Speakers & Events


Among our events this year, we have great writing workshops, a new podcasting panel, and the return of last year's hit Meals with Mentors program!

Keynote Address

Danielle Bean, the Brand Manager for CatholicMom.com -- as well as blogger, podcaster, retreat leader, and author -- kicks off our conference with a Tuesday night keynote address.

Writing Workshops

Led by experienced authors, our writing workshops are an opportunity to share and discuss work in a small group setting. This year, we're offering three group workshops, as well as individual fiction sessions.

Podcast Panel

A panel of popular Catholic writers and speakers will discuss:

  • Why podcasting is still growing and increasingly impacting the culture
  • How podcasting can help us grow our personal impact as Catholic writers and speakers
  • How to launch, inexpensively
  • How to brand and market a podcast
  • How to conduct an impactful interview--or be a great guest
  • How to monetize

Meals with Mentors

Take advantage of the fact that some of the best discussions at CWCL happen around the meal table. Sign up for one of our new MEALS WITH MENTORS! Share a meal with one of our experienced CWG members and discuss a topic in that mentor's area of expertise.  Each attendee will be responsible for paying for his/her own meal. Sign up for the MWM of your choice at the CWCL registration booth during the conference.

Game Night is back!

Last year, a Guild member beat Joe's trivia challenge and won a free year of membership! Will someone step up and do it again?

After a quick round of hotseat trivia, we'll be playing Bring Your Own Book. The "game of borrowed phrases" is a fun party game where teams try to find the best response to a prompt from their own books.

Actually bring your own book - or any book you like. Can you find "lyrics from a country western song" in the Bible? How about "advice for a recent graduate" from your favorite novel?

Presenters & Presentations

We have a great lineup for you this year! Below, you'll find bios of our presenters and their event(s).

Patti Maguire Armstrong is a writer for the National Catholic Register, Our Sunday Visitor, Legatus Magazine and publisher of a dozen books. Her newest is Holy Hacks: Everyday Ways to Live Your Faith and Get to Heaven, released this year.

Navigating Catholic Book Publishing: Traditional, Hybrid, and Self-Publishing

Each type of publisher—traditional, hybrid, or self-publishing—has very different pros and cons. This presentation will explain what those are, and help writers access what is best for them. Since traditional publishing is most often the dream, Patti will address the best route in that door with direct quotes from a couple publishers specifically for this talk. She will also touch on how to prepare a proposal. However, for speakers in demand or someone in a special field, or in other situations, the other two types of publishers may be the best alternative for an author. Patti will also include quotes from people who have chosen that route, highlighting the advantages and disadvantages of each.

Find Success as a Freelance Writer

Succeeding as a freelance writer is possible if you know the markets and learn how to deliver articles that editors will want. Patti will draw on extensive experience in both the secular and Catholic markets to help inform writers of the possibilities and discerning where they might fit. Included will be advice from several editors on dos and don’ts for landing assignments. She will also share writing tips on research, obtaining interviews, tailoring the article to the publications and general advice on making your writing strong, clear, and tailored to the periodical.

Carolyn Astfalk resides with in Hershey, Pennsylvania. She is the author of the inspirational romances Stay With Me and Ornamental Graces and the coming-of-age story Rightfully Ours. Carolyn is Vice President of the Catholic Writers Guild, member of Catholic Teen Books and Pennwriters, and a contributor to CatholicMom.com and Today’s Catholic Teacher.

I've Finished the First Draft of My Novel. Now What?

Completing a manuscript is a huge accomplishment. But in many respects, it is just the beginning. Now the work of revising, editing, proofreading, and preparing for submission begins. Authors must learn to self-edit, seek the assistance of critique partners, and hire professionals in order to create the best possible chance of success.

Attendees will learn how to ready a manuscript for submission to an agent, publication, or for self-publishing. Included are tips for editing, proofreading, finding critique partners and beta readers, and preparing for submission.

Danielle Bean co-hosts The Gist on CatholicTV, is the Brand Manager for CatholicMom.com, and co-hosts the CatholicMomCast podcast with Lisa Hendey. A popular speaker and media personality, Danielle has authored many books, including her latest, You Are Enough: What Women of the Bible Teach You About Your Mission and Worth.

Keynote Address

Ramp Up Your Impact and Your Income Through Podcasting (Panel)

Celeste Behe is a Bronx-born logophile, nostalgist, and chucklesome storyteller who writes for the National Catholic Register, Today’s Catholic Teacher, and Catholic Digest. A former columnist for CatholicMom.com and a contributor to the Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, Celeste is also a popular speaker at the IHM homeschooling conferences.

Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Writing I Learned in the Bronx

“Everything I Ever Needed to Know About Writing I Learned in the Bronx” is a fun presentation that draws on Celeste’s childhood experiences to convey the importance of authenticity in writing. Attendees will glean lessons for their craft from first-person tales of Bronx neighborhood hijinks.

Exercising Your Write to Speak

As writers, we are often smitten by symbolism, infatuated with imagery, taken with turn of phrase. But are our clever compositions appropriate for every audience? How does the perception of our writing change when the words we’ve written are heard, but not seen? In this presentation, we will find out how the expectations and experiences of a listening audience differ from those of a reading audience, and will talk about ways to “write for the ear, not for the eye.”

Amy J. Cattapan is an award-winning author, speaker, and teacher. Her debut novel Angelhood won two awards, and her second novel, Seven Riddles to Nowhere, won a Catholic Press Association Book Award. She is also the host of BOOK.eD, a Catholic book review program on Shalom World TV.

Plotting Your Novel the Screenwriting Way

Does your plot suffer from a lackluster beginning? Does your story have a "sagging middle"? Learn how to use screenwriting techniques to structure your plot to keep your reader engaged. Using Blake Snyder’s seminal work Save the Cat as a guide, we’ll look at the key elements of a well-structured story that keeps the reader wanting to turn the page. We’ll discuss how you can adjust Snyder’s technique to your genre and your desired book length.

Reaching Without Preaching: Writing Fiction That Engages Teens and Tweens

Teens and tweens can be finicky readers. They want stories that grab their attention and won't let go. Writing well for teens and tweens means creating characters that they will fall in love with. It also means writing plots that keep their attention. While there are many novels out there that can do that, most of them don't offer a Catholic worldview. Find out how to write engaging stories that are faith-infused so that young readers won’t feel like they are being preached to, but still hear a story with the kinds of values their parents want them to have.

Kimberly Cook is the host of The Dignity of Women, which focuses on reclaiming femininity and challenging feminist viewpoints and the objectification of persons. Cook was a recipient of the CWG Seal of Approval in 2018. Her work regularly appears on Catholic news and journalism sites and she runs KimberlyCook.ME.

Ramp Up Your Impact and Your Income Through Podcasting (Panel)

Sister Maria Grace Dateno, a Daughter of St. Paul, is an acquisitions editor and author for Pauline Books & Media. She has an MA in theology from The Catholic University of America, and has served in several of the Pauline Books & Media Centers around the country.

Tips for Getting Published by a Traditional Publisher

Sr. Maria Grace will give a brief explanation of the advantages of traditional publishing and tips for preparing to submit and actually submitting for publication, based on her personal experience as an editor (Pauline Press). Attendees will learn to recognize and avoid the common mistakes that many authors make when submitting for publication, and they will understand better the difference between traditional publishing and self-publishing or subsidy publishing (although the focus of this presentation is traditional publishing). They will make a more informed decision as to whether their idea/manuscript is ready to submit for publication and whether they should attempt to find a traditional publisher. They will improve their query letters or proposals by applying what they have learned.

Writing Fiction for Kids

Sr. Marie Grace will address differences in categories of children’s books, areas of craft such as point of view and dialogue, and tips for research, revision, and submission, speaking from her experience both of writing for kids and being part of a team that considers kids’ book submissions.

Allison Gingras is the host of the podcast A Seeking Heart with Allison Gingras (BreadboxMedia.com), which focuses on Catholic books, and co-host of the Catholicmom.com Momcast. She has created the Stay Connected Journals for Catholic Women, including her book The Gift of Invitation (OSV). Allison works for WINE: Women In the New Evangelization.

Ramp Up Your Impact and Your Income Through Podcasting (Panel)

Donna Heckler is a global marketing executive who has been blessed with a prominent career in the corporate sector. Recognized as a thought leader in brand and marketing strategy, she is co-author of the book The Truth About Creating Brands People Love. Donna's next book Marketing God: Inspired Strategies for Building the Kingdom will be released in August 2019 by OSV.

Marketing God: Inspired Strategies for Authors

Can our authors use marketing techniques that work in corporate America and apply them to their work as they seek to build God's kingdom? Based on her highly anticipated book "Marketing God: Insightful Strategies for Building the Kingdom" this presentation provides the inside secrets for applying secular marketing techniques to reach and engage with more people with your writing. Attendees will learn about marketing strategy elements that are critical for authors. Examples include who is their target audience or what is the "promise" of their brand as an author. Pulling from the book, bible verses will be shared that reinforce key strategies discussed. Authors will be taught that Marketing and Brand are not "bad" words and why they are critical in selling books. They will learn how purchase decisions are made and the importance of creating awareness before the book is even launched. They will be taught the importance of "sweating the small stuff" as they prepared to launch a book and the five steps to take to ensure a successful launch.

Lisa Hendey is the founder of CatholicMom.com, host of "Lisa Hendey & Friends", co-host of "Catholic MomCast", and author of several books including A Book of Saints for Catholic Moms, The Grace of Yes and I am God's Storyteller. Visit her at LisaHendey.com or on social media @LisaHendey.

Ramp Up Your Impact and Your Income Through Podcasting (Panel)

Lisa Lawmaster Hess is a retired school counselor and an adjunct professor of psychology. A frequent contributor to CatholicMom.com, Lisa is the author of four books, including Know Thyself: The Imperfectionist’s Guide to Sorting Your Stuff. Lisa blogs at The Porch Swing Chronicles and Organizing By STYLE.

Organization for Writers

Creative people may excel at producing winning manuscripts, but those same creative minds can still have trouble remembering which safe place they left that manuscript in. Attendees will explore personal and organizational styles and learn how to use them to their advantage and will leave with an improved sense of self-confidence, excited to put their styles to work by choosing tools and methods that work for them. . A sense of humor is welcome :-)

Deanna Klingel writes for the young and young at heart readers. She visits schools, libraries, and bookstores, as well as conferences. She lives in Edenton, NC (coast) with her husband.

The Merry-Go-Round of Writing Children's Literature

Deanna describes the ups and downs of traditional publishing literature for children, helping writers of children's books become more discerning when selecting their publisher. Participants will be more aware of the particulars of publishing children's books, and know some key issues to clarify with a publisher while negotiating a contract.

Antony Kolenc is a law professor who has taught at Florida Coastal School of Law and currently teaches at the University of North Texas College of Law. He writes a legal column in Practical Homeschooling Magazine and speaks at legal, writing, and homeschool events. He is also the author of a medieval, inspirational historical fiction trilogy for youth due for release from Loyola Press in 2020. Tony retired as a Lieutenant Colonel from the U.S. Air Force Judge Advocate General's (JAG) Corps after 21 years of service. During his military career he litigated civil and criminal cases before trial and appellate courts, and taught at the Air Force Academy. He graduated with his J.D. degree from the University of Florida College of Law. His writings focus on constitutional law. Find him at www.antonykolenc.com.

Five Writing Lessons My Editor Taught Me

In reworking his fiction trilogy,Tony says he has learned much from his editors, including a developmental editor hired by Loyola. Using real examples from his writing/editing, he will focus on five of the most important lessons he has learned about point of view, characterization, theme, plotting, and scene writing.

Legal Issues in Writing

Tony is on hand to discuss key legal issues with copyright, contracts, and other legal issues (e.g., defamation, privacy), using real-life examples from his own experience and those of other Catholic writers.

Virginia Lieto is an adjunct professor of Theology at Saint Joseph’s College of Maine, where she also obtained her Master of Arts Degree in Pastoral Theology. In addition to teaching, and speaking publicly on the Catholic faith, she is the author of the children’s book “Adventures of Faith, Hope and Charity – Finding Patience.” She contributes to Catechist Magazine, Catholicmom.com, and Saint Joseph’s College of Maine’s Theology Blog. In addition, Virginia edits non-fiction manuscripts for publication. She also maintains her own blog focused on virtue, morality and Gospel reflections.

Leslie Lynch lives near Louisville, Kentucky, with her husband and a rescued feral-turned-sweetheart cat. She’s written three full-length novels: Hijacked, Unholy Bonds, and Opal’s Jubilee; and two novellas: Christmas Hope and Christmas Grace. She occasionally contributes to the Archdiocese of Indianapolis’s newspaper, The Criterion, and holds an MFA in Writing from Spalding University.

Characterization: Why It Matters So Much, and How to Create Compelling Characters

This traditional lecture is meant for a basic level audience, though more advanced writers should benefit, too. Emphasis will be placed on the interaction of characterization with the other elements of fiction writing (with a nod to essayists or memoirists, too). Characters are at the heart of storytelling. Readers root for well-developed characters, and develop empathy for even the most despicable villain in well-written books. Characters drive stories, even if the plot is action-packed and pulse-pounding. If readers don’t care what happens to the character, all the plot twists in the world will lead to yawns, and the book will lose its readers. Characterization is more than a list of physical characteristics, though. By accessing the character’s innermost thoughts, authors can create complex personas with inner conflict and organic strengths and weaknesses. Inner conflict will both fuel and interact with setting, plot, and other characters. External conflict will feed off internal conflict and drive character arc. Attendees will learn how vital characterization is to their work, learn how to create compelling characters, and gain a broader understanding of how characterization interacts with the rest of the elements of the story.

Take Your Writing to the Next Level: Focusing on Basic Craft and Revision

Publishing is easier now than it’s been in history—and that’s not necessarily a good thing. With the clicks of a few buttons, first drafts packaged in lovely cover art masquerade as quality literature. The art of revision is lost on starry-eyed authors who are unaware of the pitfalls of poor (or no) mastery of writing craft. Writers underestimate or fail to use critical, readily-available tools. This presentation will examine elements that create strong fiction: fully realized characters who grab readers’ imaginations; setting which uses the senses to evoke sense of place; plot twists which grow organically from internal and external conflict; authentic tension that keeps readers turning pages. The need for critique, revision, and editing will be stressed. Attendees will leave with a comprehensive list of resources.

Lisa Mladinich is a Catholic wife and mom; the host of a new podcast launching August 7, called “Homeschooling Saints”; a bestselling author, conference host, retreat leader, and TV host; and a God-centered coach dedicated to helping her clients create a life they love.

Ramp Up Your Impact and Your Income Through Podcasting (Panel)

Donna-Marie Cooper O’Boyle is a Catholic wife, mother and grandmother, passionate about teaching the Faith and has served as a Catechist for thirty years. She is a retreat and pilgrimage leader, and an award-winning best-selling author of more than thirty books, and also an award-winning journalist, an International speaker. Donna-Marie is the EWTN Host and creator of three television series. She knew St. Teresa of Calcutta for a decade, received a special blessing on her writing from St. John Paul II, was invited by the Holy See to participate at a Vatican Congress for women, and has appeared on many TV programs including Fox NewsZenit News, EWTN News Nightly, EWTN Live, Vatican Insider, Rome Reports, and Vatican Radio. She is a frequent guest on EWTN's Bookmark, Women of Grace, and Sunday Night Prime, as well as on national radio and television. Her memoir is entitled The Kiss of Jesus. Learn more at her websites: www.donnacooperoboyle.com and www.feedingyourfamilyssoul.com.

7 Unfailing Rituals to Nourish the Writer's Soul to Become Effective and Prolific

An inspiring down-to-earth presentation which combines practical with soulful habits which aid the mind, heart, and soul to ultimately become a highly effective prolific writer.

Heidi Saxton is Senior Acquisitions Editor at Ave Maria Press, and has been on both sides of the editor's desk in religious publishing for over thirty years. She loves working with authors who are already established in their ministries, to help them develop non-fiction Catholic books on prayer, Christian living, and Catholic spirituality.

The Successful Catholic Author: 12 Tips for Establishing and Cultivating a Fruitful Relationship with Your Editor

Whether you’re getting ready to pitch your book or write up your proposal, the prospect of interacting with the person who will decide your fate can be daunting. The good news is that editors are always looking to connect with promising authors who understand how the publishing industry works, and what they need to do to succeed. In this talk, we will talk about twelve realities of Catholic publishing that, once you understand them, will help you to build a fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship with the person on the other side of the desk – someone who (believe it or not) wants you to succeed as much as you do. This talk draws from the experience of 30 years of religious publishing as well as input from editors in other Catholic publishing houses. You will receive tips for establishing rapport and effective communication with your editor at three critical stages of the process: before the “pitch,” while writing the proposal, and during the project development phase.

Pete Socks serves as General Manager of Breadbox Media, a national, Catholic podcasting network. Since taking on this role he has grown the platform to nearly 60 shows and from 5K to 25K downloads per month. Pete is also the host of his own show "Off the Shelf" where he conducts weekly author interviews.

Ramp Up Your Impact and Your Income Through Podcasting (Panel)

Karen Ullo is the author of two novels, Jennifer the Damned (2015) and Cinder Allia (2017), as well as the managing editor of the Catholic literary journal Dappled Things. She holds an MFA in screenwriting from the University of Southern California.

Horror: Genre of the Sacred

Thematic Grace: Stories Without Sermons

Fiction is experiential, not rational; emotional, not argumentative. This presentation will cover how to create a story that immerses the reader in Catholic Christian worldview, heart and soul. Attendees will learn the role of storytelling and imagination in evangelization and study the craft of how themes are built through character development, the action of the story, symbolism, and most importantly, empathy. They will see how secular culture has mastered this kind of storytelling, and how Christians can reclaim it as our own.

Leslea Wahl is the author of three award-winning Catholic teen novels, The Perfect Blindside, An Unexpected Role, and Where You Lead. She strives to write Young Adult novels that will encourage teens to grow in their faith through fun, adventurous mysteries.

Reaching Without Preaching: Writing Fiction That Engages Teens and Tweens

Teens and tweens can be finicky readers. They want stories that grab their attention and won't let go. Writing well for teens and tweens means creating characters that they will fall in love with. It also means writing plots that keep their attention. While there are many novels out there that can do that, most of them don't offer a Catholic worldview. Find out how to write engaging stories that are faith-infused so that young readers won’t feel like they are being preached to, but still hear a story with the kinds of values their parents want them to have.

Nancy Ward is a convert, speaker and author who empowers others to share their stories through her Sharing Your Faith Story book, DVD, workshops and retreats. She contributed to The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion, facilitates the DFW Catholic Writers and the Nonfiction Critique Group for CWG, where she serves on the Board. Find her at NancyHCWard.com and JoyAlive.net.

Authentic Marketing

Authentic Marketing inspires and demonstrates the importance of writers sharing their personal story with their readers, fans and prospective customers. The 1-2-3 structure for giving their witness and ten tips for sharing their faith story empowers the attendee. The attendees interact by brainstorming implementation of this marketing tool. Attendees will learn: five reasons to connect to your readers with your personal story, what your readers want to know about you and why, how to overcome the fear of rejection, the basic structure of any faith story, how to write a Faith Biography and an Elevator Speech, ten tips for sharing your story, ways to share your story in marketing yourself.

Joe Wetterling is a professional educator, homeschooling dad, and writer. He's appeared at national conferences, speaking on education, technology, and philosophy. Joe writes for New Evangelizers, and he’s taught for Holy Apostles MOOCs and the Dominican Institute (now SignumDei). He is a member of the Militia Immaculata and President of the Catholic Writers Guild. Learn more about him at JoeWetterling.com.

A Theology of Imaginative Literature

The oldest, perhaps only, plot is creation, fall, and redemption. Imaginative writers - fiction authors, poets, and playwrights - explore this again and again as they subcreate. In this presentation, you'll learn how the best writing echoes the Truths of our faith, even when the faith isn't made explicit on the page. Attendees will learn how stories, even not explicitly Catholic stories, follow the great plot of creation, fall, and redemption. They'll think about how their craft echoes God's own creation of the world and of us. From Shakespeare and Dickens, to Doctor Who and Avengers: Endgame, we'll consider how great (or at least popular) stories follow the rules of the real, God-created-and-redeemed world.

Site design by On Fire Media