David R. Collins Writers’ Conference
June 25, 26, and 27, 2020
St. Ambrose University | McCarthy Hall
518 W. Locust St., Davenport, Iowa

Online registration for the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference now available!

Download a scholarship application for the DRC Writers’ Conference here. We offer scholarships to students, veterans/active duty service members, and those with financial need.

For more information please email MWC, or to register via phone,
please call MWC at 309-732-7330.

Thursday, June 25 at Figge Art Museum
(225 W. @nd St., Davenport, IA)
VIP Reception: 5:30 p.m. | Public Reception: 6:30 p.m. Keynote Address: 7:30 p.m.

MWC is thrilled to welcome award-winner author and Quad City native Lyz Lenz to be the keynote speaker for our 2020 Writers’ Conference. Lenz will appear at a special event at the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, IA on Thursday, June 25, and will lead a master class at St. Ambrose University on Friday, June 26. 

Lyz Lenz’s writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, Pacific Standard, and others.

Her book God Land was published in 2019, through Indiana University Press. Her second book Belabored is due out from Bold Type Books on August 11, 2020. Lyz’s essay “All the Angry Women” was also included in the anthology Not that Bad edited by Roxane Gay. Lyz received her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. She lives in Iowa with her two kids and two cats and is a columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.

Schedule for Conference Keynote Events with Lyz Lenz
Thursday, June 25, 5:30-6:30 p.m. VIP reception, Community Gallery
                                   6:30-7:30 p.m. – Public reception, Community Gallery
                                   7:30-8:30 p.m. – Keynote Address, Q and A, Book Signing

Friday, June 26, 12:00-1:00 p.m. – Master Class at St. Ambrose University (campus location TBD)  


A Note on the Writers’ Conference and the Response to COVID-19

While we have not yet received official confirmation from St. Ambrose University about the possibility of having the Conference in-person, we are already planning to have it virtually if in-person is not an option. After consulting with the faculty, our plan to hold classes at their scheduled times on June 25-27. Class meetings will be held via private Zoom meetings, and MWC staff will work with students and faculty to utilize Google applications for file sharing, posting assignments, group discussion, etc. The free public events will also be held at their regularly scheduled times, and will be available via livestream. We are also planning a “virtual book fair” on June 27, and pitches and 1-on-1 critiques will be scheduled between students and instructors in advance.

We understand that this move, should we have to make it, will be more challenging for some students than others. We are working on ways we can help Conference participants get access and familiarity with this new format in advance of the first day. If you are new to video conferencing, if internet access is an issue, please contact us and let us know—we will do whatever we can to help make participation and easy and comfortable as possible. We will continue to offer scholarships to students, veterans, and those with financial need.


2020 David R. Collins Writers’ Conference
Course Descriptions, Faculty Bios, and Schedule 

“Crafting Small Fictions” with Misty Urban

Whether they’re micro, nano, sudden, flash, pocket-sized, smoke-long, or six words or less, short fictions deliver a big punch. We’ll study expert examples that show us how to achieve the compression and impact of the very short form, and then we’ll write our own stories that, to riff on Blake, condense the universe into a grain of sand. Be prepared to go small and dive deep.

Offered 8:45-10:15 a.m. on June 25, 26, 27

Misty Urban:

Misty Urban is the author of two award-winning short fiction collections, A Lesson in Manners and The Necessaries. Her stories have won contests from Atlantic Monthly, New Letters, Indiana Review, and Writers at Work, been nominated for Pushcart prizes, and placed in the River Cities’ Reader’s short fiction contest and the Iron Pen. She holds an MFA and Ph.D. from Cornell University, teaches college-level writing, and moonlights as a medieval scholar. She’s responsible for


“Foundational Elements of the Novel” with Kali White VanBaale

This workshop will examine six essential foundational elements of writing the novel: plot, characterization, point of view, dialogue, setting, and scene. We’ll discuss important considerations for each craft element, examine successful examples from various published novels, and use corresponding writing exercises to help develop and deepen the practice of each element. Writing exercises will generate new work or can be applied to a work-in-progress, and participants will have multiple opportunities during class time to share writing exercise outcomes. All experience levels and novel genres welcome!

Offered 10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. on June 25, 26, 27

Kali White VanBaale: 

Kali White VanBaale is the author of the novels The Monsters We Make (Crooked Lane Books as Kali White) The Good Divide and The Space Between (as Kali VanBaale)She’s the recipient of an American Book Award, an Eric Hoffer Book Award, and the 2014 Great River Writers’ Retreat (for The Monsters We Make excerpt) among others. Her short stories and essays have appeared in The Coachella ReviewThe Chaffey ReviewMidwestern GothicNowhere Magazine, Poets&Writers, The Writers’ Chronicle and several anthologies. She’s the managing editor of the micro essay series and print anthology-in-progress The Past Ten, and serves as a volunteer for the PEN America Prison & Justice Writing program. Kali holds an MFA in creative writing from Vermont College of Fine Arts and is a core faculty member of the Lindenwood University MFA Creative Writing Program. She lives in Iowa with her family.


Master Class with Keynote Speaker Lyz Lenz

Featuring a discussion about the personal essay, with Q & A, led by author and columnist Lyz Lenz. Bring your lunch. Included with registration; if you are not registered for the Conference and would like to attend, the cost is $30 and we ask that you register by June 23.

Offered 12:00 p.m. – 1:30 p.m. on June 26

Lyz Lenz:

Lyz Lenz’s writing has appeared in the Huffington Post, The Washington Post, the Columbia Journalism Review, The New York Times, Pacific Standard, and others. Her book God Land was published in 2019, through Indiana University Press. Her second book Belabored, is due out from Bold Type Books on August 11, 2020. Lyz’s essay “All the Angry Women” was also included in the anthology Not that Bad edited by Roxane Gay. Lyz received her MFA in creative writing from Lesley University. She lives in Iowa with her two kids and two cats and is a columnist for the Cedar Rapids Gazette.


“Begin Anywhere: Making New Poems” with Rebecca Wee

The 3 sessions of this workshop will each have titles, in the following order:

1) “Begin Anywhere”

2) “The Unsayable Said”

3) “You Must Change Your Life”

These workshops will mainly involve free-writing (writing on-the-spot and in response to prompts) as a way to generate new work. Each session will stand on its own so it’s not necessary to take all 3, but I’ll open each with some words on poets/poems that have helped me make my way. At the start of each session I’ll distribute a handout of poems to inspire and to guide our writing, and there will be time for those who wish to share what they’re writing, to read aloud. 

Offered 1:45 p.m. – 3:15 p.m. on June 25, 26, 27

Rebecca Wee: 

Rebecca Wee has been a professor at Augustana College long enough to have participated in the development of a Creative Writing major within the English curriculum. She is the author of an award-winning collection of poems, Uncertain Grace (Copper Canyon Press) and a manuscript titled Instead. In 2003-05 she served as the second Quad Cities poet laureate and has led workshops twice [3 times?] for the David R. Collins Writers Conference. These days she herds 4 carbon units through their days: son Rohan (16), daughter Maren (11), Norwegian Buhund Karana (6) and American Eskimo Suka (1.5) – this is her full-time and most demanding poetry.


“The Business of Writing: Edit, Polish, Query, Submit” with Misty Urban and Kali White VanBaale

The art of writing is one thing, but the business of writing is an entirely different beast. In this workshop we’ll discuss how to prepare your work for submission and publication, which begins with good editing: developmental editing, line editing, and copy editing. We’ll also discuss traditional publishers, agents, editors, small presses, hybrid publishing, and self-publishing for all genres, and how to write query letters, cover letters, fiction synopses, and nonfiction proposals. We’ll answer questions along the way and hopefully make the overall submission process feel more organized and less intimidating!

Offered 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on June 25, 26, 27


Gymnastics for Memorists with Felicia Schneiderhan 

Memoir writers need agility, strength, and flexibility. This active writing workshop builds your skills with form and structure to best tell your stories. Writers should come ready to experiment on the page in this intensive memoir writing boot camp.

Offered 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. on June 25, 26, 27

Felicia Schneiderhan: 

Moline-native Felicia Schneiderhan is thrilled to return for her third time as an instructor at the David R. Collins summer conference (she even came back twice as a participant!). She writes literary journalism for many magazines, including Real Simple and Parents. Her memoir and fiction pieces have appeared widely in literary journals. Her 2015 memoir Newlyweds Afloat details the years she and her husband Mark lived on their trawler in downtown Chicago. She now lives (on land) with Mark and their three tsunamis on the northern shore of Lake Superior. Read more of her work at


DRC Conference Keynote Address, featuring Lyz Lenz, author of God Land and the forthcoming Belabored, and columnist for the Cedar Rapids’ Gazette

Thursday, June 25, 6:00-9:00 p.m.
Figge Art Museum (225 W. 2nd St. Davenport, IA 52801)
Light hors d’oeuvres and cash bar available

Schedule for Conference Keynote Event with Lyz Lenz

5:30-6:30 p.m. – Private reception, Community Gallery

6:30-7:30 p.m. – Public reception, Community Gallery 
*Free & Open to the Public*

7:30-8:30 p.m. – Keynote Address, Q and A, Book Signing
*Free & Open to the Public*


Manuscript Critiques: Writers can have up to 10 pages of a manuscript reviewed in a 1-on-1 30 minute meeting with the instructor during the conference (meetings scheduled between instructor and writer for their convenience and to avoid schedule conflicts). Critiques are $50. Faculty offering critiques and the number each have available:

Felicia Schneiderhan – 6
Misty Urban – 6
Kali White VanBaale – 3
Rebecca Wee – 6 


DRC Conference Social Mixer, Friday, June 26, 5:30-7 p.m. at Rozz-Tox (2108 3rd Ave. Rock Island, IL 61201) Join other conference attendees, local writers, and some conference faculty to enjoy a drink and talk about the conference or writing in general. Attendance to this event is free; drinks are available for purchase.

Faculty Reading and Book Signing, Friday June 28, 7-9 p.m. at Rozz-Tox (2108 3rd Ave. Rock Island, IL 61201) Listen to conference faculty reading their work and then, the mic will be opened up for reading by conference participants. Free and open to the public.


Mary Foster Concluding Luncheon on Saturday, June 27, noon-1:30 p.m. at Gottlieb Lounge, St. Ambrose: Conference sponsors will be recognized, and the faculty will reflect on their workshops over a catered lunch. Cost is included with your Conference Registration fee, or $20 for individuals.


Book Pitches

Ten minutes to pitch your book to Jodie Toohey from Legacy Book Press and/or to representatives from MWC Press. Pitch times will be scheduled with authors in advance. Cost is $15, and pre-registration is required.

About the Presses:

Legacy Book Press is a full traditional publishing company based in Davenport, Iowa, seeking to publish book-length personal works in the form of non-fiction, autobiographical fiction, and/or poetry. Visit for more information, submission guidelines, and royalty split/author copy options. 

Please be prepared to tell us about your project during your pitch, and bring two copies each of the entire manuscript, a one page or shorter synopsis, and a statement of how you plan to market your book. If we choose your book for publication and you publish with us (you incur no obligation by pitching to us or having us choose your work for publication), we will credit the cost of the pitch session to your publishing package. For more information about pitching to Legacy Book Press, please contact owner Jodie Toohey or visit the Legacy Book Press website. 

MWC Press LogoMWC Press: The panel requests each author bring a one-page summary of their pitch—brief synopsis of the manuscript, brief author bio/other publications, brief outline of marketing ideas/strategy, etc. The panel will take these summaries and their input from the pitch sessions back to the MWC Board of Directors and related committees to make a final decision. Authors whose work advances through this process may be asked to provide more detailed information.


Book Fair: Saturday, June 27, 10am-4pm, we will host a book fair on the campus of SAU. Tables are $5 each, or free for authors who have paid the registration fee for the Conference. Space is limited to 20 tables.


Please click here to register online for the 2020 David R. Collins Writers’ Conference!

Please call Ryan Collins at (309) 732-7330 to register over the phone today, or email him at for more information.

*Downloadable PDF copy of the 2020 Collins Writers’ Conference
Brochure coming soon* 

fell poetry wrkshp_CWC14


Conference Sponsors:

Modern Woodman of America,
Founding Sponsor of the David R. Collins Writers’ Conference

Regional Development Authority

The Figge Art Museum

St. Ambrose University English Department


Illinois Arts Council Agency through federal funds provided by the National Endowment for the Arts


Illinois Humanities