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Writer Unboxed OnConference: Community Focus and Some Breaking News!

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Writer Unboxed is known for its tight-knight community, and the ability to connect in person has become a favorite aspect of the WU UnConference. Can our first online conference (9/29-10/16) compare? Can it bring this community together in a way that goes far beyond what we do here online every week, and that provides opportunities for both networking and lasting friendships? What’s the plan for that?

The 3-Part Plan:


The WU Lounge is a virtual space that’s open 24/7 for connecting with others.

And here’s a little breaking news: It will not open on 9/29, when the event itself starts. Rather, it will open on 9/2. So you will have this space for nearly a full month before the event begins. And here’s some additional breaking news: You’ll have the space for the rest of the year–through the end of 2022.

Why is this a huge plus?

The WU lounge brings people together via video conferencing. It may seem at first like the traditional Zoom meet, even though you connect at a virtual table.


But it’s different beyond appearances.

First, you can virtually move from one table to another to say hello to whomever happens to be in the lounge.

Tables can also be labeled, so you may find a table you’d like to join by its label (e.g. “Debut Authors”).

You can name your own table, too, to help create the experience you’re looking for in the event. For example, you can sit at an empty table and name it “Let’s Brainstorm Some Stuff” or “Looking for Critique Partners” or “Self Publishing Q&A” or  “I NEED TO TALK ABOUT THAT SESSION WITH KATHRYN CRAFT!”

The sky’s the limit.


Want to grab a private seat, to speak with just one or two others? You can do that, too.

Want to join other writers in your genre for a chat? You’ll have a way to search for them by genre and invite them to a table anytime throughout the event.

And after the event.

Grab tables for NaNoWriMo in November, or create a regular writing sprint this fall with old friends you’ve just met (ht Jim Henson).

Want to join others over lunch? For cocktail hour? Pull up a virtual chair at any open table to listen, learn, and share.

For four full months.

The lounge will also host some important community activities.


The Speed-Meet. We’ve all heard of speed-dating, and its speed-networking equivalent. We’re going to try something similar but different. Connect with your community members in this fun randomized pairing event but with prompts that relate to storytelling and help you get to know one another better.

Book Therapy. A favorite event at our in-person UnConferences, bring your storytelling woes to Book Therapy, where others will be on hand to offer suggestions and encouragement.

Genre Meetups. A huge UnConference hit, our genre meetups are a great way to get to know others in your genre. You write in three genres? Hop between tables. WU meetups have led to finding a mentor, building critique partnerships, sprint-writing buddies, and more.

Bedtime Stories. What’s a WU event without bedtime stories? Sidle up to a table with your first few pages to share — just don’t let anyone fall asleep.


Many of us have taken at least one online class, and they’re all pretty similar. There’s a window at the top of the screen featuring the presenter / any media / etc. And comments are ‘live,’ so that you can chat with other attendees and ask questions of the session leader.

Those questions are buried sometimes, though, in the chatter. And there doesn’t seem to be a way to expand on the topic during a session — at least not in an engaging manner.

On our platform, questions for the session leader are isolated so they aren’t lost in a jumble of comments to the group. Not only that, anyone can “upvote” a question, so that questions with the most group interest are addressed first.


Like our in-person conferences, where we encourage community members to speak up when they have something to contribute or to ask the question central to the advancement of their own storytelling, if you have something vital to say during a session, simply “raise a (virtual) hand” to be heard, and even be invited “to the stage.”

And while nothing can replace REAL, we also like that sessions can be enhanced with emojis. Love what a session leader is saying? There’s a way to show that session leader a little love. And they deserve it. ❤

You can learn more about our upcoming OnConference on Eventbrite HERE, or read on for a description of our 17 sessions on deep craft and the writing life.

Our Sessions

From Crisis to Character: How to Create and Develop a Realistic, Compelling, and Dramatic Character Arc, with David Corbett

Part 1: Creating Formative Backstory

Explore your character’s formative moments of helplessness, the habits those moments create, and how your character views their needs and desires because of them. Once you are secure in this formative backstory, then what?

Part 2: Creating Dramatic Character Arc

Consider how story can evolve from your character’s formative backstory, those “mistaken desires and misbegotten yearnings,” and how to build a plot that demonstrates “success through failure,” as the character makes the inevitable errors and blunders required as she moves from misunderstanding to clarity—or stubbornly rejects the opportunity to change.

I’ll Buy That: Encourage Your Reader to Suspend Disbelief, with Kathryn Craft

Circuses that arrive by night, meteors hollowed out for low-tech space travel, literary characters that narrate their own births—stories are born from imagination. But how can we make our readers believe? With examples from genres across the board, we’ll analyze concrete techniques that best-selling authors use to navigate the implausible.

Get That Story Moving, with Kathryn Craft

At the first indication you can’t keep your story moving, your busy reader will move it for you—right off of her nightstand. Even go-to scenes that are chock full of movement, like explosive action, combat, and sex, may not be able to salvage a stalled story. With examples from popular novels, this look at story movement—what it is, why it begs reader investment, and how to create it—will show why this specialized “movement” should be central to your storytelling efforts.

Searching for “The One”: Excavating the Story Hiding Inside You, with Keith Cronin

An interactive series of prompts, questions and challenges that probe your hot-buttons, fears and insecurities, aimed at sparking your imagination to unpack the story that lies deep within you. The one that’s burning to get out, but there’s something standing in the way. We’ll explore processes and criteria for figuring out which story is “the one,” and how to take that kernel of an idea and let it morph and grow without losing control—or killing your passion.

I, Writer, with Julie Duffy

Reframe your writing life and you’ll see there are lots of opportunities for success and fulfillment at every stage. In this session, you will explore seven realms of writing that ascending writers must manage—including generating ideas; drafting and revising; engaging with other writers, readers and the publishing industry; learning to celebrate your tiny wins; and putting systems in place to keep yourself on track. You’ll learn to identify your next step based on your stage and any strengths or weaknesses, and in this way can make meaningful progress, step by step.

The Dynamics of Opposition, with Desmond Hall

We need to create meaningful challenges for our protagonists, and many times we don’t create enough of them or those challenges lack the complexity needed to bring out a protagonist’s real character. Digging into the negative side of our stories as well as the protagonist’s perspective can create solutions. In this workshop we’ll explore different ways of generating obstacles for our protagonists. Come with a one- to two-sentence description of your story. Be ready to work on a 15-minute exercise where you will create obstacles of opposition that will make your plot more compelling.

Losing the Plot: Writing by the Seat of Your Pants, with Gwen Hernandez

The writing world is full of plotting methods, but what if none of them work for you? You’re not alone—and you’re not lazy or doing it wrong!—you might just be wired differently. Join this seasoned writer-without-a-plan for tips on figuring out what type of writer you are, why knowing matters, and how to make not plotting a manuscript less stressful.

On Voice, with Elizabeth Huergo

We all know what it means to “voice” an opinion. What does “voice” mean when it comes to writing? In our conversation, we will be defining this elusive quality, exploring revision strategies meant to enhance how sound works hand-in-hand with sense, as well as considering why “voice” matters. Attendees are welcome to bring any 3 sample paragraphs (one sample per page/about 600 words total) of their writing for hands-on practice. All writers, all levels are welcome.

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers: Dialogue Workshop, with Dave King

The Dialogue Workshop, which will cover both the mechanics of dialogue and techniques to make dialogue flow naturally, will present material from Dave King’s classic book on writers, Self-Editing for Fiction Writers, along with material that will appear in the book’s not-yet-published updated edition. Participants are invited to submit two pages of dialogue, from which Dave will draw examples.

Draw Your Next Draft, with Arthur Klepchukov

Still staring at the same words for your next draft? Learn how to revise in this playful, hands-on workshop by experimenting with techniques that go beyond writing–like creating movie posters, floor plans, caricatures, mind maps, and typography bombs. Your next draft needs you to dream bigger. Bring at least 1,000 words to revise, and plan to practice and discuss various techniques. Let’s draw your next draft!

THE BONES OF THE GODS master sequence, with Donald Maass featuring new material from a book-in-progress

Part 1: Timeless Characters

Certain characters linger in our minds not just for days but for decades. What components of character create that effect? In this hands-on workshop, learn what not only brings characters alive but also makes them people that we can never forget. Every character can create an archetype once you know how.

Part 2: Timeless Story Elements

Buried beneath familiar plots are the hidden structures of story, enduring patterns and elements that have captured the human imagination for millennia. They work because they enact human struggles that remain constant through time. Older than the hero’s journey and as immediate as the latest trend, learn the methods of building enduring stories in this hands-on workshop.

Part 3: Universal Human Experience

Beyond character arc there is a journey that ties together all of humanity, through all time. What have humans always searched for? What makes the journeys of your characters the journeys of us all? In this hands-on workshop, discover the methods of capturing in your current novel the greatest treasure of timeless fiction: universal human experience.

The Building Blocks of a Story: Crafting Scenes with Purpose and Power, with Barbara Linn Probst

This interactive, step-by-step workshop will guide participants through the components of a well-crafted scene: how they relate to each other and to the larger narrative that the scene must serve, and why each is important. Using examples, we’ll look at eight core elements of a purposeful and effective scene; learn to identify and address potential weaknesses such as gaps, false cues, fuzziness, “doing too much,” and “doing too little;” and explore ways to strengthen a scene’s impact and cohesion. Attendees will then have several hands-on opportunities to apply these principles to one of their own scenes-in-progress.

Experiential Description, with Ray Rhamey

This interactive workshop details techniques for emotionalizing the descriptions of action, people, and place. You can not only enhance your overall story but create a deeply immersive experience for your readers by sharing a character’s singular perspective. Brief writing and class exercises will explore the craft of creating a rich sense of character through artful description.

Inclusive Storytelling, with Grace Wynter

Too often, stories welcome some readers at the expense of others. But inclusive storytelling strives to move beyond stereotypes and outdated language and archetypes by creating stories that come to life for all readers. In this session, Professional Editor and Authenticity Reader Grace Wynter provides insight into language, cultural shifts, and resources that will help authors tell stories that more accurately and authentically reflect the changing world around them.

Early-Bird tickets to the Writer Unboxed OnConference are $299. You can secure your seat at Eventbrite, HERE. 

We hope to see you online this September and beyond. Write on.



Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~50 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. In 2014, the first Writer Unboxed UnConference (part UNtraditional conference, part intensive craft event, part networking affair) was held in Salem, MA. Learn more about our 2019 event, ESCAPE TO WuNDERLAND, on Eventbrite. In 2016, the Writer Unboxed team published a book with Writer's Digest. AUTHOR IN PROGRESS: A No-Holds-Barred Guide to What It Really Takes to Get Published has been well-received by readers who seek help in overcoming the hurdles faced at every step of the novel-writing process--from setting goals, researching, and drafting to giving and receiving critiques, polishing prose, and seeking publication. James Scott Bell has said of the guide, "Nourishment for the writer's soul and motivation for the writer's heart." You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, and join our thriving Facebook community.

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