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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Thank you to our 2020 sponsors:

Write On Door County logo
Orange Hat Publishing logo
Dandelion Web Marketing and Consulting logo
Anthology logo

Sections & Speakers: 2020

  1. From Novice to Novelist, with John DeDakis
  2. Engineering a Successful Story Structure, with Tim Storm
  3. Best-Kept Secret to Writing a Book Readers Can’t Put Down: A Step-by-Step Guide to Plotting with Urgency, with Ann Garvin
  4. Reinventing Fairy Tales & Myths for All Ages & Genres, with Kat Falls
  5. Building a Blueprint for How to Tell Your Story in Fiction or Nonfiction, with Jennifer Haupt (cancelled)
  6. Treasure ho! Mapping Your Way to Story, with r.r. campbell
  7. Five Pressure Points That Propel Plot from Page One to Done, with Angela Rydell
  8. Master Class—Finishing & Polishing for Publication, with Christine DeSmet
  9. Memoir and (dis)Closure, with Coleman
  10. Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing, with Julie Tallard Johnson
  11. Master Class—Your Nonfiction Book’s First 50 Pages & the Book Proposal That Follows, with Laurie Scheer
  12. The Strategic Art of Writing Poems in Forms, with Marilyn Taylor

Section 1: From Novice to Novelist

Instructor: John DeDakis

John DeDakis

If you’re new to novel writing or want the next novel manuscript to be far more successful than the first, join John for a series of workshops within a workshop. This section is designed to deconstruct and demystify the novel-writing process for struggling and/or aspiring writers.

You’ll 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.

The week covers: a 15-point plan for writing, tips for better dialogue that sells, how to get out of your comfort zone with different types of characters, mastering scene design—the building block of the novel, how to master rewriting and polishing in an organized way, how to face your fears, and how to get an agent or make choices in publishing.


Section 2: 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.

You’ll receive a comparative analysis of many of the paradigms for writing a novel, and discover the elements that ring true for your brand of storytelling.

We’ll look at the external and internal dimensions of your story.

We’ll look at the concept of weaving—incorporating subplots, setups and payoffs, twists and revelations—all in the service of the story’s main plot and an impactful ending.

We’ll spend some time workshopping your outline; by week’s end, you’ll come away with a comprehensive story spreadsheet and some clear direction on how to make your story a success.


Section 3: 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. 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, 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.  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 4: Reinventing Fairy Tales & Myths for All Ages & Genre

Instructor: Kat Falls

Kat Falls

Once upon a time…

There’s something magical about fairy tales and myths.

Tales such as Little Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast, and Pandora’s Box go back hundreds and even thousands of years, yet they’re more popular than ever. We see them in novels, movies, television shows, advertising, fashion, art, and video games. In other words, virtually every form of media we consume.

Writers are drawn to myths and fairy tales because, by their very nature, they’re meant to be retold and reinterpreted. No matter if you’re writing literary fiction, romance, fantasy, science fiction, horror, or any other genre, there’s much to learn from old tales. No matter the age of your audience, these stories can be an incredible source of inspiration.

In this retreat workshop, we will examine the challenges inherent in adapting a familiar and beloved work; cover techniques for creating a story premise with “must read!” potential; discuss the unique parameters of fairy tales and myths and how to weave those elements into your work; and how to develop heroes and villains for a modern audience.

This section is open to experienced writers and enthusiastic beginners.


Section 5: Building a Blueprint for How to Tell Your Story in Fiction or Nonfiction

Instructor: Jennifer Haupt

Sorry, we have cancelled this section. Please consider our other nonfiction and fiction sections.

Jen Haupt

In a perfect author-world, there’s a honeymoon phase of writing a book: You have an idea and run with it. Then, you are stuck in the messy middle with no clear vision of how to reach the end. The other end of the spectrum: you have the kernel of an idea, you can feel it in your soul and see it in your mind’s eye, but it’s just not translating to the page.

Wherever you fall on this writer’s continuum of distress, this one-week workshop is for you!

The biggest question that many writers fail to adequately explore—and remain accountable to throughout their manuscript—is this: What’s the blueprint for your book? Answering this question will enable you to complete your project, and guide readers through the story as well.

Both the magic and anguish of writing a book—whether fiction, memoir, or creative nonfiction—is choosing from the myriad of structural options in how to tell your story.

Drawing up a blueprint is critical, just as an architect must to draw up the blueprint before pouring the foundation of any building to ensure the structure is sound and may be completed in a timely manner, and the end result is both aesthetically pleasing and functional.


Section 6: Treasure ho! Mapping Your Way to Story

Instructor: r.r. campbell (Note: Meets 3 afternoons only.)

r.r. campbell

You meet your screen with a determined gaze. The blank page stares back. You blink first.

Writing is always a challenge, especially so when we’re unsure where to start or where we’ll head next. Discovery writing—or storytelling without an outline—can lead us and our characters to marvelous adventures, but it can, for some, make writing an overwhelming task.

The good news? There’s a map to guide you and your characters to the story you seek—if you’re patient enough to find it before setting off on your writerly quest.

In these sessions, attendees will shed their fear of the blank page by developing a fresh narrative concept and applying it to one of the classic plot structure models storytellers have been using for centuries. Then, equipped with a map to lead our characters from their ordinary world and to the treasure they long for, we’ll get granular with our approach, zooming into the scene-by-scene level so the next time we meet the blank page, there’ll be no question of who—or what—will blink first.


Section 7: Master Class—Five Pressure Points That Propel Plot from Page One to Done

Instructor: Angela Rydell

Angela Rydell

A well-structured plot not only impresses with good pacing and eye-popping scenes, it thrives on meaningful character change. How do you enact elusive character change before a readers’ eyes, scene after scene? Pressure points.

First, you identify how your protagonist’s way of thinking is set in stone. We’ll do that on day one. Then you’ll strengthen your inciting incident so it not only rocks her world and unearths a new goal in life, but challenges brittle thinking.

In fact, each pressure point demonstrates that something hard as stone can indeed change. Just as profound heat and pressure underground forces rock to shift its molecular structure into a metamorphic form, so, too, will you subject your “set-in-stone” protagonist to intense internal turmoil and external conflict until she comes out changed.

We’ll pinpoint a different pressure point daily as we progress from inciting incident to midpoint to climax.

You’ll also receive instructor critiques, and begin building a ten-page plot outline to submit for instructor feedback anytime during the summer.

An added bonus: This big-picture system helps you stand firm on steady ground while the pressures mount in your own life as you write your way to done.


Section 8: Master Class—Finishing & Polishing for Publication

Instructor: Christine DeSmet

Photo: Christine DeSmet

Join this Master Class with either 45,000 words completed or your entire manuscript.

This five-day experience helps you create a more rewarding and successful novel from several perspectives and by using key revision exercises successful writers employ.

Are you creating momentum? And propelling readers all the way to the end? Many manuscripts run out of steam after page 100 or 150. Many run out of steam by page 30 or 50. Even with a few revisions already, is your manuscript not satisfying you or other readers yet? Let’s find out the reasons and fix that.

Some writers also revise the first few chapters over and over again in the hope of figuring out the last half. This Master Class gets you out of that loop.

Many “Midpoint Crises” plot points also become Midpoint Messes. Let’s perform Midpoint Miracles instead.

What about that last half? And the plot points there? This Master Class also looks at the rest of your novel’s plot and offers you the chance to get critiques on 45,000 words, plus your outline and 10 pages from anywhere beyond the Midpoint. We will discuss any issues you have with creating a vibrant novel from start to finish.

Let’s test and polish your plot, characters, scene work, writing style and voice, the clutter lurking, and more. Get ready for publication.


Section 9: Memoir and (dis)Closure

Instructor: Coleman


In this workshop, we will help you shift from focusing on your life as a life to focusing on your book as a book.

We’ll explore techniques and strategies that will successfully turn memory into literature.

The most adventuresome life, related in precise linear detail from memory, will often fall flat on the page, a tedious recitation of an endless litany of events. But a skilled memoirist can employ literature’s marvelous bag of tricks to keep the pages turning: speed time up in some places and slow it down in others; layer two or more threads; implement a structure that evokes the book’s meaning; employ dialogue that reveals character and drives action.

Here’s what I believe: 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 through-line 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 through-line is. You may think you know it, but discover halfway through that it is in fact something different. It may be that you discover your through-line in your first write, or your first re-write—or your second, or third, or fourth. With a through-line, your memoir has a pulse, a heartbeat. Without it, it’s a series of anecdotes.

Disclosure: 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. 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.


Section 10: 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

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.

You will leave fully equipped and ready to continue to write about your life experiences, stories, and wisdom.

This dynamic workshop 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 publishers’ 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.

Extra bonuses from this class will be your ability to write better blogs, articles, or any other creative nonfiction piece. In addition, all my work with writers includes helping them to identify personalized ways to make a living from their writing.


Section 11: Master Class—Your Nonfiction Book’s First 50 Pages & the Book Proposal That Follows

Instructor: Laurie Scheer

Publishing experts all agree, the creative nonfiction genre has exploded in popularity in the publishing marketplace.

The genre of creative nonfiction includes narrative nonfiction and memoir, along with journalism offerings and today, more than ever, you must capture your reader’s attention with your first few pages or risk losing them forever.

When agents and publishers hear your pitch, receive your query, or review your book proposal, they may ask for your first fifty pages. They will base their decision to represent or publish your work based on the content within those opening chapters, therefore, those pages must feature a clear and established writing voice, a distinct slant on your topic, and the overall general premise of your book in order for those same agents and publishers to request your complete manuscript and/or wish to pursue representing you and your work and working with you.

This master class assists you in constructing a base for your book along with information about how to construct the accompanying book proposal so page-turning momentum exists at every point along the read.

You’ll establish the question your book sets out to answer, along with the scope of your research and presentation. Your “slant” will be established, too.

This Master Class is for nonfiction writers who are polishing their opening chapters and is also for writers who have received many rejections regarding their opening pages and/or concept. You’ll leave this week knowing how to transform your material into pages agents and publishers will remember.


Section 12: The Strategic Art of Writing Poems in Forms

Instructor: Marilyn L. Taylor

Marilyn Taylor

Why bother with form in the first place?

“The joy of working in form is, for me, the paradoxical freedom form bestows to say the hard truths,” says poet Maxine Kumin. Could it do the same for your own poetry? It’s finally time to find out.

We’ll be experimenting with a variety of traditional poetic forms: the sonnet, the villanelle and the sestina—as well as a hot 21st century invention known as “The Golden Shovel,” which is not only fun to write, but also phenomenally effective as a poetic strategy. Each of these will equip you with new stylistic techniques for your own bag-of-tricks—including your free verse, which might never be quite the same again.

In the end (with a little help from your classmates and your own good ear) you’ll have a great start on gaining the necessary skills for combining the best of both worlds: using form and pattern as vehicles for your totally original ideas.

You’ll become familiar with the terminology of what’s called “formal poetry.”

We’ll read examples by other poets to see how they can inspire us—and also by filching some of their strategies that might help us expand our own. (All perfectly ethical, of course.)

Our creative days together will include new and inspiring overnight assignments that you’ll turn in for workshopping every day.