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Annual Writers Conference

Celebrating 49 years

 June 2-4, 2023 in Cheyenne, wy.

at The Historic Plains Hotel

Wyoming Writers, Inc. annual conference is in the works with some amazing faculty lined up to learn from! Check back to this page for updates on what's new with this year's conference as we celebrate 49 years of writing community in Wyoming.

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Early Bird Registration Lasts Through May 15th

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Faculty (including attending agents and publishers)



Conference Features



Scholarship Application


Wyoming Writers, Inc. extends an enthusiastic thank you to this year's generous sponsors who are helping make the 2023 conference possible.

Visit Cheyenne

The Hawthorn Tree

Wyoming Community Foundation

Wyoming Arts Council

Arts Cheyenne

Writing Heights

The Historic Plains Hotel

Peak Environmental

The Downtowners/Paris West Restaurant

Paramount Cafe

Jo Ferguson

The following sponsors have generously donated door prizes for our conference. Thank you so much for your contributions!

UniWyo Federal Credit Union

Women's Club of Sweetwater County

Blue Federal Credit Union

Laramie County Library Foundation


2023 Conference faculty

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Keynote Speaker: 

Matt Mason - Nebraska Poet Laureate

(Also Presenting Faculty)

Matt Mason has run poetry workshops in Botswana, Romania, Nepal, and Belarus for the U.S. State Department and his  poetry has appeared in The New York Times. Matt is the Nebraska State Poet and has received a Pushcart Prize as well as  fellowships from the Academy of American Poets and the Nebraska Arts Council. His work can be found on  NPR’s Morning Edition, in American Life in Poetry, and in several hundred other publications. Mason's 4th book, At the  Corner of Fantasy and Main: Disneyland, Midlife and Churros, was released by The Old Mill Press in 2022.  Find more at: 

Keynote: Why should we write poems in 2023?
Poetry isn’t a pathway to riches and fame but it’s still one of the most important art forms out there for what it offers
the writer and the reader or listener. I have friends who’ve tried to talk me into “lengthening my lines” into Creative
Nonfiction as a way to get more readers and sell more books, but I’m not doing that. Am I just lazy? Stubborn? Or is
there more to it? (Hint: We’ll be leaning hard on door number 3)
Session 1: Putting Humor in the Poem
We often don’t think of poetry as something that should make you laugh, but we should. Poetry is a form of cultural
storytelling and emotional understanding, and humor can be an important part of that, even in poems about serious
subject matter.
Session 2: Improve your Metaphors and Similes
Metaphors and Similes are among the first things we will list when we name the building blocks of a poem. Good ones
give us something to visualize as well as something to feel, so they save us space on the page and make our poems more
Session 3: Words Matter: How to approach poetry when we teach it and talk about it
Poetry has suffered over the past hundred years, going from something people read and memorized for fun to some
intimidating mystical thing which alienates most students. Let’s talk about getting poetry back to something which can
be entertaining and accessible.

Presenting Faculty:

Angie Hodapp

(Also Accepting Pitches for Nelson Literary Agency)

Angie Hodapp is the Director of Literary Development at Nelson Literary Agency. She holds a BA in English and  secondary education from the University of Northern Colorado and an MA in English and communication development  from Colorado State University. A graduate of the Publishing Institute at the University of Denver, she has worked in  professional writing, editing, and education for more than twenty years. A frequent presenter at writing conferences  and events, and the author of Query Craft and Do You Need a Literary Agent, she loves helping writers improve their  craft and learn about the ever-changing world of publishing.  

Session 1: Comma, Semicolon, Hyphen, Dash: One Hour to Better Mechanics
Come get all your burning questions about proper punctuation answered! Appropriate for both fiction and nonfiction
writers, this class will survey the differences between grammar and mechanics and cover 17 punctuation rules you can
immediately put to use in your work.

Session 2: Genres, Tropes, and Word Counts: Knowing What You Write, Who It’s For, and How to Deliver the Goods
Building a career as a fiction writer is just like building a career in any other field: success comes with knowing your
customers and delivering a product or experience that exceeds their expectations and keeps them coming back for
more. So how do you begin? In this class, we’ll define top-level fiction categories (commercial, upmarket, literary), and
then drill down to dozens of genres and subgenres. Why do these labels exist? Does your book really have to fit into a
neat little box? What about cross-genre novels or those breakout genre-busters that defy all categorization? Next we’ll
examine tropes—familiar character types, settings, situations, and storylines—and talk about how to use them to attract
readers without lapsing into cliché or derivation. Finally, we’ll look at target word counts for each major genre. How long
should your manuscript be, and why does word count matter so much to agents, editors, publishers, librarians, and
booksellers? Whether you’re seeking a traditional publishing deal or planning to publish independently, knowing how to
talk about where your work sits on the vast literary landscape will not only help you find readers, it will help readers find

Session 3: Theme: What It Is and Why You Need It
What is theme, why does your story need it, and how can you go about developing it? Working from a list of more than
100 thematic pairs, we’ll shoot straight to the heart of your characters’ core beliefs and values, and practice mapping
their internal story arcs. Then we’ll learn strategies for plotting, revising, and strengthening scene craft with an eye
toward developing meaningful thematic takeaways.

Bill Downs

William Missouri Downs started as a script secretary on the NBC show Moonlighting (Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd)  and worked his way up to staff writer on the NBC sitcom My Two Dads (Paul Reiser). He also sold episodes of Amen (Sherman Hemsley) and Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air (Will Smith). In addition, he sold a movie to Ron Howard’s Imagine Films  and optioned a TV pilot to Hollywood producer Meryl Poster. William is also a playwright - Orlando Shakespeare, San  Diego Rep, The Kennedy Center, and Berkeley Rep are a few of the over 300 theatres in the US that have produced his  plays. He has had international productions in Spain, Canada, South Africa, Russia, Singapore, Switzerland, UAE, Austria,  Israel, India, and South Korea. He’s won numerous playwriting awards, including rolling premieres from the National  New Play Network and he’s twice been a finalist at the Eugene O’Neill. In addition, he’s published 12 plays and four  books, including The Art Of Theatre (Cengage), Screenplay: Writing the Picture (Silman James), and Naked Playwriting (Silman James). He has two MFAs, one in screenwriting from UCLA and one in acting from the University of Illinois. He’s  directed over forty plays and acted in twenty-five. 

Session 1: Increasing Creativity
Writers aren't always in the mood to write, and flashes of inspiration can be few and far between, so forget the notion
that writing can be done only when inspired by the Muse. This session looks at creativity and the many ways writers can
be inspired to increase their creativity.

Session 2: The Formula of Non-Formulaic Writing
There have been countless books on how to write a formula story (sometimes called a Hollywood structure or a
masculine winner-take-all story), but there are few about nonformula storytelling. This session covers formula
storytelling but also reveals the essential ingredients needed to make a nonformula story; this, perhaps, can make your
writing less predictable, more interesting, and not so Hollywood.

Session 3: Applying Writing Techniques to Real Life
Writers create interesting stories and happy endings, but their personal lives are sometimes messy. Some storytelling
techniques can help make our lives more enjoyable, and some have the potential lead us to damage. Perhaps we write
so that we can escape into the worlds of our characters, but why can't our story and character techniques be applied to
our lives? In this session, we will look at the short story that is daily existence to apply some philosophical ideas from
great thinkers; we can then improve personal character and the story.

Bernadette Soehner

(Also Accepting Pitches for 5 Prince Publishing)

Bestselling author Bernadette Marie began writing in the eighth grade. She sent off her epic family saga at the age of  sixteen, but it was years before she would publish, finding her home in contemporary romance, and at the top of the  charts. 

The married mother of five sons promises romances with a Happily Ever After always…and says she can write it because  she lives it. She also claims that her books are the antidote to anything heavy you might read. 

Obsessed with the art of writing and the business of publishing, chronic entrepreneur Bernadette Marie established her  own publishing house, 5 Prince Publishing, in 2011 to bring her own work to market as well as offer an opportunity for  fresh voices in fiction to find a home as well. To date she has published the works of over sixty authors. 

When not immersed in the literary world, Bernadette Marie can be found spending time with her family, traveling, and  running multiple businesses. An avid martial artist, Bernadette Marie is a second degree black belt and certified  instructor in Tang Soo Do. A lover of a good stout craft beer, she might also have an unhealthy addiction to chocolate.

Session 1: Romancing the Book
Take a deeper look into what elements and tropes are expected in a romance novel. We will discuss heat waves, closed
doors, and romantic elements that will keep your readers turning pages and picking up your books.

Session 2: Story Arc Mapping for the Recovering Pantser
A trip is always better when you have a road map, and a story isn’t much different. In this workshop we will walk
through different visual methods of plotting, from brain dumps to plotting graphs that will help you plan out your next
manuscript. By mapping out your story arc, you’re giving yourself a map to a better story, easily dissected points to
create a blurb, and a tidy list to create a synopsis—not to mention a map to make sure you stay on track while creating
your masterpiece. In this workshop we will learn how to map out a story without giving up that free for all pantser

Session 3: Introduction into Independent Publishing (1-2 hours)
Explore the process of publishing your own books and taking control of your publishing career. This workshop will give
you the basics to create the to-do list that dreams are made of. You will learn about pre-publicity, the tools you'll need,
how to choose an editor, what to consider when formatting, and different publishing models. Come prepared to take in
a lot of information and all of the possibilities that independently publishing offers you.

Nina McConigley

Nina McConigley was born in Singapore and raised in Wyoming. She earned her MA from the University of  Wyoming, and her MFA at the University of Houston. Her short-story collection Cowboys and East Indians was  the winner of the 2014 PEN Open Book Award and a High Plains Book Award. Her work has appeared in The  New York Times, Orion, O, Oprah Magazine, Parents, Virginia Quarterly Review, American Short  Fiction, and The Asian American Literary Reviewamong others. She teaches at Colorado State University and  the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson. In 2019-2020, was the Walter Jackson Bate fellow at the  Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study at Harvard University and is a 2022 recipient of the National  Endowment for the Arts (NEA) Creative Writing Fellowship. 

Session 1: Writing What You Know: Using Autobiography as Fiction
The old adage is to write what you know. Which is great -- but as fiction writers, it's sometimes safer to
fictionalize what you know. In this craft class, we'll talk about how to take real life experience and fictionalize
it. Looking at published texts and with in-class writing we'll discover how to write about what you know -- and
how to use the truth to go into imaginary places.

Session 2: Creating Character
At the center of any story is a character. In this workshop, you will learn how to create believable fictional
characters and construct scenes with emotional depth and range. We will start from scratch in character
development and create characters that our readers will want to know more about and spend time on the
page with.

Session 3: Rejection to Publishing
This workshop will be a bare bones workshop on publishing. How to craft cover letters to magazines, and help
with querying agents.

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The Historic Plains Hotel

Conference attendees can secure a special rate of $118/night, but ONLY by contacting the hotel by telephone at 307-638-3311. The special rate is NOT available for rooms booked online. There is no upfront cost to book and no charge until check in/check out.


This year's conference bookstore will be run by our friends at Writing Heights. Download the consignment form below and bring it and your books to the conference bookstore when you arrive for the conference.

WWI 2023 Consignment Form.pdf

All Consignors, please fill out the Google form linked here so that your books can be entered into inventory ahead of time by the bookstore. Include a copy of the consignment form with your books if you are shipping to the bookstore or hand-delivering them to the conference.

If you are shipping books, send them by May 15th directly to:

Writing Heights Writers Association

ATTN: Wyoming Writers, Inc.

2892 95th St.

Boulder, CO 80301

It is the consignor’s responsibility to retrieve books after or during the conference. The Bookstore and Wyoming Writers Inc. are not responsible for books that remain after the conference.

Conference Features

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Our conference features a number of great benefits for attendees. Read about some of them below!

Faculty Breakout Sessions

These workshops cover a range of topics from of the top minds in the field today. Find full class descriptions in the Faculty section of this page.

Pitch Sessions

Attendees get the opportunity to pitch their work to an agent or publisher accepting pitches for their agency or publishing house. This years pitch opportunities include:

  • Angie Hodapp - Director of Literary Development at Nelson Literary Agency
  • Bernadette Soehner - Owner/Publisher of 5 Prince Publishing

Find some additional advice on preparing for your pitch session here!

The Paddle Panel

This perennially popular session involves a faculty panel who listen to the first pages of anonymously submitted works read aloud. When one of our faculty hears something that would make them stop reading, they hold up their paddle and the panel then gets to discuss what worked and didn't work for them about the piece.

All conference attendees can submit a single, double-spaced, first page of a fiction or non-fiction work to be read at the panel. Paddle Panel submissions are gathered at the registration table.

Critique Tables

Refine your masterpiece with feedback from your peers by attending one of our critique tables. Manuscripts are read aloud before being respectfully critiqued with constructive feedback by the others at the table.

Tables are broken up into the following categories:

  • Fiction
  • Non-Fiction
  • YA/Children's
  • Traditional Poetry
  • Free Verse Poetry

Read our advice on how to prepare for the critique tables, how to behave at the critique tables, and what to expect here!


Download and print your schedule here:

Schedule for Home Printing.pdf

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Friday, June 2nd

7:00am - Registration table opens. Vendor tables open.

8:00am -- 8:45am - Coffee and networking hour.

9:00am -- 10:15am - Plenary welcome session including an address by Mayor Collins of Cheyenne.

10:30am -- Noon - Critique Tables.

Noon -- 1:15pm - Lunch (on your own, but lunching with your fellow attendees is encouraged)

1:00pm -- Bookstore opens.  

1:30pm -- 3:00pm - Breakout sessions.

  • Writing What You Know:  Using Autobiography as Fiction presented by Nina McConigley
  • Increasing Creativity presented by Bill Downs
  • Romancing the Book presented by Bernadette Soehner

3:15pm -- 5:15pm - Critique Tables

5:00pm - Bookstore closes

5:30pm -- 6:45pm - Dinner on your own. Food trucks and entertainment available nearby as part of Friday on the Plaza

7:00pm -- 8:30pm - Open mic

Saturday, June 3rd

8:00am - Registration table opens. Vendor tables open.

8:00am -- 8:45am - Coffee and networking hour

9:00am - Bookstore opens.

9:00am -- 10:15am - General membership meeting including board elections for the 2023-2024 year.

10:30am -- 11:45am - Breakout sessions.

  • Creating Character presented by Nina McConigley
  • Genres, Tropes, and Word Counts: Knowing What You Write, Who It’s For, and How to Deliver the Goods presented by Angie Hodapp
  • Story Arc Mapping for the Recovering Pantser presented by Bernadette Soehner

Noon -- 1:15pm - Lunch and Awards

1:30pm -- 3:00pm - Breakout sessions.

  • Applying Writing Techniques to Real Life presented by Bill Downs
  • What It Is and Why You Need It presented by Angie Hodapp
  • Improve Your Metaphors and Similes presented by Matt Mason

3:15pm -- 5:15pm - Breakout sessions.

  • How to Approach Poetry When We Teach it and Talk About it presented by Matt Mason
  • Comma, Semicolon, Hyphen, Dash:  One Hour to Better Mechanics presented by Angie Hodapp
  • Rejection to Publishing presented by Nina McConigley

6:00pm -- 7:15pm - Banquet and Keynote Address by Matt Mason.

6:30pm - Bookstore closes.

Sunday, June 4th

8:00am -- 8:45am - Coffee and Networking hour.

8:30am - Bookstore opens.

9:00am - 10:30am - Breakout sessions.

  • Putting Humor in the Poem presented by Matt Mason
  • The Formula of Non-Formulaic Writing presented by Bill Downs
  • Introduction to Independent Publishing presented by Bernadette Soehner

10:30am - Bookstore closes.

10:45am -- 12:30pm - Paddle Panel

Download and print your schedule here:

Register Now

2023 Scholarship Application

The application period for this year's scholarship is now closed.

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