Book me as a speaker, teacher, or panelist at your conference, retreat, book club, writing group, or classroom. I love talking writing, books, and publishing, and I especially enjoy helping young and aspiring writers develop a rich writing life, improve their craft, and understand the publishing process. Choose from one of these topics or suggest your own.



Grappling with History through Fiction
Fiction is not simply an escape into another world. Some of our greatest social movements and achievements have been inspired or sustained by fiction. Novels have been instrumental in exposing injustice, raising moral questions, and suggesting solutions to crises. Join author Erin Bartels in a lively discussion about the part fiction can play in our interior lives and in the life of our nation and world if we as readers take its lessons to heart.

The Peculiar Joy of the Printed Book
Whether you read on your phone, with an e-reader, listen to audio books, or turn actual pages with your fingers, author Erin Bartels is happy that you’re reading. But, she argues, there are qualities and characteristics of the printed book that make it a form she believes will never entirely disappear. She takes book lovers on a journey through the history of the printed book—the novel in particular—discussing how books as artifacts can teach us about ourselves and our history, and offering warnings about what we lose when we switch to digital.



The Intentional Writer: Finding the Time, Space & Inspiration You Need to Write
Many writers, especially those who have a day job, struggle to find the time, space, and intellectual and creative stimulation they need in order to have an active, satisfying, and ultimately profitable writing experience. This workshop shows aspiring writers how to be good stewards of their time, space, and creative energies so they can stop making excuses and start writing! Attendees learn:

  • how to find time in a busy schedule to write
  • how to carve out and protect a writing space
  • how to feed their muse
  • how to prioritize writing in their lives


Revise Like a Pro: Self-Editing Techniques to Bring Your Writing to the Next Level
All of the greatest writers of past and present have one thing in common: they rewrite—sometimes dozens or even hundreds of times—until their work is the best it can be. But in a culture of instant results, we can be tempted to neglect the kind of slow, dedicated tweaking that is a necessary part of writing. We unconsciously believe that the greats simply wrote out their masterpieces on the first try in a heady wave of inspiration. But that’s simply not true! Revision may not be sexy, but if neglected it will make a writer’s chance of getting noticed and getting published much smaller. From big picture rewriting to targeted revision and savvy editing, you’ll learn lots of useful tips, tricks, and techniques to make the whole process as effective—and enjoyable—as possible. Attendees learn:

  • how to do effective, targeted revision of a piece
  • how to edit on a chapter, paragraph, and sentence level
  • how to sift the good advice from the bad
  • how planning on rewriting can free them to finish a first draft in the first place!
  • how to write and revise with their real audience in mind


Empathy Over Experience: Writing Convincingly from Someone Else’s Shoes
Beginning writers are often told to “write what you know.” But writing only from one’s own limited experience can leave us with some colossally pedestrian stories. It’s the kind of advice that causes aspiring writers to yearn for a crippling heartbreak, a lengthy deployment in a war-torn country, or addiction to some terrible habit that will eventually destroy them. Wait, what? You don’t want to experience those things? Then how will you write about them?  Simple. You employ the greatest skill that any writer can have: empathy.

The people who write the stories that enthrall us are most often not writing from direct experience. Think Suzanne Collins had to fight for her life by hunting down other teenagers? Think Stephen King has had experience being a psychopathic killer? Gosh, I hope not. So how do we empathize with people who are not like us (both protagonists and antagonists), often in worlds or time periods that are not part of our own personal experience? This workshop offers tips and techniques that fiction writers of every genre (and nonfiction writers of memoir, biography, and history) can cultivate in order to tell the stories that are outside of their own realm of experience. Attendees will:

  • be freed from the creativity-squelching advice to “write what you know”
  • learn ways to empathize with various types of main and secondary characters
  • understand the importance of empathizing with antagonists and other “bad guys”
  • distinguish between empathy and approval of characters’ actions
  • discover how writing with empathy can save them from writing protagonists that are too much like them


Settings to Make Your Novel Unforgettable
Middle Earth. Lake Wobegon. Manderlay. They’re places we’ve never been and yet may know more intimately than our hometown. The setting of your novel is more than just a stage from which your characters deliver their lines—it’s an integral part of your story. Whether it’s a historical mining town, a modern metropolis, or a place that only exists in your imagination, you need to make it real to your reader. This talk covers best practices for researching and rendering your setting, as well as how to start with nothing but a great setting idea and work your way to an engaging plot and memorable characters. In this workshop, attendees learn how to:

  • choose a setting that not only fits their story but drives their story
  • use the five senses (and more) to bring it to life
  • take into account the social, economic, religious, and political landscape that makes up their setting
  • decide what details need to be on the page and which details are better left on the cutting room floor


Traditional Publishing 101: Your Book’s Journey from Idea to Shelves
For beginning writers who are curious about how a book actually gets made and into the hands of readers, this workshop demystifies what can seem like a convoluted process. As both an author and a longtime publishing professional, Erin Bartels offers an insider’s look at how a book gets from an author’s head into a reader’s hands. Along the way, attendees learn about:

  • getting a literary agent
  • working with an editor
  • partnering with marketing managers and publicists
  • supporting a sales team


Loglines, Queries, and Proposals, Oh My!: All the Writing that Supports Your Writing
For the writer longing for publication, the main task is to write the best book you can write. But after that, there’s a bunch of other stuff you must write: elevator pitches or loglines, query letters, book proposals, and more. It’s this type of writing that often throws aspiring authors for a loop. A copywriter and publishing professional for nearly twenty years, Erin Bartels breaks down these key pieces of writing that will either hold you back or propel you forward toward publication. Attendees learn:

  • how to craft an effective logline to express what their book is about in one or two sentences
  • how to write a query letter that gets requests from agents for partial and full manuscripts
  • how to format a book proposal (for fiction and nonfiction)


Email Erin at to schedule your event.