Alabama Writers Conclave


Calendar of Events

Back to All Events

Writing Workshop with Literary Agent Sandra O'Donnell

  • Story Tree Farms Huntsville, Alabama (map)

Announcing the late summer/fall dates for Your First Fifteen Pages workshops with literary agent Sandra O’Donnell, Ph.D. at Story Tree Farm

What is the difference between a writer who never finds an agent or sells their manuscript to a publisher and an author who becomes a best seller? The first fifteen pages. The job, the explicit goal, of those critical first fifteen pages, is to hook agents, editors, and ultimately readers. Those first pages need to grab us if not by the collar, at least by the sleeve and say, “I’ve got you. Keep reading.” If your first fifteen pages don’t do that, your manuscript won’t make it past an agent’s slush pile, and your book will never land in the hands of a reader or brighten the screen of their Kindles. 

In this workshop, we help you get past the slush pile and open the door for "the big ask" every writer dreams of – a request for a full manuscript read, an offer of representation and ultimately a bestselling novel. We give you a solid foundation for the story you dream of telling, which will put you far ahead of those also competing for the attention of agents, editors, and readers. 

The workshop is for writers at all levels. For beginning writers, the workshop will help you get started on a firm footing. And for those who've been at it a while, the workshop will help you identify the gaps in your manuscript that may keep you from connecting with agents and editors.

What you will learn:
• How to define the why of your story, and the inciting incident, the first steps toward creating a story that keeps readers reading. 

• Who needs to show up in those early pages of your story and help you create compelling, distinct characters. 

• Why it is important to ground your reader in the where and when early in your story and ways to do that beyond the year was 1950 and she grew up in Starkville, Mississippi.

• How to move the action of your story forward using complications, dilemmas, decisions and indecisions. 

By the end of the workshop, you will have a clear understanding of how to build the beginning of your story so that it leads seamlessly to your middle-build and a resolution. And, you will learn how to develop a novel that captivates readers and keeps them reading to the end. And you will have a cache of examples and techniques you can use as you work on your manuscript. 

Our Your First Fifteen Pages workshop is the place to begin for writers who have been struggling with how to get started or why their story isn’t working. Join us and get out of the storytelling weeds and on the page!

Sandra O’Donnell is a founding partner of RO Literary. She's been involved in the business of books for over twenty years. Sandra studied writing at the graduate level at the University of Utah while working on her master’s. While there, she taught in the Writing Program and learned as much from teaching as she did from her classes. After her Master’s Sandra went on to ghostwrite, edit and co-author books for the academic market. And, she also earned her Ph.D. in History from Arizona State and took writing workshops with Lee Gutkind and Stephen Pyne. After leaving academia, Sandra became a seasoned book coach, working with authors to take them from draft to polished manuscript. Before becoming an agent, many of the authors she’s worked with went on to find excellent agents, editors, and publishers. However, many projects languished once they have left her charge. Frustrated for her coaching clients, she took the next logical step and formed RO Literary with partner Laura Rothschild. RO’s first book, Life Detonated came out in October of 2017 and was nominated for a National Book Award. Her workshops are based on her book Your First Fifteen Pages: An agent’s guide to writing a book editors will publish and readers will buy! (available on Amazon - Sandra is available to speak at conferences, books festivals and writing events.

Space for each workshop is limited to ensure participants have time to ask questions and talk to Sandra during the breaks and lunch. Early enrollment is advised. Lunch and a copy of Sandra’s book Your First Fifteen Pages is included in the workshop fee. 

For more information and to register, go to

Workshop Dates: 

August 18, 2018 | 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

September 8, 2018 | 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

October 27, 2018 | 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.

Story Tree Farm Retreats is located on 5 acres just outside of Huntsville, Alabama. Directions, nearby hotels, and other details are provided with your registration confirmation.