Write By The Lake

Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat

"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 section]

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Thank you to our 2020 sponsors:

Write On Door County logo
Orange Hat Publishing logo
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Anthology logo

The 22nd Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat is June 15-19, 2020

Join writers from across the country in a professional, friendly, creative atmosphere. UW English credits extra.

The Writer magazine applauds our June retreat!

The Writer said: “It’s like two semesters of an MFA program. You work so hard and get so much to take home with you.”

At A Glance

What: 5 or 3 days of professional instruction for writers of all levels
When: June 15-19, 2020 + optional Saturday, June 20 goal-setting workshop
Who: Taught by leading educators and writers from UW-Madison and across the country
CEUs: Continuing education units available, including optional graduate credits in English


Contact Christine DeSmet at christine.desmet@wisc.edu or 608-262-3447

NEW for 2020!

  • New instructors, new topics added
  • New afternoon, 3-day workshop option
  • Expanded nonfiction & memoir offerings
  • Master Class in nonfiction writing (book proposals included)
  • 2 Master Classes in fiction
  • New section on using myths, fairy tales in plots for all ages
  • This retreat can be part of your final project for the new UW-Madison Continuing Studies badges and writing certificate for those taking our online courses

Check out our new, expanded array of sections and topics to choose from plus new instructors, as well as our back-by-popular-demand returning instructors. See the full list of sections.

NOTE: Enroll now and save your spot!

Keynote and special guest instructors

We’re pleased to announce our keynote speaker, Dr. Christine Virnig.

The Writing Doctor, Kevin Mullen, will be with us again for one-on-one meetings.

Author and instructor r.r. campbell will be among the presenters of the “Extra Events” included with your registration fee.


Dr. Christine Virnig

Dr. Christine Virnig makes her nonfiction debut with Dung for Dinner, which launches in July, 2020. Her next book, Waist Deep in Dung, will be published by Macmillan in 2021. When Christine isn’t busy writing about poop, she works as a pediatric allergist in Madison, WI. It’s a job where, in addition to dodging the occasional snot rocket and projectile vomit, she gets to talk to kids about all kinds of fun things. Like phlegm. And boogers. And dust mite poo. Christine lives with her husband, two very-embarrassed-by-her-subject-matter daughters, and two hairball hackers. Christine is a past attendee in two sections of our annual retreat.

Dr. Kevin Mullen

Kevin Mullen (MA, University of Iowa; PhD, UW-Madison) is an Assistant Professor of Continuing Education, co-director of the UW Odyssey Project (a program which offers a free, six-credit humanities course to low-income adults), and the Writing Doctor at UW-Madison Continuing Studies writing events. His research concentrates on the intersection between the public humanities, adult education, and writing studies, focusing specifically on the ways in which the humanities can provide nontraditional students with the opportunity to explore ideas, the arts, and their own experiences while building their writing skills.

r.r. campbell

r. r. campbell is an author, writing coach, and the founder of the Writescast Network, a podcast collective for writers, by writers. He is also the founder of Writescast Academy, an online portal to practical coursework and community for writers of all genres. His published novels include Accounting for It All and Imminent Dawn, which debuted as the number one new release for its genre on Amazon. Its sequel, Mourning Dove, is now available in print and ebook with most major retailers. The author has been an invited speaker at conferences and seminars including the University of Wisconsin Writers’ Institute and WisCon. His short-form fiction has been featured in Five:2:One Magazine’s #thesideshow, among others.

Tim Storm’s BONUS for attendees: “Bubble-Over Tips and Workshop” 9 a.m.-1 p.m., Sat, June 20; Limit: 15; Fee: $100

Ever seen one of those cascading champagne towers? The retreat fills your glass, but sometimes writers at the end of the week need a way to catch the overflow. This section helps you assemble a plan going forward. You enjoy more time among kindred spirits to decompress and get excited about your next steps. Includes critiques, sharing of best tips from all sections, and Tim’s follow-up the week after you go home. Must also be enrolled in a June retreat section before signing up for Saturday. Held at Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.

Our Writers Get Published

Sweet Wisdoms (Shanti Arts Publishing of Maine), a nonfiction self-help book by Angeline Haen of Sobieski, Wis., was released in paperback and e-book versions in February of 2017. Angeline worked on her book at 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.

Says Angeline on dealing with resistance and worry: “Doubt and fear stalled my creative engine. I fell into a sputtered writing pattern of starts and stops. For me, the way to drive through fear’s heavy fog was to shine the bright light of writer’s love on the road ahead. I participated in the retreat…where writers supported the unfolding maps of other writers.

As a writer, you will inevitably turn onto a few bumpy roads. When you do, find people and places that can smooth over the surface. Keep driving the dream and you will never feel like you can’t get where you want to go and for goodness sakes don’t forget to enjoy the ride!”

Read more Success Stories from Write-by-the-Lake

How it works and what we offer

Choose the one section you’re most interested in. Limit of 15 participants per section unless noted.

There are sections for beginning writers as well as those at publication level. Not sure what to choose? Director Christine DeSmet can help. christine.desmet@wisc.edu or 608-262-3447.

Optional: 1-3 graduate credits in English (offered in a partnership with UW-Madison Dept. of English). Credit fees are extra.

See more on our fees & credits page, including all the great, quality experiences included in your fee!

Ready to get started? View our speakers and sessions here >

Past participants answer the question: What did you like most about Write-by-the-Lake?

“Concentrating on one topic for five days with the same small group with the same wonderful instructor made this the best writing experience ever.”

“The time away from everything else at a lovely location to think, learn, and breathe writing.”

“It gave me validation for my writing efforts. That came from both the instructor and my fellow workshop attendees.”

“Having concentrated time to learn new skills and insights, to practice them, and to meet others who are also interested in doing the same.”

Meet Your Director

Christine DeSmet teaches writing online and in person. She also coordinates the UW–Madison Critique Services for writers and the Online Badge program and Online Certificate in Fiction and Certificate in Nonfiction programs. Christine is an award-winning author of novels, short stories, screenplays, and plays. She also coaches writers in the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute Pathway to Publication national coaching program. christine.desmet@wisc.edu, 608-262-3447.