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]

Help Support the Continuing Studies Writing Programs!


Thank you to our 2019 sponsors:

Author Accelerator Logo
Adept Content Solutions logo
Dandelion Web Marketing and Consulting logo
Orange Hat logo
Wisconsin Writer logo
Chicago Manual of Style and Writing logo
Anthology logo

Thank you for attending the 2019 edition of the UW-Madison writers’ retreat!

Participants came from 19 states and Rome, Italy, to create magic in their writing.

Please join us June 15-19, 2020 for the 22nd edition. Registration opens January 6.

We’re here all year long with online courses, in-person workshops, our annual spring conference, critiques, coaching services, and our new online course badge and certificate programs.

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
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 2019!

  • Afternoon choices
  • 3-day sections
  • Expanded nonfiction & memoir
  • Expanded fiction for novices
  • Help compiling a poetry manuscript
  • Writing middle-grade/YA
  • This retreat is part of the new UW-Madison Continuing Studies badge and writing certificate programs in fiction, nonfiction/memoir, scripts, poetry, and workplace writing skills

2019 sections and speakers, left here for your reference

A new, expanded array of sections and topics to choose from plus several 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! The Master Class with Christine DeSmet is full, and the section with Julie Tallard Johnson has one space left, but we have 12 other sections available yet, including the Master Class with Angela Rydell. Check out all the sections today!

Keynote speaker

Our opening day networking luncheon speaker for 2019 is Marilyn Taylor.

Guest “Extra Event” workshop leaders include Jen Rubin and John DeDakis

Don’t miss the free “Extra Events” at 8:15am and 2pm.

Jen Rubin

Jen Rubin is a former New Yorker who leads storytelling workshops around Madison, co-produces the Moth StorySlam in Madison, teaches the occasional social policy class at the University of Wisconsin School of Social Work, and works at the Wisconsin Historical Society Press. She has recently published her first book, We Are Staying: Eighty Years in the Life of a Family, a Store, and a Neighborhood. Jen is an obsessive maker of mixed tapes and quite possibly the best challah baker in town.

John DeDakis

Journalist, novelist, and writing coach John DeDakis is a La Crosse native and former Senior Copy Editor on CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer.” A graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Madison (BA, Journalism), DeDakis is the author of four mystery-suspense novels (two set in southern Wisconsin). His most recent novel, Bullet in the Chamber, is the winner of Reviewers Choice, Foreword INDIES, and Feathered Quill book awards in 2017. DeDakis is a writing coach, manuscript editor, and writing workshop leader. During his award-winning 45-year career in journalism (25 years at CNN), DeDakis has been a White House Correspondent and interviewed such luminaries as Alfred Hitchcock, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan. DeDakis lives in Baltimore, has taught journalism at the University of Maryland-College Park, and regularly teaches novel writing at The Writer’s Center in Bethesda, Maryland and at the Politics & Prose Bookstore in Washington, D.C.  johndedakis.com

Tim Storm’s BONUS for attendees: “Bubble-Over Tips and Workshop” 9am-1pm, Sat, June 22; 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 the June 17-21 retreat 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

Our Writers Can Help You Get Published, Too

Write-by-the-Lake alum Jabe Stafford has a new blog post about steps to take to get the writing done despite all of life’s distractions. Check out his post at the website Visit Jabe Stafford’s websiteWrite Plan  . . . then get back to your writing!

Jabe is currently marketing a science fiction novel manuscript and also writes a Visit fantasy science fiction blogfantasy & science fiction blog  that’s a lot of fun.

How it works and what we offer

Choose the one section you’re most interested in. Limit of 15 participants per section unless noted. (Master Class #8 has a limit of 8 participants, Master Class #9 has a limit of 6, and Section #14, Poetry Master Class, has a limit of 7.)

Sections for beginning writers as well as those at publication level. Not sure what to choose? Director Christine DeSmet can help. Contact her at 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!

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 is also the coordinator of UW–Madison Critique Services for writers. She is an award-winning author of novels, short stories, screenplays, and plays.