Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat: Sessions & speakers

We are already looking forward to 2015. We leave the 2014 session information here for your reference.

Fiction  |  Creative Nonfiction  |  Fiction and Nonfiction  |  Master Classes  |  Poetry


1. Thrill Me: Creating the Momentum that Publishers Crave, Tim Storm

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.


2. Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!, Kathy Steffen

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.

Writing a novel can seem like a daunting task. Sure, you can write anything quickly, but how do you create the fresh, exciting, meaningful fiction today's marketplace demands? How do you pull together the pieces you already have and build them into a compelling novel? The focus this week is to arm you with all the craft, techniques, and skills to break through any doubts you have and keep you moving ahead to write with confidence and not only finish your novel, but snag the reader from the start and make it impossible for anyone to put your manuscript down.


3. Building Powerful Plots: How to Strengthen the Structure of Your Novel, Angela Rydell

Angela Rydell, MFA, has taught for UW-Madison since 2006. Her ongoing critique group and “Powerful Plots” workshops have helped dozens of novelists structure their novels. She recently designed the online class Outline Your Novel Now to keep novelists organized and writing pages. A recipient of Poets & Writers' Writers Exchange Award and finalist in the American Short(er) Fiction Prize and New Millennium Writings’ Awards, her fiction’s published in many journals.

Strong novels need strong plots. Yet every structure's got its flaws—that opening page, a muddled middle, an ending that fizzles fast. Don't panic, just plot. Whether you're starting out, drafting, or revising, you can build your novel's structure from the ground up. We'll begin with a firm foundation: What's the promise of your premise? How do classic plot blueprints strengthen your plot while inspiring new twists? You'll sketch out a floor plan (a strong central problem), erect sturdy scaffolding (complications), and fortify the framework's hinges (major turning points). Then wire for electricity—building character relationships, plot layers, and subplots.


Creative Nonfiction

4. Writing Compelling Creative Nonfiction Books, Laurie Scheer

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. This week long course helps you develop or refine your nonfiction writing skills through one-on-one guidance from your instructor and feedback from your fellow classmates. During the course we’ll address how to gather material for your creative nonfiction essays and books. We’ll discuss personal essays vs. professional essays. Favored general topics such as writing about family and writing about place—home and away—are explored.


5. Richer Nonfiction Now, Amy Lou Jenkins

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.

You have a voice. You want to write. You have decades of experience that no one else has lived. Perhaps you have written for scientific or trade journals. Perhaps you teach writing. Perhaps you have published work or you have drafts, journals, or a head filled with ideas ready to be mined. We will explore the glories of writing publishable short-form nonfiction. Advance your publishing and writing voyage. This journey is more difficult and wonderful than you could imagine. On your journey, we will enter the continuum of reading and writing, which are 2 sides of the same page. We will steal from the masters.


6. Turning Your Life Experiences Into an Inspiring Book: Mystic, Mistress, Master, Julie Tallard Johnson

Julie Tallard Johnson received the Independent Book award for Best Multicultural Book for Youth for The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens (His Holiness the Dalai Lama wrote a piece for this book). Julie has also written numerous articles for local papers, does a regular feature for Astrogirl magazine, and sends out a popular bi-monthly e-newsletter: Awakening the Zero Point.

We all have big stories to tell and some of us are called to share our personal stories and experiences in a book. It is not complicated, as long as we don’t get lost in rules, details, and other complexities. As an author of 10 inspirational books I can help you forge your own path to writing and completing a dynamic book that others will want to read. I have simplified a writing process for you so that when you go home you will have established a solid foundation of story, process, and writing for your book (even if it is only in the idea stages when we start). There will be no expectations that you have to share. However, the more engaged you are, the more you are likely to get out of the process.


Fiction and Nonfiction

7. A Writer’s Toolkit for Improving Fiction & Nonfiction, Brad Schreiber

Brad Schreiber was Vice President of Storytech Literary Consulting for 12 years. Brad consults with authors and producers of books, TV and film scripts, treatments, multimedia, and other creative endeavors. Brad formerly taught Story Analysis at the American Film Institute and worked as head of development for film and television director Jonathan Kaplan, who directed Jodie Foster to an Oscar in The Accused.

Writers of memoir, narrative nonfiction, short stories, and novels will have the opportunity to hear samples of exemplary published work and participate in discussion on topics including Story, Character, Dialogue, and Voice. There will be flash writing assignments in class and some overnight homework, both in fiction and nonfiction. Finally, participants will have 500-750 word excerpts of their current projects critiqued on the final day. By strengthening your writing in one field and examining another, you experience an adaptability that enables you to write in multiple genres, improve career chances as a working writer, and develop a specific writer’s “voice” that will attract the reader.


Master Classes

Please contact the instructor (email address listed below), or program director Christine DeSmet (cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu/608-262-3447) before registering for Master Classes 8, 9, or 10.

8. Master Class for Genre Novelists: Complete and Ready to Compete?, Lori Devoti

Lori Devoti worked for 3 different newspapers in 2 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. Writing as Rae Davies, she made the April 3, 2014, USA Today Bestseller List with Loose & Lethal: Dusty Deals Mystery Series Box Set. Email: lori@loridevoti.com

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? Complete and Ready to Compete 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 discuss everything a book needs to be great and make sure if your book isn’t quite there yet, that you know what to do to push it to that next level.


9. Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish , Christine DeSmet

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. Email: cdesmet@dcs.wisc.edu

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. Your manuscript—like a magician honing his or her routine—warrants time set aside for professional polishing before the curtains go up. The instructor will read your entire manuscript prior to class, and participants are highly encouraged to do so as well. Discussion during the week will address your entire manuscript, its problems and pluses, and provide suggestions for polishing. Writers can expect revision exercises and/or discussion on their manuscripts each day, so please be prepared to bring either a printed copy of your entire manuscript to this retreat or have it on your laptop/tablet device.


10. Deep Novel Revision: The Seven Cs of Fiction—Plus a Few Extra, Laurel Yourke

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. Email: lyourke@dcs.wisc.edu

Let’s start with craft. What role does instinct play? When it’s not enough (sometimes it won’t be!), you need to acquire skill with the tools of your craft—and the ability to operate those tools without stifling your energy and originality. Character follows. It’s the foundation for everything else, because dynamic characters are the best tool ever. If they’re complex enough and forced to endure believable conflict, they’ll let you progress when every other tool feels cumbersome or unsuitable. You’ll revise with an eye on the current marketplace, discover techniques to make every page dazzle, and depart inspired about polishing the novel you always dreamed you could write.


11. Master Class: Creating 3-Dimensional, Non-Stereotypical, Memorable Characters, Marilyn R. Atlas

This Master Class is open to the public with no need for instructor permission. Register as usual.

Marilyn Atlas is equally at home in the worlds of film, television, and live theater. Among her film credits are Real Women Have Curves for HBO—which won the Audience Award at the Sundance Film Festival—A Certain Desire, starring Sam Waterston, and The Choking Game for Lifetime Television. She is featured in the book Write Now! by Penguin/Tarcher Press, and is co-authoring a book on character.

How and why does a reader become intrigued and invested in the life of a memorable character? What constitutes 3-dimentional, memorable characters? It is a conscious interweaving of characters' thoughts, wants, goals, secrets, flaws, and delusions. For a character to move us, he must move the plot forward in a true way that is consistent with his DNA. We will discuss several facets of the "evolution of personality" that are present in the best screen and television examples. Students should be familiar with popular films/TV shows that will be suggested by the instructor in advance of the first class.



12. Best Words, Best Order: A Poetry Workshop, Marilyn Taylor

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 8 poetry collections, including Subject to Change, which was nominated for the 2005 Poets Prize; and the chapbook Going Wrong.

“Poetry is the best words in the best order.” Samuel Taylor Coleridge said it first, back in the early 1800s—and it remains pretty clear that a genuinely successful poem can have less to do with an “interesting idea” or a “good premise” than it does with choosing the perfect words for expressing it. This poetry workshop will focus on finding exactly the right words and phrases for your poems-in-progress—words that will help you forge your most unforgettable poetry to date. Revealing exercises will have you delving deep into your own vocabulary while simultaneously taking advantage of the enormous variety of synonyms that the English language offers. We’ll play a little fast-and-loose with syntax, as well, to ensure that your words are making the strongest impression on the reader that they possibly can.


Choose your session, then apply for a master class or register here»

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