IWC Upcoming Events

For 2016 Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference information, please go to our new website:

Thank you!



October 9th

5:30 - 7:30 PM  The Darkness in the Body that Redeems:  A Reading of Poetry, Purdue University Calumet, Hammond, IN

8:00 - 9:30 PM  Steel Pen Welcome with Wang Ping Reading and Kinship of Rivers Art Installation, Indiana University Northwest, Gary, IN

October 10th

9:00 AM - 6:00 PM  Steel Pen Bookfair, Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza, Merrillville, IN

October 11th

10:00 AM - 2:30 PM  Barnes & Noble Meet the Authors Bookfair, Valparaiso, IN


Registration will open at 8 AM in East Lobby II on conference day.  All participants should check in to receive their name badge and conference materials.  Student participants should be prepared to show college ID or current semester's schedule.  Thank you!

Registration is now closed.  Please check back in June 2016 for early registration for the IWC's next Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference! 

Steel Pen Creative Writers' Conference

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza

800 E. 81st Avenue

Merrillville, Indiana 46410

Dinner Keynote Speaker: Bryan Furuness

Bryan Furuness is the author of the novel, The Lost Episodes of Revie Bryson, which is set in the Northwest Indiana Region. Along with Michael Martone, he's the co-editor of Winesburg, Indiana. He teaches at Butler University, where he runs the small press, Pressgang. He lives in Indy now, but was born in East Chicago, and grew up near the intersection of 30 & 41.

Panels begin at 9 AM
Cocktail Hour at 5 PM
Dinner at 6 PM

Bookfair Exhibit open from 9 AM - 6 PM

Conference Breakout Session Schedule

Session 1:  9 AM - 10:10 AM

Build Your Brand and Bottom Line through Blogging

Marcie Hill

Gone are the days when writers can hide behind their pensand paper and gain a semblance of fame or get paid.  While some writers could care less aboutfame, we still have to build credibility to get paid what we’re worth.  Blogs are effective tools to do both.

In this session, writers will learn how to use blogs to:

  •        Build their brand

  •        Build their influence

  •        Build their bottom lines

The Business of Playwriting: How to get your play produced -- and create a relationship in the process

Evan Guilford-Blake

Okay, you’ve written your play. You’ve heard it read; you revised it. You workshopped it. You revised it again. And again. And now it’s ready. For the stage, for an audience, for the critics. But -- how do you determine the best places to send it? How do you create a synopsis that will whet an Artistic Director’s appetite? What about an agent? Or a contest: Should you enter one, or several, even if there’s a fee? What should you expect to be paid? What about a contract? What do you need to ask before you agree to grant a theatre the rights to stage it? And,once you have, how do you conduct yourself in order to show the theatre you’re not just a talented playwright but a responsible one who knows your role in the production process? 

The Business of Playwriting is an interactive, hands-on workshop that addresses these questions and more. From the proper way to format your script to networking and dealing with producers, directors and casts, you’ll learn the basics of marketing your play -- which, let’s face it, is something all playwrights hate but have to know; after all, no one cares whether your play or someone else’s is produced, except you and maybe your mother -- and how to make a production an opportunity to do more than just get your play onstage. The workshop will include handouts, and will have plenty of time for questions and answers.

Historical (Re)tell: The Writing and Craft of Telling Retellings of the Historic

Cat Dixon, Britny Cordera Doane, Lindsay Lusby, Laura Madeline Wiseman, and P. Ivan Young

“Tell the truth but tell it slant,” writes Emily Dickinson. This panel of poets and writers presents work that engages with the historical past by telling retelling of the historic, tales that offer what wasn’t said but should’ve been, what wasn’t written down but likely happened, whose voices speak that didn’t speak because at the time there wasn’t a platform on which for them to stand. Panelists explore the craft aspect of myths and legends retold from other voices, new perspectives, and counterintuitive stances. Accurate, inaccurate, or close, this panel of authors will explore how facts become transformed into the tales, histories, and family stories that inform how we tell our worlds. Panelists will discuss the craft of such writings and read from their work as they engage with the questions: What is the process for writing poems based on research and pre-existing texts? What kind of research is required to (re)tell a historical kinship between historical luminaries? How does a poet navigate fact and (in)accuracy when writing about the past? How does the influence of the world outside the poet hinder or enrich the truth as it is conveyed in poetry of (re)telling? What are the strategies of other contemporary writers who do similar work on the historical record? At what points can a writer depart from fact in the service of the story that wants to be (re)told?

Thinking Like a Mystery Writer

Barbara Gregorich

This is an interactive presentation on the ways in which mystery writers think like novelists in general, and the ways in which they deviate from that in order to create mystery novels. Covered are Plot, Character, and Setting as part of what all novelists consider. Following that are the particulars of mystery writing, including the Crime, the Suspects, the Motive, the Villain, Casting Suspicion, and Planting Clues. This is a highly educational presentation that is not only very easy to follow (because of the organization and the visuals) but is also a lot of fun.

Session 2:  10:20 AM - 11:30 AM

Ekphrastic Prose: Using the Visual Arts to Stimulate Your Verbal Skills

Ivan Rodden

Although often associated with poetry, ekphrasis transcends any single genre to encompass all kinds of literary interactions with the visual arts. Before the advent of tourism and cheap photographic reproduction, the written word was able to transport a reader to the ruins of Egypt or conjure the great paintings of history. Ekphrastic prose requires the writer to carefully convey concrete, specific detail of an unseen thing while incorporating the emotional essence of a static object into language. The result of ekphrasis not only allows a reader to see an image or object, but also to have new insight into the emotional possibilities of art. This workshop will explore how prose writers especially can use the visual arts – painting, sculpture and illustration – as a catalyst for creating compelling characters, interesting narratives, or just stimulating their creativity. Through guided exercises and a variety of language and visual prompts, we will create a variety of texts that help us bypass the blank page to make something worth revising and finally worth reading.

Getting over the Transom: Tips for litmag acceptances from ccr eds.

Ching-In Chen, Ryder Collins, Freesia McKee, Soham Patel, Ann Stewart McBee, and Dawn Tefft

In this panel, past and present editors of cream city review will discuss the do’s and don’ts of literary magazine submission generally as well as through the lens of their own publication’s aesthetic. The Milwaukee-based biannual, non-profit journal is devoted to publishing work that pushes the borders of literature.  cream city review features fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, visual art, author interviews, and reviews of contemporary literature. 

Prairie Fire: A Reading and Discussion of Midwestern Feminism(s)

Sara Henning, Laura Madeline Wiseman, Callista Buchen, and Amy Ash

This roundtable explores the vast spectrum of feminisms of the Midwest, the High Plains, and the prairie. In different ways, their work considers the interplay between the landscape and the (gendered) body, confronts stereotypes and cultural expectations of regionalist writing, and invokes the range and sweep of this terrain.

The poets will read from their own work, discuss influences and innovations, and imagine greater possibilities for this often overlooked poetic space we inhabit in the middle of the country.

NEW:  Romancing Hollywood:  Writing Fiction and Screenplays for the Big and Small Screens

Catherine Lanigan

Catherine Lanigan will give a short presentation about her experiences novelizing Romancing the Stone and Jewel of the Nile as well as writing screenplays, several of which are currently in production with such companies as Hallmark Channel.  Her talk will be followed by roundtable discussion.  

Featured Reading:  Noon - 1 PM

The Literary Equivalent of a High-Speed Alligator Ride: A Fiction Reading by Bryan Furuness and Michael Poore

Indiana novelists Bryan Furuness and Michael Poore will read from past and current work, and then drag race in the parking lot. (Not really. But they will entertain questions about novel writing and publishing.)

Session 3:  1:10 PM - 2:20 PM

How I Landed a Traditional Publishing Deal Using Social Media

Rivka Kawano


In this session Rivka will share the story behind landing her first traditional publishing deal, even though she was a completely unknown author without any previously published book-length works by leveraging her social media connections and online content creation.


What you will learn:

  • The three essential steps to building your platform online
  • Which social media platform will give you the most publishing success
  • What publishers are looking for when evaluating your platform
  • How to evaluate a traditional publishing contract before signing
  • The secret to doing social media effectively without it taking up all your time
  • What to do in each stage of the publishing process to maximize your results

 What you will take home:

  • Social media platform worksheet
  • Checklist for setting up your social media correctly
  • Daily and weekly social media plan
  • Template for planning your book launch on social media

This session will be helpful for both published and unpublished authors.


Rivka will share examples from the dozens of authors that she has worked with as a consultant helping them to build their social media platforms, as well as the details of signing with Motivational Press to publish her social media book “What to Post” coming out this year.

Kinship of Rivers Poetry and Art Workshop

Wang Ping

In conjunction with her Kinship of Rivers Project poet Wang Ping will guide workshop participants through the process of making river flags using their own poetic and artistic abilities.  

Structuring Your Story: Synopsis, Character Development, and the Crucial Opening Scene

Kate Collins

1. First things first! Know your characters inside and out and make them believable.

2. Writing the Synopsis: Tell your story in seven pages or less.

3. Opening Scenes: Hook `em or lose `em. Make your readers want to keep going. Tie it to your ending for a dynamic story.

The Use and Misuse of Copyrighted Materials

Kathryn Page Camp

This session will answer two questions:

  1. How can academics and educators maximize the use of copyrighted materials in the classroom while respecting the rights of authors and artists under the copyright laws?

  2. When and how can writers use other authors’ words in their own works without violating the copyright laws?


Local author and lawyer Kathryn Page Camp will begin by explaining the basic principles behind the copyright laws and summarizing the main legal requirements. She will also explain which materials are in the public domain and not subject to copyright protection.

The majority of the session will focus on determining whether particular uses of copyrighted materials are permissible. It will examine the rules for various types of media, including print, audio/visual, and electronic. As part of the discussion, Camp will provide suggestions on legal ways to maximize the use of copyrighted materials both inside and outside of the classroom.

Session 4:  2:30 PM - 3:40 PM

Armed and Dangerous

Philip Jude Weitl

In 1999, Charles Moses left Texas ahead of more than a dozen arrest warrants.  He fled to Nebraska, where he ducked notice until February 12, 2000.  That evening he was spotted by a sheriff deputy who tried to make an arrest.  Moses escaped and eluded law enforcement for two days, wounding two officers along the way and killing a farmer near North Platte.  It was the first murder there in more than twenty years.  Not since Charles Starkweather killed eleven people during a rampage across the state in early 1958 had rural Nebraskans experienced anything comparable.  The manhunt for Starkweather ended shortly after he was spotted at a café in Lusk, Wyoming.  Eerily, Moses was finally apprehended in Wyoming, after he was recognized at a truck stop near Lusk.  By then it was after 10:00 pm.  I had been at work, at the Nebraska State Capitol, since 7:00 am.  I was the governor’s speech writer and barely twenty-three years old.  As I coordinated media coverage of the dragnet that day, I reflected on my own recent troubles, moral compromises and personal losses that led me to question my ability and my beliefs.  The ordeal would be a turning point both in my work as political operative and in my perspective as a writer.  My reading entitled “Armed and Dangerous,” from a chapter in a long memoir, will explore this event and invite consideration of the ethical and technical challenges associated with shaping public tragedy into compelling personal nonfiction narrative.

Conversations and Creativity: Approaches to Poetic Collaboration

Amy Ash and Callista Buchen

In this workshop, participants will be invited to explore and experiment with writing collaborative poetry. We’ll discuss the history and legacy of collaborative poems, paying special attention to Denise Duhamel, Maureen Seaton, and David Trinidad’s anthology Saints of Hysteria: A Half-Century of Collaborative American Poetry. We’ll examine the work of contemporary collaborative poets like Wendy Xu and Nick Sturm and Megan Kaminski and Bonnie Roy, looking at their individual works and their collaborative pieces to see how collaboration informs their projects. The bulk of the session will be devoted to writing collaboratively, discussing and trying out innovative strategies and approaches for writing poetry with a partner or partners. Participants will move beyond writing a poem as an isolated act by a single author, instead drafting poems that are conversations. Over the course of the workshop, we will consider the different ways to engage in collaborative conversations and what can that bring to our work, as well as how collaboration shapes one’s own voice and poetics. On a practical note, we’ll discuss getting started in the collaborative process and publication opportunities, as journals and presses are making more and more space for collaborative work. Come write with us, write together: become chorus, become collage.

Perfect Pitch: Developing the Phrase that Defines Your Manuscript

Carla Lee Suson

A perfect pitch is critical when meeting industry professionals in person and developing query letters in order to present a manuscript to agents or editors. It also defines the focal point of a book. These short sales phrases answer the question, "what is your work about" in a clear and interesting way that should tickle the audience's curiosity. However, since novels are complex, these sound bite style comments are not always easy to create. In addition, if a writer cannot craft a one-to-three line pitch, then it may indicate that his or her work needs more plot clarity. This one-person panel will present what constitutes a perfect pitch in the short and longer form, give examples based on popular movies, and encourage participants to create and discuss pitches for their books.

Writing the State Line

Jason Lee Brown, Curtis L. Crisler, Kevin McKelvey, and Mary Morris

The four presenters will read from their work inspired and influenced by the cities, townships, and rivers of the Indiana-Illinois state line. They will end the session by leading a place-based writing prompt and discussing place in writing.

Jason Lee Brown of Champaign, Illinois, will read an excerpt from his novel, Prowler: The Mad Gasser of Mattoon, a novel based on the hysteria surrounding mysterious gases in Mattoon, Illinois, in the 1940s. Curtis L. Crisler will read from his poetry book Tough Boy Sonatas and from other poems inspired by his childhood in Gary in the shadows of steel mills and sand dunes.  Kevin McKelvey will read short excerpts from his poetry and prose about Illiana’s Corn Belt counties and about the river the states share, the Wabash. Mary Morris will read from her prose about the farm country and rural areas of southeastern Illinois.  All four will read a short time from their work that covers almost the entire geographic area between Lake Michigan and the Ohio River. Instead of reading longer, they will end the session by leading a writing prompt that engages with place and each attendee’s personal knowledge of that place. The writing time that follows will also allow for a more personal and individualized Q&A between readers and attendees.

Session 5 3:50 PM - 5 PM

How to Work with an Illustrator, Self-Publish, and Promote a Children’s Book

James B. Dworkin and Michael Chelich


Based on an experience I had while vacationing at Sanibel Island, Florida, The Dog and The Dolphin recalls the story of the unlikely friendship that developed between an Irish setter and a dolphin.  My presentation goes through the various steps I took to work with an illustrator, get the book self-published, and promote it.  I explain the need for a strong illustrator and the working relationship between the author and the illustrator.  I also talk about various self-publishing companies and how to market the book once it is published.

Neuropsychology andStorytelling

Paul Pasulka

I am a clinical psychologist in private practice and on faculty at Northwestern University Medical School. I am also a playwright and storyteller (

I will be speaking on neuropsychological concepts and functions as related to creativity and storytelling. Topics will probably include executive functioning, body and mind integrity, mind wandering, imagination and creativity, and the purpose of fantasy.

In so far as I am preparing this seminar in the next few months, I welcome questions or suggestions for topics (although, time being limited, I don’t promise to address them in depth). Feel free to email me at

If the group is willing and time permits, we may write a short play which may be stage-read at the get-together after the conference.


5 –6 PM                     Cocktail Hour, East Lobby II

Cocktails (one drink ticket per attendee, plus cash bar), butler-passed hors d'oeuvres, and assorted cheese display


6 – 8:15 PM                Dinner,Grand Metropolitan East 4

Keynote speaker Bryan Furuness will give the address, “Writing in the Wilderness” 


8:30– 10 PM              On-Site Events

Milwaukee’s Best: A Reading, Grand Metropolitan East 4

Ching-In Chen, Ryder Collins, Freesia McKee, Soham Patel,

Ann Stewart McBee, and Dawn Tefft

A six pack of writers with ties to Milwaukee – all have lived in the city on the lake and all have served in an editorial role at cream city review –will bring their Miltown flavor to you. What makes Milwaukee great? It’s a place on the lake; it’s a place in our hearts. Come hear us share some Milwaukee love and words with you.

                                        Open Mic, Armstrong – Writers of all genres invited


10– 12 PM                 After Party, Green Room

                                    Hosted by the Red Ink Society (Cash Bar)


Registration includes a full day of conference breakout sessions and dinner with keynote speaker.  Dinner will be served family style and will include: a Caesar salad with ranch or champagne vinaigrette dressings; rosemary roasted chicken, braised beef short ribs, and vegetarian entrée of the day; roasted parmesan and herb potatoes; roasted vegetables; and chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate mousse.   *Should you have other special dietary needs, please email the IWC, and we'll do our best to make certain that they are accommodated:

Refund Policy:  Conference registration and membership sales are nonrefundable. 


To Reserve a Room at The Radisson Hotel at Star Plaza:

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We are thankful for our 2015 Steel Pen Conference Sponsors, which include:


And a special thank you to granting agent, 


We look forward to seeing you on conference weekend!

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