Speaker Schedule

2019 Speaker Schedule

If you have any questions about any of our upcoming meetings, please use our Contact Us Page.

Jan 5 – Get Your Manuscript Past the Gatekeeper with Revision Techniques (lecture plus exercise) – Donna Galanti

Have you had your manuscript requested over and over only to have the door closed on your work? Based on personal experience working with editors of multiple publishers, a hired developmental editor, and as a literary agency intern, Donna shares what can get your manuscript past the gatekeeper (the intern!) and in the hands of the agen t. You’ll discover the most common stop-reading mistakes Donna experienced as a first-reader intern that led her to not recommend the manuscript to an agent.

In this self-editing talk, you’ll also learn how to build your revision toolkit and apply it to your manuscript, including; world building, narrative flow, character development, dialogue, backstory, and undeveloped plot lines. Donna will help you create the game plan to overcome problems that could be plaguing your manuscript and keeping you from getting published. Addressing these issues could power up your story and get it past the gatekeeper.

Bio:  Donna Galanti is the author of the bestselling paranormal suspense Element Trilogy and the children’s fantasy adventure Joshua and The Lightning Road series. She is represented by Bill Contardi of Brandt & Hochman Literary Agents, Inc. Donna is a contributing editor for International Thriller Writers the Big Thrill magazine and blogs with other middle grade authors at Project Middle Grade Mayhem. She’s lived from England as a child, to Hawaii as a U.S. Navy photographer. Donna enjoys teaching at conferences on writing craft and marketing and also presenting as a guest author at elementary and middle schools. Visit her at elementtrilogy.com and donnagalanti.com She is also the creator of Create Your Awesome Community for Debut Authors, a proven 10-step system to building a successful author platform. Download her free guide, 4 Proven Steps to Connect with Readers Right Now (Before Your Book Even Comes Out!), at yourawesomeauthorlife.com.

Mar 2 – Social Media and Viral Marketing – Xio Axelrod

In the lightning-fast pace of today’s publishing industry, it’s difficult to stay on top of trends, tools, and effectiveness of where and how to market your books. Xio Axelrod is here to help us navigate through the topic with her characteristic warmth and humor.

Bio:  Xio Axelrod is an award-winning author of love stories, contemporary Scottish romance and (what she likes to call) strange, twisted tales. Xio grew up in the music industry and began recording at a young age. When she isn’t writing stories, she can be found in the studio, writing songs, or performing on international stages (under a different, no-so-secret name). She lives in Philadelphia with one full-time husband and one part-time cat.

May 4 - From Page to Screen: Creating a TV Series Bible Based on Your Book - Leslie Anne Lighton

You’ve been told your single book or series would make a perfect TV show. So how do you get your stories in front of those television producers who can translate your written words to the visual medium?  By developing a series bible that includes everything needed to prove to industry professionals that you have fully developed the centralized core along a solid plot spine as well as the world building, episode sequences, character journeys, overall mood, and atmosphere that is consistent with a specific story genre. And once completed, how do you know where to pitch your comprehensive series bible for  potential production studio acquisition?

Join Leslie Anne Lighton as she shares how her film screenwriter and executive producer friend Debi King McMartin developed her intriguing series bible for television consideration, influenced by Bigfoot stories told among the Spanish Moss adorn bayous along Caddo Lake in Louisiana.

Bio:  Leslie Anne Lighton is an author of a historical nonfiction book, and she has served as a director and an associate film producer on several film projects, including SKOOKUM: The Hunt for Bigfoot, She has also worked as a technical writer, computer programmer, training course designer and instructor, software tester, compliance auditor, and newspaper photojournalist.

She has held many roles on three RWA Chapters including president, vice-president-membership, secretary, web manager, newsletter editor, and now VFRW Treasurer. Several of her romance novels manuscripts have finaled in many RWA national and chapter contests. In July, for the third time, she’ll be a RWA conference workshop presenter.

By day Leslie manages the global team who ensure the quality of internal and external software is compliant with industry standards and Federal relations for the Fortune 12 company.

Sep 7 - VFRW General Meeting and An Audiobooks Panel Discussion - Kate Forest, Susan Scott Shelley, Lisa Lang Blakeney, Ann Russek

Four VFRW member authors (including one who does professional voice/voice-over work) will discuss the ins and outs of audiobooks, from the vendors, to the process of selecting narrators, to final products, and how to promote them.

Bio: Award winning author Kate Forest has worked in a psychiatric hospital, as a dating coach, and spent a disastrous summer selling above-ground swimming pools. But it was her over twenty-year career as a social worker that compelled her to write love stories with characters you don’t typically get to read about. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband, two kids, and a fierce corgi.

Bio: USA Today bestselling author Susan Scott Shelley writes stories with heat and heart, where love always wins. Her romances give readers lighthearted and emotionally satisfying escapes into happily ever after. In addition to crafting stories, she is also a professional voiceover artist and enjoys lending her voice to a wide range of projects. She lives in Philadelphia with her husband and is an avid fan of her hometown sports teams. Her favorite things include running, sports, hard rock, and writing about people from all walks of life finding their special someone. Get in touch with her athttp://www.susanscottshelley.com

Bio:  Lisa Lang Blakeney is an author of steamy contemporary fiction featuring alpha bad boys. Visit her website for more info – http://lisalangblakeney.com

Bio: Bright, honest, and warm. Ann Russek brings life to educational copy and holds the interest of reluctant employees or students. She currently voices training shows for Knowledge Accelerators on an ongoing basis. Ann Russek has professional acting and VO training. Most recently, Ann was invited to Indiana University of PA to be a guest actor/alumni in their Spring 2018 mainstage production of The Wolves.

In addition, Ann Russek was a college professor of literature and creative writing for over twelve years and has developed a likable, confident instructional voice and style in the classroom as well as the recording booth. As Ann LaBar, writer of young adult fiction, she is represented by Lisa Rodgers of JABberwocky Literary Agency.

Nov 2 - Craft Marketing Plans like an Author-preneur - Carol Van Den Hende

Marketing is simply the art (and science) of finding and connecting with your audience. In this fun, fast-paced session, Carol will demystify how professional marketers devise marketing plans. As with most success, it starts with setting quantifiable objectives. Carol will cover five principles, along with examples and how to apply them to your book launch.

Bio: Carol Van Den Hende is an MBA with twenty years’ experience in marketing strategy. Plus, she works in chocolate (there’s no ‘sweeter’ job!) Ever since she joined the writing community, she’s been sharing her marketing expertise with authors and publishers, through speaking and coaching. She, her husband and twins live in NJ with their well-pampered Siberian rescue cat.

Feb 2 – Hero, Take the Wheel: Making the Romantic Character Arc Drive Your Story – Eileen Emerson

In the very best books, the main characters start the story believing one thing about themselves, and they transform through (or are transformed by) the journey the author takes them on. In Romance, that journey has specific paths, vistas, and road blocks the two main characters must encounter for a heart-clenching, soul-wringing story. Learn what are the points of the Romantic Arc, when they occur, and how best to give them depth and power to drive your story to a truly satisfying ending your readers will love (and love you for!)

Bio: Eileen Emerson spent years getting a Master’s degree in costume design for the theatre, and then chucked it all to make her way in the world of Corporate America. She eventually turned her creative focus to writing and is now a three-time finalist in the prestigious Romance Writers of America® Golden Heart® contest.

Apr 6 – Using Archetypes to Create Characters in Romance – Hope Ramsay

Every romance requires a journey for the hero and heroine. While the plot is happily moving along with suspense, humor, vampires, pirates, bad guys, or other complications, the hero and heroine need to be falling in love. And in order to fall in love the hero and heroine have to learn something important that makes them worthy (or able) to give and receive love.

But what do they need to learn? And how the heck do you figure that out without falling back on worn-out romance clichés?

Join us and learn how to use the positive and negative traits of personality archetypes to develop a strong, emotional love story and three-dimensional characters that have room to grow and develop and fall in love.

Bio:  Hope Ramsay is a USA Today bestselling author of heartwarming contemporary romances, set below the Mason-Dixon Line. She has two grown children, a demanding lap cat named Simba who was born in Uganda, and a precious Cockapoo puppy named Daisy.  She lives in Virginia where, when she’s not writing, she’s knitting or playing her forty-year-old Martin guitar. Her website is: https://hoperamsay.com/

Jun 1 - Informal day of brainstorming, plotting, planning, and writing

With no speaker scheduled, we can let our collective hair down and break off into small groups to brainstorm, share, and plan.

Oct 5 - Working Lunch Workshop - Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius - Lisa Cron

Every writer wants two things: to tell a story that hooks readers and never lets them go, and to find a way to accomplish that without going through the long slog of endlessly writing draft after draft. This workshop will give you actionable ways to meet both goals. Instead of rooting around in your & #8220;plot” for the story, you’ll unearth the key elements specific to your story that will then create the plot, bring it to life, drive it forward, and give it meaning. 

These elements have little to do with the surface events or “writing well” and everything to do with what we’re hardwired to respond to in every story we read (turns out the brain is far less picky about lyrical language than we’ve been lead to believe). You’ll be able to zero in on what your story is actually about before you write word one, or if you’re in the midst of your umpteenth rewrite, before you write another word. You’ll not only produce a more powerful novel, chances are you’ll drastically reduce your rewrite time.

This is a full-day, bring-your-own-lunch workshop.

Bio: Lisa Cron is the author of Wired for Story and Story Genius. Her TEDx talk, Wired for Story, opened Furman University’s 2014 TEDx conference, Stories: The Common Thread of Our Humanity. Her video workshop Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius can be found at CreativeLive.com. Lisa has worked in publishing at W.W. Norton, as an agent at the Angela Rinaldi Literary Agency, as a producer on shows for Showtime and Court TV, and as a story consultant for Warner Brothers and the William Morris Agency. Since 2006, she’s been an instructor in the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program, and she is on the faculty of the School of Visual Arts MFA program in Visual Narrative in New York City.

In her work as a private story coach, Lisa helps writers of all ilk wrangle the story they’re telling onto the page. For a library of her free myth-busting writing tips, and information on how to work with her one-on-one, you can find her at: wiredforstory.com.

Dec 2019 - Members' Holiday Party - Date and Location TBA

Join us in 2020

We are working furiously to secure speakers and workshops for next year, and the full details will be available soon.

In the meantime, please update your calendars with these 2020 meeting dates.

  • January 4, 2020
  • February 1, 2020
  • March 7, 2020
  • April 4, 2020
  • May 2, 2020
  • June 6, 2020
  • September 12, 2020
  • October 3, 2020
  • November 7, 2020
  • December – Members Only Holiday Party, Date TBD


We hope to see you there!


Each year, VFRW members enjoy a slate of programs from a varied and highly skilled group of speakers.

We plan our programs to ensure we touch on all the elements important to Romance writers:

  • Craft (lessons on the mechanics of character and plot, voice, and style),
  • Business (topics focused on publishing, marketing, and taxes),
  • Industry (updates on the publishing world and specific areas of interest to writers.)


Curious about our prior speakers and topics?

Check out our 2017 and 2018 speakers.


Many of our speakers are current or former members of VFRW.
We would be happy to recommend any of our previous speakers — feel free to use our Contact Us Page to ask for more information.