Bay to Ocean – Just the Write Conference

By Sandra Zunino

Despite economic challenges, for the fifth year in a row, The 13th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference is predicted to sell out according to Conference Coordinator Wilson Wyatt Jr.

Sponsored by the Eastern Shore Writer’s Association, the annual conference has steadily grown since its inception and this year will be held at the Chesapeake College Performing Arts Center on Saturday, February 20. “Last year we had 18 speakers and 15 sessions,” says Wilson. “This year there will be 24 speakers and 19 sessions.”

Last year’s conference sold out at 150 participants and took place in the Humanities Building at the college. Moving to the Performing Arts Center allows space for 175 attendees as well as the increased number of speakers.

The mission of the conference is to inform, encourage and inspire writers of all genres and levels. Speakers include noted authors, writing instructors, agents, publishers and marketing experts. “New writers as well as advanced will gain a lot from this conference,” says Wilson. “It is a great chance for writers to sharpen skills and learn the landscape for opportunities.”

As publishers face financial difficulty in the downturned economy, there is less space than ever for writers to see their work in print, says Wilson. Workshops will focus on what writers can do to improve their publishing chances in a competitive market.

Additionally, the relaxed atmosphere at the conference and the networking luncheon provides writers a chance to make valuable connections. “There are always some great success stories from these conferences,” says Wilson. “One writer signed up with an agent last year and another was actually published as a result of the conference.”

Conference organizers continue to provide outstanding speakers on timely subjects. This year speakers include highly regarded essay writer and instructor as well as Washingtonian Magazine’s Senior Managing Editor William O’Sullivan, internationally published and nationally awarded author Barbara Esstman, author of 41 novels, Kathryn Johnson and literary agents Jeff Kleinman and Laura Strachan.

There will be a special focus on poetry this year with Pulitzer Prize nominee Sue Ellen Thompson, poetry prizewinner Anne Agnes Colwell, and Word Press award-winner and poetry editor Meredith Davies among others.

Internet news pioneer Leslie Walker, reporter, columnist and editor for The Washington Post along with local writer Mary McCarthy, blogger and former managing editor of What’s Up Eastern Shore, will conduct a workshop on internet trends for writers. Publisher and writer Mindie Burgoyne shares insight on how writers can use social media to market their work.

Despite the caliber of speakers at this conference, organizers tried to keep admission prices reasonable. The cost for attendance is $89 for general admission and $55 for students with a valid I.D. “It is amazing to me what is available here,” says Wilson. “People will pay a lot of money to hear any one of these speakers in Washington and New York if they have the opportunity.”

This is Wilson’s first year as conference coordinator. He officially accepted the responsibility at last year’s conference from former coordinator Diane Marquette. The Bay to Ocean Writers Conference is organized by an all-volunteer committee.

Registration for the conference is now open and must be made in advance by February 12. To register for the 13th Annual Bay to Ocean Writers Conference and view a detailed description of each workshop, visit