Laurie Buchanan is a holistic health practitioner whose clients always urged her to publish her insights in a book. That’s easier said than done, but Buchanan took a methodical approach to writing. She attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writers’ Institute to learn about the craft, as well as the ins and outs of publishing. She also signed up for UW-Madison’s Critique Services, which allows authors around the world to work one-on-one with UW-Madison faculty via email.
Buchanan’s efforts paid off this year with the publication of Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth. Buzzfeed recently featured it in “5 Self-Help Books to Keep You Centered During Election Week,” saying Buchanan’s “honest and open guide gives readers the knowledge, techniques, and real-world examples they need to discover a happier version of themselves.” The book also won a 2016 Idaho Author Award.
Buchanan attended the Writers’ Institute after hearing raves from Sheila Glazov, author of What Color Is Your Brain? A Fun and Fascinating Approach to Understanding Yourself and Others.
“Sheila said she’d benefited tremendously and believed that I would too,” Buchanan says. “I was impressed by the immediate value of what I learned about great beginnings, meaty middles, and endings that deliver. I discovered that it’s not only a writer’s job to inform, instruct, educate, and persuade, it’s their job to entertain. I found out how to establish tone, create empathy, and hook the reader with a story-worthy problem. I learned about creating plots for page turners, and different types of journeys: physical journeys and journeys of the heart.”
Buchanan has returned to the conference and never been disappointed.
“Every time I’ve attended I’ve received more bang for my buck than I expected—and I have high expectations. This isn’t just true for the academic takeaway, but the networking connections and pitching opportunities as well.”
As Buchanan learned more about UW-Madison writing programs, she realized Critique Services would be useful in developing Note to Self. She sent the whole manuscript to instructor Christine DeSmet, who helped her with mechanics and style. Even more important, DeSmet pushed Buchanan to make readers laugh, cry, protest—in other words, to make them care.
“I can tell you with certainty that if I hadn’t invested in myself and my writing with Critique Services, I wouldn’t be published today,” she says. “Christine’s critique was respectful, honest, useful, clear, and specific. I learned what works, what doesn’t, my strengths, and my challenge areas. By enhancing my vision, coaxing my voice, and sharpening my wit, Christine took great pains to ensure that only my footprints showed on the page.”
Personal and professional goals
The writing programs offered through UW-Madison’s Division of Continuing Studies provide support for both aspiring and established writers, helping them polish and publish their work. The world-class instructors teach face-to-face workshops and online classes, organize conferences and retreats, and offer one-on-one manuscript critiques.
“We want writers of all levels to become confident authors who achieve their personal and professional goals,” says DeSmet, herself a published author. “Our instructors have years of experience in the industry and accommodate students interested in any genre, including fiction, nonfiction, poetry, scripts, articles, and children’s books.”
Buchanan is working on a second nonfiction book about the intersection between careers and spirituality. Again, she will draw on the lessons she’s learned in UW-Madison writing programs.
“The insights I gained—both tangible and intangible—have served me well on my publishing journey,” she says. “People who avail themselves of the writing programs at UW-Madison and apply what they learn are on the road to success.”
To learn more about UW-Madison writing programs or to register, see here.
Laurie Buchanan will appear at a book launch party for Note to Self at the Libertyville Civic Center, 135 W. Church St., in Libertyville, Ill.: Nov. 12, 2 p.m.