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Aspiring and Current Authors’ Workshops

You asked; we listened! Books to Benefit is excited to announce a four-part workshop series created for aspiring authors. Each session, designed and delivered by a local published author, introduces you to the critical steps needed to write your novel. From Where do I start? to What are my publishing options? each week covers a new topic.

Topics include:

  1. Where Do I Begin?
  2. Developing the Plot!
  3. What are My Publishing Options?
  4. Truth is Stranger, Fictional Research!

Preregistration is required, and space is limited! Preregistration deadline is one week prior to each course date. Each session is $15 prepaid in advance. To receive a discount, register for all four at $50. $1 convenience fee applies to credit and debit card transactions and has been added to the course fee listed above. Fees are non-refundable, unless Books to Benefit cancels the class. Proceeds from the workshop support STAR Adult Literacy and YouthBuild McLean County’s literacy program.

Participants must be 14 years and older. Childcare is not provided.

Workshop Sessions

Sue RovensSession 1: Where do I begin?

Instructor: Sue Rovens
Date: Saturday, June 30
Time: 2-3 p.m.
Location: 360 Wylie Drive, Ste. 700, Normal, Illinois  61761


Writing a book can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. This workshop will cover the basic types of writing, why word counts are important (and why they aren’t). Explore how to come up with ideas and concepts while tying those ideas together for a cohesive story.

Discover what NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) is all about. Learn how participating in NaNoWriMo can help you jumpstart your writing to get things done. Avoid writing scams and find out how to spot them easily.

Participants who attend this session will learn:

  • How to get started
  • About the different types of writing
  • How to spot writing contest scams

Ideal Participants:

Writers who wish to learn more about the writing and publishing process. Attendees must be age 14 and older.

About the Author:

Sue Rovens is a local indie writer of suspense and horror. She has published two novels, Badfish and Track 9, and two compilations of short stories under the title, In a Corner, Darkly (volumes 1 and 2). Rovens regularly appears at author events, including: Printers Row Lit Fest in Chicago, the Princeton Author Fair, Barnes & Noble in Rockford, and the Bloomington Public Library Author Fair.

Her third novel, Buried, is currently underway. It revolves around a hoarder who lives next to a funeral home. She hopes to have it available sometime in 2019.

Rovens hosts a very active blog — suerovens.com. — which features interviews with authors of all genres. Her most cherished interview was with Jack Ketchum (Dallas Mayr), an award-winning horror writer, who passed away January 2018. It was one of his final interviews.

When she isn’t writing, she works fulltime at Illinois State University as the Stacks Maintenance Manager in Milner Library. In July 2018, she’ll have been with ISU for 27 years.

Preregistration Deadline for Session 1: Saturday, June 23*

Andy ZachSession 2: How do I plot my story?

Instructor: Andy Zach
Date: Saturday, July 7
Time: 2-3 p.m.
Location: 360 Wylie Drive, Ste. 700, Normal, Illinois  61761


You’ve got a great idea for your story. Now what? This session teaches you how to build your plot from a great beginning to a satisfying conclusion, building suspense along the way.

Practice what you learn with the guidance of a successful fantasy author.

Participants who attend this session will learn:

  • How to open their books
  • How to build reader interest in every chapter
  • How to create a spectacular finish that will leave the reader wanting more

Ideal Participants:

Writers who wish to learn more about the writing and publishing process. Attendees must be age 14 and older.

About the Author:

Andy Zach is a local self-published comic fantasy author who is active in the King’s Pen author group as well as NaNoWRiMo (National Novel Writing Month). He devotes himself full-time to writing, editing, publishing and promoting his humorous paranormal fantasy trilogy, The Life After Life Chronicles. Zach walks a fine edge between humor and horror in his three published novels: Zombie Turkeys, My Undead Mother-in-law and Paranormal Privateers.

While striving to publish a novel every nine months, Zach is active on his blog (andyzach.net) and maintains three Facebook pages and Twitter accounts. He also publishes a newsletter for his book fans, keeping them abreast of his latest book, offering previews and advanced reader copies and letting them know of his public appearances. Zach also hosts monthly drawings to give away copies of his books. In addition to writing and self-publishing, Zach hikes with his wife and their hundred-pound Labrador Retriever. And, when he’s not hiking, he bikes on the Rock Island Trail and he reads whenever he can.

Preregistration Deadline for Session 2: Saturday, June 30*

Krystle AbleSession 3: I’m ready to publish, or am I? What are my choices?

Instructor: Krystle Able
Date: Saturday, July 14
Time: 2-3 p.m.
Location: 360 Wylie Drive, Ste. 700, Normal, Illinois  61761


So you think you’re ready to publish your work? This session is for authors with a completed manuscript or those who are nearly finished. We’ll briefly cover the final steps in the writing process, explore the importance of beta readers, discuss the need for different types of editors and follow up with format and design considerations.The majority of the session will cover the three different types of publishing – traditional, small press and self-publishing – to help the writer decide which is the best option for him/her.

The final piece of the session focuses on how to write a successful query letter for writers who are interested in traditional publishing and how to write proposals for small press and anthology/magazine publishing. Learn how Able went from self-publishing 2 novels in 18 months to contracting to publish 18 short stories, 2 novellas and 3 novels in the same period.

Participants who attend this session will learn:

  • The final steps in the writing process that shouldn’t be ignored before publishing
  • About the three different types of publishing
  • The pros and cons of each type of publishing
  • How subscription box services are changing the way authors reach readers
  • How to write a query letter or submission proposal

Ideal Participants:

Writers who are ready to publish or are interested in learning more about the publishing process. Attendees must be age 14 and older.

About the Author:

Krystle Able is a local fiction writer who works fulltime as a freelance web content writer. In fall 2018, Able will attend the University of Illinois Springfield to finish her bachelor’s in English literature.

Able has four stories that will be published with the small press publisher, Enchanted Anthologies, in 2018. Her short story, Blood Lust, will be featured in A Deadly World: Vampires in New York Anthology, which releases April 30, 2018. Other releases are pending for July, November, and December with Enchanted Anthologies.

Able anticipates release of her self-published contemporary romance, Waiting for Summer, in June of 2018. She also has many other projects in the works. When not writing or going to school, Able enjoys spending time with her husband and three children, reading and cooking.

Preregistration Deadline for Session 3: Saturday, July 7*

Sylvia ShultsSession 4: Truth is Stranger Than Fiction — But Just As Fun!

Instructor: Sylvia Shults
Date: Saturday, July 21
Time: 2-3 p.m.
Location: 360 Wylie Drive, Ste. 700, Normal, Illinois  61761


What author wouldn’t want to add depth to his/her work with real true facts? This course will focus on research and writing methods for the nonfiction writer, but fiction writers will find it helpful as well. Sylvia Shults started her writing life as an author of both horror and romance fiction, but discovered a passion for “just the facts” when she was asked to write a collection of true ghost stories. Since then, she has published five books of nonfiction and is currently researching two more. Join her to learn how to gather nonfiction material — and what to do with it once you’ve got it!

Participants who attend this session will learn:

  • Why it is important to do your research
  • How to research for your writing
  • Writing methods for the nonfiction writer

Ideal Participants:

Nonfiction writers and writers in any genre who wish to wrap their heads around factual research. Attendees must be age 14 and older.

About the Author:

Sylvia Shults is the author of 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and other books of true ghost stories. She has spent the past twenty years working in a library, slowly smuggling words out in her pockets day by day to build a book of her own. She sits in dark, spooky, haunted places so you don’t have to. She lives a short, ten-minute motorcycle ride away from the haunted asylum that is featured in so many of her books; she considers it the highest privilege to share the incredible, compassionate history of the Peoria State Hospital.

After battling an intense, lifelong fear of the dark, Shults decided to become a ghost hunter. (What WAS she thinking?) As a paranormal investigator, she has made many media appearances, including a tiny part in the Ghost Hunters episode “Prescription for Fear” about the Peoria State Hospital.

Shults loves hearing from her readers, especially when they have spooky stories of their own to share with her. She can be found at www.sylviashults.wordpress.com, and on Facebook at the pages for Fractured Spirits and Ghosts of the Illinois River.

“Sylvia Shults is the best nonfiction paranormal writer I’ve ever read. Her wealth of history and paranormal knowledge combines with a literate and very approachable writing style to seduce even the skeptical.” — Tamara Thorne, author of The Cliffhouse Haunting

Preregistration Deadline for Session 4: Saturday, July 14*