The mentorship program had two components and gave attendees the opportunity to have their work reviewed by an experienced author or editor prior to the event, AND a 25-minute one-on-one appointment with that same mentor. Attendees had to submit one of the following:
  • 3 poems
  • 3000 words of fiction or non-fiction
  • 10 pages or 10 minute script for play/screenwriting.
Meet our outstanding mentors!     
Fiction Mentors

Jocelyn Cullity

Assistant Professor of Creative Writing

Jocelyn Cullity’s stories and essays have been published in many journals including

The Writer’s Chronicle, Blackbird, Hayden’s Ferry Review, Everywhere Stories: Short

Fiction from a Small Planet, and Ten Stories High. Her film, Going to the Sea, aired on

The Women’s Television Network, The Knowledge Network, and won the Lester B.

Pearson Award for International Development. Her novel, The Red Year, will be

published by the feminist press, Inanna Publications, in 2017. She is Assistant Professor

of Creative Writing in the School of Arts and Letters at Truman State University.


Connect with Jocelyn:

Gordon Kessler

Independent Editor and Publishing Consultant

Gordon Kessler has been writing thriller novels for twenty-­five years and teaching novel writing for nearly as long. With fifteen of his own titles available on Amazon, Gordon has helped over a hundred writers get their work published through editing, formatting, cover design and publishing consultation services. His book Novel Writing Made Simple is considered by many to be an essential reference for both novice as well as experienced writers. He has also conducted dozens of seminars and workshops, as well as been a featured speaker at numerous writers’ conferences.


Connect with Gordon:

Eric Praschan

Self-Publishing Mentor

Eric Praschan has been writing suspense fiction for more than 20 years. He holds a B.A. in English and a M.A. in Theological Studies. He has many years of experience in drama, music, teaching and higher education. He was a finalist for the 2014 Best of Columbia Local Author Award. His suspense novels "Blind Evil" and "The James Women Trilogy" are Amazon bestsellers and have sold more than 23,000 copies. He loves college football, monster movies, rock music and basketball. Eric lives in Columbia, Missouri with his wife.

Connect with Eric:


Reinhardt Suarez

YA Writer

Reinhardt Suarez is a writer, teacher, and editor who has worked in all manner of publishing (from educational, to children's, to academic) over the last eighteen years. He holds a MFA from The New School in New York City. Along with the invisible contributions he has made to various publications both online and off, he has written one YA novel and is working on a second. He's also lived in Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, and now Columbia, Missouri, where he lives with his partner Kristin and their feline overlord, Karl.


Leanna Brunner

Editor & Consultant

Leanna Brunner is a college professor, writer, and editor who strives to help other writers fulfill their dream of publishing their own manuscripts. She has taught high school and college writing classes at various schools for more than twenty years in the Kansas City area.


In 2014, she conducted the Write the Dream conference in Kansas City in an effort to educate aspiring writers about the writing and publishing realm. Since then, she has worked with more than two dozen writers and assisted them with making their publishing dreams come true. She has written and published four suspense novels, a short non-fiction book, and a series of workbooks and interactive classes on writing; she is soon to release her first children's book about a spider. In addition to teaching and writing, Leanna owns a business, Write the Dream, which offers curriculum, classes, coaching, editing, and design services for those who are interested in writing and/or publishing.
Leanna will also be the Marketing Speaker for the Fiction Track at the 2016 ShowMe Writers Masterclass.


Leanna resides in Smithville, Missouri.

Margo Dill

Fiction (Children)

Margo L. Dill is a children’s author, freelance editor, speaker, and writing teacher and coach. In addition to her full-time job as an editorial assistant for Farm Journal Media, she is the author of three books for kids 3 to 18: Maggie Mae, Detective Extraordinaire: The Case of the Missing Cookies; Finding My Place: One Girl’s Strength at Vicksburg; and Caught Between Two Curses. She's also been published in magazines, newspapers and anthologies, is also editor with her own business, Editor 911, and teaches online novel writing courses through WOW! Women On Writing, where she also blogs and edits the e-zine.


Connect with Margo:

Creative Non-Fiction Mentors

Tim Vandehey

Writer/Consultant & Non-Fiction Speaker

Tim Vandehey is a New York Times bestselling nonfiction ghostwriter and co-author with more than 50 books to his credit, including 17 with major New York publishers. His latest is the New York Times bestseller "The Wait" (with DeVon Franklin & Meagan Good, Simon & Schuster, 2016). Tim also consults with authors on building their marketing platforms, and is the co-author of "How to Sell a Crapload of Books: 10 Secrets of a Killer Author Marketing Platform" (with Naren Aryal, Mascot Books, 2016). He’s an avid baseball fan, blues musician, and sailor, and though he lives with his wife and daughters in Kansas City, Missouri, he hopes that climate change will one day enable his dream of sailing across the Midwest to come true.

Tim's Craft of Writing session title: "Author as Architect: Unlocking Your Nonfiction Creativity With a Strong Structure"

Watch our interview with Tim Vandehey:


Connect with Tim:

Catherine Rankovic

Poetry Professor & Creative Non-Fiction

Catherine Rankovic is a professional book and manuscript editor for, has edited 35 published books, and, using a pseudonym that helped double her income, is a successful freelance writer for online venues. Her creative nonfiction works and poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, Boulevard, December, The Iowa Review, Midwestern Gothic, Section 8 and River Teeth, among many others, and she is the author of seven books.  She belongs to several St. Louis writers’ organizations.  A nature lover and an adventure traveler, Catherine is an “orange belt” in the Korean martial art of Tae Kwon Do, breaking inch-thick boards with a single kick—although she began martial arts studies in September 2015, less than a year ago.

Catherine has taught and mentored writers at Washington University, the University of Missouri at St. Louis, in the Writer-in-the-Schools program, the St. Louis Writers Workshop, the Washington University Summer Writers Institute, and the Missouri Writers Guild, and currently teaches in the online MFA program at Lindenwood University, whose director is one of her former students. Her B.A. in journalism trained her to write cleanly and swiftly. She worked for the Boston Herald and for Playbill magazine before obtaining an M.A. in English Literature from Syracuse University and a Master of Fine Arts in Writing from Washington University, where she taught for 21 years, enjoying her night-school students the most.

Poetry Mentors

Walter Bargen

First Poet Laureate of Missouri

Walter Bargen has published 19 books of poetry.  Recent books include:  Days Like This Are Necessary: New & Selected Poems (2009), Endearing Ruins/Liebenswerte Ruinen (2012), and Trouble Behind Glass Doors (2013). Quixotic was published by El Grito del Lobo Letter Press in 2014. His awards include: the Chester H. Jones Foundation prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and the William Rockhill Nelson Award.  He was appointed the first poet laureate of Missouri (2008-2009).  
 He was born at Ft. Bragg, North Carolina, farther back than he wants to admit.  As a result of his father’s military career, he has lived in many places including, Germany, Switzerland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Missouri.   He wrote his first poem when he was a senior in high school.  He taught himself how to write by two simple processes, reading and writing.  He reads not only to enjoy what others write but to learn how others write, and he firmly believes that reading and writing teach writing.  He has lived outside Ashland, Missouri, since he graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a BA in philosophy.  He later earned a M.Ed in English education from the same institution and then became distracted—again.


Connect with Walter:

Gerardo Mena


Gerardo Mena is a decorated Iraqi Freedom veteran. He spent six years in military Spec Ops with the Recon Marines. He gets frustrated with the pompousness of the short bio but knows that no one would attend his panels and discussions unless he unwillingly brags that he's been published in The New York Times, and Poets & Writers Magazine, and that he has a poetry book out, and that he's performed his work alongside Jake Gyllenhaal, Anthony Edwards, and other A-list actors. Vogue Magazine said he captivated the crowd at a national fundraising event, but he doesn't understand how because he knows he got way too excited at the open bar beforehand.


Connect with Gerardo:

Play writing/Screenwriting Mentors

Kate Berneking Kogut

Playwright & Screenwriter

Kate Berneking Kogut is a playwright, screenwriter, filmmaker, and transmedia storyteller. Additionally, Kogut is a story coach & consultant specializing in the development of the writer’s voice through the craft of scriptwriting. She earned her Ph.D. in Theatre from MU and is currently an Associate Professor of Creative Writing at Stephens College.


Her plays have been workshopped, read, and produced in California, New York, Chicago, and throughout the Midwest. Kogut wrote and directed her first two short films, 'Nooner' and 'Children Learn,' through her production company, Envelope Sky Productions. Both films premiered in film festivals in 2013 and can now be viewed on her Youtube channel.

Her latest short film, 'The Changerator,' is currently in post-production.


Current projects include a transmedia story that takes place in the fictional town of Daffodil Township, Missouri. You can enter the story through several websites:,, The first season of the accompanying web series, 'American Riviera,' is currently in post-production. Kogut is also writing a book on story, character, and the writer’s voice.

Her YouTube channel: