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 section]

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Sections & Speakers: 2019

  1. NEW! From Novice to Novelist, with John DeDakis
  2. Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!, with Kathy Steffen
  3. Engineering a Successful Story Structure, with Tim Storm
  4. 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
  5. NEW! Writing for Teens (Even If You Aren’t One), with Kat Falls
  6. NEW! The Art of Minimalism: Flash Fiction and Memoir, with Gale Walden
  7. NEW! Writing and Worthiness: What am I Writing and Why Should Anyone Care?, with Laurie Scheer
  8. Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages, with Angela Rydell
  9. Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish—Completed Manuscripts Critiqued, with Christine DeSmet [Full; closed]
  10. NEW! Narrative Nonfiction and Memoir—Bringing Truth to Light, with Janine Latus
  11. Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing, with Julie Tallard Johnson
  12. Marvelous, Publishable You!: Learn How a Book Proposal can Launch You and Your Manuscript into the Arms of Agents and Publishers, with Heather Shumaker
  13. NEW! Ekphrastic Poetry: Writing Poems Inspired by the Other Lively Arts, with Marilyn L. Taylor
  14. NEW! Compiling Your Publishable Poetry Manuscript/Master Class, with Gale Walden

“Bubble-Over Tips Workshop” with Tim Storm

9am-1pm, Sat., June 22; Limit: 15; Fee: $100 (held in Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St.)

Tim Storm

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.

Section 1: NEW!  From Novice to Novelist

Instructor: John DeDakis

John DeDakis

This workshop will deconstruct and demystify the novel-writing process for struggling and/or aspiring writers. Learn how to stay organized, how to create diverse characters, the art of rewriting, and how to overcome your writing and marketing fears. By the end of the class, you’ll be prepared to begin work on a novel and will be equipped with the skills to perfect it. Each day will include short writing assignments (during class and/or overnight), plus the opportunity to have your work critiqued.


Section 2: Your First Novel: Fast and Finished!

Instructor: Kathy Steffen

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 weave them into a compelling novel? How do you approach plotting to give your novel a page-turning edge? What about enough story strength and momentum to keep your writing from falling apart after the first few chapters? What is the secret to maintaining narrative drive through your entire novel and pacing through that all-important middle? How do you develop believable, multi-dimensional characters that fascinate readers? 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 to not only finish your novel, but snag the reader from the start and make it impossible for anyone to put your manuscript down.


Section 3: Engineering a Successful Story Structure

Instructor: Tim Storm

Tim Storm

It’s time. Maybe you’ve been dreading it; maybe you’re just figuring out the necessity of it. Perhaps you’ve been told your manuscript isn’t quite working. Regardless, it’s time for you to (re)assess the thing holistically, to look at your outline and find the structural weaknesses preventing your novel from being a success.

Just as an underground parking lot needs pillars to bear the weight above it, long-form stories need structure. This workshop will examine in-depth the “engineering” concepts behind where you place the pillars in your story and what sort of weight those pillars need to bear.

There are lots of structural paradigms out there, so we’ll begin with a comparative analysis of many of them, searching for some of the main common denominators and arming you with the knowledge to pick and choose the elements that ring true for your brand of storytelling.


Section 4: 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

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.

Emotion, specifically desire, 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.

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 5: NEW!  Writing for Teens (Even If You Aren’t One)

Instructor: Kat Falls

Kat Falls

This workshop section is open to experienced writers and enthusiastic beginners.

Middle Grade and Young Adult fiction are wildly popular and still-growing categories in book publishing that encompass many genres: fantasy, romance, science fiction, contemporary realism, literary fiction, and more.

What MG/YA novels have in common are teenage protagonists and a sense of immediacy—beyond that, anything goes. Whether the characters are competing in The Hunger Games or a seventh grade science fair, the thing that unites the most successful books in the tween/teen category is high emotional stakes and emotional intensity.

This craft-focused workshop is designed for those who want to learn how to write a Middle Grade or Young Adult novel. We’ll cover techniques for writing a great story as well as: the category’s unique parameters; creating a premise with “must read!” potential; and developing protagonists with teen appeal.

In addition, Kat will touch on practical matters such as current and upcoming market trends, how to catch an agent’s eye, and the publishing process.


Section 6: NEW!  The Art of Minimalism: Flash Fiction and Memoir

Instructor: Gale Walden

Gale Walden

We will be reading, writing, and workshopping flash fiction or flash memoir. What constitutes the form? Does it differ from prose poetry? Does it need a narrative arc? Are there any rules?

Using a packet of examples and in-class writing prompts, we will delve into the form and discuss ways of joining together short pieces to form longer works of memoir and fiction. Each day we will do in-class writing and every student will get an opportunity to “workshop” at least one piece if not more. You may bring in previous work to be workshopped.

Even if you are not interested in writing flash fiction or memoir, this class would be a good class to get ideas for editing longer works, for examining sentence and plot economy, and practicing the art of editing.


Section 7: NEW!  Writing and Worthiness: What am I Writing and Why Should Anyone Care?

Instructor: Laurie Scheer

Discover your writing worthiness.

Is there a book in you that you have always wanted to write? Have you been hesitant in beginning to write a project? Have you promised yourself that you’ll finish a writing project you’ve started?

When writers arrive at these points of sometimes no return, questions about self-worthiness and doubt creep into their minds, usually accompanied with dreaded questions such as “Does the world really need another story about a woman wanting to become an amateur sleuth or about a man’s journey from Germany to America in the early 1800s?” In addition, the ultimate question almost always emerges, and that is “Why would anyone care about my writing?”

The answer is yes to the first two questions above and “plenty of readers will care about your writing” for the final question.

The world is grateful that writers didn’t stop writing.

Nor should you doubt or stop your writing.

This weeklong workshop provides real-world advice, motivation, and a guided pathway for you to realize your writing goals.


Section 8: Master Class: Your First Fifty Pages

Instructor: Angela Rydell. Limit 8.

Angela Rydell

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 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.

Each writers’ manuscript will be discussed. During the week you also have the option to: schedule a one-to-one session with your instructor, submit two short revisions for instructor critique, and if time permits bring a revision to class for group critique during the week. Plus, you’re invited to submit 10 pages of revision for instructor critique after the workshop ends.

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 9: Master Class: Finish, Polish, Publish—Completed Manuscripts Critiqued

Instructor: Christine DeSmet. All genres of fiction welcome. Limit 6. [Full; closed]

Photo: Christine DeSmet

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 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, included in your fee.


Section 10: NEW!  Narrative Nonfiction and Memoir—Bringing Truth to Light

Instructor: Janine Latus

Janine Latus

Think of a story you love. A story so compelling that even now, years later, you can recall how you were immersed in that world.

Do you know how to tell a story like that? This is your opportunity to learn how to tell your own story and the stories of others with verve and joy.

In this course we’ll toggle between unplugging our creativity and letting the words flow, and doing the harder, more structured work of dissecting why good writing works. We’ll learn how to read like a writer, analyzing how the author chose and arranged details in a way that pulled readers along. We’ll talk about pacing, sentence structure, and cadence. We’ll write longhand to cues to warm our creative juices, and critique each other’s work in a supportive, encouraging environment.

Telling stories requires the same skills whether you’re writing your own story or someone else’s, so we will focus on the tools of good storytelling. We’ll talk about interviewing techniques that help you delve beyond the facade, but also about how to find facts in documents and photographs, and how to use those to add depth and importance to your piece.

A powerful memoir tells us about an individual, but it also teaches us about a time and place, an era, and set of values. Likewise, compelling nonfiction shifts in and out, from the specific to the universal and back again.

This class will cover the whole process, from gathering information to crafting compelling final copy to finding an agent and getting a book contract.


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

Instructor: Julie Tallard Johnson

Julie Tallard Johnson headshot

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.

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.


Section 12: NEW! 3 afternoons—Marvelous, Publishable You! : Learn How a Book Proposal can Launch You and Your Manuscript into the Arms of Agents and Publishers

Instructor: Heather Shumaker

Heather Shumaker

Writing the book is the point, right? Well, brace yourself. There’s one more step. If you have your eye on a traditional publisher, you need to befriend another publishing tool: the Book Proposal.

This workshop is for both nonfiction and fiction writers.

Book proposals are essentially marketing documents that pitch your book (or your book series) to agents and editors. Proposals summarize your book, position your book in the already-crowded book market, and make a convincing argument about why your book ought to be published (and why you ought to be the one to write it). Then there’s research into competing titles, promotion plans, and a detailed chapter outline.

We’ll work through the intricacies of the book proposal writing process together. A good proposal certainly takes investment in time and research, but it’s an investment that can truly pay off.

Book proposals are the traditional way authors sell nonfiction books to publishers, but you’ll also learn how book proposals for fiction are a growing trend and how adding one to your fiction manuscript can be a very good idea.


Section 13: NEW!  Ekphrastic Poetry:  Writing Poems Inspired by the Other Lively Arts

Instructor: Marilyn L. Taylor

Marilyn Taylor

Often—maybe not always, but often–a poet who visits an art gallery, or takes in a memorable performance of music or dance, might suddenly feel motivated to sit down and write a poem about it. Or perhaps to tuck it away, letting it percolate for a while on the creative side of the brain, until it’s ready to try out on the page (or screen).

Among poets, this scenario is not at all unusual. There is, in fact, a respectable term for works inspired in this way: they’re called ekphrastic—a Greek term that means “a telling out”—and they have been widely read, written, appreciated, and respected  for centuries, including the current one. Why should this so often be the case? Because poems of this kind, which represent a personal response to a particular artistic achievement (usually from the visual arts but often from music or dance) frequently become works of art in themselves.

In this seminar, poets will be invited to embark upon a spontaneous, unrestricted excursion into writing this kind of poetry—one poem per day.


Section 14: NEW! 3 afternoons—Compiling Your Publishable Poetry Manuscript/Master Class

Instructor: Gale Walden

Gale Walden

I’ve put together two poetry manuscripts that have been published by small presses, and one of the most difficult parts for me is compiling poems so that a narrative of a book emerges.

This three-day workshop is for poets who have been writing poetry for some time; who have at least 20 poems they will deem publishable.

Part of putting together a publishable poetry manuscript is also looking over poems and doing final revisions. In this class, we will “workshop” one of your poems in the class, and before the class begins, we will all see 20 pages of your poems so we can talk about themes that emerge and possible ways of organizing the themes. While this might be enough poems to create a chapbook, usually unless you write really long poems, there are about 50 poems or more in a full-length book. As a class, we won’t be looking at a whole book, but giving suggestions about how you might go about organizing the book based on the half-book sample we have.

If you don’t yet have enough poems for a full manuscript, please join this workshop to build your road map toward completing your full-length book.
I am setting up this class as a class I would have benefitted from before I sent out either of my books. I look forward to a productive and helpful engagement.