanted to be a writer even though she loves books and reading. She earned a degree in physics instead. But the characters in her head refused to be ignored, and now she spends her time writing sweet romance and light sci-fi novels. Her published work includes A SONG FOR THE STARS, which earned a starred review from Booklist and named one of the top ten romances of 2019, as well as REMAKE (a Whitney finalist) and RESIST from Shadow Mountain and Simon & Schuster. She is represented by agent Lane Heymont.

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Kimberly Vanderhost

Kimberly Vanderhost

Class: Literary Lego: How to Craft Sentences Worth Building With

Kimberly Vanderhorst is a YA speculative fiction author with a flair for writing evocative sentences. She wrote her first book when she was seven, and her second when she was twenty-seven. When asked to account for the intervening decades, she likes to suggest the possibility of alien abduction with as straight a face as possible.

Represented by the incomparable Adams Literary, and working for the ever-inspiring Salt & Sage Books editing company, Kimberly continually associates with people even awesomer than she is in hopes they’ll rub off on her. This is likely why she decided to be born in Canada.

Elaine Vickers

Elaine Vickers

Class: Leaning and Leaping and Leveling Up

Elaine Vickers is a third-generation teacher and author of LIKE MAGIC, PAPER CHAINS (middle grade; HarperCollins), and FADEAWAY (young adult; Knopf/Random House, 2021). She’s a chemistry professor and director of the STEM Center at SUU, a mom of three, and a 2018 Whitney Award winner who is thrilled to be returning to Storymakers this year.

Visit Elaine’s website

Kate Watson

Kate Watson

Class: Writing Authentic YA Voice

Kate Watson is a young adult writer, wife, mother, and the tenth of thirteen children. Originally from Canada, she attended college in the States and holds a BA in Philosophy from Brigham Young University. A lover of travel, speaking in accents, and experiencing new cultures, she has also lived in Israel, Brazil, and the American South, and she now calls Arizona home. She is the author of the award-winning Seeking Mansfield, and of Shoot the Moon, a 2019 Whitney finalist, Lovestruck, and Off Script, a 2020 Junior Library Guild selection.

Dan Wells

Dan Wells

Class: Mental Conflict: Spice Up Any Genre with a Dash of Psychological Horror

New York Times bestselling author Dan Wells is best known for his horror series I AM NOT A SERIAL KILLER, now an award-winning movie. His most recent work is ZERO G and its sequel DRAGON PLANET, a bestselling middle grade audio series. His other novels include THE HOLLOW CITY, EXTREME MAKEOVER, and two science fiction series: PARTIALS and MIRADOR. He cohosts the Hugo-winning podcast Writing Excuses, and the Twitch channel TypeCastRPG. He has written for games, movies, television, and stage. Dan lives in northern Utah with his wife, 6 children, and more than 400 board games.

Robison Wells

Robison Wells

Class: Co-Writing: Will it make you crazy?

Robison Wells is a New York Times bestselling author, who has co-written two major projects, one with James Patterson and one with Emily King. He is the author of fifteen novels, published in nine languages.

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E. B. Wheeler

E. B. Wheeler

Class: Using Contagonists to Increase Story Tension

E.B. Wheeler attended BYU, majoring in history with an English minor, and earned graduate degrees in history and in landscape architecture from Utah State University. She’s the author of nine books, including WISHWOOD and Whitney Award finalist BORN TO TREASON, as well as several award-winning short stories, magazine articles, and scripts for educational software programs. Her youth fiction is represented by Abigail Samoun of Red Fox Literary. In addition to writing, she consults about historic preservation and teaches history.

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Jeff Wheeler

Jeff Wheeler

Class: Understanding Amazon

Jeff Wheeler is the Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Killing Fog in the Grave Kingdom series; the Harbinger and Kingfountain series; and the Muirwood, Mirrowen, and Landmoor novels. He left his career at Intel in 2014 to write full-time. Jeff is a husband, father of five, and devout member of the church. He lives in the Rocky Mountains and is the founder of Deep Magic: The E-Zine of Clean Fantasy and Science Fiction. Find out more about Deep Magic at www.deepmagic.co, and visit Jeff’s many worlds at .

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Becca Wilhite

Becca Wilhite

Class: Pick Up the Pen

Becca Wilhite loves books – reading and writing them. By day, she teaches high school English and creative writing. By night, she’s a wife and a mom. In between, she squeezes in wordplay. She has published several novels with Shadow Mountain and has been a Whitney finalist.

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Michelle Wilson

Michelle Wilson

Class: Anti-perspirational: How to be an inspirational speaker without breaking a sweat

Michelle Wilson is a speaker and writer. She has four published inspirational nonfiction titles and one children’s book to her name. She has a tendency to overshare, always sneezes in threes (NEVER just one or two), loves to organize but not clean her house, and realizes none of these have anything to do with writing but it’s her bio and she can say what she wants. She loves people. Small talk is painful, but she’s open for deep discussions any time. You can find her at www.michellewilsonwrites.com, or in front of her freezer deciding which ice cream she’s going to eat next.

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Julie Wright

Julie Wright

Class: Frankenstein: Using All the Parts to Create Something that Breathes

Julie Wright wrote her first book when she was fifteen. Since then, she’s written twenty-six novels. She is a two-time winner of the Whitney award for best romance and a Crown Heart recipient. She has one husband, three kids, one grandbaby, one dog, and a varying amount of houseplants (depending on attrition). She loves writing, reading, traveling, hiking, playing with her kids, and watching her husband make dinner.

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2020 Debut Teachers

Josh Allen

Josh Allen

Class: Story Structure: Getting the Middle Right

Josh Allen has taught creative writing and literature at BYU-Idaho since 2004. He holds an MFA in fiction from Old Dominion University. His first book, _Out to Get You: 13 Tales of Weirdness and Woe_ (Holiday House, 2019) received starred reviews from Booklist and School Library Journal. It’s been named a Junior LBIibrary Guild Selection and has received praise from Kirkus Reviews, The Wall Street Journal, and two-time Newbery Honor author Gary D. Schmidt.

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Jenn Bailey

Jenn Bailey

Class: Redeeming your Villain

Jenn Bailey is the author of A Friend for Henry (Chronicle ’19). She provides editorial services through Angelella Editorial and Reedsy and is an acquisition reader for a literary agency. She has her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. Her work has received the Candlewick Picture Book Scholarship and the Beyond Words award, among others. Jenn has spoken at AWP and is a frequent guest lecturer and workshop leader for SCBWI, Heartland Writers for Kids and Teens, and the One Year Adventure Novel workshops.

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Kaylee Baldwin

Kaylee Baldwin

Class: Writing For Such a Time as This

Kaylee Baldwin is the author of eight novels, including the Whitney Award Finalist Meg’s Melody and bestseller Hearts in Peril, along with several novellas. She graduated from Arizona State University with a degree in English Literature and currently lives in Southern Arizona with her family.

James Best

James Best

Class: Dialogue: Say It Like You Meant It

James Best is a two-time Emmy nominated TV writer whose most recent work, Nickelodeon’s Welcome to the Wayne, still makes him laugh. He has an MFA in Creative Writing from NYU with work published in Rattle, Cold Mountain Review, South Carolina Review, and Fire In the Pasture. His latest tv pilot is represented by Bold Soul Studios in LA. He lives and writes in Brooklyn with his wife and two children. His new play, Fast Times at Walden Pond, is currently in development in New York City.

Valerie Best

Valerie Best

Class: Sense and Sensuality

Valerie Best moved to New York City twelve years ago to work in publishing. She worked as an editorial assistant and as a reader for Anderson Literary Agency, which, even after graduate school, was still the best education around. Valerie holds a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from BYU-Idaho and a Master’s degree from Brooklyn College. She is represented by Adriann Ranta Zurhellen of Foundry Literary and Media in NYC and Bold Soul Studios in L.A. She writes professionally for Radish Fiction and her first novel is currently out on submission. She lives in Brooklyn with her husband, two daughters, and collection of Babysitter’s Club Super Specials.

Kyle Bishop

Kyle Bishop

Class: The History, Conventions, and Possibilities of Gothic Literature

Dr. Kyle William Bishop is a third-generation professor at Southern Utah University, where he teaches courses in film and screen studies, American literature, and fantasy/horror literature. He has presented and published a variety of articles on popular culture, including Night of the Living Dead, Fight Club, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, The Birds, The Walking Dead, Dracula, and Frankenstein. He received a PhD in English from the University of Arizona, and he has published two monographs on zombies in popular culture: American Zombie Gothic (2010) and How Zombies Conquered Popular Culture (2015), both available from McFarland.

Sheena Boekweg

Sheena Boekweg

Class: The Power and Privilege of Writing Plus-Sized Characters

Sheena Boekweg is a former slush editor, blogger, and theatre nerd who has watched every Marvel movie in the last ten years and has strong opinions on Star Wars. She’s an alumnus of the 2015 Pitch Wars mentoring program and mentored in 2017 and 2018. Her novel GLITCH KINGDOM pressed start Feb 18th of this year and her next YA will launch Summer 2021, both with Macmillan/Feiwel &Friends. She’s represented by the mighty Jessica Sinsheimer, and she lives in Utah with her family and the world’s most spoiled dog.

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Gideon Burton

Gideon Burton

Class: Writing Style Makeover

Dr. Gideon Burton has been an English professor at BYU since 1994 where he teaches the “Writing with Style” course. A specialist in rhetoric and in professional writing, he also teaches courses in Renaissance literature, LDS literature, history, and new media (including blogging, social media, and podcasting). Gideon has co-authored a book on adoption, For the Love of a Child: The Journey of Adoption, a project that grew out of a student’s personal essay. He enjoys helping others find their literary voice and the right medium for their stories. He and his wife, Karen Burton, reside in Springville, Utah. They are the parents of four sons.

Tara Cummins

Tara Cummins

Class: You want to tell your life’s story-Now what?

Tara Cummins has always loved being a storyteller and began writing her personal stories down on her father’s old typewriter when she was in elementary school. She received her MFA in Creative Writing literature and fiction from California State University of San Bernardino using a memoir as her thesis. While attending school she studied under great memoir authors James Brown (L.A Diaries et al) and Paula Priamos (The Shyster’s Daughter, et al). Her memoir stories have appeared in the Redlands Review, the Pacific Review, and Draught City Lit Mag. Her memoir, Mother’s Ingredients, debuted in April of 2020.

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Stephani Eaton

Stephani Eaton

Class: Marvel vs. DC: What I Learned About Creating Complex Resonant Characters by Marrying a Comic Book (Geek) Aficionado

Stephani Martinell Eaton grew up in the suburbs of Washington DC and holds an MS from Johns Hopkins in Teacher Leadership and an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts in Writing for Children and Young Adults. While at VCFA she received the Marion Dane Bauer Award for middle grade fiction and the Candlewick Picture Book Award. Stephani is an intern for New York Times bestselling author, Cynthia Leitich Smith’s kidlit blog Cynsations. She now lives in North Carolina with her family.

Janeal Falor

Janeal Falor

Class: Superpowered Self-Publishing

Janeal Falor is the author of over twenty novels, including You Are Mine, Death’s Queen, and Sands of Eppla. She’s been self-publishing for over six years. Her favorite genre is fantasy, with romance. Lots of romance. Time outside of writing is spent with her family, gardening, and enjoying a good cup of hot chocolate.

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KayLynn Flanders

KayLynn Flanders

Class: Principles of Print Formatting

KayLynn Flanders has a degree in English Language and editing, and has been a freelance editor and book designer for over ten years. Clients include award-winning, best-selling authors and respected regional presses. Her debut novel, Shielded, will be published by Delacorte (Penguin Random House) in July 2020.

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M. Todd Gallowglas

M. Todd Gallowglas

Classes: Thge 4th Language of Genre Fiction, The Art and Craft of Story Openings

M Todd Gallowglas is an author, storyteller, and educator from Northern California. He has dedicated his life to the study of writing and storytelling in all forms. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University and a Master of Fine Arts in Fiction from Sierra Nevada College. His traditional storytelling show at Renaissance Faires, Celtic Festivals, and geeky conventions has mesmerized audiences for thirty years. When not writing, Gallowglas is an avid gamer, enjoys ballroom dancing (swing, blues, and tango are his favorites), and adores coffee. Lots and lots of coffee.

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Ashley Gebert

Ashley Gebert

Class: Using the Micro to Affect the Macro

Since her graduation from BYU, where she served on the editorial staff of four student magazines, Ashley Gebert has worked with Covenant Communications in multiple positions within the editorial department. She loves all things story and is the founder and president of a local writing critique group. When she isn’t editing, she’s crafting her own stories, dabbling in everything from fantasy to suspense to historical romance.

James Goldberg

James Goldberg

Class: Making Spirituality and Religion Work in Your Writing

James Goldberg is a playwright, essayist, poet, novelist, and historian. He is a two-time Association for Mormon Letters Award Winner and a past Whitney Awards finalist. Since 2012, he’s been on the selection committee for the annual Mormon Lit Blitz writing contest. Goldberg has taught creative writing at BYU, developed shorts films and narrative writing for the Church History Department, and now works as the Managing Editor of Studies Weekly, an elementary school curriculum company.

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Kami Hancock

Kami Hancock

Class: Editing: The Punctuation Edition

With fifteen years of editing experience, Kami Hancock has worked on everything from college dissertations to resumes to veterinary journals to books. Books are her favorite because they are the most challenging and the most rewarding. She’s been an editor with Covenant Communications for five years, doing what she loves and getting lost (in a good way) in stories.

Samantha Hastings

Samantha Hastings

Class: Preorder Campaigns 101

Samantha Hastings has degrees from Brigham Young University, the University of Reading (Berkshire, England), and the University of North Texas. She met her husband in a turkey sandwich line. They live in Salt Lake City, Utah, where she spends most of her time reading, eating popcorn, and chasing her kids. She is the author of: The Last Word, The Invention of Sophie Carter (7-14-20), and A Royal Christmas Quandary (10-6-20) from Macmillan.

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Shauna Holyoak

Shauna Holyoak

Class: The Perfect Setup: Matching your Character to Your Plot (and Visa Versa)

Shauna Holyoak is the middle-grade author of the Kazu Jones Mystery Series. Her debut, Kazu Jones and the Denver Dognappers, was released by Disney-Hyperion in 2019 and a follow-up mystery, Kazu Jones and the Comic Book Criminal will come out in April, 2020. She lives in Idaho Falls, ID with her husband, five of their seven children, and two naughty dogs.

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Bridget Howard

Bridget Howard

Class: Bookstagram for Authors: How to Grow Your Readership

Bridget owns the bookstagram account @darkfaerietales_ which has over 100,000 followers. She is also part owner of Storygram Tours, a Bookstagram Tour company that has run over a thousand successful instagram tours. She works closely with publishers like Harper, Little Brown, Disney, Macmillan, Scholastic, Random House, and many more on a weekly basis. Storygram has also run tours for many authors such as Kendare Blake, Kerri Maniscalco, Tricia Levenseller, Adrienne Young and others.

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Taralyn Johnson

Taralyn Johnson

Class: Lacerations, Amputations, Sepsis and More: How to Avoid Common Mistakes in Writing Injuries, Illnesses, and Recoveries

Taralyn is a family nurse practitioner with over six years of experience in acute pain management and hospice. She has cared for a broad array of patients with intentional and unintentional wounds and injuries, including gunshot wounds, burn wounds, traumatic brain injuries, necrotizing fasciitis, and a vast array of internal bleeding. She has also cared for patients after a variety of surgeries, including heart/lung transplants, limb salvage surgeries, bowel resections, and so much more. She is passionate about pain management and writing and would love to help participants write realistic physical responses to illness, injury, and violence in general.

Samantha Millburn

Samantha Millburn

Class: Save Your Breath—Or Your Ink

Samantha Millburn is the managing editor of Covenant Communications and has happily dedicated her work life to editing excellent books for more than ten years. She collaborates with extremely talented writers and cherishes not only her friendships with them but also the honor it is to help them turn their manuscripts into masterpieces. She has done so with more than three hundred books from more than seventy authors. She graduated from BYU–Idaho with honors with a bachelor’s degree in English.

Brittney Mulliner

Brittney Mulliner

Class: Finding a Profitable Niche

Brittney Mulliner grew up a voracious reader until her junior year of college when she couldn’t find the books she wanted to read, so she decided to write one as her senior project instead of some dumb eleven-page essay! One novel became two then three and so on and she’s now published 13 books in four years. She’s an expert in balancing writing, work, and life with a little help from Diet. Dr. Pepper and procrastination-induced anxiety.

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Stacey Nash

Stacey Nash

Class: Break into Freelancing

Stacey L. Nash has run a freelance writing business for 4.5 years. In that time, she’s expanded it from a part-time gig that paid pennies per word to a full-time business and income. She’s navigated content mills, found a niche, broke into cold pitching, and learned the art of creating a tailored sample to land retainer contracts and multiple writing clients. In 2018, she co-authored a memoir with Carol J. Decker and includes editing/consulting memoirs and autobiographies amongst her freelance writing services. Her work has been published on Chicagotribune.com, Newyorkdailynews.com, TheSpruce.com, and KSL.com.

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Shar Abreu Petersen

Shar Abreu Petersen

Class: It’s All About Heart: Getting Your Picture Book Manuscript Submission-Ready

Shar Abreu Petersen is the co-author of the forthcoming picture book Over in the Woodland (August 2020), which she wrote with her twin sister. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English with an emphasis in creative writing and is passionate about helping children find success in reading. She spent more than twelve years helping create award-winning language & literacy software for young learners and wrote a variety of fiction and nonfiction picture books as part of the curriculum. She continues to work in the educational technology industry, now helping children around the world learn English. Shar lives in Utah with her artist husband and their four adventurous daughters.

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Talysa Sainz

Talysa Sainz

Class: Everyday Autism

Talysa is a freelance editor and an author of young adult fantasy. She graduated from BYU in English Language and Linguistics with a minor in Editing. She is an active volunteer for the League of Utah Writers, Utah Freelance Editors, and her community Arts Council, and she spends her free time at the library or gaming. When not geeking out over language, grammar, and Harry Potter, she goes on adventures and reads stories with her family.

Tiana Smith

Tiana Smith

Class: Scrivener Secrets for Success

Tiana Smith is a copywriter turned novelist who grew up in the Rocky Mountains. When she isn’t writing, she’s chasing after her ninja son, reading, or binging the Disney Channel. She has double degrees in Honors and English from Westminster College but wants to go back to school to be a lion tamer. She is the author of Match Me If You Can and How To Speak Boy, from Swoon Reads/Macmillan.

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Jay Whistler

Jay Whistler

Class: Character Building Techniques from Marcel Proust to Stephen King

Jay Whistler holds an MFA in writing and an MA in tech writing. She worked as a university writing instructor for over 16 years, is currently a submissions editor for Hunger Mountain literary journal, an acquisitions reader for a literary agency, and a freelance editor with Angelella Editorial. She is the former regional advisor for SCBWI Switzerland. She has had articles appear in numerous publications, including Publishers Weekly.

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Sariah Wilson

Sariah Wilson

Class: Conflict, Characterization and Chemistry

Bestselling author Sariah Wilson has never jumped out of an airplane or climbed Mount Everest, and she is not a former CIA operative. She has, however, been madly, passionately in love with her soul mate and is a fervent believer in happily ever afters—which is why she writes romance series like The Royals of Monterra and #Lovestruck. Sariah has repeatedly hit Amazon’s overall Top 100 (both in and outside the U.S.) and been a #1 bestseller on Amazon category lists multiple times. Her book The Friend Zone was chosen at one of the Best Romances of 2019 by Amazon.com.

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