Online and In Person Workshop Presentation Topics

Melissa is a practiced speaker and teacher. She has a background in teaching secondary English/Language Arts, has taught with Southern Methodist University’s CAPE program and has presented for both Duke and North Carolina State University’s OLLI program.

In addition, she has presented workshops at various Sisters in Crime, Mystery Writers of America, and RWA chapter meetings, both in person and via Zoom.

Possible presentation topics include:

The Hero’s Journey

The Hero’s Journey framework can make an ordinary story extraordinary—all because of the powerful transformation the hero undergoes. In this workshop, participants will learn the steps of the Hero’s Journey, with multiple examples, and will begin to apply the steps to their own Work In Progress.

The Hero’s Journey for Mysteries

The importance of story structure in mystery writing is just as important as it is in traditional fiction. In this engaging and relevant workshop, Melissa adapts the Hero’s Journey and the Three-Act Structure to the mystery genre. Participants will come away understanding how to apply the Hero’s Journey to their own mystery projects.


Creating Characters with Deep Backstory

Fiction is all about the characters. They are what keep readers coming back for more. With that in mind, it is easy to understand why developing deep backstory for the people that populate your books is vital. This workshop provides a practical guide to help writers make their characters (in any genre) compelling, realistic, and unforgettable.  With examples and tactics, writers will come away ready to deepen their characters’ backstories and make their books so much stronger because of it. 


Writing Compelling Dialogue

What makes dialogue such an essential element? The answer is simple. It can make or break a story, literally. 

Poorly written dialogue will make readers cringe. Characters can easily come across as flat, and verbal exchanges as unrealistic. 

Good dialogue, on the other hand, is appropriate and representative of a character. It rings true. It helps create well-rounded characters who are authentic and realistic. Good dialogue will lead to memorable characters and a book readers don’t want to put down.

This workshop uses examples to guide participants through the elements of great dialogue. Participants will come away with a deep understanding of how to successfully use dialogue in their writing. 


Showing versus Telling


What’s your Story: Begin your Memoir 

What is a memoir? It is a true story based on real life experiences and written by the person involved in that slice of life. Memoirs are continually acclaimed and top bestseller lists. People love to read about real life experiences. 

Do you have a story to tell? The short answer is: Yes! 

The long answer is that everyone has a life story worthy of telling. 

Whatever your life experiences, you can turn them into a memoir. Have you experienced a life-changing event? Do you have a foundational friendship, an amazing job or career, or a family story? Are you a survivor. Do you have deep convictions? We all have stories to tell. Even the ordinary can become extraordinary when you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard).

This course takes participants through the the how and the why behind memoir-writing. Everyone will come away empowered and armed with several story ideas to get them started on their memoirs.


The Business Side of Writing: Marketing Yourself

There is much more to being a writer than just writing. In this workshop, Melissa takes participants through strategies and tactics to help them tackle the marketing side of the writing business. She covers many topics–from social media to Pinterest as a search engine, to sell sheets, appearances, and website content. Participants will leave with a one month, three month, and six month plan leading up to their book release, and they will be armed with tools to help them market themselves in the crowded field of publishing.


Please contact Melissa at melissabourbonbooks at HEY dot com for more information on presenting for your chapter or group.



“I can’t recommend Melissa Bourbon highly enough. A successful hybrid author, former marketing director at a publishing house, and an educator at both the secondary school and adult level, Melissa is well-equipped to present programs for writers’ organizations. She knows how to keep an audience engaged, and offers practical advice and useful information for authors at all levels, from beginner to master.” ~Diane Kelly, Board Member Murder We Write and Triangle Sisters in Crime


“Melissa Bourbon’s “Creating Characters with Deep Backstories” talk provides a useful toolkit for making characters in any genre more realistic. She offers helpful examples and actionable building blocks for authors.” ~Heather Redmond, author of the A Dickens of a Crime series (Columbia River Sisters in Crime President)


“Melissa Bourbon knows the importance of story structure in the writing of mysteries. She is able to describe and compare various methods such as the Three Act Structure and Hero’s Journey. 

Melissa’s ninety minute presentation covers the classic structure of The Hero’s Journey and how to apply it to the writing of mysteries. Her presentation is clear, engaging, and relevant to readers and writers of crime. 

Feedback on her courses for N.C. State OLLI (Osher Lifelong Learning Institute) and for Duke OLLI included, “Extraordinary presenter” and “I am halfway through writing my first novel. This course was extremely helpful and got me even more excited to continue writing.”

Melissa would be an asset to the Sisters in Crime Speakers Bureau.

~Sara E. Johnson, Past president, Triangle Sisters in Crime (Author, Alexa Glock Forensics Mysteries)

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