Sessions  &  Speakers
2017 Program
About Us        



February 22, 2014
Chesapeake College
Wye Mills, MD
The 2014 Sessions and Speakers have not been completed, therefore we have presented the Session titles and speakers for the 2013 BTO Conference, to illustrate the wealth of writers topics covered, which are listed below, organized by general topics: writing craft, poetry, genres, publishing/marketing, and Internet uses. Several speakers are holding two sessions. For a printable schedule of times and rooms for all BTO sessions, click the link on the right:

Shortcuts to More Efficient and Effective Writing; How to Avoid Making Writing More Difficult Than It Already Is.

Many new writers plunge into book-length projects before learning all the skills they’ll need in order to produce publishable works. An experienced editor and teacher shows you how to avoid the most common wrong turns and how to be more efficient and effective. A practical summary of what every writer should be conscious of at every moment of the writing process.  
Barbara Esstman  Internationally published and nationally awarded author Barbara Esstman is the coeditor of A More Perfect Union: Stories and Poems about the Modern Wedding (St. Martin’s Press). Her novels, The Other Anna and Night Ride Home, were both published by Harcourt Brace, Harper Perennial and numerous foreign presses, and they were both adapted for film by Hallmark Productions. Among other distinctions, her short stories have been recognized by the Pushcart Prizes and the REDBOOK Fiction Award. She teaches creative writing and creative nonfiction at universities and The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD. 

Marketing Yourself and Building Your Platform

Now that you have a product, you need to get it into the hands of eager readers. In this session you will learn tips and ideas on how to make that happen, whether your book is hard copy or electronic. There's a lot you can do to get reader's attention both in person and online. This session will help you choose those methods that are most comfortable for you.
A mystery novelist, Austin Camacho is a popular speaker and instructor on the craft of writing at Anne Arundel Community College. The author of five detective and two action adventure novels, he is a past president of the Maryland Writer's Association. He blogs at 
You’re done with the final draft of your book, after refining the text and getting feedback from readers and your writers’ group. It’s showtime, folks! Melanie Rigney, who has sold three books on proposal, will explain the various elements—query letter, synopsis, chapter outline, comparative analysis, reader demographic, and marketing plan—you’ll need to have at the ready and will answer that eternal question: Why do no two agents or publishing house editors have the same requirements for a proposal?​
Creativity 101: Remembering Why You’re a Writer 

Tired of hearing about “platform development?” Weary of contemplating all social media work that lies ahead? Overwhelmed about the business challenges of publishing? Come to this session to remember why you became a writer in the first place. We’ll exercise our creative muscles and have some fun!

Melanie Rigney is the owner of Editor for You (, a publishing consultancy.  She has nearly thirty years' experience as an editor and writer, five as editor of Writers Digest.  In the past three years, Editor for You, has provided content and copy editing and  manuscript evaluation services to more than 100 publishers, literary agents, and authors. Rigney writes inspirational nonfiction and fiction.

Whether you write like a hare, amassing material without stopping, or like a tortoise, carving perfect sentences before moving on, you will have adjustments to make after your first draft. My process of revising (I’m more of a hare) starts with serious cutting: useless scenes, weak characters, and frivolous sub-plots have to go in order to reveal the “real” story. Once the underbrush is cleared, I see what I have to add to turn it into riveting narrative: I play with scenes to make them do more, write new ones, and re-order others to bring in important material earlier and ratchet up the tension. Throughout, I hone for precision, tone, and energy. No short-cuts, but an array of solutions to share. 

      MELANIE RIGNEY   --    Lights! Camera! Your Book Proposal!
You’ve completed your book, short story, article or essay, and you’re anxious to send it out ASAP. Please wait! No matter how “done” you think your writing is, most probably you’ve only reached the first major plateau. No sense being rejected on the grounds of premature submission. Learn what interim steps will greatly increase your chances for successful publication in ten user-friendly steps.

Is It a Short Story or Novel?   --  LYNN SCHWARTZ 

The short story is not just the novel’s poor relation, nor a chapter lifted from your longer writings. The short story form is pure and magical, standing on its own with power and economy. Let’s explore what constitutes a compelling short story. Why is it different from the novel? How are characters depicted? Most of all, does the short story structure serve your narrative needs?

Life Stories

Whether you want to write a memoir, blog, college essay, letter to your granddaughter, or use your own life as the basis for fiction, life story writing requires that we tell where we come from and who we are. Learn to identify your story's essence and to engage the reader through fictional techniques. Participants will leave inspired to begin or improve a work in progress

​                               Poetry

LAURA OLIVER    --  The Trajectory of Story: How to Begin With a Subject That Creates Its Own Plot

Do you begin stories that fizzle out? In this workshop you will learn how to identify subjects with unstoppable momentum; those that are rich in plot potential whether you write memoir or fiction. We will explore techniques for going deeper into personal experience, memory and imagination in order to select subjects inherent with conflict and mystery. Learn where to look for stories that will reveal an insight, a surprise. Acquire the ability to discern between what happened and why it matters.

Laura Oliver, M.F.A., is the author of The Story Within: New Insights and Inspiration for Writers (Alpha /Penguin Books 2011,) named by "The Writer Magazine" as one of the best writing books of the year, and additionally selected by "Poets and Writers Magazine" as one of the best writing books published, new and classic alike. In addition, Oliver is an award-winning writer and creative writing workshop instructor at St. John's College and The Writer's Center. Oliver has also taught both fiction and essay writing at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. Oliver's fiction and essays are published in national newspapers, magazines and top-tier literary reviews.
Poetry as Autobiography  –  SUE ELLEN THOMPSON

The primary challenge for poets who write about their own lives is making their readers care. This session will focus on the difference between a poem that merely tells a story or reveals something about the writer's life and one that opens up to include the reader. We will also talk about whether or not it's okay to tell lies in an autobiographical poem and discuss the wisdom of holding information or emotion in reserve. The session will be aimed at poets who are drawn to autobiographical subject matter but are concerned about whether their poems will have an impact on readers who know nothing about the writer's life.

Sue Ellen Thompson’s fourth volume of poetry, The Golden Hour, appeared in June 2006 and was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, her second nomination. She recently edited The Autumn House Anthology of Contemporary American Poetry. Ms. Thompson teaches at The Writer's Center in Bethesda and at the University of Delaware. She was the winner of the 2010 Maryland Author Award.

TEMPLE CONE  --   Learning from Haiku 

Though grammar school exercises have imprinted the 5-7-5 syllable format in our minds, the haiku is actually a wonderfully varied and flexible form for contemporary poets (Paul Muldoon and Billy Collins, among others, having written long haiku sequences). In this workshop, we will look at ways to translate the formal expectations and aesthetics of haiku into your own free verse. Readings will include classic and contemporary haiku, classic writings on the art of haiku, and contemporary free verse that draws on haiku conventions. Time will be made for the composition of short, haiku-based poems.

Temple Cone is the author of three books of poetry: That Singing, from March Street Press (2011); The Broken Meadow, which received the 2010 Old Seventy Creek Poetry Press Series Prize; and No Loneliness, which received the 2009 FutureCycle Press Poetry Book Prize. He has published six poetry chapbooks, as well as critical reference works on Walt Whitman, Cormac McCarthy, and 20th-century American poetry. Awards for his work include two Maryland State Arts Council (MSAC) Individual Artist Awards in Poetry and the Christian Publishers Poetry Prize. An associate professor of English at the U.S. Naval Academy, he lives in Annapolis, Maryland. 


Anne Sexton started writing poetry because her psychiatrist suggested it as part of her therapy for depression. But can writing—or reading—poetry actually help heal the mind? The speakers on this panel will present a variety of views on the role of poetry in healing, using their own and other poets’ work as examples.

Amanda Newell
Barrett Warner
Meredith Hadaway
Amanda Newell recently won the 2010 Dogfish Head Poetry Prize for a chapbook-length poetry collection. Her work has appeared in Bellevue Literary Review, Tar River Poetry, Poet Lore, The Delmarva Review, The Summerset Review, and The Little Patuxent Review. She was the the 2011 Donald Everett Axinn Contributor at the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. Amanda teaches at Gunston Day School in Centreville, Maryland.

Barrett Warner manages his family's An Otherwise Perfect Farm in Maryland's Gunpowder watershed. His poetry has appeared in Gargoyle, California Quarterly, Southeast Review, Slipstream and Comstock Review and his chapbook, Til I'm Blue in the Face, was published by Tropos Press. He is also an avid book reviewer, writing for Rattle, Loch Raven Review, JMWW, Cerise Press and Chattahoochee Review.

Meredith Davies Hadaway is the author of two poetry collections,The River is a Reason (2011) and Fishing Secrets of the Dead (2005). In addition to publishing poems and reviews in various literary journals, she serves as poetry editor for The Summerset Review and as chief marketing officer for Washington College. 

Publishing & Marketing
Finding and Working with an Agent  -- SHANNON O'NEILL

Shannon O’Neill starts at the beginning of the process of looking for an agent: How do you even know if you need one? This session will cover the ins and outs of finding and working with agent and review the basics of what makes a good query letter. Also up for discussion will be the author platform and how to be your own best advocate through the publishing and publicity process.

Shannon O'Neill is the editorial director of Sagalyn Literary Agency in Washington DC ( She has taught writing at American University, Montgomery College, and The Writer's Center and was a longtime bookseller at Politics and Prose bookstore. She has a Masters of Arts in Writing from Johns Hopkins University and graduated with honors from Dartmouth College.

Seven Things You Need to Know Before You Sign on the Dotted Line  ---   CYNTHIA BLAKE SANDERS 

Cynthia Blake Sanders wants you to be protected. Before you sign that book deal, learn how copyright law protects writers and which publishing provisions favor writers and which favor publishers. Sanders has worked for both publishers and writers and helps writers understand their rights under copyright and publishing laws.

Cynthia Blake Sanders is an attorney with the law firm of Ober/Kaler, advising media and advertising clients regarding intellectual property protection, licensing, and business issues. Advising clients in media and advertising, Cynthia seeks to find ballast for her clients as the media industry teeters between convergence and obsolescence. Because the law is rapidly changing as media evolves, Cynthia frequently speaks to groups on topics of copyright, fair use and commercial speech.

Inside a Story: Writing for Kids – MARGARET MEACHAM

From picture books to young adult novels, learn about writing for kids of all ages. We will look at getting story ideas, capturing your audience, finding a voice that works for kids, creating stories with action and conflict that will keep kids reading. We will finish with strategies for publishing your work in today’s markets.

Margaret Meacham is the award-winning author of fourteen novels for children and young adults. She has two new titles coming out this fall: The Ghosts of Laurelford, a historical mystery for young adults, and The Survival of Sarah Landing, her first novel for “grown-ups”. Meacham teaches writing and children’s literature at Goucher College and Gotham Writer’s Workshops in New York City. She holds degrees from Trinity College and University of MD.

So You Want to Write a Thriller? -- ROBERT BIDINOTTO

Thrillers are among the most popular of genre categories. But what, exactly, makes a book “a thriller”? What are its essential elements? Is there a formula to building a suspenseful “page-turner”? How can you craft characters compelling enough to carry an ongoing thriller series?  Robert Bidinotto’s debut thriller, HUNTER, soared to become the #1 Kindle bestseller in “Mysteries and Thrillers.” Drawing from his own novel and those of others, he offers advice on how to transform a mundane story into a non-stop thrill ride, and how to elevate ordinary characters into iconic heroes.

Stranger Than Fiction: Researching and Writing a Non-fiction Book or Fiction Based on Real Life People and Events – 

What’s involved in writing a non-fiction book? How is it different from fiction and what are some of the things to look out for? For anyone who wants to write non-fiction, as well as those who haven’t touched non-fiction since their last high school book report, John Reisinger will help make it all clear. He will cover the ins and outs of this demanding, but rewarding brand of writing, including selecting a topic, researching, organizing, and selling it. Plus, you will learn: Five things you MUST do, five things you MUST NOT do, and the one most important predictor of success. If you've ever wanted to write non-fiction, this is for you.

John Reisinger is the author of several books based on real events. Master Detective is the story of Ellis Parker, his career as a detective, and his controversial involvement in the investigation of the infamous Lindbergh kidnapping of 1932. Master Detective has been published in both hardback and paperback, and has also been published in Chinese editions in both Taiwan and Mainland China. Timeframe Films, producers of films for both Nova and the History Channel is currently planning a feature film length version of the book. John is also the author of the Max Hurlock Roaring 20s Mysteries, which are based on real life crimes. More:
 The Internet for Writers
Harnessing the Power of Social Media -- MINDIE BURGOYNE

Explore the big five social media services -- Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, YouTube and Blogs -- and learn how to leverage the social platform that's right for you. This session explains how to tap into the tremendous networking and marketing power behind the major social media platforms and how to get a return on your investment of time from each one.

Mindie Burgoyne, former publisher of Trinity Music and The Pastoral Press, has written three books---all focused on Maryland. Her articles and music compositions have been featured in numerous magazines and on the Today Show. She served as an advisor to National Geographic Television Network and has been a featured guest on National Public Radio affiliates. Her website is:

LESLIE WALKER  --  How to Develop a Popular Blog 

Learn how to set up a free blog and/or website, add your own text and photos, post new content, and “brand” your blog in ways that will attract the kind of audience you really want. This session will also include advanced tips and strategies for writers who are already blogging and want to take their blog to the next level.

Leslie Walker is the Knight Visiting Professor in Digital Innovation at the University of Maryland's Philip Merrill College of Journalism. She previously spent 16 years as a reporter, columnist, and editor for The Washington Post. She is the author of a nonfiction book, Sudden Fury, which was made into a television movie.
Marketing in the Digital Age   --   ANGELA RENDER 
This session offers advice to authors on how to market books online and offline. Angela introduces all the major marketing platforms, from direct mail to websites, blogs, social networks, online communities and various forms of advertising. You'll learn how to create a marketing campaign customized to your needs, including the basics of building a mailing list and using electronic newsletters.

Angela Render is a professional web developer and Internet marketer who writes nonfiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, and cross-genre romantica. Her work has appeared in Smithsonian Magazine Online and Writers' Journal. The second edition of her workbook, Marketing for Writers will be available in January 2012. She also teaches classes on Internet marketing for writers, The Writers' Center, Bethesda. Learn more at or

Pinterest and Writing: Strange Bedfellows? -- MARY MCCARTHY 

Although Pinterest is the most visual of the social media, it can be a powerful tool in promoting your writing and meeting other writers. Find out how as Editor and blogger extraordinaire Mary McCarthy explores the concept of "pinning" your writing online.

Mary McCarthy is the owner of, which is ranked the #1 Humor Blog. She has nearly two decades’ experience in professional writing publications. She’s also written for many websites, including, and appeared on Juju Chang’s Moms Get Real and NBC’s Today Show.

OTHER: Editing, Pitching, Essays, Non-Fiction
Editorial Expectations - Yours and Theirs -- JUDY REVEAL

When you begin the search for someone to edit your work, what do you expect from that editor…and what should he or she expect from you? Judy Reveal will discuss both sides of the editorial pool; provide you with information on rates, contracts, and submissions. She will show examples of editing work to start your creative juices flowing and make you question yourself on your approach to finding an editor.

Judy Reveal lives in Maryland. She is the author of Around Greensboro and the Lindsey Gale Mystery series including Cheating Death, The Music Room, and A House to Kill For. She is a freelance editor and a book indexer, as well as book reviewer for the New York Journal of Books. Judy is past president of the Eastern Shore Writers Association, Maryland Writers' Association, and a member in good standing of the Editorial Freelancers Association and the American Society for Indexing. In her free time she is a Greensboro Planning and Zoning Commissioner, member of the Greensboro Business and Civic Association; she fosters basset hounds for the Maryland Basset Hound Rescue League, and tutors students at Delaware Technical Community College.

TERRY PLOWMAN --  Writing Non-fiction Articles 

This session will focus on how to generate nonfiction story ideas, and how to craft a “magazine-style” article from those ideas. It will also suggest how to identify editorial needs and interests of regional magazines, and how to pitch those ideas to editors. We will discuss critical tips to capture the editor’s attention and talk about what makes good nonfiction writing that elevates your submission to a level that will generate repeat assignments.

Terry Plowman is Publisher and Editor of Delaware Beach Life.

Regional Magazine Editors Panel   --  TERRY PLOWMAN moderates, with JOHN    LEWIS and HOLLY SMITH

Publishers from Delmarva regional magazines will reveal what they are looking for from freelance writers. They will focus on what types of stories interest their readers. This panel will also provide the details of their magazines’ submission guidelines, compensation potential, and the best way to develop a working relationship with a magazine editor.  

Holly Smith,  is managing editor of Maryland Life magazine and a longtime freelance writer. Her work has appeared in Salon, The Washington Post, More Mirth of a Nation, Brain, Child, and other publications.
John Lewis, arts and culture editor/columnist and arts blogger at Baltimore Magazine, is an award-winning writer of magazine profiles and arts criticism. 

The Art of the Pitch: How to Pitch to Publishers, Producers, and Agents     --     KHRIS BAXTER

"A good idea badly presented sounds like a bad idea." - Stephen J. Cannell

Your pages may convey artistry, but publishers, producers, and agents expect a compelling pitch before deciding to read your manuscript or screenplay. Presentation skills are an essential yet poorly promoted aspect of the writer's craft. Pitch sessions are opportunities to sell the uniqueness and marketability of your story. This workshop will introduce you to essential persuasion techniques, and broaden your perspective on what decision makers look for in a compelling pitch. All levels and genres. 

Khris Baxter is a screenwriter, producer, and script consultant. He teaches screenwriting at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, MD, and at the low-residency MFA at Queens University in Charlotte, NC. He's a member of the Virginia Film Office where he is a judge for the annual Virginia Screenwriting Competition. Khris is also the founder of Boundary Stone Films, a film and television development company based in Washington, D.C. He lives in Georgetown.
GEORGE MERRILL  --   What Did I, Like, Do on My Summer Vacation: Finding New Energy in an Old Genre: The Personal Essay

Was your high school essay boring? Mine was. Why? It was an assignment and then we had little self-reflective ability. Now that we’ve lived life some and we want to tell someone about that summer, or maybe about a very long winter, perhaps a new love, and the pain of old losses, how do we best do it? In this presentation and discussion, we will examine the heart of the personal essay: the art of capturing someone else’s mind by first exploring our own
George R. Merrill, an Episcopal priest and essayist, is coauthor of Reflections: Psychological and Spiritual Images of the Heart. He has published essays in the Chesapeake Bay Magazine, The Delmarva Quarterly, Tidewater Times, The Delmarva Review, Journeys and in local newspapers. In 2009, Merrill placed first in nonfiction for his essay “The World Is My Oyster” in the Delmarva Beach Writing Contest sponsored by The Rehoboth Beach Writers and Delaware Beach Life. A published photographer, his fine art photographs have been exhibited in Annapolis, Baltimore, New York, and Easton. Contact: Online:

Kate Blackwell is the author of a story collection You Won’t Remember This (SMU Press, 2007). Her published work includes short stories, travel articles, and book reviews. For the past ten years she has lived part-time in Neavitt, MD and is working on a book of linked stories set in Delmarva. Kate has been a popular speaker on fiction craft. Her work has appeared in The Delmarva Review.
BARBARA ESSTMAN -- Ten Things To Do between Finishing a Draft and Getting It Published

In the new world of ebook publishing, writers now find their works competing with millions of titles. How can an author make his own books stand out amid the chaos and find their audience? Robert Bidinotto, whose debut thriller HUNTER became a national ebook bestseller, provides proven principles on how to propel your ebook to the top of its rankings on Amazon and other online retail sites. His tips include how to identify your target audience, carve out a distinctive niche, make your book “discoverable,” and use Amazon’s powerful marketing tools to maximize sales.

  Craft of Writing 
 How the Plot Thickens  --   AUSTIN CAMACHO 

Learn how to build your story in a way that will hook your readers, keep them interested in the action, and give them a satisfying finish. The basics of a good plot apply to every genre of fiction. Camacho shows how to use those basics to create a story arc that shows expert pacing. 
Robert Bidinotto is an award-winning journalist, editor, author, and speaker. His debut novel, HUNTER: A Thriller, became a Wall Street Journal “Top 10 Fiction Ebook” bestseller during the week of December 4, 2011.(See above for additional bio.) 
The Ten Most Important Ways to Market Your E-book  --  ROBERT BIDINOTTO
Robert Bidinotto is an award-winning journalist, editor, author, and speaker. His debut novel, HUNTER: A Thriller, became a Wall Street Journal “Top 10 Fiction Ebook” bestseller during the week of December 4, 2011. It simultaneously hit # 4 among all products and titles (fiction and nonfiction) on the Kindle Bestseller List, after being selected as the #1 Kindle “Editors’ Pick” for the week. More than 50,000 copies of the book sold in 35 days.  For eight years, he specialized in true-crime investigations as a staff writer for Reader's Digest. Subsequently, he served as editor of several national publications. Bidinotto is the author of two nonfiction books on crime: Criminal Justice? The Legal System vs. Individual Responsibility (with a Foreword by John Walsh of the "America’s Most Wanted" television show), and Freed to Kill, a compilation of horror stories arising from failures in the criminal justice system.
KATE BLACKWELL   --  Revision in Fiction: A Walk Through the Process 

Escaping the Chronological Imperative, or Breaking Up Narrative Time

So you don’t want to tell your novel in straight chronological order; you know intuitively it won’t work and, anyway, you don’t want to—it’s boring. Nonlinear narratives unfold basically in two ways: in scene segments that re-order time, repeat time, or skip time, or through a narrative voice that moves backward and forward in time according to memory and motivation. We’ll look at how scene fragments, or mini-scenes, can race swiftly over years, cutting in and out of moments the way films often do, while one fully dramatized scene can stop time entirely in moments of intense feeling. We'll also discuss "negative space" -- and more…. 

E(volution) of the Book: Publishing Options in the 21st Century -- GREGG WILHELM 

Felt caught between a Nook and a Kindle place? E-books not quite the apple of your eye? Confused about the publishing landscape? Learn about your publishing options (print and digital) in a world where technology is impacting the way the written word is produced, disseminated, marketed, and read.

Gregg Wilhelm is Executive Director of CityLit Project, which he founded in Baltimore in 2004. He has been an editor, designer, production manager, and marketer with various publishers. Gregg serves as publisher of CityLit Press and teaches in the School of Communications Design at the University of Baltimore.

Lynn Schwartz’s plays have been performed in Atlanta and New York City including Lincoln Center. Her stories have appeared in literary journals, and she has written numerous lifestyle features. She founded the Temple Bar Literary Reading Series in New York City and received an Individual Artist Award in Fiction from the Maryland State Arts Council. She teaches fiction and life stories at St. John’s College and The Writer’s Center. Contact her at
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