Write-by-the-Lake Writer's Workshop and Retreat: Sections & speakers

1. NEW! How to Write, Revise, and Submit a Picture Book: A Hands-On Workshop for Aspiring Children’s Authors, with Georgia Beaverson
2. NEW! 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
4. Stories That Matter: Creating the Resonance That Publishers Crave, with Tim Storm
5. Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!, with Kathy Steffen
6. Writing Short Fiction, with Christopher Chambers
7. Writing & Selling Your Compelling Creative Nonfiction Book Proposal & Book, with Laurie Scheer
8. The Literary Memoir – Show, Tell, Muse, with Coleman
9. NEW! Writing Women’s Lives Workshop, with Theresa Kaminski
10. NEW and Expanded offering! Personal Essays and the Themed Anthology: Evaluate and Polish Personal Essays for Inclusion in a New Book, with Amy Lou Jenkins
11. Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing, with Julie Tallard Johnson
12. NEW! CARRIED AWAY: How to Make A Poem Take Flight, with Marilyn Taylor
13. Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages, with Angela Rydell
14. Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish, with Christine DeSmet

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

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Georgia Beaverson is a professional writer and editor. She's written hundreds of articles that have appeared in adult publications, but her first love is children's literature. She has an MFA in writing for children and young adults from Hamline University and a BA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison in comparative literature and Scandinavian studies. She served as a book coach and freelance editor for Albert Whitman & Sons and Wisconsin Media Lab. Delacorte Press published her fantasy novel, The Hidden Arrow of Maether. Georgia has taught workshops at Hamline University, for the Society of Children's Writers & Illustrators of Wisconsin, and at Madison College.

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 besides length, vocabulary and illustrations. They have to learn about 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 (hint: rhyming's a tough sell).
  • Why it's important to have a child or child figure be the problem-solver of the book, not an adult.
  • What's traditional and what's cutting edge.
  • Come prepared to write every day. Class time to create a draft of a PB and then revise it several times.
  • Group time sharing what students have written.
  • Students will do a "dummy" of their book and learn why that's a good idea.
  • Guest speakers, one an illustrator and the other a well-known PB author.
  • How to write a query letter and submit your manuscript to an editor or agent.

Interested? It's a challenge, but you'll come away with a solid knowledge of the PB world and what to do with your creation.

And for an added fee, Georgia will read and comment on your manuscript once the class is finished.


Section 2: NEW! 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

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Ann Garvin, Ph.D. is the USA Today Bestselling author of I Like You Just Fine When You're Not Around, The Dog Year, and On Maggie's Watch. Her essays have been published in Writer's Digest, USA Today, The Last Work on Nothing, and Unreasonable.is and has performed several times in Listen To Your Mother & The Moth. She is a professor at University of Wisconsin-Whitewater and Southern New Hampshire University. She is a sought after speaker writing, pitching, and publishing and has taught extensively in NY, San Francisco, LA, Boston, and at festivals across the country. She is the founder of the Tall Poppy Writers and The Fifth Semester where she is committed to helping writers find their voice. For more information on Ann visit her website»

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, with Lori Devoti

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Lori Devoti is the multi-published, multi-genre author of urban fantasy, cozy mystery, young adult, paranormal romance and romantic comedy novels. She is a member of Novelist Inc., a group exclusive to professional writers and is owner of the How to Write Shop, an online source of articles on the craft and business of writing. Lori has had over a dozen works published by major publishers, and is also pursuing the new avenues open to authors in today's digital world. Lori is the recipient of the Romantic Times Reviewers' Choice Award for The Witch Thief, the Best Harlequin Nocturne of 2012.

She has a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri: Columbia and worked in the newspaper industry for many years before becoming a novelist. For more information on all of Lori's works and links to her articles at the How to Write Shop, visit her web site at LoriDevoti.com

(This section includes a special, additional critique option. Details below.*)

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 of $200, receive a full read of up to 30,000 words by Lori. Receive her suggestions for improvements on key aspects of your novel. Limited to first five requests. (That's about 100 pages, double-spaced in 12-point Times New Roman.)


Section 4: Stories That Matter: Creating the Resonance That Publishers Crave, with Tim Storm

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Tim Storm lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where in addition to writing, he freelance teaches and edits (tdstorm.com). In 2012 he received his MFA from Pacific University. He has been a finalist in multiple contests, including Black Warrior Review's, and he is the winner of Salem College's Reynolds Price Short Fiction Award. His short stories have appeared in a number of journals; his most recent is in the Spring 2017 issue of Copper Nickel.

NEW in 2017: Tim will also teach a bonus workshop on Saturday! Limit 15; $125. See details about the July 1 "Troubleshoot Your Problem Passages" (course number 7115-17) at the end of his syllabus. You must be enrolled in any retreat section by any instructor in order to attend Tim's new workshop.

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 course 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 class 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.  Crucial to your development as a writer will be your insightful reading of your classmates' work. Email 10 pages of a short story, novel, or memoir by May 30th to tdstorm@wisc.edu. (You'll be reading each other's manuscripts, occasionally working in pairs or in small groups to discuss one another's resonance. At no point will you be the recipient of a whole-class critique, nor will you be required to give each other your edits. But I'll occasionally make references to the work of your classmates, so you will get the most out of the class if you're familiar with their submissions. You will receive edits from me.)


Section 5: Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!, with Kathy Steffen

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Kathy Steffen's novels have won numerous awards, including the CRW Award of Excellence and the Beacon Award for Best Historical Fiction. Her books have been finalists in the IPA Benjamin Franklin Awards and at the London Book Festival. She is the author of the Spirit of the River Series: First, There is a River, Jasper Mountain, and Theater of Illusion. The TREEbook™ enhanced version (a new reading technology offering expanded and alternate story branches)of First, There is a River released in 2014. In addition to published articles and essays on writing, Kathy's short fiction has appeared in anthologies and online. Kathy speaks at writing programs across the country and has taught at AllWriters' Workshops, the University of Wisconsin's Writers' Institute, Weekend with Your Novel, Write by the Lake, Rhinelander School of the Arts, and online at the How to Write Shop. She teaches in person and online with students from across the globe and is currently working on a new mystery fiction series as well as a step-by-step book on writing a novel.

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? 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 through 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.

We will also discuss how to approach the marketing side (including submitting to agents and editors) and all the possibilities available now in publishing. By the end of the week, you'll know how to create the pieces you'll need to put your book out into the world and have the motivation and confidence to do it!

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


Section 6: Writing Short Fiction, with Christopher Chambers

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Christopher Chambers is the former Director of the Walker Percy Center for Writing & Publishing in New Orleans, and has taught creative writing for over 20 years. He received an MFA degree from the University of Alabama, where he was editor of the Black Warrior Review. He was editor of the New Orleans Review from 2000-2013. He has written for television, and published fiction, poetry, and nonfiction in The Southern Review, The Gettysburg Review, Ninth Letter, Quarterly West, Carolina Quarterly, Indiana Review, Exquisite Corpse, CopperNickel, Louisiana Literature, Denver Quarterly, Epoch, Georgetown Review, Notre Dame Review, Washington Square, Hayden's Ferry Review, Lit, BOMB Magazine, Fourteen Hills, and elsewhere. He has received a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship for creative writing, five Pushcart Prize nominations, and has been anthologized in French Quarter Fiction, Knoxville Bound, Something in the Water, and in the Best American Mystery Stories series.

Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and other dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner. ― Neil Gaiman

Learn how stories work from the inside out! We will examine the basic elements of short fiction through close readings and discussion of successful short stories (one each day). You will use guided writing exercises to explore the intensity, brevity, and word play of the short story toward the writing of a new, original  story of your own.

You'll take part in an active week-long discussion, read and critique work by fellow participants, and receive responses from them on your work in progress. Throughout the week, we'll look at a wide range of short fiction with an eye toward identifying and appropriating successful techniques and structures. The focus will be on developing reading skills—learning to read as a writer—and on using those skills to improve our own writing. In-class exercises are designed to complement each day's lessons and to inspire, motivate, and provoke you into creating work that you otherwise would not have created.

At the end of the week, you'll have a new appreciation for the range and possibilities in writing short fiction and you'll have a deeper understanding of the inner workings of storytelling and story structure, a new short story of your own, and new skills in reading, writing, and revising that you will be able apply to the writing of other short stories, novellas, or novels. Email 10 pages of a short story, either a complete draft or a beginning, by May 30th to christopher.chambers@wisc.edu with the subject line: WBTL class.


Section 7: Writing & Selling Your Compelling Creative Nonfiction Book Proposal & Book, with Laurie Scheer

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Laurie Scheer, Media Goddess, is a former vice president of programming for WE: Women's Entertainment. She has worked as an assistant, d-girl, and producer for ABC, Viacom, Showtime, and AMC-Cablevision. Laurie has been an instructor at numerous universities across the US including Northwestern, UCLA, American University, and Yale. As a professional speaker, she has appeared at annual conventions for NAB, NATPE, The Great American Pitch Fest, Screenwriters' World, Reel Screen, WIFV, FTX West, the Willamette Writers Conference. She is currently an Associate Faculty Associate/Writing Mentor with UW-Madison's Continuing Studies Writing Department where she is critiquing writers' works, conducting numerous online and in-person courses, and the Director of the annual Writers' Institute. She is also the Managing Editor of the annual regional journal, The Midwest Prairie Review. Her new book The Writer's Advantage: A Toolkit for Mastering Your Genre (Michael Wiese Productions, 2014) explores storytelling in the transmedia universe.  Most recently, Laurie received the Marquette University Alumni Association "James T. Tiedge Memorial Award" for her outstanding work as a graduate of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication.

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 your fellow classmates.  During the week long course we'll address how to gather material for your creative nonfiction 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.

Each topic includes an excerpt (sometimes more) from the top writers in creative nonfiction today. We'll guide you through reading these excerpts as a writer, seeing what you can glean for your own work from each. There will be in-class writing exercises and a final writing assignment involving a 2,000 word essay that you may complete before the week's end or by a deadline date to be determined during the week of class.

Additionally, the class will examine some established literary journalists and their work to learn about their research and how research is incorporated within creative nonfiction articles and books.

Your work as a creative nonfiction writer is encouraged.  Tips regarding resources for publishing your work along with an exploration of the creation of a book proposal will be offered at the end of the week.


Section 8: The Literary Memoir – Show, Tell, Muse, with Coleman

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Coleman is a Texas and Oklahoma native who came to Wisconsin by way of New York and Chicago. He had an adventurous career as a rebel, a nightclub manager, a chef, an international travel industry poobah, and a software mini-mogul. Coleman studied theatre at Cornell University, education at the University of Michigan, and finance and human resources at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He is the author of a memoir (Spoke) a collection of plays (Faux Poe) and a novel (Kidnapping Henry Kissinger). He received a Literary Artist Fellowship from the Wisconsin Arts Council and is a 3-time recipient of an artist-community collaboration grant from the Wisconsin Arts Council. His memoir was named winner of the 2014 International Book Award for autobiography/memoir. He is a member of the Dramatist Guild of America and Playwrights Ink in Madison.

Sharing your innermost conflicts, feelings and experiences with another person is daunting, leaving one vulnerable and exposed. Publishing a memoir for the whole world to read is exposure of a different magnitude altogether.

But memoir without self-exposure is akin to food without flavor. To make your memoir compelling, you must be willing to intensely flavor it with the raw ingredients of your life.

A series of life anecdotes is not a memoir. It is a series of anecdotes. They may be great anecdotes, well written. But they do not comprise a memoir. A memoir is a revelation of an awakening of spirit that springs from the resolution of an inner conflict manifested in experience and disclosed in narrative. That awakening of spirit is the throughline of the book – the heart and soul that holds it together; that rivets the reader; that propels the narrative from beginning to middle to end.

When you begin your memoir, you may or may not know what your throughline is. You may think you know it, but discover halfway through your writing that it is in fact something different. It may be that you discover your throughline in your first write, or your first re-write - or your second, or third, or fourth. With a throughline, your memoir has a pulse, a heartbeat. Without it, it's a series of anecdotes.

This week, we will explore great memoirs of the last 100 years, not as a model for how you should write your memoir, but as a laboratory for understanding what makes memoirs compelling to readers. We will put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), inside and outside of class. And we will share with our fellow travelers our progress on our solitary journeys of memoir. We will examine what it means to "show and tell" in writing our stories, and how to weave our own thoughts about these stories into the stories themselves. We will each strive to discover and recognize our unique VOICE. We will experiment with the sense-memory of setting, action and character as we bring the reader into the world we re-create on the pages of our memoirs.


Section 9: NEW! Writing Women’s Lives Workshop, with Theresa Kaminski

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Theresa Kaminski, professor of history at the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, earned her Ph.D. in history from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where she specialized in American women's history. She has published a trilogy of nonfiction books about American women in the Philippines, the most recent of which, Angels of the Underground, was published by Oxford University Press in 2015. Theresa also edited and wrote the introduction to Dorothy Dowlen's memoir, Enduring What Cannot be Endured. She reviews history and other nonfiction books for Publishers Weekly. Theresa has received fellowships from the American Association of University Women and the Institute for Research in the Humanities at UW-Madison. She is currently working with her agent on a proposal for a new book project.

Utilizing tools of historians as well as creative writers, this workshop provides the skills you need to add unique texture to your manuscript to enrich its story.

Whether you are working on a memoir or another form of narrative/creative nonfiction, time and place will play an important role. Learn how to make them part of your story as you continue work on your manuscript throughout the week.

Additionally, we will explore how, as writers, women face particular challenges in their writing lives. Understanding the nature of those challenges will provide you with further insight into your characters' motivations and/or limitations.

What We'll Do: Expect to write in and out of class every day, so bring your computer, notebook, or pad of paper--whatever you normally use. Workshop meetings will consist of: discussions of works-in-progress, in-class writing exercises, analyses of published works of nonfiction and fiction by and about women, and mini history lessons.

Fearless Confessions: A Writer's Guide to Memoir by Sue William Silverman will serve as the guide for our writing discussions and exercises. Silverman's focus is on memoir, yet the lessons are applicable to other kinds of creative writing. Selections from Stephen J. Pyne's Voice and Vision: A Guide to Writing History and Other Serious Nonfiction will augment Silverman. I'll distribute copies of pertinent selections from the books as needed, but you may want your own copies of these books.


Section 10: NEW and Expanded offering! Personal Essays and the Themed Anthology: Evaluate and Polish Personal Essays for Inclusion in a New Book, with Amy Lou Jenkins

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Amy Lou Jenkins

is the author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting. She holds a BSN in Nursing and Professional Communication, MS in Counseling, and an MFA in Literature and Creative Writing from Bennington College. She teaches as a university adjunct and at writing retreats, conferences and workshops. Her environmental and nature writing has been honored by, The Florida Review Editors Award in Nonfiction, Literal Latte Essay Awards, USA Best Books, Flint Hills Review Nonfiction Award, X.J. Kennedy Award for Nonfiction, and three times by the Ellis/Henderson Outdoor Writing Award. Her nonfiction has also won first place in the Jade Ring Award for Essay Writing, Wisconsin Regional Writing Award in Essay, Memoir, and Travel Writing. She is the recipient of a Mesa Refuge writing fellowship for environmental writing. She's taught writing for Conferences for UWM, Alverno College, Shake Rag Alley, University of Iowa, Bennington and many more. She's taught nonfiction writing at Carroll University, MATC, and more.

Her work has appeared in multiple magazines, newspapers, and anthologies including Orion, Wisconsin People and Ideas, Wisconsin Trails, Flint Hills Review, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Shepherds Express, Florida Review, Inkpot, Earth Island Journal, Grit, Generations, Rosebud, Big Apple Parent, MetroParent, Washington Families, Bennington Review, Chicken Soup and Cup of Comfort books, Women on Writing, The Maternal is Political, Wild with child. Jenkins writes a quarterly book review column for the Sierra Club's Muir View and maintains a publishing/reading site at JackWalkerPress.com. She's read her essays on Wisconsin and Alaska public radio and been a radio guest on dozens of shows. She lives in Wisconsin and Arkansa. Learn more about here»

Let's publish an anthology of personal essays on the theme of transitions. The theme of transitions can be broadly interpreted. Spend a week learning how to refine your work and evaluate essays. Join an editorial board to experience the art of choosing work for publication and preparing an anthology for publication. Refine your personal essay for probable inclusion in the anthology.

What do we mean by transitions? Perhaps you bought a new dog leash, graduated, got fired, moved, retired, got old, received a terminal diagnosis, became a parent, lost a loved one, had a sex change, or something entirely different. Each essay must have some association with a transition, yet the word transition is not likely to appear in the essay. While the theme of the anthology is "transitions," and your subject matter is somehow related to transitions, the theme of your essay is probably not "transitions."

Your essay will induce the reader to develop new insights about an aspect related to transitions. Learning to identify a successful narrator, frame, and story will help you to craft and evaluate personal essays that serve as artful explorations and provide an experience for the reader. Readers don't want words: readers want emotional and cognitive experiences. They want to laugh, cry, remember, think, cheer, gulp, smile through tears, clutch their chest and feel alive.

Need an example of an essay that would fit the theme? For example in EB White's Once More to the Lake, the writer returns to the lake of his boyhood with his son. The transition and layering of the writer experiencing his past and present at the lake suggests death. Themes of the beauty and the ephemeral nature of life pull threads through the essay. Your work may be brave and may take risks and doesn't have to have a voice like EB White. Your original voice is needed. We already have an EB White. Choose the you-narrator that can best tell your story. Be honest. Layer meaning, and don't bore the reader.

You will manipulate your reader to have an experience—that is the purpose of your narrative thread. You will learn how master writers layer meaning to create transcendence, and you will refine your essay for probable inclusion in the themed anthology. Consider essays of others and fine-tune your own essay. Essays will be 500 to 3000 words. We will work during class. We will have some meetings after class. We will continue the work to publish/market our anthology after the week long class ends. While most of the work will be done during the week, expect to be asked to participate in some of decision making, editing, and marketing that will take place later. You may set up or attend a book-signing. Expect to see the anthology in print by the end of the year. Expect to hone skills that can be used to publish personal essays in other venues.


Section 11: Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing, with Julie Tallard Johnson

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Julie Tallard Johnson, MSWis the author of The Zero Point Agreement: How to Be Who You Already Are. "In this beautiful book, Julie Tallard Johnson—a gifted teacher and writer—brings fresh insight to an ancient truth: each of us must live from the inside out. This book—full of resources that range from heart-deep insight to helpful, practical exercises—can help us reclaim the treasure-trove of our own experience and being." (Parker J. Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to Teach.) "The grounded writing in Julie's books makes for an appealing invitation to self-discovery." (Mothering  Magazine) "For me the highest plane of creativity is found in one's practice, and Julie offers the reader a real means to follow through on one's creative and spiritual intentions. The read is straightforward and gratifying; the pilgrimage itself a worthwhile, even required engagement for the spiritual hero." (Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and The Legend of Bagger Vance, endorsing The Wheel of Initiation.)

Write meaningful nonfiction based on your personal experiences and knowledge.
Write a book based on just an idea or theme.
Write on a subject that has captivated your attention.
Write a book taken from your blogs.
Write a book, blog or article based from your field notebooks.
Write transformational nonfiction based on journal entries or letters.
Write a book based on your travels, spiritual experience, encounters or views.

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

I will give you 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 share your wisdom, ideas and stories in a captivating way. Write a narrative that reaches readers and gets publisher's attention. The magic and skill is in making what is personally meaningful to the writer (you), meaningful and captivating for our readers. I use transformational writing prompts that inspire you to write and the reader to be engaged in your stories. We will be writing inside and outside the class, with every day full of writing prompts, explorations, and methods to inspire you to write captivating nonfiction.

A couple extra caveats 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.

As an author of 11 inspirational books, a popular blog and several fiction and nonfiction pieces, I can help you forge your own path to writing and completing a captivating book that others will want to read. I have worked with writers for over 20 years and have simplified a book writing process so that when you go home you will have established a solid foundation for your ideas and writing intentions.

During the week, I can answer any questions you have about putting your work out in the world, whether it be through a blog, a manuscript sent to a publisher, an article for a magazine, or even a group email. You will have the basic template of what you need to take your personal experiences and make them meaningful to readers. If you are ready to have something considered for publication within 6 months from your time with me at WBTL (by November 15th, 2017), I will critique up to 10 pages of your piece.


Section 12: NEW! CARRIED AWAY: How to Make A Poem Take Flight, with Marilyn Taylor

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Marilyn L. Taylor, a former Poet Laureate of Wisconsin and of the city of Milwaukee, is the author of eight collections of poetry, most recently Step on a Crack (Kelsay Books, 2016). Her poems and essays have appeared in many anthologies and journals, including Poetry, Able Muse, Measure, Light, Rhino, and the Random House anthology titled Villanelles. She has been awarded First Place in a number of national and international poetry contests, among them the 2015 Margaret Reid Award for verse in forms. Her own widely-read "Poet to Poet" column on craft appeared bi-monthly for five years in The Writer magazine. A long-time resident of Milwaukee, she now lives in Madison, WI, where she facilitates independent poetry workshops, readings, and presentations locally, statewide, and elsewhere, including programs sponsored by Lawrence University's Bjorklunden Seminar Center (Baileys Harbor, WI), Poetry by the Sea (Madison, CT), West Chester University (PA). She currently serves as contributing poetry editor for the poetry journals Third Wednesday and Verse-Virtual.

If you're a poet, you already know that an outstanding  poem is one that virtually "takes the top of your head off," as Emily Dickinson once so memorably put it. They're the poems that have managed to morph into something considerably more than the sum of their parts. How?

By merging three essential elements: a convincing voice, an identifiable mood and a clear point of view. With these elements in mind, we'll try out some concrete, workable ways of achieving extraordinary results.

The format will be basically that of an informal poetry workshop, where we'll provide one another with invaluable guidance and feedback about what works—and what doesn't.

Your daily assignments will be flexible, but be aware that you'll be urged to try out some methods and techniques you might never have considered before. You'll be asked to do this not merely for the sake of experiment—and certainly not for squelching any of your own creative impulses!  Rather, you'll be acquiring more of the skills needed for writing  poems on subjects you may have been patiently waiting to tackle.


Master Classes

Please contact the instructor (email addresses listed below), or program director Christine DeSmet (christine.desmet@wisc.edu/608-262-3447) before registering for Master Classes 13 or 14.

Section 13, Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages with Angela Rydell

Limit 8; first fifty pages critiqued (see details at end of syllabus). Fee: $495 includes class and critique. To apply for this Master Class, please see "How to Apply" toward the end of the syllabus.

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Angela Rydell, MFA, has taught for the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies since 2006, including Writers' Institute, Weekend with Your Novel, Write-by-the-Lake, School of the Arts, and online writing courses. Her ongoing novel critique group and "Powerful Plots" weekend workshops have helped dozens of novelists structure their novels over the years. Angela's a novelist, short fiction writer, poet and critique coach. Her work has appeared in The Sun, Indiana Review, Prairie Schooner, Crab Orchard Review, Beloit Poetry Review, Alaska Quarterly Review and other journals. She is a recipient of Poets & Writers' Maureen Egen Writers Exchange Award, winner of the Portland Review's inaugural Flash Fiction Friday contest, a Pushcart Prize nominee, a finalist in the American Short(er) Fiction Prize & Passage North's Neutrino Short-Short Prize, and has received honorable mention in the New Millennium Writings Awards. She lives in Madison, WI, and is at work on True North, a novel about an unemployed Wisconsin weatherman trying to make life more predictable. She's on Facebook posting writerly tips here: facebook.com/AngelaRydellInstructorPage

Today, more than ever, you must lure your reader with your opening or risk losing him 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 pinpoint the best time to introduce a protagonist to root for, a problem to solve and a journey to begin. You'll weave a web of characters that strengthen plot and theme, analyze the role of plot layers and subplots, and explore how strong starts propel page-turning momentum into the middle of your novel and help you write all the way to the end.

You and your instructor will read everyone's first fifty pages prior to class. Each writers' manuscript will be discussed via select scene critiques throughout the week. You'll also receive daily revision exercises to apply directly to your novel, and submit for instructor critique. 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.

Who is this section for? Can you apply if you're still working on your first draft?
"Your First Fifty Pages" is for writers polishing openings for queries and publication, or writers who've written at least fifty pages and want to use their openings as a solid launching pad to help get their plot on track and propel their novel forward with page-turning momentum. It's also for those tired of rejections, looking to transform slow starts into memorable first impressions.

All writers are highly encouraged to read their peers' 50-page manuscripts, and prepare to participate in daily in-class critiques of each other's work. You'll not only receive feedback, but become part of a likeminded group of writers eager for peer critique and a supportive community.

Preferred genres. This section is designed for those writing mainstream/literary fiction, including women's fiction, historical novels, crime fiction, literary suspense and humor. Also considered: middle grade, YA, and science fiction/fantasy genre novels. Writing in a different genre? Feel free to query, though the other genres may take precedence (see "How to Apply" towards the end of the syllabus).


Section 14, Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish with Christine DeSmet

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Christine DeSmet, UW-Madison Continuing Studies, is a published fiction writer and professional screenwriter who specializes in manuscript makeovers for new writers. She is skilled and experienced in critiquing ALL genres or types of novels and stories even though her current publications are in mystery, romantic suspense, humor, etc. She taught this retreat's section for first novelists for many years and has been thrilled to see past participants in that section as well as the Master Class go on to novel publication. Those include T.E. Woods (thriller), Bibi Belford (middle grade), and K.J. Klemme (suspense), Blair Ann Hull (new 2017 mystery series), and Ann Garvin (women's fiction; Ann is one of this year's instructors!). See more about your instructor at the end of her syllabus.

Limit 6; full manuscript critiqued or up to 90,000 words/300 pages (see details at end of syllabus). Fee: $775 includes class and critique.

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, and participants are highly encouraged to do so as well. Discussion during the week will address your entire manuscript, its problems and pluses, and provide suggestions for polishing.

Writers can expect revision exercises and/or discussion on their manuscripts each day, so please be prepared to bring either a printed copy of your entire manuscript to this retreat or have it on your laptop/tablet device.

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

Who is this section for? What if you're still working on your first draft?

This master class is for those who have finished a first draft or will have done so by June class time. It's also for those who have garnered rejections and are stumped as to how to lift their writing to the next level. This retreat section is designed for those writing mainstream/literary fiction mostly, but popular genre fiction books are welcomed.

Types of novels that should consider this section:  women's fiction, historical novels, literary suspense or thriller, mysteries, bestseller suspense, character studies, coming-of-age stories for adult readers, literary science fiction or fantasy, and humor.

If you've just started your novel, please consider sections taught by others in this retreat.

For fee and how to apply for this Master Class, please see the end of the syllabus.


Choose your section, then apply for a Master Class or register here»

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