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

1. NEW! Through the Competition: Hands-On Workshop to Make Your Novel Pop to the Top, with Lori Devoti
2. NEW! Stories That Matter: Creating the Resonance That Publishers Crave. A Workshop for Novelists, Memoirists, and Short Fiction Writers, with Tim Storm
3. Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!, with Kathy Steffen
4. NEW! The Literary Memoir – Show, Tell, Muse, with Coleman
5. Richer Nonfiction Now For Writers of Essays, Short Memoir Essays, Blog Material, Stories, with Amy Lou Jenkins
6. Turning Your Life Experiences Into an Inspiring Book: Mystic, Mistress, Master, with Julie Tallard Johnson
7. Writing Compelling Creative Nonfiction Books, with Brad Schreiber
8. The Writer’s Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre, with Laurie Scheer
9. NEW! Section 9, Inside the Box, Outside the Frame: Writing Poetry Your Way, with Marilyn L. Taylor
10. Writing Short Fiction, with Christopher Chambers
11. Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages, with Angela Rydell
12. Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish, with Christine DeSmet

NEW! Section 1, Break Through the Competition: Hands-On Workshop to Make Your Novel Pop to the Top with Lori Devoti

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 LoriDevoti.com


You’ve taken writing classes, read articles, and you’ve even written your book, or most of it, but you aren’t getting the reactions you want from agents and editors. Instead you’re hearing things like, “The writing is strong, but it didn’t pique my interest.” Or “You have a nice concept, but I’m just not enthusiastic enough about this work.”

What’s wrong? What more can you do? What does it take to get a book from “good” to “outstanding?”

In this week long, hands-on workshop, we’ll roll up our sleeves and really dig into what makes a book special: to agents, to editors and to readers.  We’ll look for layers, in your characters and your plot. We’ll check to make sure you are using hooks to pull readers along from first lines to last. Is your voice coming through?  Is the point of view clear and right for your story? Does your story have highs and lows? Does it elicit emotion and hit a chord?

We’ll look at all of this and more. We’ll make sure your story has the spark that will make it stand out from the clutter on editors’ desks and stores’ bookshelves.

Come, challenge yourself and see what you and your book can become.

For an added fee, add on a full read of your manuscript by Lori. (Limited to first 5 requests.)


NEW! Section 2, Stories That Matter: Creating the Resonance That Publishers Crave. A Workshop for Novelists, Memoirists, and Short Fiction Writers with Tim Storm

Tim Storm received his MFA from Pacific University. He has work published in multiple anthologies and journals, including Short Story America Vol. IV and Black Warrior Review. He’s been a finalist in several writing contests and is the winner of the 2013 Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award. For the past 16 years, he has taught literature and writing, and he currently edits both fiction and nonfiction and teaches online and in person. Visit his website at tdstorm.com»

Reader engagement is rooted in two things: a story’s momentum and its resonance. By resonance, I mean the reader’s attachment to the story; the story’s power. It is possible for a story to have lots of conflict but still fail to resonate. Think of all the TV series you’ve consumed in your life; many of them were quite effective at getting you to watch, but how many of them stuck with you? How many of them affected you? How many of them really had you rooting for the main character? Momentum comes from conflict and tension, but resonance comes from below-the-surface things: how we identify with the character, how a character perceives conflict, and what the conflict means. This course will focus on upping the wattage, getting readers to care about characters and their objectives. We’ll look between the lines, between the actions, between the dialogue, as we examine how to craft subtext, how to imply motivations, and how to convey characters’ interiority. Though this course is a follow-up on my class of the past three years, students will not need to have taken the Momentum course to get a lot out of this one. Anyone writing stories—novelists, short story writers, memoirists, essayists—needs to be sure those stories matter.

Throughout the week, we’ll provide examples of both successful and unsuccessful Resonance.  But our focus will always be on improving your writing; our exercises in class and our homework each night are designed for you to get the most from each day’s lesson.  Crucial to your development as a writer will be your insightful reading of your classmates’ work. Email 10 pages of a short story, novel, or memoir by May 30th to tdstorm@wisc.edu. (You’ll be reading each other’s manuscripts, occasionally working in pairs or in small groups to discuss one another’s Resonance. At no point will you be the recipient of a whole-class critique, nor will you be required to give each other your edits. But I’ll occasionally make references to the work of your classmates, so you will get the most out of the class if you’re familiar with their submissions. You will receive edits from me.)


Section 3, 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. In addition to published articles and essays on writing, Kathy's short fiction has appeared in anthologies and online. Kathy speaks at writing programs across the country and has taught at AllWriters' Workshops, the University of Wisconsin’s Writer’s Institute, Weekend with Your Novel, Write by the Lake, Rhinelander School of the Arts, and online at the How to Write Shop. She teaches in person and online with students from across the globe and 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.

By the time this week is concluded, you'll have all the tools you need to move ahead and work on your novel until it is finished. Included all week are lesson/discussion followed by critiquing time and (optional) homework assignments where you will work on your specific story/manuscript. You'll receive worksheets on all topics, either to develop areas you don't yet have or to ramp up what you have written. We'll take an analytical look at examples from bestselling and award-winning authors to look beneath the surface and see how they create masterpieces of fiction. We'll also talk about creating your own writing process, breaking through when you are stuck, finding your confidence to write, and how to keep excellent story ideas coming.

We will also discuss how to approach the marketing side (including submitting to agents and editors) and by the end of the week, you'll know how to create the pieces you'll need to put your book out into the world and have the motivation and confidence to do it!

I will critique up to 15 additional pages after the retreat to keep you going and help you continue to hone your skills.


NEW! Section 4, The Literary Memoir – Show, Tell, Muse with Coleman

Coleman is a Texas and Oklahoma native who came to Wisconsin by way of New York and Chicago. He had an adventurous career as a rebel, a nightclub manager, a chef, an international travel industry poobah, and a software mini-mogul. Coleman studied theatre at Cornell University, education at the University of Michigan, and finance and human resources at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

He is the author of a memoir (Spoke) a collection of plays (Faux Poe) and a novel (Kidnapping Henry Kissinger). He received a Literary Artist Fellowship from the Wisconsin Arts Council and is a 3-time recipient of an artist-community collaboration grant from the Wisconsin Arts Council. His memoir was named winner of the 2014 International Book Award for autobiography/memoir. He is a member of the Dramatist Guild of America and Playwrights Ink in Madison.

Sharing your innermost conflicts, feelings and experiences with another person is daunting, leaving one vulnerable and exposed. Publishing a memoir for the whole world to read is exposure of a different magnitude altogether.

But memoir without self-exposure is akin to food without flavor. To make your memoir compelling, you must be willing to intensely flavor it with the raw ingredients of your life.

A series of life anecdotes is not a memoir. It is a series of anecdotes. They may be great anecdotes, well written. But they do not comprise a memoir. A memoir is a revelation of an awakening of spirit that springs from the resolution of an inner conflict manifested in experience and disclosed in narrative. That awakening of spirit is the throughline of the book – the heart and soul that holds it together; that rivets the reader; that propels the narrative from beginning to middle to end.

When you begin your memoir, you may or may not know what your throughline is. You may think you know it, but discover halfway through your writing that it is in fact something different. It may be that you discover your throughline in your first write, or your first re-write—or your second, or third, or fourth. With a throughline, your memoir has a pulse, a heartbeat. Without it, it’s a series of anecdotes.

This week, we will explore great memoirs of the last 100 years, not as a model for how you should write your memoir, but as a laboratory for understanding what makes memoirs compelling to readers. We will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), inside and outside of class. And we will share with our fellow travelers our progress on our solitary journeys of memoir. We will examine what it means to “show and tell” in writing our stories, and how to weave our own thoughts about these stories into the stories themselves. We will each strive to discover and recognize our unique VOICE. We will experiment with the sense-memory of setting, action and character as we bring the reader into the world we re-create on the pages of our memoirs.


Section 5, Richer Nonfiction Now For Writers of Essays, Short Memoir Essays, Blog Material, Stories with Amy Lou Jenkins

Amy Lou Jenkins holds a BSN in Nursing and Professional Communication and an MFA in Literature and Creative Writing from Bennington College. She teaches as a university adjunct and at writing retreats, conferences and workshops. Her environmental and nature writing has been honored by, The Florida Review Editors Award in Nonfiction, Literal Latte Essay Awards, Flint Hills Review Nonfiction Award, X.J. Kennedy Award for Nonfiction, and twice by 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. Her work has appeared in multiple magazines, newspapers, and anthologies including Wisconsin Academy Review, Flint Hills Review, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Shepherds Express, Florida Review, Inkpot, Earth Island Journal, Grit, Generations, Rosebud, Big Apple Parent, MetroParent, Washington Families, Chicken Soup, Cup of Comfort books, Women on Writing, The Maternal is Political, and the summer 2010 release Wild with child. Jenkins writes a quarterly book review column for the Sierra Club’s Muir View and maintains a personal website at AmyLouJenkins.com and a writing site at Anthologiesonline.com. She’s read her essays on Wisconsin and Alaska public radio and been a radio guest on dozens of shows. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband, son, and 2 spoiled dogs.

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 two sides of the same page. We will steal from the masters.

Difficult? Yes.
Annie Dillard offers writers a lamentation:

There are many manuscripts already—worthy ones, most edifying and moving ones, intelligent and powerful ones. If you believed Paradise Lost to be excellent, would you buy it? Why not shoot yourself, actually, rather than finish one more excellent manuscript on which to gag the world? —Annie Dillard, The Writing Life.

Wonderful? Yes.
Discover a depth of insight available to those who use the writing process to articulate the complexity of truth. Celebrate lives and times. Enter another kind of immortality as your work finds an audience. See you words in print alongside other esteemed writers. 

Find answers
How do you know if your writing honors your topic and your reader? How do you know if it is art?  How do you know if a publisher and or discerning reader will recognize your work as worthy of their attention? What is the difference between a sweet story or funny anecdote and a transcendent essay?  Should you attempt to publish a book before you have published shorter works?

My Journey
Years ago, I discovered that when I couldn’t face a blank page, I could answer an editor’s specific call for submissions. The call served as a writing prompt. I studied literary journals and anthologized writers’ literary techniques and began to submit work to editors. This approach gave me direction as to how to hone a piece of writing for an editor and audience. Reading literary journals and literary anthologies imparted lessons about writing valued by editors, and these readings became gateways to more focused writing. They also earned me hundreds of publishing credits and dozens of writing awards. You can do the same.

Your Journey
If you have survived to an age of reason, you have a story worth telling. Enter the vortex of literature and commit yourself to purposeful art, and you will make progress. You can write publishable articles, essays, memoir and more.  We will focus on short-form literary non-fiction (from one to about thirty pages). By literary, we mean writing that utilizes artistic elements that offers the reader a depth of experience.  We don’t necessarily mean high-brow (not that there’s anything wrong with that). These shorter pieces may, however, serve a larger work. They may be chapters in a book or stand-alone pieces that do or do not serve a book project.

Writers who wish to plant their feet on their own literary path and study nonfiction in this class will write drafts or final versions of two different nonfiction pieces. One work will respond to an actual call for submissions that the participants elects; another work will respond to a class exercise.

Amy will also critique one finished essay from each participant after the retreat, included in the fee.

Each day the sessions will include lecture/discussion, group work, and writing exercises directed toward writing publishable nonfiction literature to delight your editor and reader.  All workshop-type responses to individual writing will be structured to maximize the benefits of feedback and show respect for the writers work. Group feedback will be structured, kind, and no one will dominate.  We will attend to your work. 

Amy Lou Jenkins is the author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting


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

Julie Tallard Johnson, MSW, LCSW, is an award-winning author of 10 nonfiction books, her first one published in 1989 through Doubleday (Hidden Victims: Hidden Healers: An Eight Stage Healing Process for Families of the Mentally Ill). She received the Independent Book award for Best Multicultural Book for Youth for The Thundering Years: Rituals and Sacred Wisdom for Teens and a Star Review in Publisher’s Weekly for Teen Psychic. Julie has also written numerous articles for local papers and online magazines. She sends out a popular weekly blog: ALL-WRITE Wednesdays: World Into Word. Julie enjoys working with aspiring writers and has helped many writers become authors.

For mainstream/self-help/autobiographical & instructional/inspirational/ memoirs/personal experience

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. Examples of such books’ successes include: Seth Godin’s book, Poke the Box, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art and Brenda Ueland’s book, If You Want To Write: A Book about Art, Independence and Spirit. Your book (if you choose) can be self-published and later used as a launch for a more in-depth book. Or, you can do as I have and put together a pithy version of a larger scale book.

Please note: I offer this class in a circle, respecting that we are all masters and mistresses of our own stories and experiences. This puts us in a “tribe” of writers where I facilitate the process but we all participate by showing up. (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.)

“I cut the cord. I said, I will do only what I can do, express what I am – that’s why I used first person, why I wrote about myself,’ I Decide to write from the standpoint of my own experience, what I knew and felt. And that was my salvation.”  –Henry Miller


Section 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 other books include the humor-writing how-to What Are You Laughing At?, which garnered blurbs from humor greats like Larry Gelbart, Tom Robbins, and Mort Sahl. 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 and his fiction and nonfiction have been in literary journals Tin House and Black Clock. 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. Reach him at brad.schreiber@att.net

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 course 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.


Section 8, 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, 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.

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).

This workshop assists you as you run the history of your genre to discover the traits that are working (and not working) for your authentic content. The result of this workshop will lead to writers writing less prequels, sequels, remakes and reboots within your genre.  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.

Genre topics:

  • Understanding the new transmedia world within publishing
  • Fragmentation of audiences adds to why you need to know your genre
  • How to find the traits, the quintessential text, and history of your genre
  • Looking at how your genre has been consumed by readers-and why you need to know this as a current writer in today’s marketplace
  • How to assure you are creating authentic material
  • How to look to creating hybrid genres and new genres for the future

Writers who would benefit from this workshop include:

  • Writers of all genres
  • Writers interested in elevating their work to a higher level
  • Writers who want to write authentic and genuine material
  • Writers who may have received one-to-many rejection notices –you’ll learn about hints on how to improve your writing
  • Writers who are tired of writing the same thing over and over

Here’s an excerpt from The Writer’s Journey author Christopher Vogler’s foreword to Scheer’s book The Writer’s Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre and writing method: “She points to a high road for genre-loving writers, in which they can not only participate in the forms they admire, but also make fresh contributions that no one has ever imagined, and even spin out completely new genres and styles that others will have the fun of exploring and expanding one day.”


NEW! Section 9, Inside the Box, Outside the Frame: Writing Poetry Your Way with Marilyn L. 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.

This unique poetry workshop has been expressly designed to benefit poets of all preferences and persuasions-- whether their work usually leans toward the stylistically free-and-easy, the experimental, the playful, or the intricate and structured.   Its intention:  to expand your stylistic comfort zone.  How? By learning (painlessly) to work in a style that’s not part of your usual modus operandi.  Freeing up your free verse, perhaps—or tightening it. Or transforming a disorderly idea into something well-constructed and shapely.  Or even by going rogue with a form you’ve never tried before.  (It could even be one you’ve invented yourself!) 

To be more specific, we’ll be concentrating primarily on:

  • Re-examining the techniques that have tended to work pretty well for you and for the poems you’ve been working on.
  • Polishing. expanding, even revamping some of those old reliable approaches.
  • Surprising yourself by adopting some traditional devices to enhance your poetry.
  • Opening your mind to some fearless experimentation.
  • Doing it all in a comfortable and supportive workshop setting.


Section 10, Writing Short Fiction with Christopher Chambers

Christopher Chambers is the former Director of the Walker Percy Center for Writing & Publishing in New Orleans, and has taught creative writing for over 20 years. He received an MFA degree from the University of Alabama, where he was editor of the Black Warrior Review. He was editor of the New Orleans Review from 2000-2013. He has written for television, and published fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Carolina Quarterly, Indiana Review, Exquisite Corpse, Copper Nickel, Louisiana Literature, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Georgetown Review, Notre Dame Review, Washington Square, Hayden's Ferry Review, Lit, BOMB Magazine, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for creative writing, five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been anthologized in French Quarter Fiction, Knoxville Bound, Something in the Water, and in the Best American Mystery Stories series.

Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner. ― Neil Gaiman

Learn how stories work from the inside out! We will examine the basic elements of short fiction through close readings and discussion of successful short stories (one each day). You will use guided writing exercises to explore the intensity, brevity, and word play of the short story toward the writing of a new, original  story of your own.

You’ll take part in an active week-long discussion, read and critique work by fellow participants, and receive responses from them on your work in progress. Throughout the week, we’ll look at a wide range of short fiction with an eye toward identifying and appropriating successful techniques and structures. The focus will be on developing reading skills—learning to read as a writer—and on using those skills to improve our own writing. In-class exercises are designed to complement each day’s lessons and to inspire, motivate, and provoke you into creating work that you otherwise would not have created.

At the end of the week, you’ll have a new appreciation for the range and possibilities in writing short fiction and you’ll have a deeper understanding of the inner workings of storytelling and story structure, a new short story of your own, and new skills in reading, writing, and revising that you will be able apply to the writing of other short stories, novellas, or novels. Email 10 pages of a short story, either a complete draft or a beginning, by May 30th to christopher.chambers@wisc.edu with the subject line: WBTL class.


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 11 or 12.

Section 11, Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages with Angela Rydell

For writers of literary/mainstream or genre fiction. Limit 8; first fifty pages critiqued (see details at end of syllabus). Fee: $495 includes class and critique. To apply for this Master Class, please see “How to Apply” toward the end of the syllabus.

Angela Rydell, MFA, has taught for the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies since 2006, including Writers’ Institute, Weekend with Your Novel, Write-by-the-Lake, School of the Arts, and online writing courses. Her ongoing novel critique group and “Powerful Plots” weekend 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, Beloit Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly 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 lives in Madison, WI, and is at work on True North, a novel about an unemployed Wisconsin weatherman trying to make life more predictable. She’s on Facebook posting writerly tips here: facebook.com/AngelaRydellInstructorPage

Today, more than ever, you must lure your reader with your opening or risk losing him forever. Page one is the first of many hooks. When agents and editors love your query or opening three pages, they often ask for more—the first fifty 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 the best time to introduce a protagonist to root for, a problem to solve and a journey to begin. You’ll weave a web of characters that strengthen plot and theme, analyze the role of plot layers and subplots, and explore how strong starts propel page-turning momentum into the middle of your novel and help you write all the way to the end.

You and your instructor will read everyone’s first fifty pages prior to class. Each writers’ manuscript will be discussed via select scene critiques throughout the week. You’ll also receive daily revision exercises to apply directly to your novel, and submit for instructor critique. Whether you’re in the midst of a draft or ready to polish for publication, you’ll take away tips for optimizing an opening that keeps readers on the edge of their seat from first page to last.

Who is this section for? Can you apply if you're still working on your first draft?
“Your First Fifty Pages” is for writers polishing openings for queries and publication, or writers who’ve written at least fifty pages and want to use their openings as a solid launching pad to help get their plot on track and propel their novel forward with page-turning momentum. It’s also for those tired of rejections, looking to transform slow starts into memorable first impressions.

All writers are highly encouraged to read their peers’ 50-page manuscripts, and prepare to participate in daily in-class critiques of each other's work. You'll not only receive feedback, but become part of a likeminded group of writers eager for peer critique and a supportive community.

Preferred genres. This section is designed for those writing mainstream/literary fiction, including women’s fiction, historical novels, crime fiction, literary suspense and humor. Also considered: middle grade, YA, and science fiction/fantasy genre novels. Writing in a different genre? Feel free to query, though the other genres may take precedence (see “How to Apply” towards the end of the syllabus).


Section 12, Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish with Christine DeSmet

Christine DeSmet, UW-Madison Continuing Studies, is a published fiction writer and professional screenwriter who specializes in manuscript makeovers for new writers. She taught this retreat’s section for first novelists for many years and has been thrilled to see past participants in that section as well as the Master Class go on to novel publication. Those include Kathy Steffen (historical novels, and retreat teacher), T.E. Woods (thriller), Bibi Belford (middle grade), and K.J. Klemme (suspense).

For writers of literary/mainstream or genre fiction, including true-based stories. Limit 6; full manuscript critiqued, up to 90,000 words/300 pages (see details at end of syllabus). Fee:  $750 includes class and critique.

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.

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.

Your instructor stays available for further critiques, questions, and marketing help in the year following your enrollment. That’s included in your fee.

Who is this section for? What if you’re still working on your first draft?

This master class is for those who have finished a first draft or will have done so by June class time. It’s also for those who have garnered rejections and are stumped as to how to lift their writing to the next level. This retreat section is designed for those writing mainstream/literary fiction mostly, but popular genre fiction books are welcomed.

Types of novels that should consider this section:  women’s fiction, historical novels, literary suspense or thriller, mysteries, bestseller suspense, character studies, coming-of-age stories for adult readers, literary science fiction or fantasy, and humor.

If you’ve just started your novel, please consider sections taught by others in this retreat.

For fee and how to apply for this Master Class, please see the end of the syllabus.


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