Resources for writers

hands typing on laptop, which is surround by books and papers

Dear fellow writers:

The moment we were told last August that your UW–Madison Continuing Studies writing area would be discontinued due to COVID-related budget cuts, we on staff vowed to send along a list of resources to you in the spring.

Our programming for writers stretches back to the 1970s! Some of you may recall Professor Marshall J. Cook teaching then, as well as popular adjunct instructor Bill Nelson. Then came staff members Christine DeSmet and Laurel Yourke. The trio of Marshall, Laurel and Christine created the Writers’ Institute (30+ years), the Weekend-With-Your-Novel Retreat (20+ years) and the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat (20+ years).

Starting in 1998, Marshall, Christine and Laurel began adding online courses. We have reached thousands of writers around the world. Several other staff members were hired throughout our history, including Laurie Scheer (for 10 wonderful years as Writers’ Institute director and more), Christopher Mohar, Rita Mae Reese, Bridget Birdsall and Christopher Chambers.

The magicians behind the scenes and greeting you at the welcome tables for many years were Sabra Stiemke (a long time with us!), Gail Geib and, more recently, for more than a decade, Laura Kahl. What would we have done without their many years of dedication?! Do you remember the inventive cocktail names Program Coordinator Laura Kahl created for you at Writers’ Institute? Do you remember her ability to solve every problem and help each person from the registration desk? Laura also contributed wonderful photos for and helmed our Facebook page over the years. Our thanks to these program coordinators!

Please honor our years of hard work on your behalf by continuing your writing education and supporting your fellow writers in any way possible.

This message isn’t really goodbye. Our staff and adjunct instructors are offering their own services and educational opportunities; many recent instructors are listed below. We also recommend exploring the many fine writer organizations and experts you can turn to where you live or around the world, including the Wisconsin Writers Association. Please reach out, sign up, participate, volunteer, learn and enjoy.

Thank you very much for being part of our UW–Madison Continuing Studies writing community. We’ll see you soon virtually or in person. Stay in touch.


Christine DeSmet
Distinguished Faculty Associate
“Write with joy; finish with finesse.”

Courses and services from Continuing Studies writing instructors

  • Continuing Studies’ Critique Services are available through June 30, 2021, for poetry, fiction, nonfiction and scripts.
  • Christine DeSmet, ChristineDesmet.com: Consulting, coaching, critiques, editing and developmental editing of novels, short stories and screenplays. Free analysis of query letters. Instructor for the Write-by-the-Light retreat.
  • Laurie Scheer, New Nature Writers: Consulting/editing/your personal pathway to publication mentoring. Community of nature writers meet within frequent online meetings. Instructor for the Write-by-the-Light retreat.

Services and programs offered by recent adjunct instructors

  •  Celeste Anton, Dandelion Web Marketing and Consulting: Helping writers build a thriving online platform through strategic web marketing. Support for most digital aspects of book marketing including websites, blogs, social media, e-books, online advertising, WordPress and more.
  • Valerie Biel, Lost Lake Press and ValerieBiel.com: Full publishing support for independently and traditionally published authors, including editing, launch plans, publicity campaigns, book marketing, paid advertising plans (BookBub, Facebook, Amazon) and author coaching.
  • Ryan R. Campbell (R.R. Campbell), RyanRCampbell.com: One-on-one consulting and book coaching. Holds monthly “Craft Solutions Summits” for the Wisconsin Writers Association.
  • Camilia Cenek, Camilia Cenek Editing: Manuscript editor, writing consultant and memoir mentor. Offering supportive and thoughtful feedback for both experienced and emerging writers. Email: camiliacenekediting@gmail.com.
  • John DeDakis, johndedakis.com: Former senior copy editor for CNN’s The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer. One-on-one writing coach, manuscript editor and writing workshop leader. Author of five novels and at work on a memoir.
  • Kat Falls, katfalls.net: MG/YA author.
  • Ann Garvin and Erin Cilello, The 5th Semester: With courses on idea development, story design and getting published, The 5th Semester is taught by MFA professors and authors who help anyone who’s ready to finally #WriteTheDamnBook.
  • Julie Tallard Johnson, JulieTallardJohnson.com: Offers a weekly blog for writers of all levels and genres. Julie also offers Sherpa Writing Coaching and Mentoring. Her specialty is anything autobiographical/nonfiction. In collaboration with yoga instructor Molly Chanson, Julie offers retreats that bring together yoga and writing at The Yogi and the Writer.
  • Angela Rydell, Writers’ Inlet: Fiction coach (novels and short fiction), poetry coach, developmental editing, creative writing instructor. Offerings include a monthly craft talk on Zoom, Think Like a Poet to Write Like a Pro coaching package and virtual Deep Revision Mines retreat.
  • Noelle Rydell,  Wellspring Book Coaching or email rydellnoelle@gmail.com: Editing and coaching, specializing in helping writers of books for children (picture books, middle grade and young adult).
  • Tim Storm, Storm Writing School: Craft junkie, book coach, editor and instructor focusing on what makes a story engaging and emotionally affecting; online classes, live workshops and mini-retreats.
  • Sarah White, First Person Productions. Freelance writer and personal historian Sarah White helps people write about their lives and work as a developmental editor, writing coach and ghostwriter. Workshops: Remember to Write (memoir), Creative Writing (overview) and more.