Success stories

Fiction, non-fiction, memoirs, how-to: no matter the genre, dreams come true every year at the UW-Madison Writers' Institute

We look forward to seeing your story here soon.

Ann Stawski signs with agent from Writers’ Institute 2014

Writer Ann Stawski, formerly of Wisconsin and now in Charlotte, NC, has signed with literary agent Tina Schwartz of the Purcell Agency. Ann pitched her YA called I Don’t Believe You at Writers’ Institute 2014. She also got an advanced critique at the event from Christine DeSmet of UW-Madison Continuing Studies.

Harold Thorpe has new children’s book published

Harold William Thorpe has just released another children's chapter book. Grayson's Garage is available from Little Creek Press, located in Mineral Point, Wisconsin.

Harold is a retired UW-Oshkosh professor and associate dean. Harold began his fiction writing career by participating in our Critique Services and programs including the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat in June and the Writers’ Institute. He now has several books published. Little Creek Press has also participated in our spring conference.

Jessica Vitalis, Atlanta, signs agent and wins contest

Jessica Vitalis is now represented by Saba Sulaiman at Talcott Notch Literary with a middle-grade novel called Nothing Like Lennon. The novel subsequently won first place in the Middle Grade/YA fiction category of the Southern Breeze conference sponsored by the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators.

Jessica credited her attendance at the spring UW-Madison Writers’ Institute conference, the June Write-by-the-Lake Retreat master class with Christine DeSmet, and Angela Rydell’s critiques for playing important roles in her career launch. “The coaching I received from Angela and Christine provided industry knowledge and confidence necessary to develop a winning query.” Her query was spotted at WriteOnCon (an online conference for children’s writers) and she received an offer of representation 24 hours after submitting the full manuscript.

Congratulations, Jessica! You can find her at and at Twitter: @jessicavitalis.

K.J. Klemme writes a “killer” debut suspense novel, Tourist Trapped

Wisconsin native K.J. Klemme, a past winner of our Writers’ Institute contest and a participant in our June retreat’s master classes and fall novel retreat, is now an author. Her superb suspense novel, Tourist Trapped, features hotshot Chicago divorce attorney Amanda Sloane who has to hunt down her missing half-sister in the Yucatan. Congratulations, K.J.! Check out the great book cover and find out more at»

David Girard—new novel and new Indiana writers’ group

Indiana resident David Girard has published the novel, Passing Through The Gate, to stellar reviews. The coming-of-age story is about 2 young boys at a Midwest boarding school who come upon a mystery that puts them in grave danger. Also, David and several other writers have started “Booking Culver: The Maxinkuckee Writers’ Group.” Check them out online and on Facebook. David received critiques from staff member Christine DeSmet and attended our annual Writers’ Institute and Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat.

Madison writer gets published by Random House and gets a Doug Moe writeup in the Wisconsin State Journal

The Fixer is the first of a 3-book murder mystery series by Teri Woods, pen name T. E. Woods. A clinical psychologist, she knows plenty about the workings of the human mind, and her book is being hailed as "pitch perfect" by Kirkus Reviews. Teri got coaching from Christine DeSmet at Write-by-the-Lake, and attended the Writers' Institute right before she started submitting to agents. The Fixer is available February 4, and The Red Hot Fix comes out in June.

Writers' Institute attendee Jenny Benjamin publishes new book

This Most Amazing (2013, Armida Books). This work of literary fiction intertwines a contemporary romance with the concept of time travel. Go on a voyage to 18th-century Italy and accompany the charismatic Dahlia on her quest to love and enlightenment.

“Readers will be absorbed in the story, but they will also be intrigued by its central question: how does the past endure, not just in history but in our own bodies?” - Angela Sorby, author of Distance Learning, Bird Skin Coat, and The Sleeve Waves.

“Reminiscent of Tracy Chevalier’s The Virgin Blue [...] Benjamin’s prose is evocative, her characters finely drawn, and the worlds she creates for us give us new ways to think about our own.” - Melissa Schoeffel, author of Maternal Conditions: Reading Kingsolver, Castillo, Erdrich, and Ozeki.

New Book from Writers’ Institute Attendee Sue Fox

I attended a Writers' Institute at the University of Wisconsin in the spring of 2011. It was a great experience. And now, I am happy to inform you that my book, Little Women of Baghlan: the Story of a Nursing School for Girls in Afghanistan, the Peace Corps, and Life Before the Taliban, has been published!

It's available at» where it received a 5-star rating.

You can check out the author profile at amazoncom/susan-fox» and note the reference to the Writers' Institute in Madison Wisconsin!

New memoir from attendee Dr. Russell Tomar recounts a physician’s struggles during the dawn of the AIDS epidemic

Don't Stop Dreaming: Sex, Death, Fear, Bigotry, and Greed: A Physician-Scientist's Odyssey at the Dawn of AIDS, a memoir by Dr. Russell Tomar, has been published by HenschelHAUS Publishing. Dr. Tomar is a physician-scientist with accreditation in clinical pathology, immunopathology, and allergy and immunology.

He has published over 70 research studies, co-authored The Manual of Clinical Immunology (2 editions), and Quality Reengineering of Healthcare. He earned degrees in Journalism and Medicine from George Washington University. And he attended the 2010 Writers’ Institute sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies. Congratulations, Dr. Tomar!

His book is available in paperback and e-book form at» (also 5 stars) and at HenschelHAUS Publishing»

An agent's take on a client's success

Agent Jöelle Delbourgo recently made a 2-book deal with Kensington Publishing for first time author Kerstin March's debut novel Family Trees.

Kerstin came to Jöelle's attention through the UW-Madison Writers' Institute where Jöelle was presenting along with other agents, authors, and publishers. Says Delbourgo: "This is a particularly well-organized and informative conference where this agency has discovered authors in the past, so I was very pleased to attend for the second time."

To see the whole story from an agent's point of view, and see how it can help you in your writing pursuits, visit»

New Book from Writers’ Institute instructor and attendee Jim Papandrea

Jim shared his knowledge of writing for the Christian market at our 2011 Writers’ Institute. His new book Seven Revolutions: How Christianity Changed the World and Can Change It Again will be available on» in January of 2015.

New Book from Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer

Laurie’s new book The Writer’s Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre from Michael Wiese Productions/Books will be available soon. This is a writing manual that features a new and unique way to develop your material while you are writing and when you are ready to pitch.

Here’s an excerpt from The Writer’s Journey author Christopher Vogler’s foreword to the book: “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.”

Want to see your name on this page and on book covers everywhere? It starts when you register to attend the 2014 UW-Madison Writers' Institute!