Write-By-The-Lake: Sections & Speakers

"By the time the week is done, you’ve learned so much and laughed and grown together so much that you want to keep going. You become driven after a week here."

Jabe Stafford, Lansing, MI [Referring to Angela Rydell’s session]

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Sections & Speakers

  1. How to Write, Revise, and Submit a Picture Book: A Hands-On Workshop for Aspiring and Published Children’s Authors, with Georgia Beaverson
  2. The Best-Kept Secret To Writing A Book Readers Can’t Put Down: A Step-by-Step Guide To Plotting with Urgency, with Ann Garvin
  3. Break Through the Competition: Hands-On Workshop to Make Your Novel Pop to the Top, with Lori Devoti (Include limited number of critiques up to 30,000 words of your manuscript.)
  4. Stories That Matter: Creating the Resonance That Publishers Crave, with Tim Storm
  5. Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!, with Kathy Steffen
  6. NEW Less is More: Flash Fiction and Memoir, with Christopher Chambers
  7. Writing & Selling Your Compelling Creative Nonfiction Book Proposal & Book, with Laurie Scheer (NEW: Includes critiques/30,000 words at modest additional fee—hurry.)
  8. NEW Literary Memoir: The Second Heart/Advanced Critique Workshop (limit 10, $425), with Coleman
  9. Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing, with Julie Tallard Johnson
  10. NEW Silence & Noise & the Daily Shock of Practicing Your Own Poetry: How to Make Poems Work on the Page for You & for Your Readers, with CX Dillhunt
  11. NEW How to Write Brilliant Poems in Forms (for experienced poets), with Marilyn Taylor
  12. Master Class/Your First Fifty Pages (limit 8, $495), with Angela Rydell
  13. Master Class/Finish, Polish, Publish, (limit 6, $795, full novels) with Christine DeSmet

NEW Tim Storm’s BONUS for attendees: “Bubble-over Tips and Workshop”

9 am-1 pm, Sat., June 16, Limit: 15

Ever seen one of those cascading champagne towers? The retreat will fill your glass, but sometimes writers at the end of the week need a way to catch the overflow. This session—for anyone eager to unpack the week’s lessons, to put them to practice, and to assemble a plan going forward—will allow you a bit more time among kindred spirits to decompress and get excited about your next steps after your retreat. Includes critiques, sharing of best tips from all section and instructors, and Tim’s follow-up the week after you go home. Fee: $100. Must be enrolled in the June 11-15 retreat before signing up for Saturday.

Section 1: How to Write, Revise, and Submit a Picture Book: A Hands-On Workshop for Aspiring Children’s Authors

Instructor: Georgia Beaverson

Many people think it’s easy to write a picture book. After all, how hard could it be? Picture books are short, the vocabulary is simple, and the illustrations take up most of the space between the covers. So they’re easy-peasy, right?

Wrong. Picture books can be the most difficult children’s books to write precisely because they are short, have a limited vocabulary, and contain illustrations. Writers who tackle a picture book have to consider additional things, such as trends in publishing, what’s already out there, what editors are looking for, page turns, how to leave room for an illustrator… Take a deep breath. There’s even more.
This weeklong, hands-on workshop will focus on:

  • What a picture book (known as “PB” in the industry) is and is not.
  • What’s considered “old hat” or tired in the market and what editors and agents want.
  • Why it’s important to have a child or child figure be the problem-solver of the book, not an adult.
  • Students will do a “dummy” of their book and learn why that’s a good idea.
  • How to write a query letter and submit your manuscript to an editor or agent.


Section 2: The Best Kept Secret to Writing a Book Readers Can’t Put Down: A Step-by-Step Guide to Plotting with Urgency

Instructor: Ann Garvin

What’s the biggest mistake writers make? They don’t know how to merge the technical aspects of plot and cohesion with the emotional aspects of characters and desire. Without these two things working together authors get rejected time and time again.

The job of a writer is to entice, compel, and seduce readers; to tell a story while entertaining and evoking emotions so readers can feel beyond normal feelings.

To do this, writers must sculpt the premise and details into a story so filled with yearning and urgency that readers keep reading long into the night.

Whether writers are working on a novel, short stories, essays, a memoir, or another genre of prose, each work must maintain cohesion and be supported by structure, while keeping emotions high.

Emotion is the secret weapon of plot and creating a truly compelling story, and in this week long, hand-on workshop, we’ll confirm or uncover the most compelling way to tell your story. We will go, step by step, from idea to character, to an evolving multilayered map that transforms your flat hero’s journey into a rich and riveting book.

Whether your manuscript is complete or you have the glimmer of an idea, come ready to dig deep into storytelling and become the writer you always hoped to be.


Section 3: Break Through the Competition: Hands-On Workshop to Make Your Novel Pop to the Top

Instructor: Lori Devoti

Level: Beyond the basics, for those ready for a big leap forward. (First-time novelists—please check out Kathy Steffen’s section.)

You’ve taken writing classes, read articles, and you’ve even written your book, or most of it, but you aren’t getting the reactions you want from agents and editors. Instead you’re hearing things like, “The writing is strong, but it didn’t pique my interest.” Or “You have a nice concept, but I’m just not enthusiastic enough about this work.”

What’s wrong? What more can you do? What does it take to get a book from “good” to “outstanding?”

In this week long, hands-on workshop, we’ll roll up our sleeves and really dig into what makes a book special: to agents, to editors and to readers. We’ll look for layers, in your characters and your plot. We’ll check to make sure you are using hooks to pull readers along from first lines to last. Is your voice coming through? Is the point of view clear and right for your story? Does your story have highs and lows? Does it elicit emotion and hit a chord?

We’ll look at all of this and more. We’ll make sure your story has the spark that will make it stand out from the clutter on editors’ desks and stores’ bookshelves.

Come, challenge yourself and see what you and your book can become.

Extra critique option: For an added fee receive a full read of up to 30,000 words by Lori.


Section 4: Stories That Matter: Creating the Resonance That Publishers Crave

Instructor: Tim Storm

Reader engagement is rooted in two things: a story’s momentum and its resonance. By resonance, I mean the reader’s attachment to the story; the story’s power.

It is possible for a story to have lots of conflict but still fail to resonate. Think of all the TV series you’ve consumed in your life; many of them were quite effective at getting you to watch, but how many of them stuck with you? How many of them affected you? How many of them really had you rooting for the main character?

Momentum comes from conflict and tension, but resonance comes from below-the-surface things: how we identify with the character, how a character perceives conflict, and what the conflict means. This retreat week will focus on upping the wattage, getting readers to care about characters and their objectives. We’ll look between the lines, between the actions, between the dialogue, as we examine how to craft subtext, how to imply motivations, and how to convey characters’ interiority.

Though this course is a follow-up on my class of the past years, students will not need to have taken the Momentum course to get a lot out of this one. Anyone writing stories—novelists, short story writers, memoirists, essayists—needs to be sure those stories matter.

Throughout the week, we’ll provide examples of both successful and unsuccessful resonance. But our focus will always be on improving your writing; our exercises in class and our homework each night are designed for you to get the most from each day’s lesson.


Section 5: Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!

Instructor: Kathy Steffen

Writing a novel feels like a daunting task. Sure, you can write anything quickly, but how do you create the fresh, exciting, meaningful fiction today’s marketplace demands?

How do you pull together the pieces you already have and build them into a compelling novel?

How do you approach plotting to give your novel a compelling edge? What about enough story strength and momentum to keep your writing from falling apart after the first few chapters?

How do you develop believable, fresh, multi-dimensional characters readers want to follow to the end?

Is there a way to keep your writing on track and not meander off course, wasting your creative time and effort?

The focus this week is to arm you with all the craft, techniques and skills to break through any doubts you have and keep you moving ahead to write with confidence and not only finish your novel, but snag the reader from the start and make it impossible for anyone to put your manuscript down.

By the time this week is concluded, you’ll have all the tools you need to move ahead and work on your novel until it is finished. Included all week are lesson/discussion followed by critiquing time and (optional) homework assignments where you will work on your specific story/manuscript. You’ll receive worksheets on all topics, either to develop areas you don’t yet have or to ramp up and solidify what you have written. We’ll take an analytical look at examples from bestselling and award-winning authors to look beneath the surface and see how they create masterpieces of fiction. We’ll also talk about creating your own writing process, breaking through when you are stuck, finding your confidence to write, and how to keep excellent story ideas coming.

After the retreat the instructor will critique up to 10 pages to keep you going and help you continue to hone your skills.


NEW! Section 6: Less is More: Flash Fiction and Memoir

Instructor: Christopher Chambers

Not a wasted word. —Hunter S. Thompson

We’ll read and discuss a wide range of “flash” fiction and creative nonfiction throughout the week, using those examples to inspire our own attempts.

We’ll begin with an introduction, the history and evolution of the form, and we’ll look at how they can be used to build memoirs, and short-story collections, and even novels.

You’ll have the opportunity to share your work, to offer and receive constructive criticism, and you’ll leave with new ideas, new work of your own, strategies to bring economy to your writing, and new perspectives and approaches for all genres.


Section 7: Writing & Selling Your Compelling Creative Nonfiction Book Proposal & Book

Instructor: Laurie Scheer

Within recent literary history, the genre of creative nonfiction has grown in leaps and bounds. Writing fact with the flair of fiction is appealing to many writers, especially those who are trained in journalism and technical writing.

This new enthusiasm for writing creative nonfiction does not include the tedious essays you might have suffered through learning to write in school. Instead creative nonfiction allows you to use all of the tools of the fiction writer to develop factual material, whether that is material based on your own life or on someone or something else. This genre of writing also allows you to expound upon a favorite topic, issue, or cause, or explore a time and place through writing.

This week-long course helps you develop or refine your nonfiction writing skills through one-on-one guidance from your instructor and feedback from fellow classmates. We’ll address how to gather material for your essays and books. We’ll discuss personal essays vs. professional essays. Favored general topics such as writing about family and writing about place–home and away–are explored.

In-class writing exercises and a final writing assignment include a critique of a 2,000-word essay.

You receive tips on resources for publishing your work and learn how to create your book proposal for agents, editors, and publishers.

NEW extra option: For an added fee, receive a full read of up to 30,000 words by Laurie.


NEW! Section 8: Literary Memoir: A Second Heart/Advanced Critique Workshop

Instructor: Coleman

The past beats inside me like a second heart.– John Banville, The Sea

You have a story worth telling, but what is it? What is your second heart?

Where do you begin? Where do you end? What happens in the story? What doesn’t happen? What people make up the principal cast of your story? Which events do you insert, and which do you omit?

How do you handle faulty memory, hazy memory, missing memory? Where’s the truthiness in creating dialogue for long-past conversations? When do you need to research your own life and how do you do that?

How do you compress years into a single paragraph?

Does your story have a central conflict? A plot? A subplot? A confrontation? A resolution? A lesson?

What is “story”?

The most adventuresome life, related in precise linear detail from memory, will fall flat on the page, a tedious recitation of an endless litany of events. But a skilled memoirist can employ literature’s marvelous bag of tricks to keep the pages turning: speed time up in some places and slow it down in others; layer two or more threads; implement a structure that evokes the book’s meaning; employ dialogue that reveals character and drives action;

In this workshop, we will help you shift from focusing on your life as a life to focusing on your book as a book.


Section 9: Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing

Instructor: Julie Tallard Johnson, MSW

Whether you have just an idea for a book, journals full of notes and stories, a series of blogs, or, have written a first draft of a manuscript, you will leave this week with simple, applicable methods for the writing and completing of your book.

You will have a personalized architecture, relevant skills and the means to take your idea and experiences to a crafted book. You will leave fully equipped and ready to continue to write about your life experiences, stories, and wisdom.

You receive hands-on tools and practices to write compelling and informative narratives based on your personal experiences and knowledge. This dynamic course has helped dozens of writers frame their ideas, get their book written and out to publishers.

You, too, will know how to write a narrative that reaches readers and gets publisher’s attention.

A couple of “extras” from this class will be your ability to write better blogs, articles, or any other creative nonfiction piece. (Many of these may end up in your book.) In addition, all my work with writers includes helping them to identify personalized ways to make a living from their writing, before and beyond publication of a book.

You take home a simplified book writing process so that when you go home you will have established a solid foundation for your ideas and writing intentions.


NEW! Section 10: Silence & Noise & the Daily Shock of Practicing Your Own Poetry: How to Make Poems Work on the Page for You & for Your Readers

Instructor: CX Dillhunt

An ideal section for new poets and poets eager to explore, improve their craft, and delve deeper into the practice of poetry.

Key concepts in this week-long workshop:

  • Begin now, write now, keep writing…
  • Learn from your own words — use your natural & intuitive word choices to find out where the poem wants to go…
  • Join in with your fellow poets to share and discuss writing styles and methods, ways to keep you going in your day-to-day writing practice…
  • Discover techniques & clues from your own writing on how to make your poems work…
  • Learn to play with your work & see where it all leads in terms of form, or verses, or style.

Study the masters (their poems and their instructions) including Jane Hirshfield who says:

If writers know too much about what they are doing, there is a risk they will confine themselves to the known undertaking, rather than be surprised.

A good poem shocks us awake, one way or another … it shakes or seduces the reader out of a common gaze and into a genuine looking.


NEW! Section 11: How to Write Brilliant Poems in Forms

Instructor: Marilyn Taylor

Let’s assume you consider yourself an experienced poet, whether the world knows it yet or not.

“The joy of working in form is, for me, the paradoxical freedom form bestows to say the hard truths,” says poet Maxine Kumin.

Could it do the same for your own poetry? It’s finally time to find out.

In this workshop we’ll be experimenting with a variety of traditional poetic forms, from the sonnet to the sestina and beyond—equipping you with some new stylistic strategies for your poetic bag-of-tricks. (Working with forms can do wonders for your free verse, too!)

In the end—with a little help from fellow workshoppers, your own good ear, and your inventory of perceptive personal insights—you’ll have a great start on combining the best of both worlds: the freedom of your own creativity, in tandem with the venerable old forms (and varieties thereof) as time-tested vehicles for some remarkable new poems.


Section 12: Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages

Instructor: Angela Rydell

This section is for writers of literary/mainstream or genre fiction.

Today, more than ever, you must lure your reader with your opening or risk losing him or her forever. Page one is the first of many hooks.

When agents and editors love your query or opening three pages, they often ask for more—the first fifty pages. Find out what must feature in those early chapters to inspire the words, “Send me the whole thing!”

This master class helps you construct a solid launching pad that propels your novel forward with page-turning momentum. You’ll pinpoint the best time to introduce a protagonist to root for, a problem to solve and a journey to begin. You’ll sharpen your novel’s hook, weave a web of characters that strengthen plot and theme, pinpoint inciting incident, then build plot via story question, scene structure and other techniques.

Whether you’re in the midst of a draft or ready to polish for publication, you’ll take away tips for optimizing an opening that keeps readers on the edge of their seat from first page to last.


Section 13: Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish!

Instructor: Christine DeSmet

Full manuscript critique up to 90,000 words. This section for writers of literary/mainstream and genre fiction including true-based stories, YA, and middle-grade fiction.

The magic in a manuscript that makes it sell can feel elusive when you face the enormous task of finishing a first draft well and then revising and polishing your next draft. But that magic isn’t as elusive as you might think.

Like a master magician’s tricks, creating a memorable story in 300 pages (fewer or more depending on target market) requires attention to technique, quality, and honest reflection by the writer. And like a magician, you can’t fool an audience with slap-dash efforts and expect your name on the marquee. You can’t get an agent or dazzle a reader or reviewer with less than stellar storylines and structure, details, voice and style, characters, plot, setting, point-of-view, dialogue, and scene work. Your manuscript—like a magician honing his or her routine—warrants time set aside for professional polishing before the curtains go up.

The instructor will read your entire manuscript prior to class. Discussion during the week will address your entire manuscript, its problems and pluses, and provide suggestions for polishing.

Your instructor stays available for further critiques, questions, and marketing help in the year following your enrollment, included in your fee.