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Writers’ Success Stories

Continuing Studies writing students sign deals, get published, and win awards. Here are a few of their accomplishments.


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Here’s the latest from our writers:


Online course participant publishes short story in literary journal

“Piedmont Lake, 1962,” a story by Kristin Tenor of DePere, Wisconsin, will be published in the 2018 edition of the Midwest Review. Kristin began the story while taking the online course “Notebook to New Work,” and contacted Angela after receiving the good news: “I just wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for your mentorship. It has meant a great deal to me. Your generous feedback, insight, and support have helped me become a much stronger writer.” Congratulations, Kristin!

Deborah King garners novel contract

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.

Claudia Marinelli wins festival screenplay scene reading

Claudia Marinelli of Italy earned a “Best Scene Reading” with actors for her screenplay CHASING WHITE INFINITY at the Fantasy/Science Fiction Film and Writing Festival.

This was Claudia’s first screenplay. She worked on it with instructor Christine DeSmet through the UW-Madison Continuing Studies online course, Screenwriting: Write Your First Draft Fast.

A video of the reading and an interview with Claudia are posted online at the festival’s website.

Writers’ Institute attendance spurs Rosenberg’s publication success

Stephen Rosenberg, Madison, attended the 2017 Writers’ Institute and found the experience to be very rewarding. As a result he self-published his book Cancer What You Need to Know, a resource for cancer patients and their families.

The book outlines the diagnosis and treatment of cancer in a clear and appropriate way for everyone to understand. The book was a #1 New Release in Health Risk Assessment on Amazon and has continued to do well (in the top 10 in numerous categories on and off since its recent release). Reviews have also been strong and continue to be posted through Kirkus Reviews and on Amazon.

Congratulations, Stephen!

Julian Renner’s script takes top prize in Scottish film fest

Congratulations to Julian Renner for winning the 2017 Scottish Independent Film Festival’s  category for unproduced screenplay with “Land That I Love.”

Julian wrote the screenplay with coaching help from Christine DeSmet, faculty associate at UW-Madison Continuing Studies and instructor of its online course in screenwriting, which Julian used to get his script career underway. “Land That I Love” is about a West African school girl prostitute, trapped by her circumstances, who believes she’s found true love when a mining executive offers her a chance to go home with him to the United States.

Julian lives in New Rochelle, New York.

Wall Street Journal accolades for Martha Phillips’s book based on father’s journals

Martha Phillips wrote a book based upon her father’s turn-of-the-century canoe journals. Border Country, the Northwoods Canoe Journals of Howard Greene, 1906-1916 was published by the University of Minnesota Press this fall. The book received a half-page review in the Wall Street Journal Holiday Books section in an article entitled A River Ran Through It by Gerard Helferich, November 17, 2017.

The book is also receiving accolades through an OnMilwaukee article . Martha consulted with Laurie Scheer regarding the structure and marketing of this book. Congratulations, Martha!

Kate Warpeha, Chicago—new graphic novel author Cover of Kate Warpeha's I was A Teen Ghoul

Kate Warpeha is a Chicago mad scientist and inventor. She attended Writers’ Institute a few years ago and continued working with Laurie Scheer through our Critique Services. The journey of completing her first graphic novel, along with illustrator Lisa Noble, has been an exciting labor of love. This is a beautiful story of generations coming together in a creative way. Congratulations to Kate and Lisa!

Rose Bingham’s memoir published

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.

Laurie Buchanan’s nonfiction book a finalist for national award

Boise, Idaho author Laurie Buchanan’s Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth (She Writes Press) has made Aspire Magazine’s list of the Top 10 inspiring and motivational books for September 2017 . The book was also named a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist. Laurie utilized Critique & Coaching Services of UW-Madison Continuing Studies for her book. She is a recent past guest instructor at Writers’ Institute.

The Writer magazine applauds our June retreat!

The September 2017 issue of The Writer magazine features the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat in a colorful two-page spread. 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.” The article features an extensive interview with Christine DeSmet, director, and instructor of one of the event’s novel Master Classes. Writers from across the country and working in every form of writing attend the program held in June. It offers sections for all levels. The 20th edition will be held June 11-15, 2018 on the UW-Madison campus. Registrations begin in January, but Master Class applicants can apply any time of year.

Joanne Passet’s Write-by-the-Lake Retreat essay published

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 at UW-Madison, has been featured in the online journal, Biostories .

Larry Balliene’s essay published in Badger Sportsman

Larry Balliene’s essay, “Musky Moments,” has been published in the May/June 2017 issue of Badger Sportsman  Larry, of Monticello, Wis., participated in the UW-Madison Continuing Studies “Writing Nature” workshop at the Arboretum in Madison this spring.

Madison-area author Valerie Biel earns international book award

Madison-area author Valerie Biel recently earned a place of distinction in the Eric Hoffer Book Award Contest. The final installment in her Circle of Nine Series, Sacred Treasures, made the grand prize short list as well as being honored as the First Runner-Up in the young adult category.

The Eric Hoffer Award honors the memory of the great American philosopher Eric Hoffer by highlighting salient writing, as well as the independent spirit of small publishers. The Hoffer Award was founded at the start of the 21st century (with permission from the Eric Hoffer Estate) to honor freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit. Since its inception, the “Hoffer” has become one of the largest international book awards for small, academic, and independent presses. “I’m so pleased that Sacred Treasures caught the eye of the award committee from amongst the thousands of worthy entries they receive each year,” Biel says. “It’s tough to gain attention in this business, so when you receive news like this, it is especially sweet.”

Valerie has been present at our Writers’ Institute conferences, participating as a speaker and as part of our Success Panel and Author Slam events.

Midwest Review contributor wins national award

Lolilta Ditzler’s essay “Life With Linda” that was published in the Midwest Review 4 has received a First-Place Award in the National Federation of Press Women contest.

Awards will be presented during the conference in Birmingham, Alabama, Sept. 7-9, 2017. Ditzler has been a member of the organization for more than 30 years and this is her first first-place award.

The essay with photos was reprinted in the May 2017 edition of Ditzler’s local newspaper Neighbors. Once a month that free publication is mailed to all in the Durand, Lake Summerset, Davis, Rock City, and Dakota areas in Wisconsin.

Writing, creativity, and aging—new Retiree Rebels podcast

Do you know somebody who thinks he or she is too old to write stories or that their writing wouldn’t matter to others? Please have them listen to the Link to listen to new podcastnew podcast  from the Retiree Rebels called “Writing, Creativity, and Aging.”

It’s a lively and often poignant discussion featuring authors Jerry Apps, Peggy Williams, and RJ McKnight.

The Retiree Rebels podcasts are produced by fiction writer and journalist Carol Larson and life coach Mary Helen Conroy. Carol Larson was honored for Retiree Rebels on the “Success Panel” at the 2017 UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. Peggy Williams and Jerry Apps have taught writing at UW-Madison Continuing Studies events.

Jabe Stafford—How to build writing confidence

Jabe Stafford’s new blog post about steps to take to get the writing done despite all of life’s distractions is right on! Check out Link to read Jabes blog posthis post  titled Confidence Means, “Do It Anyway” …then get back to your writing!

Jabe polished his manuscript at the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat (held every June) and he’s attended workshops and pitched at the Writers’ Institute—the national award-winning “roll-up-the-sleeves” conference sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies in Madison.

Jabe is currently marketing a science fiction novel manuscript and also writes a new Link to view Jabes new fantasy and science fiction blogfantasy & science fiction blog  that’s a lot of fun.

Writers’ Institute Speaker has a new book

Heather Shumaker has worked in land conservation for two decades and served as the coastal program director for protecting Arcadia Dunes in Northern Michigan. She has a master of science degree in land resources from UW-Madison and is a national speaker who has participated in numerous annual Writers’ Institutes. Her new book Saving Arcadia: A Story of Conservation and Community in the Great Lakes is available now. Link to learn more about Saving ArcadiaLearn more  about this very important book.

Additionally, DCS faculty associate Laurie Scheer assisted Heather as an editor for this book.

Midwest Review essayist wins First Place in Illinois!

Lolita Ditzler, Durand, Illinois, has received a First Place award in the Illinois Woman’s Press Association contest with the essay Life with Linda. The essay was published in the current edition of Midwest Review (Issue 4, Spring 2017). The essay will be sent on to the National Federation of Press Women contest.

Congratulations, Lolita!

The Midwest Review is a literary journal published by UW-Madison Continuing Studies once a year in conjunction with the Writers’ Institute. With an early fall submission deadline, the journal accepts fiction, nonfiction, art, and photography. Link to the Midwest Review websiteGet copies or learn more .

Death in Cold Water
Fresh from appearing at our 28th Annual Writers’ Institute, author Patricia Skalka has informed us that The Council for Wisconsin Writers just announced that the 2016 winner of the Edna Ferber Fiction Book Award is her latest book Link to view Death in Cold Water on Amazon.comDeath in Cold Water . She is surprised, delighted and humbled. Join us in congratulating and celebrating Patricia!

Marianne Flynn Statz signs agent after Writers’ Institute pitch
Writer Marianne Flynn Statz of Madison, Wisconsin has signed agent and attorney Paul Levine to represent her nonfiction book, The Gift of Goodbye. Marianne pitched her project to Mr. Levine at the Writers’ Institute 2016. The book relates the story of solving a particularly troublesome crime and how it affected the detective’s life. Both the author and agent will be attending the upcoming March 24-26, 2017 Writers’ Institute conference in Madison.

Debut for Angeline Haen’s self-help book, Sweet Wisdom
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 book 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.

Fartumo Kusow announces novel sale
Fartumo Kusow, of Windsor, Ontario, CA, has sold her novel, Tale of a Boon’s Wife, to Second Story Press. The novel tells the tale of a young Somali woman who falls in love with a man lured into the pirate culture in the Indian Ocean. The author launched her novel in the UW-Madison Continuing Studies online courses, “Write Your Novel Fast & Sure,” with instructor Christine DeSmet, and “My Manuscript Coach” with instructor Laurie Scheer.


More Success Stories from our Writers