October 5, 2019, 9 am to 5 pm

The Writers' Loft, 20 North Main Street, Sherborn, Mass.

Loft Members: $150

Non-Members: $200

What is StoryQuest?


StoryQuest is a new kind of conference! It’s a day’s journey through the process of becoming a successful writer. You will leave with your manuscript in a vastly improved place and all the tools and support you need for success in the future. 


YOU are a part of the learning for other StoryQuestors. So only sign up if you are ready to:

  • Do the hard work.

  • Submit your pages on time.

  • Read the excerpts of others’ novels in your small groups.

  • Arrive for StoryQuest with an open mind and ready to participate fully in all events.

  • Actively engage with the mentors and others in the six weeks following StoryQuest.

This StoryQuest is for novelists of Middle Grade, YA, New Adult, and Adult!

Here are the ingredients for success and how we’re meeting them at StoryQuest:

  1. Goals (a goal = a dream or idea with a deadline)
    We’re giving you the goal. You have a complete or nearly-complete manuscript. You'll submit your pages by September 21 and commit to reading submissions from up to four other attendees assigned to your critique group.

  2. Hard work
    You’ll work hard to get your pages ready before the day. You’ll work hard on your pages during the hands-on mentor workshops. You’ll work hard to prepare critiques for your colleagues and share those in small groups during the day.

  3. Supporters and Critiquers
    We’ll be introducing you to your colleagues with fun and games and breaking you into small groups to critique and get critiqued. We’re keeping the number of questors small so that you get the most out of StoryQuest.


Our faculty aren’t just workshop presenters—they are mentors. They teach and then go into the trenches to help you APPLY what you’re learning.

Francisco X. Stork

Francisco X. Stork came to El Paso, Texas from Mexico when he was nine-years old. He has an M.A from Harvard University and a J.D from Columbia Law School. He worked as an attorney for thirty-three years while writing seven novels, including Marcelo in the Real World, recipient of the Schneider Award; The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, recipient of the Elizabeth Walden Award; and The Memory of Light, recipient of the Tomás Rivera Award. His latest novel, Disappeared, is the 2018 recipient of the Young Adult Award from the Texas Institute of Letters and a Walter Dean Myers Award Honor Book.

AC Gaughen

AC GAUGHEN is the author of the Scarlet Trilogy (Scarlet, Lady Thief, and Lion Heart) and the Elementae series (Reign the Earth, Imprison the Sky). She serves on the board for the non-profit Boston GLOW, creating opportunities to encourage and engage teen girls in the Greater Boston area, and works as an engagement manager for Girl Scouts of Eastern MA's 15,000 adult volunteers. She has a Masters in Creative Writing from St. Andrews University in Scotland and a Masters in Education from Harvard University.

Tara Sullivan

Tara Sullivan writes Young Adult novels that address contemporary human rights issues. Her debut, Golden Boy, won the 2014 Notable Social Studies Trade Books for Young People Award, and was a YALSA, Kirkus and Wall Street Journal book of the year. Her second novel, The Bitter Side of Sweet, is a CABA 2017 Africana Honor award winner, an ALSC Notable Children’s Book of 2017, a Bank Street 2017 Best Children’s Book of the Year. Tara currently lives and writes in Massachusetts. Find out more at www.TaraSullivanBooks.com.


"To Be or Not To Be – Creating Suspense Through Your Character’s Moral Journey" with Francisco

John Gardner said once that “Real suspense comes with moral dilemma and the courage to make and act upon choices. False suspense comes from the accidental and meaningless occurrence of one damn thing after another.” Every character in a novel is on a journey of potential transformation and growth. In this session we will look at your vision of what constitutes “growth” and how it affects your characters. We will also examine the decisions your characters make and the consequences of their decisions in order to ensure that your novel is suspenseful in a real and meaningful way.

TOOLS to be unlocked by attendees:  


A greater understanding of the author’s assumptions about human development that get translated into the composition of his or her characters and a greater facility in composing and structuring character-based suspense.

"Long Walks on the Beach: Getting to Know Your Characters" with A. C.

You’ve written an entire draft, and you know it could be better but you’re not sure how.  The answer may lie in how well you know your characters—what they want, what they need, what they’ve been denied, and who is helping them or getting in their way.  How do these characters overlap, support one another, and get into conflict with one another?  Take some time to do a deep dive on your characters and understand how they became the person to drive your plot forward.

"Build a Better Mousetrap: Improve Your Synopsis" with Tara

The strength of your synopsis sells your story. But, just as resumé writing is not the same as doing the job well, writing a synopsis can feel like a completely different skill set from actual writing. Fear not! In this session you’ll get concrete tips to improve your synopsis—everything from encapsulating world building, to choosing which characters to name, to summarizing your plot—so that you can concisely capture the wealth of your story in a few interest-gripping lines. As a bonus, by the time you leave, you’ll have all the puzzle pieces you need to assemble an excellent query letter too.​


TOOLS to be unlocked by attendees:  


  1. Critical understanding of the importance and use of a synopsis in various lengths (elevator pitch to half-page query to summary for a publisher or agent).

  2. Worksheet that breaks down each part of a successful synopsis. 

  3. General craft tips for improving a manuscript when a synopsis shows its weaknesses.

  4. Fillable query letter.

Small-Group Critique Sessions

Icebreakers and Exercises


Lunch (provided)

Loft StoryQuest Team

Sandy Budiansky (StoryQuest Master)

Sandy has an MFA in Writing for Children from Simmons College. She served as the NESCBWI Co-Registrar for many years. She is now the Faculty Travel Coordinator for NESCBWI. She is a member of the Writers’ Loft and helps run the Loftings blog.


Pam Vaughan (StoryQuest Coach)

Pam is the Director of Whispering Pines Writing Retreat and is on the board of directors at the Writers’ Loft. She writes middle grade and picture books. Pam actively volunteers in various capacities at the NESCBWI conferences. Pam is also a sports team consultant and presents workshops on mental toughness, leadership, and team building.


Anna Staniszewski (StoryQuest Leader)

Born in Poland and raised in the United States, Anna Staniszewski grew up loving stories in both Polish and English. She was a Writer-in-Residence at the Boston Public Library and a winner of the PEN New England Susan P. Bloom Discovery Award. Currently, Anna lives south of Boston with her family and teaches courses on writing and children’s literature at Simmons College. When she’s not writing, Anna spends her time reading, daydreaming, and challenging unicorns to games of hopscotch. She is the author of several tween novels, including The Dirt Diary and Once Upon a Cruise, and the picture books Power Down, Little Robot and Dogosaurus Rex.


Audrey Day-Williams (StoryQuest Leader)

Audrey can't walk past a noun without conjuring up a story. She looks for the least-expected angle. Sometimes it’s an odd-toed ungulate’s amazing feet, or that animals with paws probably have a hard time bowling. As a passionate out-loud reader, Audrey appreciates long, beautiful, satisfying words like odd-toed ungulate, heliotrope, and bouffant. She lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts with her delightful family. When she’s not taking the 90 to The Writers’ Loft for critique groups or workshops, you’ll find her daydreaming while gardening, cooking, and making bad-mom jokes. You may need to call her name twice. You can also try reaching her on Twitter @AudDayWilliams.


Heather Kelly (StoryQuest Leader)

Heather is the Founder of the Writers’ Loft and helped run the NESCBWI conference in Springfield for years. Heather explores the fabric of the universe through writing YA, MG, and everything in between. She is a fan of both self and traditional publishing.

The Writers' Loft is located at 20 North Main St., Sherborn, Mass, 01770 (our driveway is on Cemetery Lane.) Please park in the back lot and walk up the ramp to the entry door. Once inside, make an immediate right to find our office door, #360. The Writers' Loft is accessible only via stairs.


We'd love to assist with all of your writing needs! Please email us to arrange your first visit. To reserve community space for a gathering or book launch, please check our calendar on the events page, and then email us.


Our email: writersloftma@gmail.com

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The Writers' Loft is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. You can donate to support us!


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