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Conference of Writers
sponsored by BWC

We're pleased to introduce the presenters for the 2024 Conference of Writers

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Photo by Steve Cody

Maurice Manning’s first book, Lawrence Booth’s Book of Visions, was selected by W.S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and published in 2001. Since then, Manning has published five other collections, including The Common Man, which was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011, and One Man’s Dark. Railsplitter was his seventh collection. Manning has held fellowships at the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown and the Hawthornden International Retreat for Writers in Scotland. A former Guggenheim fellow, Manning teaches at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky, and for the MFA Program for Writers at at Warren Wilson College. He is also a regular member of the faculty for the Sewanee Writers’ Conference. He is a member of Kentucky Writers and

Artists for Reforestation and is vice chancellor of the Fellowship of Southern Writers. His poems and essays have appeared in various magazines and journals, including Time, Garden & Gun, The Sewanee Review, Commonweal, Plume, Virginia Quarterly Review, Five Points, and The New Yorker. Manning lives with his family on a small farm in Kentucky.

George Ella Lyon has published award-winning books for readers of all ages, and her poem, “Where I’m From,” has been used as a model by teachers around the world. Recent titles include She Let Herself Go (poems) and the following picture books: Which Side Are You On? The Story of a Song, and All the Water in the World (both CCBC Choices), The Pirate of Kindergarten (Schneider Award) and You and Me and Home Sweet Home (Jane Addams Honor). She was named Kentucky Poet Laureate for 2015-2016. Originally from the mountains of Kentucky, Lyon works as a freelance writer and teacher based in Lexington, where she lives with her husband, writer and musician Steve Lyon. They have two grown sons. Visit her website at

George Ella will teach a workshop on poetry and children's books.


Photo by Ann W. Olson

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Alice Speilburg is the founding agent of Speilburg Literary, where she represents commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction. She lives just outside of Louisville, Kentucky, so perhaps it’s not surprising that she is drawn to narratives set in the South, which is rich with complex people and stories. Alice is a member of the Association of American Literary Agents, as well as several writing organizations, and she previously worked at John Wiley & Sons, and Howard Morhaim Literary Agency. In more than a decade in publishing, she has worked with bestselling and award-winning authors, literary and professional societies, and branded content. Visit Speilburg Literary's website, or follow them on social  media:

 Facebook Twitter Instagram

Alice will speak to the conference on finding and securing a literary agent. Ms. Speilburg's appointment schedule has been filled. Check other appointment opportunities here.

Virginia H. Underwood is the founder and publisher of Shadelandhouse Modern Press, a women-owned, family-operated independent traditional small book publisher of fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and children’s literature, located in Lexington, Kentucky. The press published its first title in 2016. Authors and titles of Shadelandhouse Modern Press have been recognized on a state, regional, and national level including being longlisted by PEN America Pen/Diamonstein-Spielvogel Award for the Art of the Essay and for the 22nd Thurber Prize for American Humor, being named a finalist for the Weatherford Award for Best Books about Appalachia (Poetry), receiving the Thomas and Lillie D. Chaffin Award for Appalachian Writers (Morehead State University), the North American Academy of Spanish Language Children and Young Adult Award Premio Campoy-Ada, Foreword Indies Books of the Year Awards (Foreword Reviews), IPPY Awards (Independent Publisher Book Award), Benjamin Franklin Award (Independent Book Publishers Association), and the International Book Awards. Titles have also received notable and starred reviews from trade reviewers, including Kirkus Reviews. 

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Underwood has more than forty years of combined experience as an educator, lawyer, higher education senior executive, and book publisher. She is a member of the Independent Book Publishers Association, the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators, the Kentucky Bar Association, and the Virginia State Bar. View Shadelandhouse Modern Press's website at

Virginia will speak to conference attendees about professionally approaching, contacting, and querying a publisher. She will also take private appointments with conference attendees. Request an appointment here.


The bestselling author of over sixty titles, Allie Pleiter's twenty-year career has sold 1.6 million books.  Allie also coaches on writing productivity and speaks nationally on time management for creatives. Allie is an avid knitter, confirmed coffee junkie and firm believer that “pie makes everything better.” She lives in the suburbs of Chicago with her husband and the world’s most adorable dog. Visit her website at

Allie will present The Chunky Method, her acclaimed writing workshop to help writers identify and make the most of their unique writing style.

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Jerry Deaton is a retired lobbyist, legislative employee and executive branch employee. He has written two books, Kentucky Boy, My Life in Twenty Words, (2013); Appalachian Ghost Stories, Tales From Bloody Breathitt (2011); he has published another book, Christmas Greetings, An Anthology by the Cherokee Roundtable Louisville Ky, (2014); he has written three plays, Appalachian Ghost Stories, Tales From Breathitt County (2016); Long Ago and Far Away, (2018); The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt (2021); he has written and directed two documentaries, The Feuds of Bloody Breathitt (2013); and Harry Caudill, A Man of Courage (2017). Jerry is currently working on his yet unnamed fourth play. He lives in Franklin County, Ky with his wife Leslie. Jerry will teach a session on scriptwriting.

Shannon McRoberts is a Creative Deconstructionist reimagining life around her one work at a time.  At her core, the USA Today Best-Selling author, award-winning poet, and artist is a lover of all things fantasy.  She works to weave myths and lore into the fantastical tomes she pens.  Besides her own creative endeavors, Shannon also offers her services as a freelance artist and indie publishing consultant.  You can find out more on her link page: 

Shannon will present a workshop on indie publishing entitled, "Crafting Independence: Unraveling the Secrets of Self-Publishing."

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Paul Stansbury is a lifelong native of Kentucky. He is the author of the four volume Inversion Series as well as Down By the Creek – Ripples and Reflections.  Over one hundred of his works have been published. His speculative fiction stories as well as his poetry have appeared in a number of print anthologies as well as a variety of online publications. He is Scheduling Coordinator for The Jeanne Penn Lane Celebration of Kentucky Writers. He is the owner of Sheppard Press. Now retired, he lives in Danville, Kentucky. Visit Paul's website at : and connect with him on Facebook  Paul will teach a session on writing short stories.

Stephanie Feger, owner and chief strategist of the emPower PR Group, is passionate about emPowering authors and authorpreneurs with laser-focused marketing strategies and tactics to help write books that sell, promote books to those who need and want them most, and build meaningful businesses from emPowering messages. As an author of several books herself—including her forthcoming book series, The Book Marketing Habit—Stephanie merges her love for writing books and her skillset in marketing them, to help authors make their author emPact. She doesn’t believe in movement without strategy, and always keeps strategy front and center. She has also seen how emPowered people emPower people. In fact, her business is built around it! Learn more at Stephanie will take one-on-one appointments with attendees.

Request an appointment here.

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Bestselling author Virginia Smith’s first novel was published in 2006. Since then she’s written more than fifty books that have collected a satisfying number of accolades and awards, including two Holt Medallion Awards of Merit and a Library Journal top pic. Murder–writing about it – is one of her many passions. She loves Jesus, her family, writing, and geeking around on the computer – in that order. She lives in central Kentucky with a barky Maltese named Max. Learn more about Ginny and her books at

Ginny will serve as this year's conference emcee.

That completes our guest lineup. It's going to be a great conference!


Questions? Send us a note through the Contact page.

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