Weekend With Your Novel: Speakers

Instructors and critique workshop leaders

Christopher Chambers (MFA, University of Alabama) is an experienced editor, teacher, and writer. He's the author of Delta 88, and his work has been published widely in magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories. He has received 5 Pushcart Prize nominations and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Work he edited has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Poetry, O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize anthology, Poetry Daily, Verse, Daily, and The Utne Reader. christopherchambers.net

Christine Desmet (MA, UW-Madison) is a novelist and short story writer, screenwriter, and writing teacher at UW-Madison where she specializes in one-on-one coaching of writers. Christine’s latest projects include a best-selling, 3-book cozy mystery series for Penguin Random House called the Fudge Shop Mystery Series, set in Door County, Wisconsin. Christine’s previous novel, a romantic suspense, Spirit Lake, was an award-winning, best-selling novel for publisher Hard Shell Word Factory/Mundania Press. Also a short fiction writer, her humorous romantic mystery series set in Wisconsin appeared in 2 volumes: Mischief in Moonstone, and Men of Moonstone. Christine is a past winner of the Slamdance Film Festival and optioned that screenplay to New Line Cinema. She’s a member of Writers Guild of America, East; Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum; Romance Writers of America; Sisters in Crime; Mystery Writers of America; and Jewels of the Quill. Her stage play, “Climax!,” about a struggling writer, was a top-10 finalist in a Wisconsin Wrights New Play Contest. In 2014, Christine received the UW-Madison Robert and Carroll Heideman Award for Excellence in Public Service and Outreach. christinedesmet.com

Matthew J. Hefti is the author of A Hard and Heavy Thing, Tyrus Books/F+W (January 2016). He was born in Canada and grew up in Wisconsin. After 9/11, he visited the Armed Forces recruiter. He then spent 12 years as an explosive ordnance disposal technician. He deployed twice to Iraq and twice to Afghanistan, once to Iraq as an EOD team member and the remaining three tours as an EOD team leader. While enlisted, he earned a BA in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. He is now working, studying, and living in Madison, Wisconsin, where he is pursuing his Juris Doctor at the University of Wisconsin Law School. He spends most of his time working for the Wisconsin Innocence Project, working to free the wrongfully convicted. His words have been seen in Pennsylvania English; Blue Moon Literary & Art Review; Chad Harbach’s MFA v. NYC; and War, Literature and the Arts. Along with Adrian Bonenberger, David James, and Michael Carson, he writes regularly at Wrath-BearingTree.com. Visit his werbsite at matthewhefti.com.

Ian Graham Leask is the producer and co-host of "Write On! Radio” on WKFAI in Minneapolis. He grew up with magnificent storytellers and has been in the world of literature all his life. He is the of author of The Wounded (New Rivers Press, 1992) and the forthcoming novel, House of Large Sizes. He has over thirty years experience as a Literary Consultant, or 'book doctor,' and has been a life-long teacher, publisher and advocate for literary expression, in all its forms, because he believes it truly can change humanity for the better. ianleask.wordpress.com

Jessica (Jess) Lourey is best known for her critically-acclaimed Murder-by-Month mysteries, which have earned multiple starred reviews from Library Journal and Booklist, the latter calling her writing "a splendid mix of humor and suspense." Jessica also writes sword and sorcery fantasy as Albert Lea and edge-of-your-seat YA adventure as J.H. Lourey, and is branching out into magical realism, literary fiction, and thrillers under her given name. She is a tenured professor of creative writing and sociology at a Minnesota college, a recipient of The Loft's 2014 Excellence in Teaching fellowship, and a sought-after workshop leader and keynote speaker who delivered the 2016 "Rewrite Your Life" TEDx Talk. When not teaching, reading, traveling, writing, or raising her two wonderful kids, you can find her dreaming of her next story. Salem's Cipher, the first book in her thrilling Witch Hunt Series, hits stores September 2016. jessicalourey.com

Agate Nesaule is author of A Woman in Amber: Healing the Trauma of War and Exile (Penguin, 1997) which won an American Book Award, and the author of In Love with Jerzy Kosinski, a novel (UW Press, 2009). She was born in Latvia and grew up in the turmoil of World War II. A professor emerita of English and women’s studies at the University of Wisconsin–Whitewater, she lives, writes, and gardens in Madison.

Kristin Oakley's (BA, JD, UW-Madison) debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, is the winner of the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction and a finalist in the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year. The sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was recently released. Kristin is the president and co-founder of In Print, a professional writers’ organization, a board member of the Chicago Writers Association, and the editor of The Write City Magazine. As a writing instructor at the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, Kristin critiques manuscripts and offers an online course on cliffhangers. She has a B.A. in psychology and a J.D., both from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. kristinoakley.net

Angela Rydell (MFA, Warren Wilson College) has taught creative writing workshops throughout Madison. Her work has been published in Alaska Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Poets & Writers, and other journals, and she won Portland Review’s inaugural Flash Fiction Friday contest. She 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 and teaches for the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies. Her flash fiction can be read in Indiana Review, Gulf Stream, NANO Fiction and other journals, and she was interviewed on radio station WUWM for Lake Effect's Flash Fiction Friday.

Laurie Scheer (MA, DePaul Univ), Media Goddess, is a former vice president of programming for WE: Women's Entertainment. She has worked as an assistant, d-girl, and producer for ABC, Viacom, Showtime, and AMC-Cablevision. Laurie has been an instructor at numerous universities across the US including Northwestern, UCLA, American University, and Yale. As a professional speaker, she has appeared at annual conventions for NAB, NATPE, The Great American Pitch Fest, Screenwriters’ World, Reel Screen, WIFV, FTX West, and the Willamette Writers Conference. She is currently an Associate Faculty Associate/Writing Mentor with UW-Madison’s Continuing Studies Writing Department where she is critiquing writers’ works, conducting numerous online and in-person courses, and the Director of the annual Writers’ Institute. She is also the Managing Editor of the annual regional journal, The Midwest Prairie Review. Her new book The Writer's Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre (Michael Wiese Productions, 2014) explores storytelling in the transmedia universe.  Most recently, Laurie received the Marquette University Alumni Association “James T. Tiedge Memorial Award” for her outstanding work as a graduate of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication. lauriescheer.com

Tim Storm (MFA, Pacific Univ) has taught literature and writing for 14 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, and he's the winner of the 2013 Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award for the title story from his MFA thesis: Creatures of the Deep. tdstorm.com

Aurelia Wills writes young adult and adult fiction. Someone I Wanted To Be is her first novel. She was raised in Colorado, attended UW-Madison, and graduated with a degree in philosophy and Russian studies. She teaches creative writing at the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis. She reads first thing in the morning and last thing at night. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith was the first novel she ever loved. Whenever possible, Aurelia attends live music shows, backpacks to state park cabins, goes on road trips, and travels by train. Once a year, she makes a papier-mâché puppet for the annual Mayday parade put on by the Heart of the Beast Puppet and Mask Theater in Minneapolis. She has three kids and lives in Minnesota with her husband. aureliawills.com