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Write By The Lake: Success Stories

"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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Success Stories

Our writers get published!

Deborah King, of Bolingbrook, Illinois, a participant in a Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, has sold her mainstream novel manuscript called Glory to Red Adept Publishing. Deborah workshopped Glory in the 2016 retreat with instructor Christine DeSmet. The retreat is sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies. The plot of Glory: In 1980s Chicago, 17-year-old Glory can escape her abusive home if she accepts the proposal from a minister ten years older than she is, but that means giving up on her true love.

What happens when a mother goes into town, and disappears? Leaving 7 children behind? With a teenager in charge? Rose Bingham, Wisconsin Dells, Wis., has written a beautiful memoir, Buy the Little Ones a Dolly, published by HenschelHAUS Publishing. Bingham, a retired nurse, worked on her memoir at two UW-Madison Continuing Studies events: Writers’ Institute and the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat. Rose has won numerous awards for her poetry and writing. “Buy the little ones a dolly” were some of the last words Rose received from her mother in a Christmas letter when Rose was 15, sent without a return address. The mystery surrounding her mother’s disappearance comes to light 59 years later.

Congratulations to Joanne Passet of Bloomington, Indiana. Her essay, “The Quilter,” written in Amy Lou Jenkins’ essay writing workshop at the 2016 Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, has been featured in the online journal, Link to read weekly featured essays on BiostoriesBiostories .

Sally J. Pla, of San Diego, CA, formerly of Wisconsin, is the author of The Someday Birds (HarperCollins), a novel for young people that received a Junior Library Guild Selection for 2017 and a starred review in Publishers Weekly. Sally has also sold John Lockdown is in the Building!, also from HarperCollins, to be published in 2018. A third novel has been optioned by the same publisher. In addition, her first picture book, Benny, The Bad Day, and Me, illustrated by Ken Min, will be published in 2018 from Lee & Low. Pla will be among the guest speakers at the October 2017 Wisconsin Library Association Conference. The author got her start in instructor Christine DeSmet’s first-novel section of the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat in 2008. Sally notes the UW summer retreat was her first-ever writing retreat experience. “Do the writing for its own sake, because trying to craft a beautiful story is always the most important goal. And whatever follows, follows… Who knows?”

Sweet Wisdom, a nonfiction self-help book by Angeline Haen of Sobieski, Wis., will be released in paperback and e-book versions on Feb. 15, 2017, by Shanti Arts Publishing of Maine. Angeline worked on her book in the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat with instructor Julie Tallard Johnson. Here’s the blurb: Not all wisdom is siphoned from bitter life experiences; wisdom has a sweet side. For Angeline Haen, wisdom is revealed through a natural curiosity about the mystical messages in our everyday circumstances: a van full of preschoolers, daily walks with Wally, ponderings over split-pea soup, and every pause of wonder in between. This charming and sublime book is an easy, big-hearted read, and it will inspire its readers to recognize and acknowledge the simple sweet wisdoms in their own life experiences.

Julie Holmes, of Arlington, Minnesota, has signed literary agent Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services to represent Just Plane Dead, a suspense novel. Julie met Cynthia at the 2016 Writers’ Institute in Madison, Wis. Prior to that, Julie took her manuscript through the Master Class for novelists at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat held each June. Both events are sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies. Just Plane Dead features aircraft mechanic Sierra Bauer. Sierra is more worried about her stalker ex-boyfriend’s return than the body she finds in her inspection plane, until the detective in charge of the case pegs her as a suspect.

Eileen Schnabel, Stoughton, Wis., received a holiday gift (after much hard work, of course). Her middle-grade novel manuscript, One If By Land, Two If by…Submarine, pitched as National Treasure meets Back to the Future has sold to Alisa Gus at Curiosity Quills Press, for publication in Winter 2018. Eileen studied in classes taught by Angela Rydell and Christine DeSmet in our UW-Madison Continuing Studies programs for writers.

Selling a book is a great way to follow up attendance at our annual writer’s retreat and that’s just what Angeline Haen did. The Wisconsin author has sold her creative nonfiction anthology book, Sweet Wisdoms, to Shanti Arts in Maine. The book chronicles Angeline’s unique and often humorous quest to gain wisdom. Angeline participated in the creative nonfiction book section led by Julie Tallard Johnson at the UW-Madison Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat in June 2014.

What the Mirror Sees, a women’s fiction novel by Teria Robens, won the 2015-2016 African American Arts Alliance of Chicago’s Black Excellence Award for Outstanding Achievement in Literature-Fiction at their black-tie gala at the DuSable Museum on Oct. 24, 2016.

Teria took this women’s fiction novel through a Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, with instructor Christine DeSmet. She’s also been a part of the writing community regularly attending the annual Writers’ Institute in Madison.

Michael Graf, a Madison screenwriter and owner of Spot Filmworks, is one of four finalists in the Link to Bahamas International Film Festival websiteBahamas International Film Festival’s Screenwriting Residency Program. Michael was a guest speaker at the recent Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, held every June and sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies. His script, The Last Indian War, is the true story about a group of Native American children kidnapped by the US Army and sent off to a military boarding school where they invent the modern game of football. Michael’s all-expenses-paid trip happens in December and includes a week of private mentoring with A-List producers and writers. Movie Maker magazine calls the festival "one of the Top 25 Coolest film festivals in the world."

What if you lived several past lives, witnessed the world getting worse, and decided to dive in and do something about it by re-inventing yourself in a new life? That’s the premise of Debbie Rose’s debut novel, Perhaps They Are Not Stars, published by Amazon in e-book and paperback formats. Debbie participated in the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat class on writing first novels that also included now-published authors Ann Garvin, Kathy Steffen, and Maureen Holtz.

Bibi Belford of Chicago has sold world rights to her middle-grade novel, Another D for DeeDee, to Sky Pony Press. This is Belford’s second sale since participating in a Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Retreats. Belford was also a presenter at the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute 2016. Her book’s logline: "Feeling dumb at a new school, being diagnosed with diabetes, and missing her immigrant dad, who has disappeared, make DeeDee feel lonelier than ever – until a new neighbor offers to help." Publication is scheduled for fall 2017.

The 26th annual Midwest Book Awards from the Midwest Independent Publishing Association include an author that we know well: Kathleen Ernst, for A Settler’s Year, photographs by Loyd Heath (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, Madison, Wis.). Category: Arts/Coffee Table Books/Photography. Kathleen has taught for UW-Madison Continuing Studies in the past and was the keynote for the June 2016 Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshops.

Christine DeSmet, an instructor and writing coach in UW-Madison Continuing Studies, and her scriptwriting partner, Peggy Williams, have won the 2016 short script contest sponsored by Link to Living Storm Productions websiteLiving Storm Productions , Madison. Called The Stone Carver of King Street, the script will go into production this summer. Christine teaches online courses in scriptwriting and novel writing, and is director of the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat. Peggy Williams, Madison, is a recent past instructor at Writers’ Institute. Both writers are members of Wisconsin Screenwriters Forum, where they learned about the contest.

Looking for inspiration from other writers who have signed deals, gotten published, and won awards? Read more Success Stories here»