TABC 2020 Keynote Speakers



Morning Keynote Address

Marissa Meyer

Afternoon Q & A

Brandon Sanderson

Evening Keynote Address

2020 Drill Sergeants

Aminah Mae Safi Photo by Two Cats Commun



The rom-com is dead; long live the rom-com! The rom-com has died and been revived a thousand times. And every time it emerges like a phoenix from its own ashes, the romantic game gets a little bit different. This class will examine the recent resurgence in rom-coms. How are they different from what has come before? What are the new rules of the genre? What is it about rom-coms that people love to hate? Who gets to be in a rom-com and get their own happily ever after? This course will provide a framework for understanding both the enduring power of the rom-com and how the rom-com has been used as a larger vehicle for broader social change. The focus will largely be on YA, but there will be lessons that are applicable to all romantic plot lines, broadly. The course will use a combination of lecture, discussion, and analysis of both writing and film in order to break down key features of the rom-com, both old and new.

Aminah Mae Safi is a Muslim-American writer who explores art, fiction, feminism, and film. She's the winner of the We Need Diverse Books short story contest. She lives in Los Angeles, California, with her partner and two cats. She is the author of NOT THE GIRLS YOU'RE LOOKING FOR (Feiwel and Friends), TELL ME HOW YOU REALLY FEEL (Feiwel and Friends), and the forthcoming THIS IS ALL YOUR FAULT (Feiwel and Friends, October 2020) and the Reclaimed Classics ROBIN HOOD (Winter 2022).

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For so long, stories about queer teen characters were mired in tragedy: bullying, ostracism, and death often prevailed. Happy queer young adult stories are finally getting their chance to break out into the mainstream. This workshop will help you get started in generating ideas, and begin writing your own happily-ever-after young adult novel. Participants will walk away with the seeds of a new young adult novel, or a refined outline/updated beginnings of a first draft of a previous idea. Participants will gain a fuller idea of typical tropes in storytelling, and how they can use the power of their own identities to fuel, flip, and subvert these. Participants will get a chance to share ideas with others, to receive encouragement on new ideas. Participants will leave with the inspiration and ideas necessary to get through a first draft. This workshop is designed to imbue novel-writing and storytelling with fun and lightheartedness.

Amy Spalding is the author of several novels for teens, including the bestselling We Used to Be Friends and The Summer of Jordi Perez (and the Best Burger in Los Angeles), which was named a best book of 2018 by NPR, the Boston Globe, Kirkus, Autostraddle, and more. She lives in Los Angeles.





Working with an agent and/or editor sounds scary! What if they steal your story? Fear not! An agent and one of her author clients are here to answer your questions and explain how agents, editors, and authors all work together to make your book its best self!

Amy began her career in New York with esteemed literary agency Janklow & Nesbit Associates, where she launched Shannon Hale’s career. She currently represents New York Times bestselling author Jessica Day George and a select crop of new authors. Amy loves children’s literature, and is actively seeking Middle Grade and Young Adult projects

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Everyone loves a good fairy tale retelling! So long as it isn't . . . you know, exactly the same story over and over again. Luckily, using a fairy tale as framework is a great way for newer writers to get started. You already generally know where the story is supposed to start, what the exciting bits will be, and how it ends. We'll be chatting about how to make use of that framework to brainstorm a completely new story that doesn't feel like it's been told a million times.

Caitlin Sangster is the author of Last Star Burning, Shatter the Suns, and Dead Moon Rising, but, contrary to what you may think, is not obsessed with celestial bodies. She's the founder and co-host of Lit Service Podcast.

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DESCRIPTION:Finding the Balance Between Too Much and Not Enough

This class will help you learn how to find the balance in making your characters and setting feel alive with vivid descriptions...without overloading your drafts with unimportant details.

Cindy L. Otis is a former CIA Analyst and the author of the YA non-fiction book True or False: A CIA Analyst's Guide to Spotting Fake News, which was released earlier this year. She’s an expert in disinformation and, when not hunting baddies, is a frequent media commentator and writer on issues surrounding national security.




Romance. WE ALL SECRETLY LIKE IT even if talking about it makes us feel awkward. But did you know romance is the number-one selling fiction genre? Want to learn why? Come to this class to learn about the psychology of romance, why it makes us turn the pages, and how it can give a boost to any story, in any genre.

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, which includes The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician, and The Master Magician, 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.




(That sets you apart from the others)


You've heard the advice: Structure your story after Save the Cat! Beware the Macguffin! Decide whether your story is hard or soft fantasy/sci-fi and STICK TO IT! I'm going to show you how to plunge even deeper by showing you what all popular fantasy books have in common and how you can use it to your advantage. The answer is so obvious you'll kick yourself for not recognizing it before . . . Kick yourself right into a book contract, that is.

Christian McKay Heidicker reads, writes, and drinks tea. Between his demon-hunting cat and his fiddling, red-headed fiancée, he feels completely protected from evil spirits. Christian is the author of the Newbery Honor-winning Scary Stories for Young Foxes and the mind-bending Thieves of Weirdwood. He lives in Salt Lake City, Utah.

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Whether you’re a beginner or an expert writer world building is tough. Or maybe It’s a lot easier than you think once you find out how…whether you want to add a little flair to your world, create a unique magic system, unusual races like underwater ewoks, giant god like chickens named “Steve” or you just want to add a fully fleshed out language with original stories and texts. By the end of this World Building Workshop, you and your fellow writers will have created a believable and compelling world that your readers will want to get lost in again and again.

Daniel Swenson writes about dragons, guns, swords, magic and other evil and snarly mystical creatures. He is the Amazon best-selling author of THE SHADOW ABOVE THE FLAMES (2017), writer of fantastical short stories that have been published in various anthologies, and creator and host of the Hugo-nominated podcast Dungeon Crawlers Radio. A DRAGON'S FATE (2019), the highly anticipated sequel to his action-packed debut novel is available now. You can also find Daniel interviewing best-selling and up-and-coming authors alike on, where he's been covering all things geek for nearly ten years.




Grab your readers’ emotions and don’t let go

We all have those books that remain close to our hearts because they made us laugh, they made us cry, or they made us fall in love. They pulled us in emotionally and carried us along for a ride that made us feel something unforgettable. In this class, we’ll learn techniques for creating emotionally layered characters, plots, and themes to make your writing come to life for your readers. We’ll grab them by their hearts and never let go—and maybe make them laugh a little along the way.

Emma Nelson’s writing has most recently been published in The Routledge Companion to Media and Fairy-Tale Cultures. She has taught writing classes at BYU where she received an MA in Literature, is the founder of Owl Hollow Press, and has edited many books and anthologies, including the annual teen anthologies in partnership with Teen Author Boot Camp. Her fiction is represented by Donaghy Literary Group.



You know how to handle it when the story is flowing well, or when it needs a tweak here or there. You can handle edit letters, beta reader feedback, and critique groups. But what do you do, when the thing is just broken, and you can’t see any way to make it work? Do you restart from scratch? Salvage what you can and blow the rest up? Chalk it up to beginner’s bad luck and move on? Invite your writer friends to a book bonfire and torch the cursed thing page by page? Join J. Scott Savage for strategies of handling reprobate stories that are ruining your sanity.

Author J. Scott Savage is the author of 18 published novels. He has been a teacher and presenter at writing conferences for adults and youth, and has developed Common Core-aligned projects for elementary school writing curricula. He has presented at more than 1500 schools across the country, inspiring students to read, write, embrace their own creativity, and change the world. He is represented by Michael Bourret of Dystal, Goderich, and Bourret.




A full-time writer must produce hundreds of thousands of words crafted to make a reader keep turning the pages. A brilliant researcher named Czikszentmihalyi figured out the optimal conditions that make this creative state possible and repeatable. Join me as we explore what a “FLOW” state is and how you can learn to get there faster and reliably, even when it’s crunch time. You’ll learn some new tips on how to eliminate distractions, tame your monkey mind, how to harness boredom, and why making your bed might be a secret ingredient to your success.

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Jeff Wheeler took an early retirement from his career at Intel in 2014 to write full-time. He is a husband, father of five, and a devout member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Jeff lives in the Rocky Mountains.




In this class, I’ll show you a few tricks that will make your dialogue feel organic and move with life and energy. I’ll help you avoid common dialogue pitfalls.

Jeff Zentner is the author of The Serpent King, Goodbye Days, and Rayne & Delilah’s Midnite Matinee. He has won the William C. Morris Award, the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award, the International Literacy Association Award, and the Westchester Fiction Award. He was selected as a Publishers Weekly Flying Start and an Indies Introduce pick. His books have been translated into fifteen languages.





You have a great idea for a story, write out a few chapters, and then realize you have no idea how to bridge your beginning to your ending... Sound familiar? Even the most eloquent, clever writers will never be able to communicate a novel/screenplay if they don't have a basic understanding of story structure.

In this class, Jennifer Jenkins will teach you the major components of building a story, how to master the elusive second act, and give you her best plotting tips and tricks. Rev up your engines and prepare for a drive that will forever change the way your approach plotting.

With her degree in History and Secondary Education, Jennifer Jenkins had every intention of teaching teens to love George Washington, the Napoleonic Wars, and Ancient Sparta ... until the writing began. She is the author of the Nameless trilogy (2015-2017), To Kill a Curse (2019), and Teen Writer's Guide: Your Road Map to Writing (March, 2020). She is also a co-founder of Teen Author Boot Camp. She divides her free time between teaching creative writing classes at Utah Valley University, reading, taking spontaneous trips, researching random events from the past, and fostering her adrenaline junkie addictions.





One of the most important jobs of an author is to convince the reader to fall in love with their


This class is PACKED with helpful tips on how to help your reader create an EMOTIONAL CONNECTION with the character. Jennifer has some hilarious, hands-on experiments to help test her theories, so you don't want to miss this one.

With her degree in History and Secondary Education, Jennifer Jenkins had every intention of teaching teens to love George Washington, the Napoleonic Wars, and Ancient Sparta ... until the writing began. She is the author of the Nameless trilogy (2015-2017), To Kill a Curse (2019), and Teen Writer's Guide: Your Road Map to Writing (March, 2020). She is also a co-founder of Teen Author Boot Camp. She divides her free time between teaching creative writing classes at Utah Valley University, reading, taking spontaneous trips, researching random events from the past, and fostering her adrenaline junkie addictions.




What to do with a Dozen Beginnings

and No Endings

No, it's not just you. A lot of people start stories, then abandon them midway for another bright, shiny new idea. If you're ready to finish the stories you began, this class is for you.


Jennifer Nielsen is a New York Times Bestselling author of several books for young readers. She's currently seeking a great show to binge watch, preferably something that can be binged while eating dark chocolate.





Working with an agent and/or editor sounds scary! What if they steal your story? Fear not! An agent and one of her author clients are here to answer your questions and explain how agents, editors, and authors all work together to make your book its best self!

Jessica Day George earned a BA in Humanities/Comparative Literature from Brigham Young University, where she enjoyed classes in Pottery and Old Norse, and dutifully forced herself to take Algebra and Biology. Originally from Idaho, she now resides in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband and three young children.




WORKSHOP : Writing Prompt Battle!


Get ready to write! Join in with a fun variety of writing prompts and games to get you unstuck in your writing! Prepare to go head to head, rap-battle style with other teen writers or just get feedback from the group. There will be prizes and opportunities to share your work.

bio coming soon...

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Raise your work to literary levels by consciously incorporating themes. Learn how to identify what you’re trying to say and actively nurture the subtler but greater questions you’re addressing. Enhance your writing with symbols as signposts, layers of grays and depths of meaning. Give the literary critics something to enjoy, Class will study the therapeutic qualities of writing and ask the author to consciously incorporate ideas of theme into their work, exploring the human condition through parallel plots, symbols, conflict, and alternative points of view to address lingering questions and personal issues. From the lighthouse of intent, to hard questions, symbols, subplots and echoes, the class will encourage the writer to plumb the depths of meaning, bleed a little and create multiple strands of meaning in their work.

JOHNNY WORTHEN is an award-winning, best-selling author, voyager, and damn fine human being! He is the tie-dye wearing writer of the nationally acclaimed, #1 Kindle best-selling ELEANOR, THE UNSEEN. Among his other excellent and very read-worthy titles are the adult occult thrillers WHAT IMMORTAL HAND and BEATRYSEL, the award-winning mystery THE BRAND DEMAND, and the genre bending comedy-noir THE FINGER TRAP, winner of the Diamond Quill for best book of the year. THE FINGER TRAP introduces Tony Flaner, the lovable slacking sarcastic detective whose adventures continue in THICKER THAN WATER and IN THE WAKE OF CAPTAIN LORD.

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 Raising the Stakes

No matter what kind of story you’re writing, high stakes are essential to keep the tension rising and your readers turning pages. Not achieving the main goal should feel like a literal or figurative death to your character. Join me as I help you explore different ways to create the most effective universal and personal stakes for your story, and then learn tactics to ensure your character tests those boundaries and risks “death” in order to succeed.

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. She loves composing guitar songs for her characters and devouring Peanut Butter M&Ms.




Ever wondered how to write a short story that stands out and wins contests? That’s what this class is all about. With input from several other of my friends who have also been published in the TABC anthologies, I hope to walk you through what we’ve done and inspire you to write contest winning stories of your own!

Kelly Lundgren is an author who first got published because of TABC’s anthology with Owl Hollow Press. She’s working on an original novel right now that she hopes to publish soon, is still trying to figure out how to Adult, and she is hoping to inspire and help other young writers to write better stories and never give up.




 Published teen author reveals how to reach the finish line before the race begins

We'll walk through the struggles authors face as teens, like how to stay social while having such an anti-social hobby, how to make our writing about things we haven't experienced yet feel genuine, how to stay motivated and focused on one story, how to balance writing and your life, and how to be proud instead of embarrassed of showing our peers our work. We'll discuss how to get published as a teen, and if it's smart or if you should wait.

Kyra Johnson is 17 years old, and has been writing for as long as she can remember. The second she learned what an author was she wanted to be one, and when she was 15 her dream finally came true when she published her first book; Prison of Outcasts. She also enjoys dance, art, and film making.



How to write a believable fight scene in any setting.

Leatrice “Elle” McKinney, writing as L.L. McKinney, is an advocate for equality and inclusion in publishing, and the creator of the hashtags #PublishingPaidMe and #WhatWoCWritersHear.

Elle’s also a gamer, Blerd, and adamant Hei Hei stan. Her works include the Nightmare-Verse books, starting with the A BLADE SO BLACK trilogy, and an upcoming graphic novel for DC featuring Nubia, Wonder Woman’s twin sister, and more.



The Lies We Love toTell Ourselves

Your main character is the heart of your story, but what if you can’t trust them and that’s a huge part of their charm? Unreliable narrators make up most of the first person novels we all love. Let’s talk about them, what makes them amazing and what to avoid. 

Leigh always hoped she'd be taller, but she stopped growing at 5'6" and then shrank to 5'5" when she had four gigantic babies.



Aminah Mae Safi joins the Lit Service Crew (Caitlin Sangster, Kristen Evans, Cameron Harris, and Aliah Eberting) to talk about how to build characters to make a romantic comedy the best kind of funny, romantic, and relatable. (For all of you who don't write rom-coms, listen up, there's a lot to learn here!).

bio coming soon...



WORKSHOP : Writing Prompt Battle!

Get ready to write! Join in with a fun variety of writing prompts and games to get you unstuck in your writing! Prepare to go head to head, rap-battle style with other teen writers or just get feedback from the group. There will be prizes and opportunities to share your work.

bio coming soon...



Every writer levels up through contact and critique with other writers. We'll talk about how to form a writing group that challenges you, rather than just telling you how great you are. Strategies for longevity, proper critique form, and advice on how to receive critique in a productive way will be our focus.

Meg Elison is a science fiction author and feminist essayist. Her series, The Road to Nowhere, won the 2014 Philip K. Dick award. She was a James A. Tiptree Award Honoree in 2018. In 2020, she is publishing her first collection, called “Big Girl” with PM Press and her first young adult novel, “Find Layla” with Skyscape. Meg has been published in McSweeney’s, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Fangoria, Uncanny, Lightspeed, Nightmare, and many other places. Elison is a high school dropout and a graduate of UC Berkeley. Find her online, where she writes like she’s 


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Writing Epic Battle Scenes 

Screams echo in the night. Thunder booms overhead. The heroes are primed. The villain is reveling in one last, maniacal laugh. But ... where do you begin? If you’re struggling to capture that jaw-dropping, heart-stopping fight scene—the demolition doctor is in! We will be exploring the balance of dialogue and action, learning useful tips to prevent over-explaining, and mastering the feel of an invigorating brawl that guarantees a one-hit K.O. with your readers. Ready? FIGHT!

NICOLE CONWAY is author of the international bestselling fantasy series, THE DRAGONRIDER CHRONICLES and DRAGONRIDER LEGACY. She is currently working on the third and final series, THE DRAGONRIDER TRIALS, set to launch in 2020, and her thrilling new superhero series, SPIRITS OF CHAOS. Her other published works include SCALES, MAD MAGIC, and THE DISTANCE BETWEEN STARS. Nicole was born in Alabama, but has spent a large part of her life traveling around the world with the military. She graduated from Auburn University, has worked extensively in graphic art and design, and now enjoys writing as a full-time career.

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GETTING TO THE HEART OF YOUR CHARACTERS – tips and tricks for creating memorable relationships, friendships, and rivals

Have you ever swooned over a fictional love interest, or wished you were part of a fictional friend group? I’ll teach you how authors do that. You start by giving every character in a story their own wants, fears, and flaws--not just the main character! Figuring out the heart of your characters is the trick to writing stories where the dialogue, feelings, and action fly off the page. Using examples from pop culture, I’ll share tips and tricks for developing characters that act as foils. You’ll never approach brainstorming the same way again.

Robyn Schneider is the bestselling author of The Beginning of Everything, Extraordinary Means, and Invisible Ghosts, which have earned numerous starred reviews, appear on many state reading lists, and are published in over a dozen countries. Her most recent novel, You Don't Live Here, was a Junior Library Guild selection, and one of Buzzfeed's featured LGBTQ reads. She is also the screenwriter for the forthcoming Beginning of Everything film adaptation. Robyn is a graduate of Columbia University, and currently lives in Los Angeles.

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As readers, we often make our decisions about what to read based on reading only a few pages--or just the first page--of a new story. As writers, that means part of our job is to grab readers from the very beginning of a story. In this class, we will discuss what makes story openings effective, and techniques for making our own stories shine from the start. 

Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading, writing, or teaching English to college students, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.

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Use the four T's: tension, thoughts, talking, and touch, to create scenes that simmer and leave your reader breathless.

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. Her first novel, The Last Word, is available now. The Invention of Sophie Carter comes out on July 14, 2020 and A Royal Christmas Quandary arrives October 2020.

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3.7 million children or teens in America are plus-sized. 40% of all adults. And yet, the percentage of character representation in publishing is nowhere near that number. Readers long for representation, but to fill that need we’ll need to root out our own fatphobia to do it. In this class we'll talk about the power of the word fat, ways to create and describe fat characters, and the power of fat characters who love themselves.

Sheena Boekweg grew up reading books with tree branches peeking over her shoulder. Her novel GLITCH KINGDOM pressed start in February of this year from Feiwel and Friends, and she is a contributor to EVERY BODY SHINES a fat positive anthology forthcoming from Bloomsbury. She lives in Utah with her family and the world’s most spoiled puppy. Visit her online at, or follow her on twitter and Instagram @SheenaBoekweg.





Editors and agents comment all of the time that they are looking for something with great voice but few of them can tell you exactly what that means. Some of them even treat voice like it’s a magical something nobody can put their finger on. But it’s actually not that hard if you break it down. Shelly can show you the tips and tricks to pull your own unique voice out onto the page so your writing gets noticed. 

A native to the ocean and transplanted to the mountains, Shelly Brown has always loved children and books so it made sense when she started writing books for children. In her spare time she helps her husband, author Chad Morris, write MORE children's books. In her extra-extra spare time she loves the theater and traveling. She is also one of the worst tap dancers you will ever meet. But she does it anyway.

She has no regrets, one husband, three chickens, five children, and sixty-four Pez dispensers.



WORKSHOP : Writing Prompt Battle!

Get ready to write! Join in with a fun variety of writing prompts and games to get you unstuck in your writing! Prepare to go head to head, rap-battle style with other teen writers or just get feedback from the group. There will be prizes and opportunities to share your work.

bio coming soon...

Tiana Smith Author Photo 1 - Tiana Smith



Do you plot out everything in your novel? Make it all up as you go along? A mix of both? Great. No matter what, this method can work for you. Combining elements of Save the Cat, the Snowflake Method, and Romancing the Beat (if you choose to have a romantic plot line), this flexible structure allows you to map out the important parts of your story so you can get to writing. Best of all, it also works during edits to identify parts that aren’t working. Learn about the key plot points every book needs during this workshop and then fill in as much or as little as you like before jumping in. Every book and genre is different, and this method allows for that.

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, both from Swoon Reads/Macmillan.

220 W Center St, Provo, UT 84601, USA

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