2022 Books-in-Progress Conference



Carnegie Center’s 2022 Books-in-Progress Conference will be held in Lexington, KY on June 4-5 and in person, with an optional pre-conference session and a welcome reception on June 3. New York Times Bestseller Gwenda Bond, widely known for her YA Lois Lane series and official Stranger Things prequel novel Suspicious Minds will keynote. Immerse yourself in craft workshops led by top writers, editors, and writing professionals. Topics include fiction, nonfiction, YA, publishing, revision, and more. The following optional add-ons are available at an additional cost:

  1. Virtual one-on-one pitches with literary agents Eric Smith, and Kelly Thomas.
  2. Pre-conference retreat with R Dean Johnson (Bluegrass Writers Studio) SOLD OUT
  3. Post-conference writing retreat with Jennifer Mattox and Z Jackson 

REGULAR CONFERENCE RATE: $195/ $170 students

SCHOLARSHIPS: A limited amount of full scholarships will be available to members of the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative. Please contact Claudia Love Mair to inquire about scholarships for Black writers.

This year’s speakers and presenters include R Dean Johnson, Alice Speilburg (of the Speilburg Literary Agency), Kelly Thomas and Christina Morgan (Serendipity Literary Agency), Leatha Kendrick, Z. Knight, Tiffany Reisz, Ashley Blooms, Elizabeth Kilcoyne, Sheila Williams, Julia Royston, Tracee de Hahn, David Domine, and more! Read their bios below.


The Books-in-Progress Conference is sponsored by Kentucky Arts Council, LexArts, National Endowment for the Arts, Spalding MFA in Writing, Reitzel Cook, National Society of Arts and Letters, University of Kentucky, Lexington Writer’s Room, and WUKY.

For an At a Glance Books-in-Progress Conference agenda, click HERE.



Are you ready to pitch your book to a literary agent? This year’s literary agents include Eric Smith of P.S. Literary and Kelly Thomas of Serendipity Literary Agency.

2. Click HERE to register to meet with Eric Smith (virtual Monday, June 6th appointments) 

3. Click HERE to register to meet with Kelly Thomas (virtual Monday, June 6th appointments)

For more information about Erin and Eric, click HERE to read their bios.



Pre-Conference Retreat is Friday, June 3, 1-5 pm. This is an optional add-on to the conference.

Defamiliarization: Or, How Details Win the Day

In his essay, “On Defamiliarization,” Charles Baxter says “…the business of the novelist is not to relate great events but to make small ones interesting.” In other words, while our books of poetry and prose may contain grand ideas, the devil will always be in the details. Agents, editors, and contest judges read books with great ideas all the time, but the books that capture the reader at the sentence level are the ones that get the contract or win the contest. In this workshop we’ll take a deeper look at defamiliarization—defining it and seeing it in action—and other techniques for making your details work harder without making you work all that much harder to get them there. 

R Dean Johnson is the author of the novel, Californium (Plume-Penguin), and the story collection, Delicate Men (Alternative Book). His prose has appeared recently online in Baltimore Review, in print in Cimarron Review, and incredibly (to him) in Ascent, New Orleans Review, and The Southern Review.  Originally from California, he makes his home in Richmond with his wife, the writer Julie Hensley, their two children, a dog, three cats, and some urban chickens. A Professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, he directs the low-res MFA in Creative Writing program, Bluegrass Writers Studio.




Keynote: The Importance of Community to the Writing Life

Gwenda Bond is the New York Times bestselling author of many novels. Among others, they include the Lois Lane and Cirque American trilogies, and the first official Stranger Things novel, Suspicious Minds. Not Your Average Hot Guy and The Date from Hell are her first rom-coms for adults. She and her husband author Christopher Rowe co-wrote a middle grade series, the Supernormal Sleuthing Service. She also created Dead Air, a serialized mystery and scripted podcast written with Carrie Ryan and Rachel Caine. She cofounded charitable efforts Creators 4 Comics and the Lexington Writer’s Room. Her nonfiction writing has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Locus Magazine, Salon, the Los Angeles Times, and many other publications. She has an MFA in writing from the Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in a hundred-year-old house in Lexington, Kentucky, with her husband and their unruly pets. There are rumors she escaped from a screwball comedy. She writes a monthlyish letter you can sign up for at www.tinyletter.com/gwenda. Visit her online at www.gwendabond.com or @gwenda on Twitter.


Julia Royston spends her days doing what she loves, writing, publishing, speaking and coaching others to write and monetize their messages to the world. “Helping You Get Your Message to the Masses and Turn Your Words into Wealth,” that is her why and motto. To date, Julia has written 68 books, recorded 3 music CDs and coached more than 250 to write and publish books as well as establish their own businesses. She is the owner of five companies and a non-profit organization as well as the host of “Live Your Best Life” heard each Sunday morning at 10:00 a.m. EST/3:00 p.m. WAT and “The Book Business Boss Show” on Tuesdays 10:30 a.m. EST on www.envision-radio.com and a contributing author to Envision Radio Magazine. To stay connected with Julia visit solo.to/juliaaroyston. Session: Marketing for Authors: Before, During, and After Your Book is Published 

Tiffany Reisz is the USA Today-bestselling author of the Romance Writers of America RITA®-winning Original Sinners series from Harlequin’s Mira Books. Born in Owensboro, Kentucky, Tiffany graduated from Centre College with a B.A. in English. She began her writing career while a student at Wilmore, Kentucky’s Asbury Theological Seminary. After leaving seminary to focus on her fiction, she wrote The Siren, which has sold more than half a million copies worldwide. Tiffany also writes mainstream women’s suspense fiction, including The Bourbon Thief (winner of the RT Book Reviews Seal of Excellence Award) and the RITA®-nominated The Night Mark. Her erotic fantasy The Red—self-published under the banner 8th Circle Press—was named an NPR Best Book of the Year and a Goodreads Best Romance of the Month. It also received a coveted starred review from Library Journal. Tiffany lives in Louisville, Kentucky with her husband, author Andrew Shaffer, and their two cats. The cats are not writers. Session: “Dialogue Matters!” She Exclaimed 

Zelda Knight is an award-winning editor and USA Today bestselling author. She writes diverse steamy and erotic romance for all orientations. For sci-fi and fantasy, check out her pen name Zelda Knight. For contemporary and historical, check out ZariaKnight. If you’re interested in sweet romance, cozy mysteries, and whimsical adventure, you’ll love her work under Zia Knight. Z’s the publisher and editor-in-chief of AURELIA LEO, an independent Nebula Award-nominated small press. She co-edited Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (AURELIA LEO, 2020), a British Fantasy Award winner. She’s currently co-editing Africa Risen: A New Era of Speculative Fiction (Tordotcom, 2022). When she’s not writing, editing, or playing with her pets, Z sells books from her mobile bookstore PRIDE BOOK CAFÉ, specializing in diverse genre fiction, with an emphasis on literature written or published by Queer, Trans, Black, Indigenous, and other People of Color (QTBIPOC). Keep in touch on social media @AuthorZKnight. Or visit www.authorzknight.com. You can also email z@authorzknight.com. Sessions: The Challenges of Writing a Series & First Page Critique (Evening session)

Elizabeth Kilcoyne is an author, playwright, and poet, born and raised in Kentucky. She currently lives in Lexington, Kentucky. Her first novel, Wake the Bones, a YA Southern Gothic, is forthcoming from Wednesday Books in Summer 2022. Elizabeth uses she/her pronouns. Session: Writing Young Adult & Middle Grade Fiction



Sheila Williams is the author of The Secret Women, Dancing on the Edge of the Roof, On the Right Side of a Dream, The Shade of My Own Tree and Girls Most Likely. She is a contributor to an anthology entitled A Letter For My Mother, compiled and edited by Nina Foxx. She has been commissioned as the librettist for Fierce, an original opera from the Cincinnati Opera’s 100th season in 2020.



Bryce Oquaye is an illustrator, comic artist and designer based in Lexington, KY. Bryce has been a part of a wide range of projects ranging from comics and animation to cover art and apparel design. He’s also an artist in residency within the Lexington Art League, where he runs his studio called MADHUNDREDS. Bryce has developed a style that is not only unique, but what he hopes will be the next wave of illustration styles that showcases a merger of different multi cultural influences and stylized draftsmanship.


Ashley Blooms is the author of Where I Can’t Follow, which was named a Most Anticipated novel by Good Housekeeping, Gizmodo, and Tor.com, among others. Her debut novel, Every Bone a Prayer, was long-listed for the Crook’s Corner Book Prize. She’s a graduate of the Clarion Writer’s Workshop and received her MFA as a John and Renee Grisham Fellow from the University of Mississippi. Her fiction has appeared in The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Strange Horizons, among others. Learn more at: ashleyblooms.comSession: World building with Theme


Tracee de Hahn is the author of the Agnes Lüthi Mysteries published by Minotaur Books. The first in the series, Swiss Vendetta, was inspired by her years in Switzerland and an ice storm that ravaged Geneva. More recently, A Well-Timed Murder probed the heart of the Swiss watch industry. Degrees in Architecture and European history serve as the inspiration for the sense of place at the heart of her classic tales of intrigue and suspense. Session: The Final Edit 


David Dominé lives in Louisville, Kentucky, where he teaches foreign languages and translation at Bellarmine University. In addition to an MFA in Writing from Spalding University, he earned an MA in Spanish Literature from the University of Louisville and an MA in German Literature from the University of California at Santa Barbara. He also completed studies in literary translation at the Karl-Franzens Universität in Graz, Austria, and attended law school in Louisville. In addition to a dozen non-fiction books on wide-ranging topics, he has published numerous articles, short stories, poems, and translations. In 1999, he bought a six-bedroom Victorian home, which the previous owner insisted was haunted. His subsequent time in the Old Louisville historic district led him to write books about its quirky residents and beautiful architecture. Not surprising, Kentucky spirits come alive in his narratives, which often showcase the cultural landscape of his adopted state. His true-crime book A Dark Room in Glitter Ball City deals with the 2009 murder of drag queen Jamie Carroll in a spooky mansion in Old Louisville that once doubled as a sanatorium. Sessions: The Author/Agent Relationship & Traditional Publishing or Self-PublishingWhich is the Right One for Me?  

Alice Speilburg is the founding literary agent at Speilburg Literary Agency, based in Louisville, KY, and has worked in publishing since 2008. She represents commercial fiction and narrative nonfiction. In nonfiction, Alice is looking for cultural narratives, microhistory, nature, true crime, and pop science written by journalists and academics. In fiction, she’s looking for novels that sidestep into history, magic, mystery, horror, or adventure. She’s especially interested in unconventional narrators in overlooked settings. Places in the South or so-called flyover country are rich with complex people and stories, and she’d love to represent more books that showcase this. Sessions: The Author/Agent Relationship & First Page Critique (Evening session)

Claudia Love Mair is the Coordinator of the Kentucky Black Writers Collaborative. She is the author of a memoir, and biography, and 8 novels, including Zora and Nicky, now optioned for a movie. Claudia lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky.



NYT and USA Today best selling author, Robyn Peterman writes because the people inside her head won’t leave her alone until she gives them life on paper. She writes snarky, sexy, funny paranormal and snarky, sexy, funny contemporaries. Her addictions include laughing really hard with friends, shoes (the expensive kind), Target, iced coffee with a big squirt of chocolate syrup in a Yeti cup, bejeweled reading glasses, her kids, her super-hot hubby and collecting stray animals. A former professional actress, with Broadway, film and T.V. credits, she now lives in the south with her family and too many animals to count. Writing gives her peace and makes her whole, plus having a job where she can work in her sweatpants works really well for her. Sessions: The Challenges of Writing a Series & First Page Critique (Evening Session)

Leatha Kendrick is the author of five poetry collections, most recently And Luckier from Accents Publishing (2020). Her memoir and creative non-fiction can be found journals and anthologies including I to I—Life Writing by Kentucky Feminists; Listen Here – Women Writing in Appalachia; Tobacco – A Literary Anthology; A Kentucky Christmas; and elsewhere.  Her poems have appeared in journals including Tar River Poetry, New Madrid Review, Appalachian Review, and the Southern Poetry Review, and in anthologies, including The Kentucky Anthology; The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume 3; and What Comes Down to Us – Twenty-Five Contemporary Kentucky Poets. She lives and writes in Lexington, Kentucky. Session: The Heart of the Story — Making Your Memoir Memorable

Post-Conference Writing Retreat is Sunday, June 5, 1-4 pm (optional conference add-on, extra fee required, limited slots available)
Writing Retreat, Jennifer Mattox & Z Jackson
Don’t wait to put what you learned during the conference into practice! This post-conference retreat will begin with a short group-sharing of conference highlights and goal-setting to help you continue the momentum inspired by your conference experience. Writing prompts will be offered to help propel your writing into high-gear! Bring your lunch and wrap-up your conference experience with a refreshing and inspiring retreat.




Are you ready to pitch your book to a literary agent? This year’s literary agents include Eric Smith of P.S. Literary and Kelly Thomas of Serendipity Literary Agency.

Eric Smith is a literary agent and Young Adult author from Elizabeth, New Jersey. As an agent with P.S. Literary, he’s worked on New York Times bestselling and award-winning books. He represents Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction and non-fiction, genre-blending literary fiction, accessible sci-fi and fantasy, and all kinds of adult non-fiction, from memoir to essay collections to wellness books. In his author life, his recent novels include the YALSA Best Books for Young Readers selection Don’t Read the Comments (Inkyard Press, 2020), You Can Go Your Own Way (Inkyard Press, 2021), and the anthology Battle of the Bands (Candlewick, 2021), co-edited with award-winning author Lauren Gibaldi. His latest book, Jagged Little Pill: The Novel, written with Alanis Morissette, Academy award-winner Diablo Cody, and Glen Ballard, was published with Abrams in April 2022. It’s an adaptation of the Grammy and Tony award winning musical. A lifelong lover of writing and books, he holds a Bachelor of Arts from Kean University in English, and a Master’s in English from Arcadia University, where he currently mentors MFA students. He lives in Philadelphia with his wife and son, and enjoys video games, pop punk, and crying over every movie. Session: First Page Critique (1st session)

Click HERE to register to meet with Eric Smith (virtual Monday, June 6th appointments) 

Kelly is receiving virtual pitches and participating in our virtual First Page Critique

Kelly Thomas brings seventeen years of sales and business expertise to the literary world as a champion for writers. Kelly is a Certified Copy Editor who has a Bachelor’s degree in English (Literature) from Pace University. She is an associate member of the Association of American Literary Agents (AALA) and a member of the Editorial Freelance Association. Prior to joining Serendipity, she provided manuscript analysis for the D4EO literary agency. Kelly is a published poet with publications in ‘Tales for the Disenchanted’ (2008) and ‘Penumbra Art & Literature’ (2015). She has served as an editor for the literary arts magazine Pen & Brush and as a writing coach for the academic consulting company Brattlestreet. Kelly works as a freelance editor and ghostwriter in her free time. She is a ferocious reader and has a passion for reading and writing. Kelly is eagerly building her client roster and is actively seeking the next bestselling author! Kelly considers herself a generalist who is drawn to lyrical writing and strong voices. She is interested in nonfiction (narrative nonfiction, memoirs, true crime), and adult fiction (psychological thrillers, mysteries, suspense, comedies). She also represents children’s books including picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and young adult. She enjoys fast-paced, plot-driven fiction with twists, turns, and jaw-dropping moments. She is drawn to stories about leadership, overcoming adversity, and beating the odds. Stories that are told from a unique psychological vantage point are always of interest. The truth is often stranger than fiction, so Kelly is actively looking for the next great true crime manuscript with a murderous and methodical plot. She loves multi-layered protagonists who struggle between what is right and wrong, and anti-heroes who are villainous but endearing at the same time. Some of her favorite books that perfectly master this include Dearly Departed Dexter, You, American Psycho, Fight Club, Psycho, Interview With a Vampire, Dracula, and My Sister the Serial Killer.

Click HERE to register to meet with Kelly Thomas (virtual Monday, June 6th appointments)




June 4th, 2022
Regular conference rate $195, $175 students
Carnegie Center
251 W. Second Street

We hope to see you soon at the Carnegie Center, home to the Kentucky Writers Hall of Fame and writers and readers of all levels.

Join Us

251 West Second Street
Lexington, KY 40507


(859) 254-4175

Monday – Thursday: 10:00am – 7:30pm
Friday: 10:00am – 5:00pm
Saturday: 10:00am – 2:00pm
Sunday: CLOSED

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