Success Stories 2017

Dreams come true every year at the Writers’ Institute

Fiction, non-fiction, memoir, YA—no matter the genre, Writers’ Institute attendees get published. We look forward to seeing your success story here soon!

American Book Fest taps Goss and Chiarkas for best-book honors

The American Book Fest  chose Margaret Goss and her novel The Uncommitted (HenschelHAUS Publishing) for the top award in the “Fiction: Visionary” category of the 14th Annual Best Book Awards for books published in 2015- 2017.

Weepers (HenschelHAUS Publishing), by Nick Chiarkas, was a finalist in the “Fiction: Cross-Genre” category.

Goss, Chiarkas, and HenschelHAUS Publishing have participated in the Writers’ Institute. Chiarkas will be among the speakers during the April 12-15, 2018 conference in Madison.

Publishers entering books in this year’s contest included major publishers such as Penguin Random House, Wiley, St. Martin’s Press as well as hundreds of small and independent presses.

Congratulations to Margaret and Nick and HenschelHAUS Publishing!


Writers’ Institute 2017 – Past Success Stories


Valerie has been an attendee at various Writers’ Institutes, as well as a speaker and participant of our Success Panel and Author Slam events

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.


Congratulations to Ron Kuka for prestigious Bartell Award in the Arts

Ron Kuka is the 2017 recipient of the Joyce J. and Gerald A. Bartell Award in the Arts.

The award is for $6,500 and may be used for teaching, research, and public service activities.

Ron has been an instructor of tremendous workshops at the spring Writers’ Institute conference and the fall Weekend with Your Novel, both events sponsored through UW-Madison Continuing Studies.

Ron Kuka is a faculty associate in Creative Writing, UW-Madison Department of English. The award (established in 1992) recognizes and honors the achievements of UW-Madison faculty and staff across a broad range of activities and services in the creative arts including the areas of outreach, public service, and/or other enterprises involving the larger community.


Anne Davidson Keller’s historical novel debuts Book cover for Anne Davidson Keller's Empty Chairs

Anne Davidson Keller, Madison, Wis., a recent attendee of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writers’ Institute and its critique sessions, has announced the debut of her first novel, Empty Chairs, available through Amazon and CreateSpace. Anne notes her wonderful cover was created by local artist Jeanne Gomoll of Union Street Design.

The logline:  After eleven-year-old Joe McDowell’s brother leaves the farm to fight in World War II, a cascade of catastrophes plunges the family into crisis, and Joe realizes he must choose between personal freedom and loyalty to his beloved father’s way of life.

Formerly of North Carolina where she received a BA in Psychology (at Chapel Hill), Anne has a Master’s degree in Social Work from UW-Madison.


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 new 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 his 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 fantasy & science fiction blog that’s a lot of fun. 


WriteSaving Arcadia book coverrs’ 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. Learn 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. For copies and more information:


Death in Cold WaterDeath in Cold Water book cover

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 Death in Cold Water. She is surprised, delighted and humbled. Join us in congratulating and celebrating Patricia!


Cover design award for Goss book and HenschelHAUS publishing
The Midwest Independent Publishing Association (MIPA) gave first-place winning gold to the cover design of author Margaret Goss’s 2015 suspense/thriller novel, The Uncommitted, at the awards ceremony, May 13, 2016 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

The award-winning artist was Clarissa Yeo. The book is published by Three Towers Press, a division of HenschelHAUS Publishing, Milwaukee.

Goss and HenschelHAUS Publishing have participated in the UW-Madison Continuing Studies Writers’ Institute and other writing programs.

Another Writers’ Institute participant and HenschelHAUS author, Nick Chiarkas, made the MIPA finals in the Fiction-Mystery/Thriller category for his suspense, Weepers. MIPA serves a 12-state region.


Bibi Belford, Chicago, sells another middle-grade novel

Bibi Belford, Chicago, is the author of Canned and Crushed, published in March 2015, and Crossing the Line (historical fiction), to be published July 4, 2017. Another D for DeeDee, a companion novel to Canned and Crushed, will be out Fall 2017 or earlier. All of her books are published by Sky Pony Press. “I consider the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies to be the cornerstone of my writing career.”


MIPA contest finalists include Ernst and Chiarkas
The 26th annual Midwest Book Awards from the Midwest Independent Publishing Association include 2 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 Workshop & Retreat in Madison, Wis.

Nick Chiarkas, for Weepers (Three Towers Press, Milwaukee, Wis.). His novel is set in NYC in 1957. Category: Fiction-Mystery/Thriller. Nick was recently on panels at the Writers’ Institute in which he talked about the great help he received from UW-Madison Continuing Studies Critique Services and Christine DeSmet.


Doreen Pfost published by University of Nebraska Press
Doreen Pfost has attended a number of Writers’ Institute conferences and her book This River Beneath the Sky: A Year on the Platte, was published in February 2016 by University of Nebraska Press. It’s a collection of essays that weave together memoir, natural history, and human history in an exploration of Nebraska’s Platte River, where a half-million Sandhill cranes stop over each year during their spring migration.


New novel from Teri Woods, Madison
Author Teri Woods, writing as T.E. Woods, is back with the 5th installment of her best-selling thriller Justice Series, Fixed in Fear (Alibi/Random House).

Teri was featured on our Writers’ Institute success panel. She also attended the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat to start her journey to novel success.


Jim Papandrea publishes 2 new books
Jim has been a speaker and Success Story Panelist at our Writers’ Institutes. He continues to write and he has published 2 new books including Handed Down and Novation of Rome 

Congratulations Jim! Please view his home page and Amazon Author Page.


Margaret Goss, Madison, has first novel published
The Uncommitted, a first novel for Margaret Goss, Madison, was published in paperback by Three Towers Press (an imprint of HenschelHAUS, Milwaukee). The novel is about a young mother (Josephine Reilly) who discovers she’s a messenger between the dead and living — a discovery that makes her and those close to her the target of an invisible evil. The setting is suburban St. Paul, Minnesota.

A launch party is planned Thursday, Oct. 29, 5-8 p.m. at the Great Dane Pub, 876 Jupiter Dr., Madison.

Margaret attended Writers’ Institute and also received critique services from staff member Christine DeSmet.