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

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

Tim Storm received his MFA from Pacific University. His work was chosen by Pacific’s faculty as their sole fiction entry in the 2011 AWP Intro Journals Project, and he's the winner of the 2013 Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award. He has taught literature and writing for the past 14 years.

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 it goes 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. Suspense, surprise, tension; mystery, anticipation, high stakes — we'll sort out these various methods of moving your piece forward and we'll also examine stuff that might stall your narrative, like background and flashback and set-up. How do you get all that crucial information into a story without killing the momentum? Come find out.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

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

Kathy Steffen’s novels have won numerous awards, including the CRW Award of Excellence 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. She is the author of the Spirit of the River Series: First, There is a River, Jasper Mountain, and Theater of Illusion. The TREEbook™ enhanced version (a new reading technology offering expanded and alternate story branches) of First, There is a River released in 2014. Kathy speaks at writing programs across the country and has taught at AllWriters' Workshops, the UW’s Writers’ Institute, Weekend with Your Novel, Write-by-the-Lake, Rhinelander School of the Arts, and online at the How to Write Shop. She is currently working on a new mystery fiction series as well as a step-by-step book on writing a novel.

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? What about enough story strength and momentum to keep your writing from falling apart after the first few chapters? How do you develop believable, fresh, multi-dimensional characters readers want to follow through to the end? Is there a way to keep your writing on track and not meander off course, wasting your creative time and effort?

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.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

3. The Writer’s Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre with Laurie Scheer

Laurie Scheer, 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. Her new book The Writer's Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre 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.

Are you certain you have the right genre for your material? Often writers think they are creating new content within their genre when in fact they are just writing what has been written previously.

Writers need to research their genre to fully understand the genre’s evolution. Armed with knowing the history of their genre, writers can improve their content immensely and provide a new spin on their material so they stand out from others writing within their genre. By doing this work, writers conquer writer’s block, often sort out their storylines, and create authentic pieces of writing. Some writers even find success by creating new sub-genres (think steampunk).

By doing this research and learning this method of writing you’ll write an authentic and genuine new text with your next project and all of your future projects.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

4. Richer Nonfiction Now (Stories, Essays, Short Memoir) with Amy Lou Jenkins

Amy Lou Jenkins holds a BSN in Nursing and Professional Communication and an MFA in Literature and Creative Writing. Her environmental and nature writing has received the The Florida Review Editors Award in Nonfiction, Literal Latte Essay Awards, Flint Hills Review Nonfiction Award, X.J. Kennedy Award for Nonfiction, and the Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award. Her nonfiction has also won first place in the Jade Ring Award for Essay Writing, Wisconsin Regional Writing Award in Essay, Memoir, and Travel Writing. She is the recipient of a Mesa Refuge writing fellowship for environmental writing. Jenkins writes a quarterly book review column for the Sierra Club’s Muir View.

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.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

5. Turning Your Life-Changing Experiences into a Book with Julie Tallard Johnson

Julie Tallard Johnson,

MSW, LCSW is a licensed psychotherapist who has maintained a private counseling and consultation service—Healing Services on the River—in Prairie du Sac, WI since 1995. She is author of 10 inspirational books, which have received many positive reviews and awards including 3 Roundtable awards, Best Youth Book from New York Library, and 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). Teen Psychic: Developing Your Intuitive and Spiritual Powers received a Star Review in Publisher’s Weekly and remains one of her most popular books with young readers. Her most recent title, The Zero Point Agreement: How to Be Who You Already Are was endorsed by Parker J Palmer. Her books are transcribed in dozens of languages.

We all have big stories to tell and some of us are called to share our personal stories, experiences and insights 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).

You will have the option to create a pithy book of wisdom based on your personal experiences and insights. In this class I will give you a simple format to create a smaller, concise version of your big idea and life experiences. Reach a wider audience with a book that is affordable, and an easy (transformative) read.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

6. Unpack Your Memory Attic: Creating Your Event or Personal Memoir One Dust-Free Word at a Time with Sue Roupp

Sue Roupp has worked teaching writing for 25 years. For the last 2 years she taught Memoir, Creative Writing for GrownUps: Write Your Life in 8 Lines, 24 Words at a division of Wind Ridge Publishing called the Writers’ Barn in Shelburne, VT. Prior to that she taught 10-week fall/winter/spring classes on the north shore of Chicago. She has given workshops in 5 states, was guest editor on literary magazine East on Central, was President of Off Campus Writers Workshop in Winnetka, IL, taught at the prestigious artist's community at Ragdale in Lake Forest, Il, worked with Billy Collins and Mark Strand at Dodge Poetry Festival Workshops, and for 2 years hosted smalltalk etc., a TV show on the north shore of Chicago. Learn more at sueroupp.com»

YOU ARE THE HERO OF YOUR MEMOIR, whether it is an about an event in your life or about your entire life.

In our sessions you will enhance your writing skills while unpacking  your memories in a safe environment.  Learn about the characters (major and minor) in your life. Learn how to craft scenes that contain dialogue, conflict, challenges, good times, surprises, (wow! or I have to do what?) turning points. 

At the end of the week you will have 3 things:  you will have a blueprint for your book, you will know how to write about characters, and you will how to create scenes — leaving the workshop with writing skills you can use anywhere.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

7. Writing Compelling Creative Nonfiction Books with Brad Schreiber

Brad Schreiber has worked as a writer in all media. He was Vice President of Storytech Literary Consulting, founded by Christopher Vogler, for 11 years. Brad created the series North Mission Road, which ran for 6 seasons on truTV, based on his book about the L.A. Coroner, Death in Paradise. His compendium of live theatrical disasters, Stop the Show! was praised by Pulitzer Prize winning author Robert Olen Butler. Brad’s journalism for the Huffington Post has been honored by the National Press Foundation in Washington, D.C. and the L.A. Press Club. His national credits include Variety and The Writer. His newest book is the early-years biography Becoming Jimi Hendrix, called “fascinating” by the New York Times. The book was a Finalist, Biography, at the International Book Awards and was chosen for inclusion in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Library. He administers the Mona Schreiber Prize for Humorous Fiction and Nonfiction at bradschreiber.com

Writers of fact who exhibit the flair of fiction stylists are the reason creative nonfiction is reshaping publishing today. Our week together will include a diverse family of writers, including those who pen how-to books, history, essays, politics, biographies, humor, food, regional, and more.

This week-long workshop helps you develop or refine your nonfiction writing skills in many areas, including one-on-one guidance from the instructor, enjoyable flash writing exercises in class, overnight assignments, and lively group discussion.

Each session, the instructor will comment on students’ 2,000-word excerpts of any creative nonfiction project they wish to have critiqued. Students are asked to email in advance those double-spaced excerpts.

Also, an entire session will be dedicated to the component parts of a book proposal and how it not only helps you sell your project but also helps clarify and organize your thoughts creatively.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

Master Classes

Please contact the instructor (email addresses listed below), or program director Christine DeSmet (christine.desmet@wisc.edu/608-262-3447) before registering for Master Classes 8, 9, 10, or 11.

8. Master Class: Complete and Ready to Compete? with Lori Devoti (Limit 6)

Lori Devoti is the multi-published, multi-genre author of urban fantasy, cozy mystery, young adult, paranormal romance, and romantic comedy novels.  She is a member of Novelist Inc., a group exclusive to professional writers and is owner of the How to Write Shop, an online source of articles on the craft and business of writing. Lori has had over a dozen works published by major publishers, and is also pursuing the new avenues open to authors in today’s digital world. Lori is the recipient of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for The Witch Thief, the Best Harlequin Nocturne of 2012. She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in the newspaper industry for many years before becoming a novelist. For more information on all of Lori’s works and links to her articles at the How to Write Shop, visit her web site at www.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?

This retreat workshop is for any writer who has finished (or is very close to finishing) a draft of a genre manuscript. We’ll look 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 examine dialogue and character, goal and conflict, big picture and small.

In addition, in-class critiques of each person’s work give you feedback from a diverse group. At the end of the week you’ll have the assurance of knowing whether your book is ready to be sent out into the world, and if it isn’t you’ll know what you need to do to get it submission ready.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

9. Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages with Angela Rydell (Limit 8)

Angela Rydell, MFA, has taught for the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies since 2006. Her ongoing novel critique group and “Powerful Plots” workshops have helped dozens of novelists structure their novels over the years. Angela’s a novelist, short fiction writer, poet, and critique coach. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, and other journals. She is a recipient of Poets & Writers' Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award, winner of the Portland Review's inaugural Flash Fiction Friday contest, a Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist in the American Short(er) Fiction Prize & Passage North's Neutrino Short-Short Prize, and has received honorable mention in the New Millennium Writings Awards. She is at work on True North, a novel about an unemployed Wisconsin weatherman trying to make life more predictable. She posts writerly tips on facebook here»

Today, more than ever, you must lure your reader with your opening or risk losing him forever. Page 1 is the first of many hooks. When agents and editors love your query or opening 3 pages, they often ask for more — the first 50 pages. Find out what must feature in those early chapters to inspire the words, “Send me the whole thing!”

This master class helps you pinpoint your inciting incident, introduce a protagonist to love, balance scene and summary, and craft enticing openings for each chapter. You and your instructor will read everyone's 50 pages prior to class. Each writer’s work will be touched on daily through select scene critiques, group discussions, or revision exercises.

Whether you’re in the midst of a draft or preparing for publication, you’ll take away tips for polishing pages until every opening hook gleams.

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10. Master Class:  Finish, Polish, Publish with Christine DeSmet (Limit 6)

Christine DeSmet is a novelist and short story writer, screenwriter, and writing teacher at UW-Madison where she specializes in one-on-one coaching of writers in all genres, literary and commercial, including YA and children’s. Christine is the author of the Fudge Shop Mystery Series, including the 2015 third book, Five-Alarm Fudge. The first book of that series, First-Degree Fudge, spent 10 weeks on the Barnes & Noble mystery bestseller list when the book debuted in Fall 2013. Christine’s previous novel, a romantic suspense, Spirit Lake, was an award-winning, best-selling novel. Also a short fiction writer, her humorous romantic mystery series set in Wisconsin appeared in 2 volumes for Whiskey Creek Press: Mischief in Moonstone and Men of Moonstone. Christine, with script co-writers Peggy Williams and Bob Shill, is a past winner of the Slamdance Film Festival and optioned that true-story historical screenplay to New Line Cinema. Christine's stage play co-written with Peggy Williams, “Climax!,” about a struggling writer, was a top-10 finalist in a Wisconsin Wrights New Play Contest. She is currently working on a new mystery series and script projects.

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 (fewer or more depending on target market) requires attention to technique, quality, and honest reflection by the writer. And like a magician, you can’t fool an audience with slap-dash efforts and expect your name on the marquee. You can’t get an agent or dazzle a reader or reviewer with less than 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 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.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

11. Mastering the Music of Poetry: Sound, Rhythm, and Voice with Marilyn Taylor

Marilyn L. Taylor, Ph.D., former Poet Laureate of the state of Wisconsin (2009 and 2010) and of the city of Milwaukee (2004 and 2005), is the author of 6 collections of poetry.  Her award-winning poems and essays have  appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Poetry, The American Scholar, Able Muse, Measure, Ted Kooser’s “American Life in Poetry” column, and the recent Random House anthology titled Villanelles. Marilyn also served for 5 years as Contributing Editor and regular poetry columnist for The Writer magazine.  She is currently a member of the Wisconsin Poet Laureate Commission and the Council for Wisconsin Writers Board of Directors.  She recently moved from Milwaukee to Madison, where she continues to write and teach. 


Here’s a 1-week intensive workshop designed for any poet looking to get a better handle on poetry’s underpinnings — whether you ordinarily write free verse, prose-poems, or sonnets. The strategy? Paying conscious attention to subtle details that can turn a good idea into a terrific poem.

For example, have you tried tinkering with a poem’s intrinsic rhythms as you write it? Customizing its sound effects, including the possibility of using rhyme? What about manipulating the tempo, or the poem’s underlying tone of voice? Getting a firm grip on these long-established elements of prosody can serve as the master key for turning a good poem into a seriously memorable one.

With additional assistance from your fellow workshoppers and your own good ear, you’ll finish the week equipped with a new set of time-tested strategies for taking your body of work to the next level.

Syllabus and full speaker bio»

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

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