Angela Rydell, MFA, has taught creative writing through UW-Madison Continuing Studies since 2006. She is a recipient of Poets & Writers' Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Read more.
Who this course is for
- Novelists, memoirists, short story or personal essay writers who want to use the structure of a journal to take story ideas from seed to budding draft to cultivated new work.
- Journalers looking to introduce creative writing craft tools into their notebooks.
- Beginning and intermediate writers who enjoy the rigor of craft exercises designed to strengthen skill with storytelling.
- Fiction and nonfiction writers* looking for techniques to spark ideas, generate material, and help ensure the wellspring doesn't run dry.
*If you’re a poet and want to use a journal to help strengthen your skills, consider Taking the Poetic Leap, which has a writer’s journal section in each unit.
This is a noncredit, online writing class through UW-Madison Continuing Studies.
From Notebook to New Work: A Writer’s Journal Workshop
Discover how a writer’s journal can revitalize your writing practice.
Fill page after page with vivid description, meaningful themes, intriguing characters, and captivating conflict.
Then take entries a step further, identifying where there’s potential for more. Master craft techniques that pinpoint the core of a short story, the germ of a personal essay, the start of a novel, or the heart of a memoir. Transform your entries into new work.
Writer’s journals aren’t diaries. They have one goal—to keep you writing good work. Countless writers have used notebooks to strengthen their prose skills, maintain solid writing habits and let their imaginations roam wild. In this workshop, explore how to customize your own notebook. Find a satisfying balance between playful experimentation and rigorous craft. Come away with sharpened storytelling skills and a notebook full of ideas to get you writing and keep you writing.
Get one-to-one feedback from an experienced writing coach guiding you through five units. In each, you’ll explore essential craft techniques of good prose:
- Collecting Details: Observation and Scene
- Focusing Ideas: Memory and Theme
- Developing Characters: Desire and Dialogue
- Creating Conflict: Tension and Plot
- Crafting New Work: Drafting and Revising
The units lead you step-by-step through writing prompts, craft tips, helpful links, as well as sample notebook and new work excerpts. You’ll use your notebook to warm-up, experiment, draft, revise and generate new work. Course material includes:
- Tricks for gathering material so you’ll never run out of ideas to write about.
- Freewriting techniques to help you outrun the inner critic.
- Tangible techniques to get you started and keep your pen moving.
- Tips for writing tight.
- Self-editing skills.
- A generous dose of exercises that stimulate imagination and introduce craft, including how to dazzle with image, breathe life into a scene, fuse character and setting, and focus point of view.
- Triggers to explore memories for buried treasures and uncover a goldmine of subjects.
- Wise quotes by established writers.
- Writer checklists to review key points.
You’ll end each unit by writing and submitting a short sketch and trying out your new skills. Via email, you’ll receive a written critique of your submission, explaining craft techniques you've mastered and those you can improve. For Level 1, you’ll work on a short craft sketch for each unit and build skill with revision techniques (submitting revisions for units 3 & 4). For Level 2, upon completing one short sketch and revision in each of the first four units, you’ll submit 2000 words of a story, personal essay, or opening to a novel or memoir for Unit 5.
There are no deadlines. Enjoy the leisurely pace of journaling and submit work for each unit whenever you’re ready. You have a full year to complete the course.
Whether you simply journal or write fiction or creative nonfiction, the course is designed to walk you through new techniques to help spark and expand ideas you’ll write about today, tomorrow, and in the years to come.
Choose one of these options:
- Level 1: Take all 5 units and submit drafts of short notebook sketches for units 1-5, as well as revisions of work in Units 3 & 4. Registration fee is only $135. Earn 1.0 Continuing Education Unit. Register any time.
- Level 2: Take all 5 units, submit notebook sketches and revisions, one for each unit, and at the end of the course submit 2000 words of a story, personal essay or opening to a memoir or novel. Fee is $175. Earn 2.0 Continuing Education Units. Register any time..
Angela Rydell, MFA, has taught creative writing through UW-Madison Continuing Studies since 2006. Programs include Write-by-the-Lake Writer's Workshop & Retreat, School of the Arts at Rhinelander, Writers' Institute, and Weekend with Your Novel. She has also taught at Edgewood College and in the national program "Senior Summer School," been a poet-in-residence in elementary schools, and is the lead judge for the 2010 Wisconsin People & Ideas poetry contest.
She is a recipient of Poets & Writers' Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award. Her work has appeared in Poets & Writers, The Sun, Alaska Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Beloit Poetry Journal, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals.
What former students have said about Angela
“The class generated a lot of good ideas for me. It opened new ways of thinking about journaling and freed me from ideas that restricted my writing… Thank you so much!” ~ Linda Flynn, Milton, WI
“I liked … the different techniques that Angela suggested and had us try that I was unfamiliar with. Many of them are great tools to keep the keyboard clacking and get a person in the groove to keep writing. I think Angela did an excellent job of illustrating the concept of moving beyond the idea of a journal to something geared more towards a reader. Additionally, I felt the excerpts, many of which were inspirational and thought-provoking, did a great job of reinforcing these themes.” ~ Doug Milks, Madison, WI
“Loved the mix of techniques and examples offered—interspersed with time to do our own writing. Instructor Angela Rydell was excellent—real content and real encouragement.” ~ Marcia Bosscher, Madison, WI
“Lots of clarity in the instruction, lots of good feedback (and generous too!).” Jo Ortel, Madison, WI
"Angela Rydell is a gifted teacher … She shares her enthusiasm and knowledge openly and honestly." ~Marie Tonnon,
"Angela's teaching is clear and exact and inspiring!" ~Joan Neibauer, Madison,WI
Your contact for more information about From Notebook to New Work: A Writer’s Journal Workshop is Laura Kahl, 608-262-3982, firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information about online learning contact Lori O'Neill at 608-263-6322 or toll-free 877-336-7836 or email LSAonline@dcs.wisc.edu.
Online: Register now online with our secure server.
Mail: Print and mail our registration form.
Telephone: Call 608-262-2451 or toll-free 800-725-9692 to register. Our phone is answered M-F, 7:00 am-4:30 pm Central Time. At other times please leave a message, and we will return your call.
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The same writing staff that bring you these great online classes also provide individualized writing critique services. Learn more by visiting our writing critique services web page.
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