Write By The Lake: Success Stories
Charles Long, Richmond, Virginia, began his YA novel, Streamline, in Kathy Steffen’s class at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, held each June. Streamline—with a great cover—is now a reality, available on Amazon in paperback and e-book.
With the help of writers and teachers (including Christine DeSmet) at our retreat, Charles has completed two novels (another coming out in October) and three children’s books, with a third novel in the works. Charles says to fellow writers and teachers in his UW June retreats, “None of this would have happened without all of you!”
Charles will be with us again—now as a guest instructor—at the Writers’ Institute conference, March 26-29, 2020 in Madison.
Beneath The Flames, by Gregory Lee Renz, Lake Mills, WI, received the First Place Gold Medal Award for Fiction-General in The Readers Favorite International Book Awards, part of the Miami International Book Fair.
The literary fair is attended by approximately 300 authors and other speakers and 200,000 book lovers. This year’s fair happens November 17-24, 2019, and is held in downtown Miami, Florida, with sponsorship including Miami Dade College.
Gregory started his novel in our online course Write Your Novel Fast & Sure with instructor Christine DeSmet, began polishing the novel in her Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, and then added the final polish with Christine in the Writers’ Institute coaching program. He also took online courses from Angela Rydell and attended other workshops.
Gregory will be a headliner at Writers’ Institute in Madison, directed by Laurie Scheer, March 26-29, 2020.
When is the right time to start thinking about moving to a retirement community? Should I or shouldn’t I? Am I old enough? (Of course not!) What’s it going to be like when I get there?
Author Hilde Adler of Madison, Wisconsin has been there, done that. Hilde attended our Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat in 2011 with instructor Laurie Scheer, and has attended numerous Writers’ Institutes. Her new book I Am Not Old Enough! The Twenty-Seven Stages of Adjustment to Living in a Retirement Community has been heralded by Kirkus Reviews, received celebrated reviews on Amazon, and has been enjoyed by many individuals adjusting to life in a retirement community.
Hilde wants you to know she’s happy in her new home, and we want to recognize her publishing success—she sold 172 books in April of this year alone!
Hurrah for Deborah King’s debut novel, Glory Bishop, that launched June 4. Deborah worked on her novel and honed it in all of the major writing events and retreats sponsored by UW–Madison Continuing Studies. Her wonderful novel is about a teen girl coming of age in Chicago where she experiences harsh realities in love and life.
Congratulations to Jabe Stafford—a first-time author! His adult portal fantasy short story, “Other Side of the Line,” has been published in Kyanite Press, Vol. 1, Issue 3 (January 2019, Kyanite Publishing).
Jabe credits the wonderful help he got from his Middleton writers’ group and two UW–Madison Continuing Studies programs: Writers’ Institute and Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, where he workshopped a novel that is now making the rounds of agents and publishers.
Deborah King captures first place; Ciaran Cooper honorable mention
Chicagoan Deborah King’s opening chapter to Glory Unbound captured first place in the 3rd Annual First Chapter Contest sponsored by the Chicago Writers Association.
She receives a full scholarship to attend the Novel-in-Progress Bookcamp & Writing Retreat May 19 to 25, 2019 at the Cedar Valley Center & Spa northwest of Milwaukee (value $1385).
Deborah worked on her full novel in the Master Class led by Christine DeSmet at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat held in June and sponsored by UW–Madison Continuing Studies. Her novel is about a young woman’s brave attempt to escape an abusive marriage.
Honorable mention contestant Ciaran Cooper has also polished his material in critique groups at UW–Madison Continuing Studies events, including Weekend with Your Novel. He’s also attended Writers’ Institute. His novel is titled Forty Miles An Hour.
Congratulations, Deborah and Ciaran!
Congratulations to Gregory Lee Renz, Lake Mills, Wis., who has sold his novel Beneath the Flames to HenschelHAUS Publishing, Milwaukee. Publication date is Fall 2019.
Beneath the Flames is the story of a volunteer firefighter who goes from a tragedy on a Wisconsin farm to firefighter training in Milwaukee, where he gets assigned to the busiest firehouse in the heart of the inner city. It’s a very emotional journey as well as a glimpse of what it’s really like to be a firefighter in the midst of battling flames.
Renz, a retired firefighter captain, started his novel in the UW–Madison Continuing Studies online course “Write Your Novel Fast & Sure,” taught by Christine DeSmet. He further worked with Christine in a Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, and then hired her as his coach in the new Writers’ Institute “Pathway to Publication” coaching program. Renz has also attended several other UW–Madison programs for writers and is working on his next project. Read about him in the Isthmus here >
You Know You Moved to South Dakota from New York City WHEN… is the title of Marsha Mittman’s humorous memoir coming out winter 2018-’19 from Scurfpea Publishing.
Originally from New York City, Marsha now lives in Spearfish, South Dakota. Marsha honed her memoir with instructor Julie Tallard Johnson three years ago at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat sponsored each June by University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies.
Marsha has added several other accomplishments since her week in the UW–Madison retreat. She’s now counting over 80 poems, short stories, and essays accepted for publication with U.S., British, German, and Australian publishers. She was also awarded a month-long 2019 writer-in-residence at the Fairhope Center for the Writing Arts in Alabama. Marsha’s schedule has also included several appearances at arts and book events, and preliminary work on documentaries and stage productions involving her writing talents.
Surviving the Pink Ribbon: Body and Soul Guide for Breast Cancer Survivors and Co-Survivors, by Rita Schunk, is now available as a paperback and e-book. Rita is having a launch open house on Oct 20 from noon – 4pm at The Sow’s Ear in Verona, Wisconsin.
Rita worked on her book while in instructor Julie Tallard Johnson’s section of the annual Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, held each June and sponsored by UW–Madison Continuing Studies.
You can find Rita at ritaschunk.wordpress.com and on Facebook.
Jen Rubin is a frequent speaker/instructor with the writing department at Continuing Studies. She also leads the local presentation of The Moth here in Madison in addition to storytelling workshops with our Odyssey Project, the Arts and Literature Laboratory, Edgewood College, and other arts organizations. Her new book, We Are Staying: Eighty Years in the Life of a Family, a Store, and a Neighborhood, tells about the rise, struggles, and fall of Radio Clinic, a store on the 98th Street block of Broadway on Manhattan’s Upper West Side, and the family that owned it across those decades.
It is a small business story and a story about a shop owner that keeps on going despite the odds. It is an immigrant story, a grandfather-father-daughter story, a story of the unique character a family business brings to a neighborhood, and a reflection on what has been lost as stores like these disappear.
Here is a brief review from John Nichols of The Nation:
“The best political stories are the human ones, and Jen Rubin recognizes this. We Are Staying is a remarkably powerful, poignantly told story of a family, a business, a neighborhood and a city. But what makes this book so brilliant, and so necessary, is the skill with which Rubin places this very personal story in the broader context of our struggles to understand one another and the common ground where we make our shared lives. Anyone who cares about urban policy, the history and the future of New York City and of a country that suffers from so much division, yet has the potential still to unite, will cherish this book.”
Kristin Tenor’s flash fiction “Matinee” has been accepted for publication in Spry Literary Journal’s eleventh issue. She worked on the piece in Christopher Chambers’ Flash Fiction and Memoir class at this year’s Write-by-the-Lake writer’s workshop and retreat.
Toledo, Ohio resident Marty Kalmbach’s first novel, Gym Class Hero, has received a stellar review from Kirkus Reviews, and Publisher’s Weekly has also accepted the book for review.
For the best help to his writing, Kalmbach credits Kathy Steffen and her section called “Your First Novel: Fast and Finished” at the annual Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat.” The event is held every June and sponsored by UW–Madison Continuing Studies. “She gave me the best advice, encouragement, tips that made me a better writer, and insights with her critiques.”
Here’s a snippet from the Kirkus review for Gym Class Hero:
“A debut YA novel tells the story of a high school junior trying to get a grip on his basketball game—and his life. …Like many teenage narrators, Stevie is jocular and sarcastic. Yet Kalmbach’s prose isn’t one-note, and Stevie’s shtick often takes a back seat to more lyrical passages: ‘A first period rumor, its wildfire spread by the runners delivering passes from the main office, fanning the flames—a new girl in school and you ought to see her—whole classrooms inquisitive—their fascination displacing the Pythagorean Theorem, Iambic Pentameter.’ The author knows the game and is skilled at capturing its drama on paper, teasing out plays into meaningful encounters. This [novel] contains that potent combination of forces—friends, family, love, childhood passions, and new ideas—that summon to mind the transitional years of adolescence.”
Theresa Kaminski, of Mount Horeb, Wis., an attendee of the UW–Madison Continuing Studies Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat held every June, has sold her nonfiction book, Queen of the West: Dale Evans, Music, Movies, Television and the Creation of Modern Celebrity.
Theresa is a recently retired history professor at UW-Stevens Point.
Theresa’s new book is the first full-length biography of Dale Evans, following her career from small-town girl and radio singer to movie stardom with her life and screen partner Roy Rogers.
The sale was to Lyons Press, by agent Jacqueline Flynn at Joelle Delbourgo Associates. The agents have taken pitches in the past at the UW–Madison Continuing Studies Writers’ Institute.
Congratulations, Theresa, and to Jacqueline and Joelle!
Celebrating the beauty of northern Wisconsin in the autumn, Book 4 in Christine DeSmet’s re-issued novella series, When the Dead People Brought A Dish-to-Pass, debuted July 20, 2018 in paperback and e-book forms from publisher Writers Exchange E-Publishing.
The humorous, romantic story has fun with the conventions of ghost stories and the trouble people encounter when refurbishing old houses. It also delves into the notion of never forgetting our relatives that have passed before us. They just might cross back over and meddle in your life with a potluck dinner for you at the worst possible time. And bring along their cat!
Christine is a writing coach and instructor of online novel writing and screenwriting courses in the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies. She’s also director of the annual June Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat where she teaches a Master Class for new novelists.
Kudos to UW–Madison Continuing Studies adjunct instructor Julie Tallard Johnson, who is profiled in a current Brava magazine article by Meg Rothstein, Middleton. The article features one of Julie’s students, Jo Ann Woodford, who gives high marks for her experiences at the UW–Madison Continuing Studies Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat. Brava contributor Rothstein also enjoyed Johnson’s teachings through the instructor’s private classes on transformational writing. The article lists several opportunities for adult learning, including UW–Madison Continuing Studies educational travel programs.
Sara Krebsbach’s article, “The Cost of Rheumatoid Arthritis Medications,” has been published in the LDN Research Trust newsletter, based in the United Kingdom.
The editor has also invited Sara to be interviewed on a radio show at the end of the summer.
A Madison, WI, resident, Sara got assistance and encouragement from her instructor Julie Tallard Johnson in the UW–Madison Continuing Studies online course, “Creative Nonfiction 1.” To work on a book, Sara is also attending Julie’s class at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, June 11-15, 2018.
View Sara’s blog at sarahealingwhatailsme.wordpress.com.
Attending the UW–Madison Continuing Studies’ Write-by-the-Lake retreat some years ago was a first foray into such events for Joe Siple, Fort Collins, CO, formerly of Rochester, MN.
He reports he put what he learned in Christine DeSmet’s novel section to good use. His literary/mainstream novel, The Five Wishes of Mr. Murray McBride (Black Rose Writing, publisher) has won “Book of the Year” from the Maxy Awards.
The logline for his novel: With all his family and friends gone, one-hundred-year-old Murray McBride is looking for a reason to live. He finds it in Jason Cashman, a ten-year-old boy with a terminal heart defect and a list of five things he wants to do before he dies.
Bibi Belford, Chicago, is among the winners of the 69th Annual Christopher Award. The award salutes those in publishing, radio, television, and film that “affirm the highest values of the human spirit.” Belford won for her young adult book Crossing the Line (Sky Pony Press/Skyhorse Publishing).
Belford is a speaker at this year’s 29th annual Writers’ Institute and she has attended a novel Master Class in the past at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat, both events sponsored by UW–Madison Continuing Studies.
Sarah Carlson utilized Lori Devoti’s retreat class & critique on her path to selling her novel. At our retreat, instructor and author Lori Devoti offers a limited number of full-manuscript critiques at a discounted fee. Sarah Carlson signed up for Lori’s section and a critique on her path to publication.
Just announced this March 2018: Sarah Carlson, Fitchburg, Wis., has sold her YA contemporary novel, All the Walls of Belfast, to Turner Publishing. The novel set in Ireland will be released in bookstores and via e-book format in March 2019.
Sarah’s path to publication included a step-by-step approach using several UW–Madison Continuing Studies resources. She utilized Critique Services with Christine DeSmet for her writing and a query letter, and then joined a critique group and novel-planning course taught by Angela Rydell. She attended Weekend with Your Novel, Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop (where she received an advanced full-manuscript critique from Lori Devoti), and finally Sarah attended the Writers’ Institute (where she pitched and got her agent).
Special guest speaker at the June 11-15 Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat is Chloe Benjamin, Madison, Wis., whose new novel, The Immortalists, was chosen as a “Pick of the Week” for January 8, 2018 by Publisher’s Weekly. The book also made it to Number 5 on their hardcover bestseller list for the week of January 22.
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. It has received a starred Kirkus review. This is Belford’s fourth sale since participating in a Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Retreats. Her third book, Crossing the Line, was awarded a Christopher Medal. 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.” Belford was also a presenter at the UW–Madison Writers’ Institute in 2016 and 2018.
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»