Presenters & Instructors

More presenters listed as they are confirmed
for the 2017 event.

Screen Shot 2015-12-29 at 2.06.32 PMGemma Cooper is a literary agent with The Bent Agency.

At the 2017 workshop, she will be teaching “How to Write Great Kidlit Novels: The Keys to Successful Middle Grade and Young Adult.”

Gemma represents: authors who write for children, from picture books to young adult, fiction and nonfiction.

“I started my publishing career in New York, spent several years working in London, and now live in Chicago, where I work with authors based in the U.S., the U.K., Canada and Australia. The best part of my job is getting to be the first fan of an unpublished book and then champion this book — nothing beats being able to talk up your passions to other book fanatics! My client list is typified by character-led stories, and voice is the most important thing I look for in submissions.”



Screen Shot 2017-03-09 at 11.31.03 AM.pngSusanna Calkins writes the award-winning Lucy Campion historical mysteries, which are set in seventeenth-century London. Her novels include A Murder at Rosamund’s Gate (2013), From the Charred Remains (2014), The Masque of a Murderer (2015), and A Death Along the River Fleet (2016). Learn all about her novels here.

Holding a PhD in history, Susanna works at Northwestern University where she directs learning and teaching programs for faculty, offering sessions on such things as providing feedback and learning from failure. She has also led workshops for writers on offering constructive critiques. As a member of the Midwest Chapter of Mystery Writers of America, Susanna runs the Hugh Holton critique program, in which established authors provide detailed feedback on unpublished manuscripts. She is currently working on a new series set in 1920s Chicago.

At the 2017 Chicago workshop, she is offering critiques for adult fiction manuscripts in the genres of mystery, crime, thriller and suspense.


Screen Shot 2016-12-30 at 11.09.09 PM.pngCharlie Donlea was born and raised in Chicago.

He now lives in the suburbs with his wife and two young children. His first novel is the mystery SUMMIT LAKE (Kensington, 2016), which was praised by Booklist and Library Journal, among others.

At the 2017 workshop, he will be teaching “Give Them Chills: How to Write Crime, Thriller, and Mystery Novels That Get Reader & Agent Attention.”

His second novel, THE GIRL WHO WAS TAKEN, will be released in April of 2017.


Screen Shot 2016-12-08 at 6.53.55 PM.pngRed Sofa Literary is the celebration of the quirky, eclectic ideas in our exciting literary community.  Realizing that the best ideas come via engaging conversations and over good coffee, while sometimes relaxing in a colorful lounger.

Established by literary agent Dawn Frederick, previously of Sebastian Literary Agency,  she brings a broad knowledge of the book business to the table—with multiple years of experience as a bookseller in the independent, chain, and specialty stores; sales, marketing, & book development at a YA publisher, a published nonfiction author, and an agent associate literary agent at Sebastian Literary Agency in 2002 (before Red Sofa Literary was established).

In addition to taking pitches at the event, Dawn will also be teaching the class “Invest in Yourself and Your Book.”

In addition to her literary agent duties, she extensively volunteers with her local library system, while still finding time to spend quality time on her “wheels.”

She carries a B.S. in Human Ecology, and a M.S. in Information Sciences from an ALA accredited institution.  “Not only do I know what people like to read and are currently  reading;  I also have the experience of  working one-on-one with authors, book distribution centers, and literary organizations.”


Screen Shot 2017-06-09 at 4.07.23 PM.pngAnnette Gendler is the author of Jumping Over Shadows, the memoir of a German-Jewish love that overcame the burdens of the past.

At the 2017 workshop, she is teaching the session on memoir writing.

Her writing and photography have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, Tablet Magazine, Bella Grace and Artful Blogging, among others. She served as the 2014– 2015 writer-in-residence at the Hemingway Birthplace Home in Oak Park, Illinois, and has been teaching memoir writing at StoryStudio Chicago since 2006.

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Queens University of Charlotte. After 15 years of working in consulting, she left the corporate world a few years ago and now does communications work for her children’s former school, in addition to pursuing her own creative projects. Born in New Jersey, she grew up in Munich, Germany, and lives in Chicago with her husband and three children. See her author website here.


Screen Shot 2016-12-30 at 9.18.33 PM.pngJulie Hammerle (see her website here) is the author of THE SOUND OF US (Entangled TEEN, 2016).

At the 2017 workshop, she will be teaching “World-Building: How to Create an Amazing World for Your Story — Whether It’s Contemporary or Speculative.”

In addition to teaching, Julie will also be doing add-on critique appointments with attendees for any young adult genres with the exception of paranormal.

Before settling down to write “for real,” Julie studied opera, taught Latin, and held her real estate license for one hot minute. Currently, she writes about TV on her blog Hammervision, ropes people into conversations about “Game of Thrones,” and makes excuses to avoid the gym. Her favorite YA-centric TV shows include “90210” (original spice), “Felicity,” and “Freaks and Geeks.” Her music playlist reads like a 1997 Lilith Fair set list.


Screen Shot 2016-11-02 at 3.23.45 PM.pngBrian A. Klems (@BrianKlems) is the online editor of

At the 2017 workshop, he will be teaching “A Bird’s-eye View Publishing & Books in the Year 2017,” “How to Write a Nonfiction Book Proposal,” and “Voice and Style in Your Fiction: 15 Tips on How to Write Like the Pros.”

In addition to teaching, Brian will also be doing add-on critique appointments with attendees for the genres of memoir, literary fiction, and mainstream fiction.

His blog, The Writer’s Dig—which covers everything writing and publishing—is one of the fastest growing blogs in the writing community. Brian has been a part of the Writer’s Digest family since 2003 and has overseen the the launch of the Writer’s Digest blogs as well as helped Writer’s Digest become a vibrant member of the social media community, including Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and Pinterest.

Brian’s first book, Oh Boy, You’re Having a Girl: A Dad’s Guide to Raising Daughters (Adams Media) was released in April 2013. It received high-level buzz and praise from some of the funniest writers alive, including Dave Barry and Bruce Cameron. Brian is also a proud graduate of the Ohio University E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, a husband, softball infielder, perennial fantasy sports underachiever, and father of three lovely little girls.


screen-shot-2016-12-30-at-9-13-16-pmRenée Rosen (see her website here) is the bestselling author of White Collar Girl, What The Lady Wants: A Novel of Marshall Field and the Gilded Age and Dollface: A Novel of the Roaring Twenties as well as the young adult novel, Every Crooked Pot.

At the 2017 workshop, she will be teaching “Self-Editing and Revision” as well as “Invest in Your Career and Books: A Discussion on the Best and Most Efficient Ways (Free and Not) to Promote and Publicize Your Published Book.”

Her forthcoming novel, Windy City Blues, will be published  February 28, 2017 from Penguin Random House. She lives in Chicago where she is currently working on a new novel.


Screen-Shot-2014-01-08-at-1.09.19-PMChuck Sambuchino (, @chucksambuchino) is the former longtime editor of Guide to Literary Agents as well as the Children’s Writer’s & Illustrator’s Market (both Writer’s Digest Books). His authored books include Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript; Create Your Writer Platform, which was praised by; and How to Survive a Garden Gnome Attack, which was optioned for film by Sony. During his past time at WD Books (through 2017), he oversaw one of the biggest blogs in publishing: the Guide to Literary Agents Blog. He is a freelance editor who has seen dozens of his clients get agents and/or book deals, and he has presented at more than 140 writing conferences and events over the past eleven years.

At the 2017 workshop, he will be teaching “Everything You Need to Know About Agents and Query Letters” as well as “How to Get Published: Ten Simple Tips.”

In addition to teaching, Chuck is doing add-on query critiques for attendees in advance of the workshop.


Screen Shot 2016-12-30 at 11.04.18 PM.pngDina Silver (see her website here) is the best-selling author of five books: The Unimaginable, Kat Fight, Finding Bliss, Whisper if You Need Me, and One Pink Line, which was chosen as a 2012 Top Title by IndieReader and was a finalist in their 2012 Discovery Awards. Her sixth novel, No Time To Blink, will be released by Lake Union Publishing in February of 2018.

Additionally, she is a wine drinker, a lover of cheese fries, and an excellent parallel parker. Dina lives with her husband, son, and twenty-pound tabby cat in suburban Chicago. She’d prefer to live where it’s warm year-round, but then she’d never stay home and write anything.

At the 2017 workshop, she will be teaching “Everything You Need to Know About Self-Publishing,” and sharing her story about how she transitioned from indie author to being traditionally published.


Screen Shot 2015-12-28 at 11.12.28 PMMadeline Smoot is the publisher of CBAY Books and former editorial director for children’s books of Blooming Tree Press. She runs the Buried in the Slush Pile blog.

At the workshop, Madeline will be presenting the session “How to Write and Sell Picture Books for Children.”

She is critiquing chapter book and middle grade submissions as an add-on element for attendees.

Madeline lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband, son, two cats, a dog, and more books than should fit in any normal person’s house. Visit her website here.

Screen Shot 2017-01-15 at 12.15.26 AM.pngJessica Bell is the executive coordinator of Writing Day Workshops, which organizes one-day writing conferences. These events take place mostly in the U.S., but can happen elsewhere.

If Jessica could choose only one creative mentor, she’d give the role to Euterpe, the Greek muse of music and lyrics. This is not only because she spends most of her time in Athens, Greece, but because of her life as a 30-something Australian contemporary fiction author, award-winning poet and singer/songwriter/guitarist, whose literary inspiration often stems from songs she’s written.

She started as a poet, drawing from her musical background and etching her thoughts and feelings into verse. Those stanzas soon turned into sentences and paragraphs, and eventually into published books. Her literary voice is said to overflow with “lyrical descriptions, unique metaphors, tight dialogue, and an abundance of sensory detail.” She has also been told she has the ability to take a seemingly ordinary three-chord type story and turn it into a main stage event.

In addition to her novels about unique dysfunctional families, poetry collections, and her best-selling pocket writing guides (Writing in a Nutshell series), she has published a variety of works in online and print literary journals and anthologies, including Australia’s Cordite Review, Writer’s Digest, and the anthologies 100 Stories For Queensland and From Stage Door Shadows, both released through Brisbane, Australia’s, eMergent Publishing.

One of Jessica’s proudest moments was when, in November 2013, her poem, Sugar (which was published in a poetry anthology called Women’s Work, edited by Libby Hathorn) was broadcast on ABC National Radio’s Poetica program.

Jessica Bell is the Publisher of Vine Leaves Press, and she makes a living as a Book Cover Designer for indie authors, and an editor/writer for English Language Teaching publishers worldwide, such as Pearson Education, HarperCollins, Macmillan Education, Education First and Cengage Learning.

As of October 2016, she is the singer of Keep Shelly in Athens.

To see a list of awards click here.