March 15th-March 16th, 2024

WCoNA 2024

WCoNA's 2024 Flagship conference at Saint Francis University featuring keynote speaker Maxwell King.




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  1. Session #1

    • Epistolary Fiction: Story in Fragments

      Have you ever wanted to tell a story in letters, journal entries, or even captain’s logs? But how do you craft a cohesive story out of these fragmented pieces? In this workshop, you’ll learn what makes epistolary fiction unique and get a chance to pen some of your own.

    • Voice to Voice

      What happens when a poem speaks with more than one voice? Sometimes, a collaboration happens! Voice to Voice will explore ways poetry, which often is considered the most solitary of literary arts, can be shared not just when it is presented to an audience. The creation of a poem can be a collective experience with more than one voice, more than one poet, more than one poem. Voice to Voice will present a distinctive look at how poets can collaborate with others, even down to creating one poem with one or more poets. The workshop will include hands-on workshop exercises that invite attendees to imagine and create poems with each other in real time, establishing new possibilities and new outlets for their poetry.

    • The Early History of Northern Appalachia

      The history of Northern Appalachia is distinct from the rest of the Mid-Atlantic and Southern Appalachia, including the first inhabitants, the colonial era, and the early republic. Understanding this history is foundational to any writing or research about the region. This presentation covers the early modern period from first contact until the US Civil War. Key events and individuals will be explained in context.

    • Specialty Columns: Perspectives from a Contributor & Editor

      While newspapers may have lost considerable market share in the last two decades, those which have survived have found local contributors to be a valuable addition to their publications. Environmental columnist John Frederick will be joined by his Altoona Mirror editor, Patt Keith, to discuss how local column contributors fit into a newspaper's strategies to make local connections which educate and entertain. Patt, who oversees a number of periodic columnists, will talk about the challenges of managing multiple contributors, public response to such columns, and the benefits realized by the newspaper. John will reflect upon how to reach out to media outlets, his own challenges of researching and writing a biweekly column, and posting his columns on his own website. Local columnists writing for a single publication won't make a million, but it is an excellent way to get the word out on topics connected with your own professional endeavors or insightful and entertaining personal reflections.

    • How Land Shapes Us and Creates Belonging

      This workshop will explore how land shapes us and creates home. It will draw upon the presenter’s own exploration of living along the National Road Heritage Corridor in Hopwood and Uniontown, Pennsylvania and will explore how other writers have written about place. There will be three aspects to the workshop: 1. Our guttural response to the land and how we can creatively address that on the page. 2. The importance of the people we meet and how personal interviews can enhance our writing about place. 3. The use of research and fact to bolster creative prose. This will be a working session. Participants should come with either notebook/pen or a computer to write. If the group is small, we will practice interviewing techniques and workshop short essays. Participants will be given writing prompts and there will be open discussion about how we are impacted by the places in Appalachia that we consider home. The primary goals of the workshop are: to give attendees the courage to write about people and places that they may have come to take for granted; to provide them with material to prompt writing after the conference; to explore the techniques of narrative journalism.

  2. Session #2

    • Adventures in Editing

      Questions editors hear, and answers they (or at least I) would like to tell you: What do you actually do? Why should I pay you? Do I need an editor? What do they want from me, the writer? Can I edit my own work? Are there different types of editors? Why would anyone want to be an editor? Is grammar really important? Aren't you supposed to fix all that for me? What do you mean, plagiarism? How did you get to be an editor? All this and more, with plenty of time for more questions.

    • The Research, Organization, Development of the Social History of a Northern Appalachian Coal Mining Town."

      As the author of “McIntyre, Pennsylvania, The Everyday Life Of A Coal Mining Company Town: 1910-1947,” using documents, photos and oral history, my goal was to describe the town with special emphasis on its social and cultural history. McIntyre was one of many coal towns developed by the Rochester and Pittsburgh Coal Company in Indiana County, in the early 20th century. During this period the United States was becoming a world power due in part to coal which was used in many industries. The demand for labor in the coal industry was great and attracted many men. In particular men and their families from southern and eastern European countries where unemployment was high and the political situation chaotic and/or repressive eagerly immigrated to work underground for low wages and in potentially dangerous conditions. Patterns of daily life that developed in McIntyre could easily be superimposed over other northern Appalachian mining towns and, although it would not be an identical match, there would be many similarities. My presentation will begin by discussing why I selected the topic, my research and its difficulties, the organization of materials and the collection of oral histories and photos. Also included will be my development of the research into a website. Why I selected a website format over a printed format and the advantages and disadvantages associated with my choice will also be discussed. The architecture of the website will also be shown and explained as well as an overview of McIntyre history. Not enough academic attention has been paid to the social and cultural histories of coal mining towns in Northern Appalachia. It is my hope that my small contribution has and will continue to inspire other researchers and historians.

    • Creating literary universes ready for public consumption

      From intricate literary universes of fantasy and sci-fi genres to local Appalachian adventures, compiling the knowledge outside of our heads can be challenging, especially if we desire to have it ready for public consumption. Let's take a look on the tools that can make this easier, how to make most of creating a companion guide for your story and how you can benefit from making one.

    • How's That Working Out? A Reading and Conversation with Lori Jakiela and Dave Newman

      Two award-winning--and married writers--whose work is known for its Pittsburgh-centric, working-class sensibilities will read and discuss their work. Among their topics: writing about family, writing about each other, writing while managing bills and dishes, and the joys and challenges of being two very different writers living and working under one rust-belt, ranch-house roof. Both Jakiela and Newman are the authors of seven books (when they got married, they had 0 books between them). Their latest books, both memoirs, were published in 2023.

    • You Decide

      Indecision can cripple a project. This will be a fast-paced generative workshop in which participants will build characters and scenes without the chance to overthink.

  3. Session #3

    • In the Middle of Appalachia: A Portable Exercise on Place

      With great success and with both younger and older participants, I use the following exercise in class sessions of Pennsylvania Authors, Creative Writing, and Composition, as well as at local libraries and community events. This writing workshop, “In the Middle of Appalachia: A Portable Exercise on Place,” helps generate writing and discussion on place and identity. The exercise allows teachers and beginning/advanced poets and prose writers to delve into writing about location—specifically Appalachian or rural communities—with such techniques as sensory details, simile and metaphor, and connotation and denotation. In addition, by merely adjusting local and/or age-appropriate references, instructors may adapt this exercise for workshops about other rural areas, as well as those focused on mid-sized towns, cities, and even other states. Resources include “The Porpoise” by Greg Pape, as well as selected works from Common Wealth and In Short. For more information about workshops conducted around the country, see

    • History Detective in the Hills

      Researching history in Appalachia poses many challenges. This presentation will reflect on one author's experiences digging into obscure folklore and forgotten history, in order to bring them back to life in books and local history columns. Mark Sebastian Jordan shares the delights and frustrations of digging beneath the surface in Appalachian Ohio, with a focus in three areas: 1) The discovery and use of online connections and resources; 2) The variety of institutional resources, and their challenges; and 3) The importance of the researcher getting their boots on the ground, and eyes on the horizon.

    • Awakening Memories to Write True Stories

      This workshop will introduce skills that can help revive memories that inspire life writing. While memories are the building blocks of memoir writing, it is frequently challenging to remember the past with any degree of accuracy. Our recollections are often faulty and unreliable. This interactive workshop will offer participants tools to identify and re-connect with events of the past through the use of sensory memory, connection to people, place(s), and artifacts. We’ll start by discussing the various challenges of memory, and participants will be asked to provide their own examples of how memory gaps can hinder life writing. Then, we’ll examine how to recreate scenes and stories by recalling people and places through the use of lists, maps, and visiting physical spaces. We’ll also explore the value of sensory memory and employ a sense-of-smell exercise. We’ll then move on to focus on the use of artifacts, both public and personal, to reconnect with memories. Participants will learn tips on how to research public artifacts online, and we’ll explore the variety of personal artifacts that we may have at our disposal. Finally, we’ll look at the use of photographs as inspiration. By examining what’s in the photo–both in focus and background–as well as what’s missing, we’ll see how photographs can serve as a foundation for life stories. At the end of the workshop, participants will be asked to share story ideas they have developed by using the tools we’ve employed.

    • Collaboration Forensics

      COLLABORATION FORENSICS Collaboration is becoming more popular in many literary fields. Jane C. Miller and I have collaborated in both poetry collections and in the creation of a successful online poetry journal that is read internationally. In the beginning we made many mistakes that cost us time and money. Our intent is to offer a presentation on how to avoid those mistakes, how to produce a collaboration that writers can be proud of, and how to survive the process. On book collaborations we can offer information on the many ways to organize the manuscript; how to gather the work to be contained in the manuscript; how to find a publisher. For an online publication we can talk about how to get a domain name, find a website builder; find startup monies (you don’t need much). And what it takes to learn how to upload content and figure out the behind-the-scenes tech work. We will break down and investigate the process. Hopefully writers will walk away with the tools needed for a successful and satisfying collaboration.

    • All is Lost

      In this story craft session, we will take a deep dive into the All is Lost moment. Also known as the Act Two Disaster, the Ordeal, or the Major Setback, this is the moment in a story and often a memoir when things go so terribly wrong for the hero that all hope of resolving the situation appears lost. The hero has tried everything else, they’ve lost everything that matters, and their true path is nowhere in sight. It’s the moment when Gandalf falls from the bridge, when Rue dies, when Voldemort and Snape get past the three-headed dog and are about to get the Sorcerer’s Stone. Even if you don’t follow a story structure, being familiar with the moving parts of the All is Lost moment, such as buildup, timing, character arc, blame, and the whiff of death, will help you to create such tension in your story that will keep the reader turning the pages. After we've learned how to successfully deliver our hero to rock bottom, we’ll look at how to effectively bring them through the other side as a changed person. We’ll also touch on other story beats and the importance of character arc.

  4. Session #4

    • Writing about Place in Northern Appalachia

      In this interactive workshop, we will explore strategies for bringing the places of Northern Appalachia to life in your writing. How can you bring place alive as a character in your work in various genres? How can detailed representations of place illuminate the human experiences and relationships you are representing? How do you write the tensions between different places, such as urban and rural locations within the same region? In our conversation, we will explore the varying representations of place in my completed memoir manuscript Chemical Works Road and in the various short publications drawn from the manuscript. My work is particularly interested in relationships between rural and urban places in our region, and in the perceptions and misperceptions people have about places different from their own. Some of the topics we will discuss include displacement from urban to rural and back again, queer experience in rural and urban Northern Appalachia, notions of safety in rural versus urban contexts, and the impact of environmental history on our places where it might be more visible (urban locations) or less visible (rural locations).

    • Mental Health in Fiction: Authenticity and How to Achieve It

      The use of mental health in fiction lends itself to emotionally complex characters. Certain diagnostic terms and symptomology are familiar to most people and can provide shortcuts in development to help a reader understand a character’s emotional state. For readers who live with mental illness, seeing their symptoms reflected in characters can feel inclusive. Societally, we’ve come a long way in how we view mental illness. However, community stigma still exists, particularly against certain diagnoses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder or in the perception that people who live with mental illness are dangerous. Misinformation about mental illness continues to be a problem and can be harmful to the people who live with the symptoms. When done appropriately, the depiction of mental illness in fiction can help combat that stigma and misinformation. Unfortunately, the reverse is also true. Even the most well-meaning author can inadvertently lean into existing stigma and either alienate readers or perpetuate harmful stereotypes. This presentation will teach writers how to use mental illness as a set of behaviors and internal experiences that fully round out characters. Participants will learn how to avoid the pitfall of using mental health as a plot device, and instead, focus on how mental illness and character development can work together in a respectful and authentic way. Participants will learn how to use a combination of symptoms, behavioral presentation, and mental health laws to lend credibility to their characters and plot.

    • Poetry Workshop: ‘Art as Technique’

      People often link poetry with intuition. A common idea is that a poet (especially a good one) does the simple work of expressing the feelings within. But the idea that poetry is merely intuitive, and only about expressing feelings, overlooks the fact that it is also an intellectual, cerebral art form. Poetry is as much about technique as it is about feeling. During the writing process, poets need to think, to design, and to decide. Our workshop is about this strategic and reflective mental work of making decisions while writing poems. We’ll practice poetic decision-making by focusing on one technique for poetry writing: the technique of defamiliarization, as theorized by the Russian thinker Viktor Shklovsky in his 1916 article “Art as Technique.”

    • Write Great Scenes

      Scenes are the fundamental building blocks of essays, memoir and fiction (whether short or book length). In Write Life Stories, Bill Roorbach said, “Scene is vital, sits at the heart of all dramatic writing. And scene is nearly always what’s missing when a piece of (writing) fails to come to life.” This class will show: • The difference between NARRATIVE and EXPOSITION and how both help build effective scenes • How to develop characters • Setting as a vital element in scenes and the various types Fun and fascinating visuals will illustrate each aspect of scene creation. Students will practice each element. Time will be available for questions and feedback.

    • Writing Y/our Roots in Northern Appalachia

      Writing Y/our Roots in Northern Appalachia This session features creative nonfiction writer Alison Condie Jaenicke, Assistant Director of Creative Writing at Penn State, whose roots draw from the Youghiogheny River, and poet Julia Spicher Kasdorf, Director of Creative Writing at Penn State, who taps back to the Juniata. With examples from their own processes, they will demonstrate how you can do your own roots work and transform research and conversations into literature. From genealogical searches to deep considerations of heirloom objects, listening to ancestral landscapes and trading in family gossip, their examples and methods will inspire you to write beyond stereotypes and to get at what it means to be who you are and to come from this place. Prompts will be provided for writers at all levels, applicable to all genres.

  5. Session #5

    • Loretto is a Triggering Town: The Poetics of Place and Memory

      Taking a cue from Richard Hugo's germinal craft book The Triggering Town, this presentation will explore the poetics of place and memory. The four presenters, all with a deep connection to Loretto, will engage with each other’s material in a format similar to The Triggering Town via a mixture of readings, commentary, and interactive discussion of craft. Hugo's assertion that "you owe reality nothing" will be tested against the impulse to be what Jack Kerouac called a "recording angel" for the Appalachian “College Among the Pines,” a place rich with a profound personal history for the presenters, as well as an established persistence of a historical past. Loretto, founded in the 18th Century by a priest who is being considered for sainthood, summer home of the one richest people in the world, and location of a university that recently celebrated its 175th anniversary, is like many Northern Appalachia towns working to reinvent itself for the postindustrial 21st Century, while trying to hold onto the sense of identity rooted in its rich past. To write in and about Loretto today is to speak to this interplay, ultimately composing a new history in the face of the pull of nostalgic simplicity. Modeled after Hugo's book, the presentation will be a hybrid of poetry, creative nonfiction, and discussion of the intricacies of craft in a setting that is full of its own assumptions and mysteries, much like the rural towns that were the inspiration for Hugo’s work.

    • Two PA Poets: a Voice from the North and a Voice from the East

      Two poets from different areas of Pennsylvania’s Appalachia will read from new work. For Karen J. Weyant, coming of age in rural northern Pennsylvania during the 1980s meant MTV, high top sneakers, and Blue Jeans perfume. But the end of the world seemed near with the threat of Nuclear War on the horizon and Doomsday predictions from overzealous preachers. Locally, factories and farms were failing, and families were fleeing the region’s small towns hoping for a better way of living. Those who stayed behind were left to wade through the Rural Rust Belt debris, scrambling to find hope and resilience. Avoiding the Rapture (Riot in Your Throat Press), Weyant’s first full-length collection, chronicles a young girl's coming of age story during the turbulent 1980s. Jerry Wemple, who grew up at the confluence of the Susquehanna River’s branches at Sunbury will read selections from his newly published collection, We Always Wondered What Happened to You (Broadstone Books). The book has been called “essentially a memoir in (mostly) prose poems.” Wemple was born in an orphanage in Scranton, and later secretly adopted by his birth mother’s sister. Although he knew he was adopted, it was not until his teenage years that he learned the identity of his birth mother. While his mother’s family was primarily of Pennsylvania German ancestry, it was clear to Wemple, even as a child, that his father was likely Black. However, his mother’s family refused to address this issue. Decades later he is able to discover the identity of his father and connect with that part of his family. As poet Shara McCallum writes: “With a poet’s keen sense of image, Wemple works to uncover and recover his past, all the while reckoning with race and racism, belonging and unbelonging, ancestry and history.”


      For nonfiction authors, adapting a work to a dramatic screenplay is a distinctive challenge. It is a craft requiring new and unusual protocols. The transition is not easy. An experienced advisor helps ease the transition and avoid abundant pitfalls. Our case study will be the adaptation of the 2022 SUNNY-Award Winning nonfiction book W.G. (Sunbury Press 2022) to a screenplay. We are two sibling writers originally from Bradford, McKean County, PA. The subject of the adaptation is W.G. Raymond, who lived in Northern Appalachia in the 1850s. Joining us is William Bigelow, a notable and accomplished screenwriter. WRITERS WILL GAIN FIRST-HAND INSIGHT INTO THE FOLLOWING: DEFINING CREATIVE LATITUDE FORMATING AND STRUCTURE TECHNIQUE TRADE SECRETS FOR STORY AND SCENE DEVELOPENT PITCHING YOUR SCREENPLAY

    • Flash Creative Nonfiction & Northern Appalachia: Close Readings with a Brevity Editor

      Is a byline with Brevity Magazine on your bucket list? Learn the flash nonfiction criteria the editors look for and the most common mistakes to avoid from long-time Brevity assistant editor Kimberly McElhatten. Read and analyze three Best of Brevity mentor essays written by northern Appalachian writers. Discuss what makes them Brevity essays. This workshop provides an experienced editor’s look beyond the submission button to help northern Appalachia writers increase their representation across the flash CNF genre.

    • The Larger-Than-Life Life of Charles Schwab

      Charles Schwab was an instrumental figure in the steel industry of Pennsylvania. Born in Blair County and raised in Cambria, he served as president of U.S. Steel and Bethlehem Steel. Aside from possessing a keen business acumen and vision, Schwab also possessed a colorful personality, unbridled ambition and confidence, an infectious personality and a risk-taking nature. His life was a roller-coaster ride: he owned an $8 million mansion on Riverside Drive in Manhattan and a summer estate named Immergrün - German for evergreen - in his hometown of Loretto. His Manhattan residence included 90 bedrooms, an art gallery and a power plant. Immergrün sat on 1,000 acres adjacent to Saint Francis University and included 17 buildings and a golf course. When Schwab died in 1939, however - in a small apartment in New York City - he was $338,349 in debt and far removed from his previous lavish lifestyle. This presentation will share some stories with attendees that highlight the colorful personality and life of Schwab, a former giant of the steel industry in Northern Appalachia, who is laid to rest in Loretto.


This years accomodations are generously provided by the Comfort Inn Ebensburg. Use the reservation link below to reserve your room at our special group rate.

Comfort Inn Edensburg

111 Cook Rd, Ebensburg, PA 15931

(814) 472-6100

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