The Most Important Writing Skill to Master—Your Character’s Voice

Listen to this lecture presented at the 2016 805 Writer’s Conference:

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Want to improve your writing skills and chances of authoring a successful memoir?

Sunday NOVEMBER 13, 10:00 am – 5± pm

Click Here to Register

Now you can! Literary agent Toni Lopopolo will help you craft your manuscript into a marketable book. A former executive editor at Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press, Toni knows what it takes to get a book published. During this intensive workshop, you will work together on the skills necessary to author a successful memoir by facing what is meant by “the truth” and how to achieve “personal honesty” while pulling together the bits and pieces of memory into a dramatic narrative flow.

classToni’s methods help you master the skills necessary to become a successful published author in today’s competitive market. Fiction and today’s narrative nonfiction, which includes memoir, must grab publishing editors’ attention, keep them riveted so that they’ll read the entire manuscript and not stop when the story falters. Learn special techniques for creating extraordinary stories, in both fiction and nonfiction, to help you achieve your goal to produce a manuscript with irresistible writing that editors in publishing houses will want for the three-season lists they must fill with high-concept, marketable books.

You will practice writing scenes to break up long narratives as well as dialog recreation. You will learn how to use vivid detail, active voice, active verbs to entice and draw the reader into your story.  Then we will find the defining moments that made real life spin on its axis and change one’s life forever

You will hear your writing read aloud by the instructor with comments by other attending memoirists.   We’ll discuss the impact of your story, the sense of drama or lack of. And we’ll discuss what publishing editors look for in a memoir.

You will receive a reading list that will grow as you become a better narrative nonfiction writer.

Here are the skills we will discuss in detail during the memoir intensive workshop:

  • How to create a unique voice
  • Fiction techniques that make nonfiction intriguing and engrossing
  • The art of detachment as an author
  • The elements that give a real-life story universal appeal
  • Techniques to shape your story into a dramatic narrative compelling to readers
  • Techniques to find the essentials of story structure within the many events of life
  • How to orchestrate story, characters, events
  • How to narrow the lens to achieve focus for today’s readers.
  • What to include or leave out
  • How to edit for interest and drama
  • How to avoid reporting/documenting real life facts by using
  • Special techniques for dramatizing reality
  • If your memoir should be fictionalized and how to accomplish that.

Workshop Leader / Instructor:
Toni Lopopolo, former executive editor at Macmillan, St Marin’s Press, Literary Agent since 1991, Editor, and Writing Instructor, uses a unique teaching method to help first-time novelists master the skills needed to successfully write book-length fiction. She aids nonfiction writers to produce compelling narrative nonfiction, using fiction techniques. The workshops Toni holds for writers of fiction and memoir, offered both in person and Online, fill up fast.

Toni has held workshops at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA, at De Sales University,  at the Writer’s Room of Bucks County, PA, for the Ventura County Writers Club, at the popular Tea With Toni seminars in Santa Barbara, Thousand Oaks, Camarillo, for the  Greater Los Angeles Writers Society conferences, and many other venues. Her most popular lecture is: The Ten Most Common Mistakes First Novelist Make.

Toni Lopopolo

Words of Wisdom from a Major Publisher Acquisition Editor:

“Everyone has some great stories and everyone’s life is interesting, but not everyone has the skill to turn a story into a book. The biggest factor when I consider memoir is voice; without that, the game’s over, no need to read beyond page 10. Everything else is secondary. In other words, a memoir needs to have both terrific writing and a compelling story, but if the voice is mesmerizing enough, the story will automatically be compelling; it doesn’t work the other way around.”

Tracy Bernstein, Editor
NAL Books, Random House

Here is what some of Toni’s students say:

“Very glad I attended. In addition to the valuable tools you taught, you opened my eyes to an entire new way to attack the book.”  – Ken Davis, Manhattan Beach

“I want to commend you on the way you structured the bootcamp–so organized. Covered the salient points needed to hone a writer’s skills as well as show us how to recognize and avoid common pitfalls encountered along the way. Loved the exercises you had us do. Very helpful.” – Margarita de Palacios, Mexico City

“If one expects to have their manuscript published, Toni will show you how to improve your chances. She’s smart, knowledgeable and will help you perfect your writing talent.” – Alixa, Moorpark CA

“I’ve learned so much, not only about writing.  You’ve given me the confidence to continue my story, even when  I have no idea what I’m doing.  With you’re invaluable help, I’m sure to meet my goal.” – Shirley, Moorpark  CA

Workshop is limited in size. Attendees will be contacted to submit in advance of the workshop the first three pages of their story with a short description. Double spaced. There may be advanced “homework” so, sorry, no walk-ups.

Sunday November 13,
10:00 am – 5± pm

Early bird Registration for Full Day: $149
Week of the Event Registration: $199

DoubleTree by Hilton
Los Angeles – Westside
6161 West Centinela Avenue,
Culver City, CA 90230 [ map »
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Two great craft of writing workshops


Two amazing, intense workshops
focused to develop your skills
Each workshop is limited to 20 Writers.
(less than 10 places left for either workshop)

Both workshop instructors have the resumes and street creds to show you how to improve your manuscript and develop professional-level skills. Founding instructors at the 805 Writers Conference, Toni Lopopolo and Shelly Lowenkopf bring decades of experience that is fine-tuned each day through their continued work in publishing and working with new writers.

4a50bd28-400b-48f9-917d-dcb6e1d8424aToni Lopopolo, on the left, and Shelly Lowenkopf

Attend one or both workshops
Or purchase a Craft of Writing Weekend Pass: only five passes left.
Details below.
The Five Skills You Must Master to
Write a Viable Novel or Memoir

Saturday, November 5, 9 am to noon
with agent/editor/writing mentor,
Toni Lopopolo

This workshop presents the five most important skills that writers must master in order to write viable novels/ narrative nonfiction, which includes memoir. The course covers the importance of mastering Fiction Techniques for all types of narrative writing: Narrative= story. Bring the first 2 pages of your novel/memoir for Toni to read aloud, time permitting, and a list of questions to ask Toni.

The Skills in this interactive workshop include:

  • Voice—how to achieve the best voice for your character(s)
  • Point of View (all-important for voice)
  • Dialog differentiation, dialog vs conversation
  • Character—quick methods to establish character in one or two lines.
  • Self-Editing – includes: why in your scenes, chapters, novel/book you must come in late, leave early, Plus a list of important tips for today’s fiction and nonfiction to cover best self-editing techniques.


How to Open a Story, Close a Scene, and End a Novel

Saturday, November 5, 2:15 to 5:15 pm
with author, editor and USC masters of
writing instructor, Shelly Lowenkopf

Story opens in ways that plunge characters into chaos and the consequential need to make choices. Readers look for cues of something unexpected or destabilizing as they crash down on someone they can relate to, attempting to cope, followed by hints of which character will be the guide through the resulting chaos. How, for instance, Dorothy sought ways to get out of Oz and back to Kansas.

This three-hour session stresses the need to start the dramatic narrative with significant, relevant action, emphasizing with an analysis of several effective beginnings the necessary elements to engage and hold the reader’s focus, including editorial guidance for things to avoid.

Customize the conference just for you.
Buy a full weekend pass, one-day pass or individual sessions.
Only 5 special Craft of Writing Weekend passes left which includes both workshops and full Sunday conference pass.

Individual workshop – $99 until October 1
Craft of Writing Weekend – $349 until October 1
(includes lunch both days with Ask the Experts)



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805 Writers’ Conference: Saturday & Sunday, November 5 & 6


Speakers and Program Announced for the Sixth Annual
805 Writers’ Conference in Ventura, CA
Hone your skills, sharpen your tools, develop your craft
THRIVE as a writer.

The conference is returning to a focused topic for each day so you can have your business hat on one day and your creative beret the next.

Saturday sessions focus on the Business of Writing, and Sunday’s focus on the Craft of Writing. Additionally, the conference offers half-day workshops for fiction, narrative nonfiction/memoir, poetry, and writing articles for publication.

Early bird discounts on registration are now available, but end August 31st. Discount hotel room rates are $149 a night.

Saturday Speakers and Topics:

Demystifying the Publishing World, with Zhena Muzyka, Enliven Books Publisher, an Atria/Simon & Schuster imprint

What Independent Publishers Want from New Writers, with Ms. Muzyka, Mark E. Cull of Red Hen Press, and Christopher Meeks of White Whiskers Books

Legally Speaking—What writers need to know to protect themselves, with Dana Newman, Literary Attorney and Agent

Super Fans—The Secrets of Selling More Books, with Penny Sansevieri, best-selling author, NYU instructor, and CEO of Author Marketing Experts

How to Write the Grabber Query Letter, with Toni Lopopolo, Literary agent, former Executive Editor at Macmillan and St. Martin’s Press, and writing instructor at Temple University

A beachside reception for all attendees and speakers follows this session.

Sunday Speakers and Topics:

Master Self-Editing: The Important Check-points for Fiction and Memoir, with Toni Lopopolo

The Magic of Editing: What Turns Writers into Authors, with Emily Heckman, former Simon & Schuster Executive Editor, now freelance editor and author

The Big Three of Fiction—Dialogue, Interior Monologue, and Narrative, with Shelly Lowenkopf, Author of over 35 books, former Executive Editor, and 30 year Masters in Writing Professor at USC and UCSB

The Swiss Army Knife: Tools for 21st Century Writing
Toni Lopopolo and Shelly Lowenkopf

And a special keynote speaker to be announced soon.

PLUS: ASK THE EXPERTS, a luncheon event INCLUDED IN THE PRICE of full day and weekend passes where you join different speakers at the lunch. And, MEET AN EDITOR, free meetings with book editors to review your first 10 pages and discuss their ideas to improve your writing.

Review full session descriptions or REGISTER NOW!

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Sebastian Junger: By the Book

Excerpt from The New York Times MAY 12, 2016. Click here to read more >>

Which writers — novelists, playwrights, critics, journalists, poets — working today do you admire most?

The last really well-written book I’ve read was “Empire of the Summer Moon,” by Sam Gwynne. Michael Lewis is also an extraordinarily good writer. Whatever the genre, I look for someone who is precise and economical in their style and hard-working in their prose. By that I mean they take the time to choose words that surprise me; they use metaphors that I’ve never heard before; and they avoid clichés like “The mortars slammed into the hillside.” I don’t want to read anything — not even a clause — that I’ve seen before. It’s just a waste of everyone’s time.

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SBCC Center for Lifelong Learning Writer’s Workshop June 11 & 12

A multi-session conference designed to support the emerging writer in a variety of areas including:  writing skills, developing a novel, articles and essays, fiction, non-fiction, poetry, the business of writing, and publication.  Guest speakers are featured in interactive workshops 


A closer understanding of the contemporary book and journal publishing systems, an awareness of the expectations book and journal publishers have of authors, the author’s responsibility to a project, a deeper appreciation of the editorial process, and a more sophisticated approach to reading fiction and nonfiction. How to write a book proposal a publisher will read all the way through. Scheduled Guest Presenters Toni Lopopolo, former editorial director, St. Martins Press, Macmillan Books, currently a literary agent Fred Klein, former national sales manager, Bantam Books, now editorial consultant, Bantam Books. Brian Fagan, the most widely read archaeological writer in the US and UK Kathleen Sharpe, award-winning writer of nonfiction case studies John Wilder, novelist, screenwriter, TV showrunner Shelly Lowenkopf Nationally Renowned Book Editor.


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Fiction/Narrative Nonfiction Intensive Class: Improve Your Writing … Now!

Toni Lopopolo at West Coast Writers Conferences
Sunday, June 19th, 2016 • 10:00 am – 2:00 pm ±
Los Angeles Valley College, Campus Center
(parking is free)

Do You Want to Take Your Writing to a Higher Level
And Increase Your Chances for Publishing Success?

Learn what it takes from veteran literary agent and former New York publishing editor, Toni Lopopolo, who will bring the experience, insider connections, and all-important story insight.

Ms. Lopopolo is a professional editor, seasoned instructor, and a successful literary agent since 1991. For twenty years before she opened her agency, Toni served as executive editor at Macmillan, then at St Martin’s Press in New York City. As an acquiring editor, Toni reviewed the best projects sent to her by agents.

When Toni opened her own agency, she realized, by what writers sent to her agency as “finished” manuscripts, that most had not mastered the required skills. Agents are the great “filtering” system, the “gate-keepers” who send only the most sophisticated writing they find, to editors in publishing houses. So Toni  has developed proven methods to help writers learn those skills, practice those skills, and master them.

Through this exclusive workshop you will get a select portion of your manuscript read by a literary agent / veteran educator in advance, which she will review with you in class, and you will revise during your time together.


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