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Young Writer's Workshop

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The goal of this Young Writer’s Workshop is to connect a passionate group of local authors with inspired student writers to further build Rochester's creative community. Beyond registering for unique, small-group classes to improve their writing skills, students can submit an original story prior to the workshop and work 1-on-1 with a local author who will give advice, answer questions, and be a genuine voice of encouragement. Writing is often a solo activity, but it doesn't have to be. Join us for a day of creativity and exploration!

  • Open to young writers 10-14 years of age

  • Cost: $50 (lunch and snack included)

  • Registration is limited to the first 50 students.

  • Scholarships are available, please email threshold@castlecommunity.org for more information.

See the listing of local authors below along with a description of each session:

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Mike Kalmbach, Every Good Story Contains a Mystery

Every story needs tension. No matter whether you're writing romance, fantasy, science fiction, or any other genre, learn to use elements of mystery to keep your readers turning pages. In this course, you'll have several opportunities to practice through structured exercises.

Author Bio:
Mike Kalmbach grew up in a forest near Lake Michigan. Spending his summers chasing wizards and fighting battles with evil ogres, Mike has always had a creative mind. He'll often share stories from his past, and some of them are even true.

After time dragged him from childhood, Mike moved into freelance editing, helping other authors improve dozens of stories. During the daylight hours, he writes software to help with genetics research. He leads the Rochester MN Writing group and often speaks on topics from writing and editing to engineering and robotics.

Luckily, Mike now has three kids, so he has plenty of excuses to set down the pen and play. He lives in Minnesota where he, his family, and a band of pirates can still be found battling ogres, dust bunnies, and even the occasional dragon.

Learn more about Mike at: mikekalmbach.com | twitter.com/mikekalmbach | goodreads.com/mikekalmbach | facebook.com/mikekalmbachauthor 


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J. Lynn Else: Enchanting Your Readers with Scintillating Settings

Learn fun tips and tricks to creating immersive settings and unique dialogue. By building your authenticity, you’re building your audience. We’ll analyze our favorite stories and discuss ways to develop your own setting. What should writers be mindful of when creating the backdrop of a science fiction, fantasy, and/or historical fiction story? We’ll explore further in this class.

Author Bio:
J. Lynn Else loves reading and writing about awesome women from antiquity. Besides history, she also gets nerdy with Star Wars, Star Trek, and MST3K. Descendants of Avalon, a YA Fantasy novel, was released through Inklings Publishing in May 2018 with book 2, The Lost Daughters of Avalon released in 2019. She’s also self-published two historical fiction novels set in ancient Egypt and a science fiction novella. J. Lynn enjoys sketching, reliving her 1990s by watching the latest X-Files episodes, honing her Fruit Ninja skills, and randomly busting out into song and dance. She believes in unicorns and practicing random acts of awesome. 

Learn more about J. Lynn at: teasippinnerdymom.com


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K. Bird Lincoln: Lured to the dark side: crafting SF/F villains and anti-heroes

Do you love Snape more than Harry? Loki more than Thor? Can’t wait to find out if Kylo Ren is truly all evil? Come to the dark side where villains and anti-heroes rule! We’ll pick apart your favorite dark characters who walk the line between good and evil to see what makes them tick.

We’ll identify their good and bad points. Then we’ll take a stab at creating our own incarnation of darkness! Let’s explore the shadows together and create a complex villain (or anti-hero) to live there!

Author Bio: K. Bird Lincoln is an ESL professional and writer living on the windswept Minnesota Prairie with family and a huge addiction to frou-frou coffee. Also dark chocolate– without which, the world is a howling void. Originally from Cleveland, she has spent as many years living on the edges of the Pacific Ocean as in the Midwest. Her speculative short stories are published in various online & paper publications such as Strange Horizons. Her medieval Japanese fantasy series, Tiger Lily, is available from Amazon. World Weaver Press released Dream Eater, the first novel in her exciting, multi-cultural Urban Fantasy trilogy set in Portland and Japan, in 2017 and the last novel Last Dream of Her Mortal Soul, complete with villainous Nazis in 2019. She also writes tasty speculative fiction reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Check her out on Facebook, or join her newsletter for chocolate and free stories.


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Jennifer L. Davidson: Character Descriptions: Showing vs. Telling

Playing the role of lead investigator in a mystery novel, you must interview each witness to the crime. What did they see? Who do you believe?

Learn how to show your readers who the witnesses are using their physical appearance, the accessories they carry, their mannerisms, and word choice. After a brief presentation filled with examples from professional authors, volunteers can use props to roleplay the part of a witness, while the rest of the class works to write a captivating description.

Author Bio: Jennifer L. Davidson is the author of three books in the Kody Burkoff Mystery Series and is hard at work on her fourth stand-alone novel. She lives in Rochester with her husband and three children and enjoys writing, reading, and sharing all she’s learned about being creative with others.

Learn more about Jennifer at: jenniferldavidsonwriter.com | facebook.com/jldwriter


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C.H. Armstrong: Ready, Set, Go! Publishing That First Novel

I’ll give a broad overview of the various routes for publishing that first novel. (Self publishing, small publisher, or publishing through an agent, and will hit on topics including the querying process and the various social media contests to aid in the process).

Author Bio: C.H. Armstrong is an Oklahoma native transplanted in Minnesota for twenty-seven years.  A 1992 graduate of the University of Oklahoma, she holds a B.A. in Journalism with a minor in History. A prolific reader of many genres, Cathie—as she is known to friends—vividly remembers learning to read and the thrill of “unlocking the code” behind the letters that make up a word.

Inspired by the homeless community in Rochester, Minn., Cathie’s debut young adult novel, Roam, pays tribute to her favorite novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, and its themes of empathy and actively viewing the world through the lens of others.

Cathie is also the author of The Edge of Nowhere, an historical fiction title set in Oklahoma during the 1930s Dust Bowl and The Great Depression. It was inspired by her own family’s experiences during the era.

When she’s not reading, Cathie enjoys living vicariously through her two children, presenting to classrooms, and following her beloved Oklahoma Sooners Football Team.

Learn more about Cathie at: www.charmstrongbooks.com


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Dominique Jones: Empathy & Writing

Learn ways to channel empathy into your words to engage and connect deeper with your story and audience.

Author Bio: Dominique Jones is a multi-versed artist and mentor, and youth development professional at Boys & Girls Club of Rochester. As a spoken word artist, he has placed in poetry slams, as well as been featured in local events and the podcast Quintessential Listening based in D.C. He has participated in many reputable performances through theatre, music, poetry, and dance. This has led him to compose for Stepping Stone Theatre in St. Paul; as well as perform at Minnesota State University, Mankato, the University of Iowa, and more. He also has choreographed for local musicals and Outklass Dance as well as taught classes through 125 Live, Community Ed, and ACT Now. Through his involvement in the community as teacher, mentor, and artist, he was honored to be named one of the first U.S. Bank Future Leaders in 2018.


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Tony Wirt: “If you’re going to write, you have to master dialogue,” he said.

 Good dialogue brings stories to life. Bad dialogue makes your story feel like a bad 1950s B-Movie. We’ll go over ways to craft realistic conversations, talk about the rules you need to follow and the ones you can (and often should) break.

Author Bio: Tony Wirt is a Rochester author who was raised just across the border in Lake Mills, IA. His debut novel, A Necessary Act, came out in April of 2016 and reached the Amazon Top 100 for Psychological Suspense and Psychological Thrillers. It was also named 2017 Reader’s Choice Novel of the Year by Underground Book Reviews.

A graduate of the University of Iowa, Tony spent nine years doing media relations in the Hawkeye Athletic Department before moving north. When he’s not fly fishing or telling you what music you should be listening to, he’s finishing up his second novel.

Learn more about Tony at: tonywirt.com | @wirter


Work with a Local Author

Submit up to 2500 words of your original work prior to the workshop and work 1-on-1 with one of the seven instructors who will give advice, answer questions, and be a genuine voice of encouragement. Submit your work to Deadline for submitting your work is July 24th.