Sessions & Speakers
Tim Storm, MFA, has taught writing for 13 years, working closely with both fabulist and realist writers. His work was chosen as Pacific University’s sole fiction entry in the 2011 AWP Intro Journals Project, “a literary competition for the discovery and publication of the best new works” by MFA candidates.
At the end of the day it’s simple: What publishers and agents want is writing they can’t set down. This goes for memoirs and character-driven literary stories as much as for thrillers and spy novels. If you want to avoid rejection letters that claim your piece was “not compelling enough,” or “just didn’t grab me,” you need to get the proverbial ball rolling and then keep it rolling. This course will examine various techniques to achieve maximum momentum in your writing.
Christopher Mohar, MFA, has been published in The Southwest Review, Word Riot, decomP, and Ink Node. He was the 2009-10 recipient of the Carol Houck Smith Fiction Fellowship from UW-Madison. He holds an MFA from the University of Washington, where he received the David Guterson Fiction Thesis Prize.
Novel writing can be a difficult undertaking, but it doesn’t have to be. For first-time novelists, the act of merely writing 300 pages can seem daunting enough to begin with»not to mention writing them well. So how do you transform your beginning energy into a writing practice that actually produces a book? How do you ensure that your story is on track to read like a bestseller or breakthrough literary achievement? What roadblocks keep your novel from organically writing itself, and how do you discover what’s missing? We’ll answer these questions.
Kathy Steffen’s novels have won the CRW Award of Excellence, the HOLT Medallion Award, and the Beacon Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her books have been finalists in the IPA Benjamin Franklin Awards and at the London Book Festival. Steffen’s First There is a River, Jasper Mountain, and Theater of Illusion are published by Medallion Press. Her first published short story appeared in Quality Women’s Fiction.
Agents and editors are flooded every day with manuscripts. Why do some novels make them bolt upright in their chairs and say, “WOW!” and continue on to do the same with readers? During this high-powered week, we’ll identify and focus on writing techniques and tactics to help your book stand out from the crowd. We’ll not only explore what it takes to write a novel with bestseller potential, but how to sharpen and intensify every aspect of your writing to create the fresh, exciting fiction today’s marketplace craves. Our goal: to snag the reader from the start and make it impossible for anyone to put your manuscript down.
Angela Rydell, MFA, won Portland Review’s Flash Fiction Friday contest, received honorable mention in the New Millennium Writings Awards Flash Fiction Contest, and was a finalist American Short(er) Fiction Prize and Gray Sparrow Flash Fiction Contest. She holds an MFA from Warren Wilson College. Her flash fiction can be read in many journals. Click to hear Angela interviewed on Milwaukee public radio station WUWM.
When flash fiction burst on the scene, it sparked new markets and contests. But very short stories are far from new. Parables, tales and ghost stories have been around for centuries. Brief and intense, a flash delivers a lasting impression. How do these small stories impact us in 1000 words or less? One trick is subtext. Choose details that imply more than meets the eye. Flash thrives on surprise, but shock value is fleeting. Instead, find the extraordinary in the ordinary. A story about a sock or a gold-leafed tattoo can convey volumes. We’ll analyze published work that zooms in on a powerful image or metaphor to make subject matter matter.
YA and Children’s Literature
Bridget Birdsall, MFA, decided in midlife to overcome dyslexic challenges and pursue her passion for writing, especially young adult literature. An award-winning author, she helps other writers find their voice and get their words out into the world.
How do you create memorable heros and heroines in YA and Middle Grade Literature? What do all heroes have in common? Who is the anti-hero? What is so appealing about the reluctant hero? Who are you writing for and how does the age of your audience factor in? Does your work have potential as a series? What’s hot and what’s not in YA and middle-grade literature? These are the questions we will explore. Together we will embark on a five-day adventure, immersing ourselves in the stages of the hero’s/heroine’s journey in YA and children’s literature.
JoAnn Early Macken’s recent picture books include Baby Says, “Moo!”; Waiting Out the Storm; and Flip, Float, Fly: Seeds on the Move. She has also written an assortment of poems, several articles for writers, and more than one hundred nonfiction books for young readers. JoAnn earned her MFA in Writing for Children and Young Adults from Vermont College.
Nothing engages a child like a well-told story. From traditional fairy tales to realistic contemporary fiction, from mystery to fantasy to adventure, stories capture the hearts of children and the adults who read to them and write for them. This course focuses on writing, revising, and submitting stories for children that fit the standard picture book format. We’ll cover picture book structure, universal themes, and the role of illustrations. We’ll discuss endearing and enduring characters, age-appropriate conflicts, and satisfying resolutions. Submit your story in advance for a comprehensive critique.
Laurie Scheer, MA, is a published author and professional speaker, and an instructor for Continuing Studies. Her book Creative Careers In Hollywood and her DVD How To Pitch and Sell Your Screenplay have helped mentor the next generation of media professionals.
Within recent literary history, the genre of creative nonfiction has grown in leaps and bounds. Writing fact with the flair of fiction is appealing to many writers, especially those who are trained in journalism and technical writing. Creative nonfiction allows you to use all of the tools of the fiction writer to develop factual material, whether that is material based on your own life or on someone or something else. This genre of writing also allows you to expound upon a favorite topic, issue, or cause, or explore a time and place through writing.
Amy Lou Jenkins, MFA, is the author of the creative nonfiction book, Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting, 2010, Holy Cow! Press. She has taught writing at Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and has presented at multiple writing conferences and workshops.
Most writers have half-finished memoirs in computer files, or notebooks filled with journal entries and starts of ideas, or even a head full of ideas and memories. This workshop will help the writer mine those beginnings to develop essays that editors want to publish. Discover how to find these calls, identify those that will serve your writing career, and see your name in print alongside of peers and masters in the craft. Learn to package experience and insight into satisfying layers so that your essays and memoirs prod the reader to interact intellectually and emotionally with the text.
Fiction Master Classes
Please apply to instructor before registering. See class syllabi for detailed instructions.
Laurel Yourke, UW-Madison Continuing Studies instructor, is the author of Take Your Characters to Dinner: Creating the Illusion of Reality in Fiction. This text forms the backbone of credit and noncredit courses offered in print and online to writers all over the world. She is a recipient of the UW-Madison Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence and the Council of Wisconsin Writers Award for Encouragement of Wisconsin Writers.
Fiction turns things upside down. Homer used it to make sense of war; Rowling, to promise that magic can save us. In the Fiction Masterclass track, we’ll unravel various assumptions about opposition and similarity in fiction. We’ll tackle deep structure’s theme and plot; distinctions between author, narrator and character; dialogue; tempo. Finally, in a lovely stroke of irony, deep revision culminates in attention to the paragraph, the source of a novel’s weakest—and greatest—moments. What better way to electrify right-brain creativity than turning all those rules and your story upside down? Doing so inspires novels irresistible to agents, publishers, and readers.
Lori Devoti worked for three different newspapers in two different states before deciding to stay home with her children and begin writing fiction. The author of urban fantasy, contemporary romance and paranormal romance, Lori has been a finalist for many awards including the Romantic Times Reviewers Choice Award. She lives near Madison, Wisconsin with her husband, children, and two dogs.
Finishing your first novel is a huge accomplishment. But how do you know if that novel, complete though it might be, is ready to compete with other works for editors’, agents’, and readers’ attention? This section of the Fiction Masterclass track is for any writer who has finished (or is very close to finishing) a draft of a genre manuscript. This workshop looks at your book—where it sings and where it may hit a sour note. We’ll discuss key scenes, making sure your book has them all and you have done everything you can to get the most out of each of them. We’ll look at dialogue and character, goal and conflict, big picture and small. We’ll discuss everything a book needs to be great—and help you take your work to that level.
Christine DeSmet has seen many of her past critique clients and participants in UW retreats and workshops go on to accomplish great things, including becoming published, landing agent representation, self-publishing, or finishing a novel. At UW-Madison, Christine teaches fiction and screenwriting, and mentors and critiques writers throughout the year. She teaches the online course, “Write Your Novel Fast & Sure.”
The magic in a manuscript that makes it sell can feel elusive when you face the enormous task of finishing a first draft well and then revising and polishing your next draft. But that magic isn’t as elusive as you might think. Like a master magician’s tricks, creating a memorable story in 300 pages requires attention to technique, quality, and honest reflection by the writer. Andyou can’t fool an audience with slap-dash efforts and expect your name on the marquee. To land an agent or dazzle a reader or reviewer, you’ll need stellar storylines and structure, details, voice and style, characters, plot, setting, point-of-view, dialogue, and scene work. Your manuscript—like a magician honing his or her routine—warrants time set aside for professional polishing before the curtain goes up.
Marilyn L. Taylor, PhD, is a past Poet Laureate for the State of Wisconsin. Her award-winning work has appeared in many poetry journals and anthologies, including POETRY, The American Scholar, MEASURE, The Ledge, The Atlanta Review, The Cream City Review, Able Muse, Smartish Pace, and Dogwood. She is the author of eight poetry collections, including Subject to Change, which was nominated for the 2005 Poets Prize; and the chapbook Going Wrong.
“The joy of working in form is, for me, the paradoxical freedom form bestows to say the hard truths,” says poet Maxine Kumin. Could it do the same for your own poetry? It’s finally time to find out. In this workshop we’ll be experimenting with a variety of traditional poetic forms, from the sonnet to the sestina—equipping you with many new stylistic strategies for your poetic bag-of-tricks. (Working with forms can do wonders for your free verse, too!) In the end—with a little help from your classmates and your own good ear—you’ll have a great start on gaining the necessary skills for combining the best of both worlds: using the timeless old forms (and varieties thereof) as vehicles for your own totally contemporary ideas.