Seminars, Lectures, Authors and more!

2021 Writers Weekend

2021 VIRTUAL WRITERS WEEKEND - Registration Open!

The Mark Twain House & Museum is pleased to announce our second VIRTUAL WRITERS WEEKEND, which will take place via Crowdcast July 9-11, 2021.

Last summer’s Virtual Writers Weekend attracted 170 registrants from across the United States and all over the world, reminding us all that the Mark Twain House in Hartford, Connecticut is truly a writer’s home — and a home for writers. Writers Weekend will feature a variety of author talks, writing workshops, panel discussions, and keynote addresses. Admission to the entire weekend is $100 and includes all workshops, panels, and keynote talks by Jennifer Finney Boylan, Matthew SalessesJay McInerney, and Dr. François Clemmons. Signed copies of presenters’ books will be available for purchase through the museum’s Mark Twain Store. MORE AUTHORS, WORKSHOPS, AND TOPICS are being added daily!

REGISTER HERE! For more information contact Jennifer LaRue, Director of Public Programs, at


**The schedule of sessions is subject to change.**

The entire Writers Weekend will be recorded and available to view indefinitely once the weekend is over.

You can view the 2021 SCHEDULE GRID HERE



Friday, July 9 | 7:00 pm EDT

Renowned writer and speaker Jennifer Finney Boylan joins us to talk about writing and about her most recent book, the memoir Good Boy: My Life in Seven Dogs.

Boylan, the author of sixteen books, is the inaugural Anna Quindlen Writer in Residence at Barnard College of Columbia University. A Contributing Opinion Writer at The New York Times, her column appears on the op/ed page on alternate Wednesdays.

She has been a member of the Board of Trustees of the Kinsey Institute for Research on Sex, Gender, and Reproduction, and also provided counsel for the TV series Transparent and I Am Cait. Her next book project is a novel co-authored with Jodi Picoult, slate for publication in autumn of 2022 by Ballantine/Random House.

Her 2003 memoir, She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders(Broadway/Doubleday/Random House) was the first bestselling work by a transgender American. A novelist, memoirist, and short story writer, she is also a nationally known advocate for human rights. Jenny has appeared on the Oprah Winfrey Show on four occasions; Live with Larry King twice; the Today Show, the Barbara Walters Special, NPR’s Marketplace and Talk of the Nation; she has also been the subject of documentaries on CBS News’ 48 Hours and The History Channel.

Boylan will be joined in conversation by Jennifer LaRue, director of public programs at The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Signed copies of GOOD BOY will be available for purchase through The Mark Twain Store; proceeds benefit The Mark Twain House & Museum.

Followed by a Cocktail hour at 8:00pm EDT: Come on Screen and Say Hello! 


9AM – Welcoming Remarks with Jennifer LaRue.


9:30AM – WHAT A YEAR IT HAS BEEN! Three 2020 Writer Weekend authors return to discuss how the past year has impacted their lives and creativity.

About Chris Grosso:

Chris Grosso is a sought-after public speaker, writer, youth wellness group facilitator, and the author of three majorly published books. Upon publication of his first book, Indie Spiritualist: A No Bullshit Exploration of Spirituality (Atria/Beyond Words, 2014), Booklist described Chris as “a fellow who explores the nature of his soul by mixing up individuality and spirituality.” Publishers Weekly wrote “Grosso…has a fresh and unconventional voice of truth-seeking, notable for persistence, humility, and wisdom.” Regarding his second book, Everything Mind: What I’ve Learned About Hard Knocks, Spiritual Awakening and the Mind-Blowing Truth of it All (Sounds True, 2015), Publishers Weekly had this to say: “Grosso’s advice avoids the sappy, clean-living reform rhetoric of most enlightenment memoirs… His low-key offer of tools for experiencing the oneness of life is human and humble, while secure in understanding its profound value, like a friend putting a hand on your shoulder on a rough day.” Chris and the book were featured in Yoga Journal, Watkins Magazine, Thrasher, Skateboarding Magazine, and Maria Shriver’s blog. Luminaries from Ram Dass to Jeff Bridges Tweeted the book!

His third book, Dead Set On Living, received Book Authority’s award of “Top 100 Drug Addiction Books of All-Time” (placing 6th). In addition to teaching weekly wellness workshops with teenagers at Newport Academy in Bethlehem, Connecticut, and speaking at major conferences and festivals worldwide, Chris hosts the Indie Spiritualist podcast on Ram Dass’s esteemed Be Here Now Network. He writes for Revolver Magazine, FANGORIA, ORIGIN Magazine, Huffington Post, and Mantra Yoga + Health Magazine. His passion project is his website,, a popular hub for all things alternative, independent, and spiritual. Since the site’s inception, Chris has interviewed an eclectic mix of individuals from singer-songwriter Aimee Mann to Henry Rollins, Danny Trejo to Professor Robert Thurman, Deftones to George A. Romero and many more.

10:30AM – BREAKOUT SESSIONS – Your Choice! Don’t worry if you want to see both; ALL keynotes, panels, and breakouts sessions will be available for you to watch and rewatch at your leisure.

Alan Maislen: Playing for a Living: Thoughts on Copywriting and Creativity

Maislen’s session will focus on:

How to get people past the headline, or even the subject line.

A handy way to size up your target audience. Or your in-laws.

How to sell out-of-the-box ideas without going over the cliff.

Hammers for writer’s block.

Birthing a freelance business today (with slightly less pain).

Making work more fun in general.

I hope this session will be useful for writers at all stages of their careers, if only as a cautionary tale. Remember, you may end up doing this for 50 years.

Humor will be attempted.

Over the last 40+ years, Alan Maislen’s work probably interrupted your day with something funny, provocative or heartbreaking. He’ll share what he’s learned at Mintz & Hoke, Adams & Knight, and in his own freelance business, Killer Words. He’s in the Connecticut Advertising Club Hall of Fame. His humor has appeared in Rolling Stone, The Hartford Courant, and on Broadway.


Chion Wolf: How Do You Make An Audacious Radio Show?

When you hear a radio show or podcast is “produced by…” what does that mean? And how do you make sure the topic matters to people? Hear from a 14-year public radio veteran how a show goes from conception to air-day (it’s when one idea and a couple of guests love each other very much…).

Wolf is the host of Audacious on WNPR, Connecticut Public Radio

11:35AM – BREAKOUT SESSIONS – Your Choice!

Jill Fletcher: Mystery Writing

Discussion will center on how to make a good book better:  Character, prose style, plot, voice and other elements that hook the reader and keep them reading.   How to avoid the common missteps that impede success for mysteries and thrillers, as well as other fiction genres.
Jill is a freelance editor, with nearly 18 years experience, who helps authors strengthen their manuscripts for successful traditional publishing, as well as self-published works. Her emphasis is on what publishers and readers are looking for, in character development, plot structure and general craft.  She identifies common missteps and knows how to bring out the best that lives in every work.  As a member of Mystery Writers of America, NYC Chapter, and through her boutique firm, Page View Marketing, she develops promotions and programming for the writing community, including the annual crime writers conference, CrimeCONN, held online this year during the COVID-19 outbreak. She is also a frequent contributor of essays, short stories and flash fiction


Bessy Reyna: Poetry as Memoir

In this workshop poems by several poets will guide us to find our own memories to create poems or prose poems capturing those memories. Reyna, a perennial Writers Weekend favorite, is a poet and writer whose work has appeared in many literary anthologies in the USA and Latin America. She is currently Bolton’s Poet Laureate.



Saturday, July 10 | 1:00 pm EDT

Matthew Salesses is the author of the bestsellers The Hundred-Year Flood, an Adoptive Families Best Book of 2015 and a Best Book of the season at Buzzfeed, Refinery29, and Gawker, among others, and Craft in the Real World, an Esquire Best Book of the 2021, which explores alternative models of craft and the writing workshop, especially for marginalized writers. His latest novel is the PEN/Faulkner Finalist Disappear Doppelgänger Disappear, a Best Book of 2020. Previous books include I’m Not Saying, I’m Just Saying; Different Racisms: On Stereotypes, the Individual, and Asian American Masculinity; and The Last Repatriate.

Matthew was adopted from Korea. In 2015 Buzzfeed named him one of 32 Essential Asian American Writers. His essays can be found in Best American Essays 2020, NPR Code Switch, The New York Times Motherlode, The Guardian, and other venues. His short fiction has appeared in Glimmer Train, American Short Fiction, PEN/Guernica, and Witness, among others. He has received awards and fellowships from Bread Loaf, Glimmer Train, Mid-American Review, [PANK], HTMLGIANT, IMPAC, Inprint, and elsewhere.

Matthew is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing in the MFA/PhD program at Oklahoma State University. He earned a Ph.D. in Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Houston and an M.F.A. in Fiction from Emerson College. He serves on the editorial boards of Green Mountains Review and Machete (an imprint of The Ohio State University Press), and has held editorial positions at Pleiades, The Good Men Project, Gulf Coast, and Redivider. He has read and lectured widely at conferences and universities and on TV and radio, including PBS, NPR, Al Jazeera America, various MFA programs, and the Tin House, Kundiman, and One Story writing conferences.Signed copies of CRAFT IN THE REAL WORLD will be available for purchase.


2:15PM – BREAKOUT SESSIONS – Your Choice!

William Mann in conversation with Frank Rizzo on writing Biography

Frank Rizzo has covered the arts and entertainment scene in Connecticut — and nationally — for more than 40 years. He was arts writer for The Hartford Courant for more than 30 years and for the past 20 years, theater critic for Variety where he currently reviews NYC shows. His freelance credits include The New York Times, American Theatre magazine, Connecticut Magazine, Playbill, Dance magazine, Hartford magazine, Hearst newspapers of Connecticut, VOICE and Seasons magazines, among other periodicals and platforms.  He is a regular contributor to Encore, the new national theater magazine. He also writes about the business of the arts for the Hartford Business Journal and New Haven Biz. His lives in New Haven and NYC. His website is and you can follow him on ShowRiz@Twitter


A.J. O’Connell: Writing Where You Are

Whenever two or more writers are gathered, you’ll usually hear the phrase “writers write.” The idea conjures up Hemingway or Steinbeck sitting in a garret in the morning, writing their pages before the day starts. But what about when you write for a living? How does that work? What opportunities exist? Does it even pay? And how can you write creatively when you spend all day writing words for others? Author A.J. O’Connell talks about how she started her own freelance writing career, how creative work and writing for money co-exist, and how all that works with a young family.

O’Connell is a full time freelance writer and author. She’s been working as a freelancer for 7 years, working in both journalism and in marketing for technology companies, including SAP, Pipedrive, and several small startups. Her newest book, A Perfect Facebook Life was released April 6 by Woodhall Press. Her journalistic work has been published by, Book Riot,The Establishment, and Electric Literature magazine. She’s had two novellas published and earned an MFA in creative fiction from Fairfield University in 2011. Learn more at



3:15PM – BREAKOUT SESSIONS – Your Choice!

Dan Gerstein: Ghost Writing

Dan Gerstein is founder and CEO of Gotham Ghostwriters, the country’s premier ghostwriting agency. Featuring a network of more than 2500 experienced freelance editorial pros, Gotham specializes in sophisticated, long-form writing (such as books, speeches, and reports) for authors, speakers, and thinkers who are seeking expert help telling and selling their stories.

Gerstein, a graduate of Harvard College, has been writing and communicating professionally for more than 30 years. He started his career as a local sports and news reporter at The Hartford Courant. He then went on to spend more than a decade as a speechwriter and communications strategist on Capitol Hill and for two presidential campaigns, serving as a senior advisor to Senator Joe Lieberman from his home state of Connecticut.

In 2004, Gerstein moved to New York to become a political consultant (primarily working with issue advocacy groups) and commentator. Known for his independent, thoughtful analysis, he has served as a contributing columnist for Forbes, the Wall Street Journal, and Politico. He has also appeared regularly on television as a political analyst for Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, WNBC-TV, and NY1.


Dana Rau: Mark, Miles, Dorothy, or Destiny? Naming Characters for Maximum Impact

What’s in a name? A lot!! In this workshop, we’ll explore strategies for using names to reflect character traits, motivation, setting, and larger themes in a story.

Over her 25-year career as an author, artist, and editor, Dana Meachen Rau, a popular Writers Weekend presenter, has written more than 300 books for children. She received her BA in Creative Writing and Art History from Trinity College, Hartford, her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College of Fine Arts, Montpelier, Vermont, and has taught writing and literature at the University of Hartford, the Highlights Foundation, and the Mark Twain House.

Signed copies of her latest book What Is the Story of Alice in Wonderland? will be available for purchase.


Hartford-born bestselling novelist JAY McINERNEY (Bright Lights, Big City) and wine author joins Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author SUSAN CAMPBELL for an engaging conversation.

Signed copies of Bright Lights, Big City will be available for purchase

Signed copies of Frog Hollow: Stories from an American Neighborhood will be available for purchase.

5:20PM – PANEL DISCUSSION: What, and Where, We’re Writing Now – Hartford Courant Alumni, moderator Frank Rizzo with Roger Catlin, Susan Campbell, Donna Larcen, and Greg Morago



Saturday, July 10 | 7:00 pm EDT

Dr. François S. Clemmons received a bachelor of music degree from Oberlin College and a master of fine arts from Carnegie Mellon University. He also received an honorary doctor of arts degree from Middlebury College. In 1973, he won a Grammy Award for a recording of Porgy and Bess; in 1986, he founded and directed the Harlem Spiritual Ensemble; and from 1997 until his retirement in 2013, Clemmons was the Alexander Twilight Artist in Residence and director of the Martin Luther King Spiritual Choir at Middlebury College in Vermont, where he currently resides.

Signed copies of Officer Clemmons: A Memoir will be available for purchase.


9:00AM – PANEL DISCUSSION: Authors Among Us: Hartford-Area Authors Share Their Stuff, with Susan Schoenberger, P. Djeli Clark, Ethan Rutherford, Drew John Ladd, and Howard Greenblatt

10:00am – Tanya McKinnon Working with an Agent

Tanya McKinnon is the founder of McKinnon Literary where she represents New York Times bestsellers and award-winning non-fiction, children’s books, and graphic novels. She specializes in non-fiction that addresses cultural issues as well as gender, race, class, ethnicity, and sexuality. She is most drawn to work that pushes political and cultural boundaries.  In addition to agenting, She holds an MA in cultural anthropology, and teaches a course on Writing for Children in the Publishing Certificate Program at The City College of New York.

11:00am – Humorist and novelist Jacopo della Quercia

Writing History with Humor



Sunday, July 11 | 12:00 pm EDT

Tony Award-winning book writer for the musical A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder Robert L. Freedman in conversation with Hartford Stage Associate Artistic Director Rachel Alderman



Signed copies of presenters’ books will be available for purchase through the museum’s Mark Twain Store.
Registration for the whole weekend is only $100…and don’t forget any session you miss or you want to revisit can be viewed at any time!

You can view the 2021 SCHEDULE GRID HERE

REGISTER HERE! For more information contact Jennifer LaRue, Director of Public Programs, at