This year, the Writer’s Festival is offering a full day of writing and publishing panels featuring published authors. A wine and cheese reception will cap off the day. A schedule of events is listed below.
The panels are designed for writers wishing to hone their craft and readers eager to learn more about publishing. The Festival committee has assembled a fabulously interesting day for all who attend.

Each Author will be available to sign their books following their event.  We will have a lunch break from noon to 1:30 p.m.

10:30-11:30 a.m. WRITING ABOUT FAMILY with the Hermitage Artist Retreat's Writer-in-Residence

Alex Marzano-Lesnevich is the author of THE FACT OF A BODY: A Murder and a Memoir, which received a Lambda Literary Award, the Chautauqua Prize, the Grand Prix des Lectrices ELLE, and the Prix France Inter-JDD, an award for one book of any genre in the world. Named one of the best books of the year by Entertainment Weekly,, Bustle, Book Riot, The Times of LondonThe Guardian, and The Sydney Press Herald, it was an Indie Next Pick and a Junior Library Guild selection, long-listed for the Gordon Burn Prize, short-listed for the CWA Gold Dagger, a finalist for a New England Book Award and a Goodreads Choice Award, and has been translated into nine languages. The recipient of fellowships from The National Endowment for the Arts, MacDowell, Yaddo, and the Bread Loaf Writers Conference, as well as a Rona Jaffe Award, Marzano-Lesnevich has written for The New York Times, The New York Times Sunday Magazine, The Boston Globe, Oxford American, Harpers, and many other publications. They are an assistant professor at Bowdoin College and teach in the Pan-European low-residency MFA program. They live in Portland, Maine, with an enormous puppy.
WEBSITE:  (Photo credit Greta Rybus)

Who, reading Mary Karr’s memoirs, could fail to imagine her knife-wielding, smart-talking Texan mother? Who, reading Patricia Lockwood, can forget her father, the Rush Limbaugh-quoting, Arby’s-snarfing, farting priest? Their family members became true characters. Yet sometimes in our drafts, characters from our family appear the blurriest to readers. We know them well in life, but the reader can't see them. Is it possible that how close we are to someone might be the very thing that complicates turning them into an effective character? This talk will offer techniques for helping render the people you love on the page.

1:30-2:30 p.m. RAISING A WRITER: A Conversation with a Pulitzer Prize-winning Journalist and Her Author-Mom

Maria Carrillo is deputy editor/enterprise at the Tampa Bay Times, where she oversees a team of reporters and works with journalists across the newsroom on ambitious storiesShe was previously enterprise editor at the Houston Chronicle and, before that, managing editor at The Virginian-Pilot. She has edited dozens of award-winnings projects, frequently lectures on narrative journalism, co-hosts a weekly podcast (WriteLane) about storytelling and has been a Pulitzer Prize juror four times. She was born in Washington, D.C., two years after her parents left Cuba in exile. She now lives in St. Petersburg, Fla., with her husband, and they have two grown children.

I am a listener, a writer, a podcaster. I love embedding in strangers’ lives and sharing their stories. When I was 6 years old, growing up in D.C. during the Watergate scandal, I told my parents I was going to be a journalist. I was editor of the newspaper at the University of Virginia, then worked in newsrooms across the East Coast. Over the last 30 years, I have written more than 3,000 stories. I came to the Times in 2000 and have followed a feral child who was adopted, a girl whose dad dropped her off a bridge and a dying boy waiting for his miracle. I’ve won dozens of national awards, including the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing. I’m also a mother, a dog lover and die-hard Deadhead.

Clarissa Thomasson was born in Miami, Florida. She received her BA from Duke University and her MA from the University of Florida. Thomasson taught secondary English in Nevada and Maryland before returning to Florida. She’s written eight novels, one local history, and two plays, and writes a monthly column for Eastside Venice Neighbors. WEBSITE:

3:00-4:00 p.m. HOW TO TURN YOUR EXPERTISE INTO A BOOK moderated by Beth Donofrio

Dr. Christopher Cortman has created a safe haven for emotional healing in Sarasota County, facilitating more than 70,000 hours of psychotherapy in his private practice. He specializes in treating emotional trauma, relationship issues, personality disorders, depression, and anxiety disorders.

Awarded a Doctorate of Psychology in San Diego, CA in 1983, Dr. Cortman has been a Florida licensed psychologist since 1985. He received the first place Reader’s Choice Award by the Venice Gondolier Sun for ‘Best Psychologist’ in the years 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, and 2017. He also won the award for ‘Outstanding Contributions to Psychology in the Public’ in 2015 for the state of Florida. Furthermore, he has appeared nationwide on talk radio and television, including Disney Radio, MTV, and ABC.

Dr. Cortman is the on-call psychologist for Venice Regional Bayfront Health and continues to maintain a successful private practice while pursuing projects that enable him to meet a larger need for psychological expertise in the community. These projects include frequent public speaking with the use of ‘edu-tainment’, as he prides himself on providing an ‘educational’ experience riddled with humor that keeps the audience involved and ‘entertained.’ Dr. Cortman has spoken alongside Tipper Gore in 2009, Jane Pauley in 2011 and Patrick Kennedy in 2015 to talk about stigma and mental illness. Another project of his is the development of the Social Black Belt, a social/emotional learning program for schools and individuals of all ages.

Chris is a published author of three books: ‘Your Mind: An Owner's Manual for a Better Life: 10 Simple Truths That Will Set You Free,’ ‘Take Control of Your Anxiety,’ and ‘Keep Pain in the Past: Getting Over Trauma, Grief and the Worst Thing That’s Ever Happened to You.’

In his 21 years as head baseball coach at Venice High School, the Venice Indians have won 10 Regional Championships and in their 10 trips to the Final Four captured 6 State Championships. A Venice High alum, Coach Faulkner played baseball at LSU for Hall of Fame Coach Skip Bertman where he began gathering motivational stories. He turned his expertise into a book in 2016.

A passionate researcher of baseball history since the days of his youth, he published his first book The Babe in Red Stockings, in 1997. He taught US history for 26 years in Manatee County and since 2012 he has published six books on the history of Fenway Park and the Red Sox, Spring Training in Bradenton and Sarasota. This past summer brought the release of Jackie's Newport and John F Kennedy from Florida to the Moon.

4:30-5:30 p.m.  SO YOU WANT TO WRITE A BOOK? moderated by Camille Cline

An economics major at Sweet Briar College, Kim Cool is the author or co-author of some 30 books. After moving to Venice, she wrote about real estate for the Venice Gondolier Sun where she has been the features editor for most of the past 22 years. During these years, she began her series of ghost stories and founded her own publishing house. As she wrote those books, plus a circus history and Venice history and road trip books, Kim dealt with book printers in Florida, Minnesota, Hong Kong, Korea and Maryland. Cool has presented seminars on publishing to share her knowledge. She was a charter member of the group that founded the Venice Writers Festival. She has won state, regional and national awards for her books and numerous awards in journalism. WEBSITE:

Camille Cline opened The Literary Spa® ( in 2001 to help fiction and nonfiction authors to develop their works for submission to literary agents and publishers, via substantive editing, revising, and polishing. Cline understands authors’ challenges and has developed a gentle method for editing powerful books. Cline served as Editor-in-Chief at LifeCast; senior acquisitions editor at Taylor Trade Publishing and Cader Books, where she also served as Executive Editor of the People Entertainment Almanac; and as associate editor at Tor/Forge Books, a division of St. Martin’s Press. She started her career in New York as a researcher/reviewer at PC Magazine, after completing the Harvard-Radcliffe Publishing Course in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 2007, Cline moved with her daughter and son to Venice to be closer to family. Chair of the Authors Committee for the Venice Book Fair and Writers Festival

Susan Klaus, a native of Sarasota, Florida, has an extensive history of working with animals. She’s managed and co-owned a horse farm, breeding and racing Thoroughbreds for the past thirteen years and is currently raising rodeo bulls. Klaus is the award-winning author of four sci-fi novels and is the host and co-producer of Author’s Connection, a radio show with listeners in 148 countries. Shark Fin Soup is Klaus’s second thriller in the Christian Roberts series following the highly successful Secretariat Reborn. She lives in Myakka City, Florida, on her forty acre farm.
WEBSITE: Amazon Profile

Amanda Leuck began her career in media, and has worked on a TV talk show, at a fashion magazine, as a print journalist, and as an on-air traffic reporter. After graduating from New York University, Amanda went on to study literacy and literature at the post-graduate level. It was then that she developed her passion for publishing. Amanda is currently seeking strong, character-driven stories with an unforgettable voice. She’s looking for literary and commercial YA, select sci-fi and fantasy, and romance in all genres, including edgy romantic suspense, contemporary, and paranormal with a fresh twist.

Myra Turley has managed the Venice Books-A-Million for 13 years. She enjoys helping others find joy in books and she reads often during her downtime.

6:00-7:30 p.m. Wine-and-Cheese Reception, Tribute to David Hagberg and Scholarship Presentation

Master Class instructor and New York Times bestselling author David Hagberg, passed away in September 2019. Since the Venice Writer’s Festival inception, Mr. Hagberg was a steadfast supporter and speaker. Infusing Master Classes with his own unique wit and expertise, Mr. Hagberg always drew a large crowd. In his own words: “A human being is a complex piece of work. So, creating one for a novel is the key to whether a story works or just falls flat on its creative face. With a few little tricks, coming up with complex, many faceted characters is relatively easy and fun. In addition, keeping the plot moving along is even easier—you merely have to let your characters take over the story and drive it!”

Help us eulogize David Hagberg by bringing your memories of his generosity of time, advice, and talent to our Wine and Cheese Reception concluding the day’s events.