Weekend with Your Novel: Speakers

"A workshop like this makes the writing life real. From the instructors to the other writers, the group shared their stories and often received on-the-spot remedies for problems. My critique group was a gift. Laurie was wonderful in guiding us through a thoughtful and rich discussion of strengths in our opening pages. We all left ready to finish our drafts with renewed energy."

2014 Participant

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Instructors and Critique Workshop Leaders: 2018

Alissa Nutting, author, holding a stuffed alligator
Alissa Nutting is the author of the novels Made for Love, a New York Times editor’s choice selection, and Tampa, the film version of which is in development with director Harmony Korine, as well as the story collection Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls, an expanded/revised version of which was re-released in Summer 2018 as part of Ecco’s “Art of the Story” series. A nonfiction book of her comedic essays is forthcoming from Ecco in 2019. Her fiction and essays have appeared in publications such as Tin House, BOMB, Elle, Real Simple, Buzzfeed, and many others. She is currently at work on two television projects—one animated in development with Cartoon Network, the other based on her recent novel and being co-written with Dean Bakopoulos for Paramount Studios. She is an assistant professor of English and writer-in-residence at Grinnell College. alissanutting.com

Dean Bakopoulos
Dean Bakopoulos’ first novel, Please Don’t Come Back from the Moon, was a New York Times Notable Book; he co-wrote and co-produced the film adaptation, which debuted at the 2017 Los Angeles Film Festival starring Jeffrey Wahlberg and Rashida Jones. His second novel, My American Unhappiness, was named one of the year’s best novels by The Chicago Tribune, and his third novel, Summerlong was an independent bookstore bestseller and is now in development as a feature film based on Bakopoulos’ original screenplay. The winner of a Guggenheim Fellowship, as well as NEA fellowships in both fiction (2006) and creative nonfiction (2016), Bakopoulos is writer-in-residence at Grinnell College and also teaches in the Warren Wilson MFA Program. He is also co-writing the television adaptation of Alissa Nutting’s novel, Made for Love, for Paramount Studios. deanbakopoulos.com

Bridget Birdsall (MFA, Vermont College of the Fine Arts) is an author, teacher, and inspirational speaker who uplifts and inspires others through the transformative power of words. Bridget believes books can save lives. She has published two novels: Ordinary Angels, about siblings surviving the death of sibling, based on her own life story, and Double Exposure, a game-changing book about an intersex teen athlete who overcomes bullying. A multiple-award winner, including the Independent Book of the Year and Wisconsin’s own Tofte Wright Children’s Literature Award, Double Exposure is now available in paperback and to Bridget’s dyslexic delight, on audio! bridgetbirdsall.com

Chris Chambers
Christopher Chambers (MFA, University of Alabama) is an editor, teacher, and writer. He is the author of Delta 88, a collection of flash fiction, and has been published widely in magazines and anthologies, including Best American Mystery Stories. He has received 5 Pushcart Prize nominations and a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship. Work he’s edited has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories, Best American Nonrequired Reading, Best American Poetry, O. Henry Prize Stories, The Pushcart Prize anthology, Poetry Daily, Verse, Daily, and The Utne Reader. christopherchambers.net

Marshall Cook is the author of over thirty books, including the Monona Quinn mystery series, and his most recent novel, Glorious. He taught at UW-Madison for thirty years and often speaks at conferences nationwide. He holds a BA in creative writing and an MA in communications from Stanford University. He edits Extra Innings, an online newsletter for writers. When not writing, he likes to read, jog, lift weights, and talk back to the television (not all at the same time). He is a passionate minor league baseball fan, drives the back roads, and eats in small town cafes.

Susanna Daniel
Susanna Daniel’s (MFA, University of Iowa) debut novel, Stiltsville, was awarded the 2011 PEN/Bingham Award for best debut fiction, and was named an Amazon Best Debut of 2010, a Huffington Post Best Book of 2010, and an Oprah.com summer read. Her second novel, Sea Creatures, was the Target Book Club selection for September 2014, and was called  “a captivating, haunting novel” by Abraham Verghese. Her essays and short stories have been published in Slate, Newsweek, Epoch, and elsewhere. She has taught writing at the University of Iowa, UW-Madison, Ripon College, and Madison College. susannadaniel.com

Ian Graham Leask
Ian Graham Leask was raised in London and lives in Minneapolis. He’s in his fourth decade of teaching writing at places like The Loft and the University of Minnesota. He’s the publisher of Calumet Editions; the founder of AuthorScope Services, a consulting group for writers; and hosts the long-running literary radio show in Minneapolis, KFAI’s “Write On! Radio.” He’s the author of The Wounded and other stories, and the novel House of Large Sizes. ianleask.wordpress.com

Ron Kuka
Ron Kuka, (MFA, University of Iowa) is Creative Writing Program Coordinator at UW-Madison. He has published short stories in the Iowa Journal of Literary Studies, Toyon, and Pavement. His teaching has been recognized with the Chancellor’s Hilldale Award for Excellence in Teaching.


Heather Luby
Heather Luby (MFA, Antioch University Los Angeles) is a fiction writer, creative writing instructor, and developmental editor. Her work has appeared in numerous journals, online, and in print. She is former managing editor of The Citron Review, a frequent guest host of the podcast series “Firsts in Fiction,” and has taught at the St. Louis Writers Workshop and St. Louis Community College.


Kristin Oakley
Kristin Oakley’s debut novel, Carpe Diem, Illinois, received the 2014 Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award for non-traditionally published fiction and was a finalist for the Independent Author Network 2015 Book of the Year. The sequel, God on Mayhem Street, was published this year. Kristin is president and co-founder of In Print, a professional writers’ organization, a board member of the Chicago Writers Association, and the editor of The Write City Magazine. kristinoakley.net

Dan Roman
Dan Román worked as a crime scene investigator for the Madison Police Department for 25 years armed with a BA from Harvard, an MA in 15th-16th century Spanish and Medieval Italian, and a Glock Model 19. He’s worked on hundreds of homicides, death investigations, officer-involved shootings, and other major crimes. He’s trained in Advanced Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, Fingerprint Analysis and Comparison, Shooting Reconstructions, Crime Scene Analysis and Reconstructions, Forensic Photography, and Bomb Scene Analysis, and is a Haz-Mat technician. He has taught Death Investigation classes for the Madison Police Training center, Fingerprint Classification and Comparison, Forensic Science classes, and Renaissance / Baroque Art and Music for local colleges.

Angela Rydell
Angela Rydell (MFA, Warren Wilson College) has been published in Indiana Review, Gulf Stream, NANO Fiction, Alaska Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Poets & Writers, and other journals. She won Portland Review’s Flash Fiction Friday contest, an honorable mention in the New Millennium Writings Awards Flash Fiction Contest, and was a finalist American Short(er) Fiction Prize and Gray Sparrow Flash Fiction Contest. She teaches for the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies and workshops in Madison.

Tim Storm
Tim Storm (MFA, Pacific University) has taught literature and writing for 15 years, working with both fabulist and realist writers. His work was nominated for the 2011 AWP Intro Journals Project, “a literary competition for the discovery and publication of the best new works” by MFA candidates, and he’s the winner of the 2013 Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award for Creatures of the Deep. tdstorm.com


Michelle Wildgen
Michelle Wildgen (MFA, Sarah Lawrence College) is the author of the novels Bread and Butter, But Not For Long, and You’re Not You. She has taught fiction and nonfiction at UW-Madison, the Iowa Summer Writing Festival, and the Tin House Writers’ Workshop. She is an executive editor at Tin House Magazine and former books editor with Tin House Books. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, O, the Oprah Magazine, RealSimple.com, and in the anthologies Best New American Voices 2004, Best Food Writing 2004 and 2009, and in StoryQuarterly, TriQuarterly, Prairie Schooner, and elsewhere. michellewildgen.com

Cheryl Woodson
Cheryl Woodson is a wife, mother, doctor, businesswoman, educator, and an author.  She has earned a 2nd degree Black Belt in Tae Kwon Do and is an experienced family caregiver who navigated her mother’s 10-year journey with Alzheimer’s disease. She is also an entertaining, informative, and inspiring speaker whom The New York Times called “a frank and funny woman.” She is the author of the nonfiction book, To Survive Caregiving, and the award-winning novel, What the Mirror Sees. drcherylwoodson.com