Sample Talks and Workshops
"Kathryn is an engaging and knowledgeable speaker who gives novice writers plenty of encouragement and keeps experienced writers on their toes. She is refreshingly honest without being harsh, and works with writers to produce their very best work."
—Sara Hodon, President, Black Diamond Writers Network
"Her presentations were interesting, entertaining and interactive. She would make a great speaker for anyone seeking an experienced writer/editor to motivate and educate writers on how to perform their craft better."
—Gary Zenker, Co-Founder, Brandywine Valley Writers Group and Main Line Writers
"Kathryn gleans from her own experiences the perfect examples of how to do things, and her transparency makes it easy to apply the writing principles personally."
—Lisa Tomarelli, Greater Lehigh Valley Writers Group
Contact me to book a speaking engagement.
Sample one-hour lectures:
TUNE YOUR STORYTELLING ENGINE
Many story problems—among them sagging middles, getting stuck, lack of tension, and meandering plot—can be traced to a problem in the engine you designed to drive the story. In this talk we’ll look at modern storytelling structure and the way it can impel your characters and invest us in their dilemmas, all while creating heart-thumping tension, heart-breaking consequence, and heart-warming resolution.
GET THAT STORY MOVING!
Let’s face it: your reader’s time is limited. If that reader is a literary agent or editor, she is dealing with an unprecedented number of submissions for a market pressuring her to be choosier than ever. At the first indication you can’t keep the story moving, that novel you spent the last three years writing will be discarded for the next. In this session we take a look at the 12 most common story stalling mistakes I see in my work as a developmental editor, and talk about how to reap the psychological tension and story movement that keeps readers hooked.
FINDING THE STORY IN TRUE EVENTS: CREATIVE NONFICTION
In fiction, writers seek the truth in imagined story; in creative nonfiction, writers seek the story in true events. In this session we take a fresh look at story elements that can make your nonfiction read like a novel, and how popular works of creative nonfiction hook the reader with the same kind of entertaining, important-seeming, and heart-warming material that makes all stories linger in the mind long after the book is closed.
PLAY JENGA WITH YOUR PROSE
“Show, don’t tell”: it’s a great place to start. But indiscriminate “showing” can create walls of words that build a barrier between the author and reader. Through examples from some of today’s bestsellers, we let true literary artists show us how to write in such a way that we allow the reader’s thoughts and memories to come to bear on the experience of reading.
TALK IS CHEAP! GOOD DIALOGUE? PRICELESS
Go ahead: open your characters’ mouths and let the words fall out—on the first draft. Letting them talk is a wonderful way to get to know them. But well-crafted dialogue carries greater potential. From a quick overview of mechanics we’ll move into the fun stuff: analyzing masterful dialogue with an eye toward the ways in which it contributes to character development, pacing, setting, atmosphere and more.
DEADLINE, DEAD END, OR JUST PLAIN DEAD?
A look at that end-stage dilemma of when—and how—to stop writing. A philosophical look at what other artists have to say on the matter adds perspective to a practical checklist that will help you answer the question: Have I completed my best work?
THOSE CRITICAL FIRST PAGES
Literary agents have a pile of reading each night that would put most people’s lengthy to-do lists to shame. The only way agents stay sane is to quickly discard unworthy manuscripts. So how much of your book—this three-year-old child of your creativity—will an agent really look at? Perhaps only a few paragraphs—about all you would give a book when browsing in the bookstore. We’ll take a look at what publishing industry pros—and your readers—expect from your opening pages.
13 SELF-EDITING TIPS & TRICKS
Most of us learned to write in school (and if you’re lucky, you’ve since recovered from that parochial education through a whole lot of trial and error to discover what really works). But did you ever learn to self-edit? Here are 13 tips and tricks that will immediately apply a spit shine to your work.
THE LAST WORD ON ENDINGS
Many of us have trusted recommendations such as, "This story starts slow but hang in there, it all comes together in the end." But who would purchase the book if told, "You'll love this—it starts with a bang then fizzles out altogether"? The strength of its opening might get your project in the hands of an agent, but it will be sold word-of-mouth by its ending. We’ll identify the structural elements that contribute to a satisfying ending so you can make sure that your project delivers.
DEVELOPING A CONFIDENT VOICE
Readers respond to the confidence in an author’s tone. It’s that "mysterious something" that elevates prose beyond the ordinary. It inspires trust. The reader may not be able to analyze it, but he knows it when he sees it, and responds by continuing to read. Writers despair that author confidence is an intangible, bestowed by sensibility or absorbed by osmosis. Both may be true, but there's a third element: craft. Come pick up some tips that will infuse your prose with confidence.
RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARCS
A story isn't powerful because of what happens, but because of what changes in your characters because of what happens. Those changes must be rendered with a deft hand so the reader enjoys a sense of discovery as small changes become larger changes in a subtle yet discernible way. While writing a book-length project, though, accumulating detail can obscure clear character development. This look at macro-editing will build character arcs that offer the reader a rewarding experience.
ENGAGING BACKSTORY TECHNIQUES
Backstory can be an important ally to a storyteller—or an obstacle that tries a reader's patience. We'll talk about when to use it, what to include, ways to handle it, and problems that can arise.
FICTION FAST BALL: LEARNING TO PITCH
This hands-on workshop will explore what an agent really needs to hear from you and why—and how to effectively deliver this information. If the pitch you sign up for allows five minutes, you’ll have time left over to chat.
STORY SHRINK: WRITING THE SYNOPSIS
You've spent a year or more adding words until you've completed a novel-length project only to find that now, to market it, you must shrink it back down. We will discuss the novel synopsis with an eye towards why agents and editors put you through this agonizing exercise.
GET WRITING, GET PUBLISHED!
Writing is a lone venture—only the writer can get the words out of his or her head and onto the page. But the road to publication has been well paved by those who’ve traveled it before, and there is no need for each new writer to draw his own map. This basic introduction to publishing options, which is flexible to the specific needs of the participants, will provide information and resources to the writer who is seeking publication.
WRITING THAT MATTERS
How do you write compelling material that stands out from the crowd? You write the piece that only you can write. In this talk, we will explore the myriad ways authors infuse their work with their own sensibilities. Topics will include the personal goals, reader-driven considerations, and craft that impel working writers to distinguish their work. You’ll leave with solid advice on how to create an authorial presence that will earn your work its own place on your readers' shelves.
BOOK CLUBS: THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL MEDIA
Do you dream of meeting your readers over wine and snacks and talking to them one-on-one about your work? Book clubs can be a great way to get select fiction and creative nonfiction titles out into the world. Is your title one of them? This session explores what book clubs look for in their favorite reads and guest authors, how to reach and make best use of this special market segment in your career, and how to address the technical aspects of a great in-person or online visit.
COULD YOU BE A WRITER?
Take this (100% unscientific) quiz to see if you possess the characteristics of a successful writer—and learn what the life of a writer is like in the process.
THE 7 DEADLY SINS OF SELF-EDITING (with Janice Gable Bashman)
Because writing is a form of communication, it is never complete without an audience. Believing a writer can edit effectively on his own is pride—and pride is a self-editing sin. In this session, based on their popular Writer’s Digest article by the same name, Janice and Kathryn will take a creative look at the seven deadly sins—pride, gluttony, lust, envy, wrath, greed, and sloth—and offer insights to writers struggling to improve their manuscripts.
Sample Hands-on Workshops (two hours each):
HEALING THROUGH WRITING
Change can be jarring. Re-establishing a sense of self within new circumstances can seem formidable—but writing is a great way to do so. This workshop will explore the ways in which writing can open the path to self-healing by helping you to find order amongst chaos, make complex feelings easier to manage, restore optimism, and feed your spirit. Many of us are too good at stuffing away our feelings. Let them out by putting them on the page—this workshop will get you started.
A word movement workshop! In this self-editing workshop for writers of fiction and nonfiction, we'll look at rhythm and word order and paragraphing and the ways they contribute movement and tension to the page. We'll contemplate the effective use of silence. We'll look at when to trash the rules, grab your paragraphs by the scruff of the neck and force them to do your bidding. We'll play with ways to thrust your tour-de-force passages into the spotlight. Capturing your readers' attention is an admirable goal, but why stop there? With a little more effort, you can leave them breathless.
SAY THAT AND MORE: WRITING EFFECTIVE DIALOGUE
In this workshop, you will participate a series of exercises that will challenge you to improve your own dialogue writing. Prepare to leave with a whole new respect for this multi-tasking tool—and perhaps the germ of a new story idea, as well.
FIRST PAGE REBOOT
Powering up a story is so challenging that most of our writing mistakes are apparent on a story’s first page—you know, that page the agent or editor or book buyer will look at to see if they’re interested. What needs to be there, and how do you include it all seamlessly? In this advance submission workshop, Kathryn will assess participants’ first pages against a brief synopsis of the larger story to see what works and what could use revision.
I WROTE IT, NOW WHAT?
In this workshop, based on the presenter's personal experience and the types of issues she encounters daily as a developmental editor, we'll take a good hard look at what it really means to "develop" a work of writing. Hint: It isn't only about dotting your i's and crossing your t's, and it can't possibly be addressed in one additional draft! Attendees will leave with a game plan for how to organize a multiple-drafting process that will bring to fruition the full potential of their work. Prerequisite: a near-to-fully drafted novel. (90 minutes.)
GOOD FROM PAGE ONE
A great talk for a library setting, this is a hands-on introduction to the procedures and subjectivity of the world of publishing as participants scope out books in their genre, decide what grabs them, then take a turn in the “hot seat” to defend their choice to the “panel of editors” created by the others in the group. We’ll examine all the ways a book can seduce readers, but will they buy it? Wait and see! (90 minutes.)
MAXIMIZING THE EMOTIONAL POTENTIAL OF YOUR NOVEL (3 hours)
A novel is, above all else, an emotional experience. From the safety of their armchairs, readers want the protagonist to take them along on a journey that will help them benefit from the process we humans fear most: change. The last thing you want is for your reader to slide your manuscript back across the desk and say, “Hmm. I remained curiously unmoved.” Part story structure, part narrative arcs, and part sentence-level examination, this three-hour class will explore craft that will help you create—within any genre—the kind of heart-thumping tension, heart-breaking consequence, and heart-warming resolution readers crave.
ENGAGING BACKSTORY TECHNIQUES
Backstory can be an important ally to a storyteller—or an obstacle that tries a reader's patience. We'll talk about when to use it, what to include, ways to handle it, and problems that can arise. Hands-on exercises will explore new ways to think about the delivery of backstory so that it creates context for the forward-moving story without relieving its tension. (Two hours - half day.)
INCITE ME! (Limit 10, 3-hour advance submission workshop)
It all started when... something happened to your protagonist that tipped him out of his everyday existence to forever change his life. In order for this inciting incident to launch your main character’s story and raise reader expectation as to the kind of story it will be, you must craft it carefully. Learn about the complexities of this critical element and ensure you’ve created the psychological tension needed to carry your reader from beginning to The End. Submit your inciting incident (hopefully 2 to 5 pages), a set-up for the scene if it doesn't start with your opening page, and a synopsis.
Kathryn Craft author
photo: Joan Zachary