A legendary writing coach is returning to the 2018 Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat.
Laurel Yourke founded the event 20 years ago for University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies with the goal of providing in-depth feedback for writers of all levels. At the June 11-15 conference, she’ll conduct a keynote workshop called “Transform Your Writing from First Draft to Deep Revision.” Participants can expect miracles.
Yourke is now retired from the university, but she’s still passionate about helping writers improve their work. Her new book, Beyond the First Draft, delves into the process of revising a novel: the arduous journey from good to great. She has another book about writing to her credit, Take Your Characters to Dinner, as well as a poetry collection called Waiting for Beethoven. She also writes a lively blog devoted to the writer’s craft, noveltips.blogspot.com. In other words, this is a teacher who lives for analyzing the writing process and passing on her insights to students.
As a writing coach, Yourke gets results by setting high standards while showing compassion for the frustrations writers face.
“I expect excellence: everything can always be just a bit better,” she says. “So why not strive for that? The combination of great expectations and sympathy as needed is the key to helping writers accomplish their goals.”
Yourke will join 13 other expert instructors at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat for master classes and workshops overlooking Madison’s beautiful Lake Mendota. The event includes sessions on novels, literary memoirs, blogging, picture books, nonfiction, flash fiction, and poetry, as well as the process of selling your work to publishers. Chloe Benjamin, author of the new bestselling novel The Immortalists, will lead a guest workshop.
The ‘vision’ in revision
Yourke’s workshop will appeal to everyone from beginners to those who’ve been laboring over a novel for years. She points out that most people, regardless of skill level, have a hard time with at least one stage of the writing process. Some can’t get past the first 30 pages, some struggle with revising, and some recoil from the demands of marketing their work. Yourke will outline a bold approach that involves integrating all these stages.
“Think marketing while you plot,” she says, “and brainstorm while revising. The workshop will offer a combination of tips, tricks, and techniques to leave writers secure, excited, and ready to make dreams come true.”
In Beyond the First Draft, Yourke emphasizes the “vision” in revision, treating it as a sort of adventure. Her Write-by-the-Lake workshop will gird participants for this important work.
“The revision process starts with scrupulous honesty,” she says. “The best writers read their work as if someone else wrote it. Then instead of rationalizing or getting defensive, they fix what needs fixing. No matter how hard that is or how long it takes.”
Perseverance, feedback, and support
Yourke understands that writers can feel lonely and discouraged, and she sees the intensive atmosphere of Write-by-the-Lake as part of the cure.
“It combines that electric ‘I’m surrounded with more writers than I can count!’ with time to head for your pen or keyboard and actually write,” she says. “Energy plus application: the best of both worlds.”
Yourke knows such experiences can lead to great things. She mentions one success story among many: A writer named Mary Basson attended Yourke’s session at a previous Write-by-the-Lake, then found an agent for her novel Saving Kandinsky…then got it published…then landed on the bestseller list in Germany.
“What does that take?” Yourke asks. “Talent, perseverance, feedback, and support. And Write-by-the-Lake can help with three out of those four.”