Success Stories

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!

Jen Rubin’s nonfiction book garners raves from The Nation

Jen Rubin is a frequent speaker/instructor with the Writing Department in 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 Collage 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, 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.”
(John Nichols, The Nation)

More details on the book here.

Congratulations, Jen!

A big book sale for Theresa Kaminski and her agent

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!

Congratulations to HenschelHAUS Publishing and Rose Bingham

A supporter of Writers’ Institute—HenschelHAUS Publishing—had nine of its books noted as winners in the 2018 Book Excellence Awards sponsored by Literary Excellence Incorporated.

Kudos to Kira Henschel, editor and publisher!

Finalists included Rose Bingham’s new memoir, Buy the Little Ones a Dolly. Rose was featured on the Writers’ Institute 2018 Success Panel.

Nice going, Rose!

Sue Roupp has new book on memoir writing

Sue Roupp, Rib Lake, Wis., is the author of the new nonfiction book out this June 2018 called Memoir Writing in 6 Easy Steps: Your Life Counts (HenschelHAUS Publishing).

Sue has been an instructor at Writers’ Institute in Madison and has attended several years’ editions of that conference. Sue teaches memoir and other writing classes through her Writers Studio in Rib Lake as well as through Art Start in Rhinelander, Wis. She is the editor of Furrows, a literary journal celebrating the work of Wisconsin’s rural writers.

Congratulations, Sue!

Writers’ Institute Success Panel honoree Rosenberg wins book award

The 28th Annual Midwest Book Awards presented by the Midwest Independent Publishing Association has announced the 2018 Finalists.

Within the Education/Learning category, 2018 Writers’ Institute Success Panel author Dr. Stephen Rosenberg of Madison has been recognized with an award for his book Cancer: What You Need to Know.

Congratulations, Stephen!

Laurie Buchanan takes first place

Laurie Buchanan, Boise, Idaho, has been awarded FIRST PLACE for her nonfiction entry, “The Trouble with Angels” in the 2018 Idaho Writers Guild writing contest. Laurie was an instructor at Writers’ Institute 2018 and has also used the UW-Madison Continuing Studies Critique Services. She is the author of the self-help book, Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth, and the forthcoming The Business of Being/Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace.

Lance Erlick lands contract with Kensington

Writer Lance Erlick has attended past Writers’ Institutes and worked with Laurie Scheer through UW-Madison Continuing Studies Critique Services. His new novel, Android Chronicles: Reborn, the first of a 3-book contract with Kensington Publishing, is available through most online retailers in print and ebook. Audiobook (CD & eAudio) is also available. Lance thanks Laurie and the Continuing Studies writing department for their help during his developmental years of writing.

Bibi Belford garners prestigious Christopher Award

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 sells YA novel

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).

Congratulations, Sarah!

Nick Chiarkas wins John E Weaver Award

Nick Chiarkas, Middleton, Wis., has won the John E Weaver Excellent Read Award bestowed by the Earthshine Media Group for his novel, Weepers.

The award honors John Weaver, writer and founder of the Fox Croft Group, now part of Earthshine Media Group. For twenty years, Weaver worked with authors doing literary publicity and founded the Book Cover Award. He died of cancer in April 2016.

In writing his novel, Nick called on experts in UW-Madison Continuing Studies Critique Services and also attended the Writers’ Institute and Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat.

Nick is among the speakers at the 2018 Writers’ Institute.

Jon Etter strikes publishing gold following Writers’ Institute attendance

Jon Etter attended the 2014 Writers’ Institute and paid serious attention to his writing. As a result, and after attending the 2015 and 2016 Writers’ Institutes, he has had nine short stories and one poem published. More importantly, his agent Adria Goetz of Martin Literary Management, sold his completed three novels entitled Those Dreadful Fairy Books as a three-book deal with Amberjack Publishing. This middle-grade comedy/fantasy series’ first book, A Dreadful Fairy Book is due out in June of 2019 with the two sequels due in June of 2020 and 2021. Here is the Publisher’s Weekly announcement:

Author Jon Etter Dayna Anderson at Amberjack has bought Jon Etter’s first three books in a new middle-grade fantasy series, Those Dreadful Fairy Books, centered on a bookish, not-very-cheerful fairy named Shade who begrudgingly goes on an adventure to find an elusive library, as told by the reluctant narrator Quentin Q. Quacksworth. Publication for the first title in the series, A Dreadful Fairy Book, is set for June 2019; Adria Goetz at Martin Literary & Media Management negotiated the deal for North American English rights.

Jon recently contacted Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer and stated “I definitely owe some of this to things that I learned about the craft and the business of writing from the Madison Writers’ Institute, so again thank you so much!”

Congratulations to Jon!


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!


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.

I was a Teen Ghoul cover

Kate Warpeha, Chicago—new YA author

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 YA novel with illustrations, 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. Kate is prepping other volumes within the Teen Ghoul series. Congratulations to Kate and Lisa!

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.

Julie Holmes finds agent at Writers’ Institute

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.

Ann Zindler, Waukesha, Wis., places in contest; Nov. 3 reading at Wisconsin Book Festival

Congratulations to Ann Zindler who placed third in the short story contest sponsored by the Wisconsin Academy of Sciences, Arts and Letters with her story, “The Rescue.”

On the advice of her instructor (Christine DeSmet) in the UW-Madison Continuing Studies online course, “Write Your Novel Fast & Sure,” Ann took a chapter from her novel and reworked it as a short story that became “The Rescue.”

Ann will be reading her story on Nov. 3 as part of the Wisconsin Book Festival at A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison. Her story will also appear in the February 2018 issue of Wisconsin People and Ideas.

With this publishing credit, Ann is busy pitching her novel to agents, including those she met at the Writers’ Institute in Madison.


Cucamonga Valley Wine book cover

John Peragine’s new book is available now!

John Peragine is an author of numerous books and a ghostwriter for many others. He’s published articles in the New York Times, Writer’s Digest, Bloomberg News, and Reuters. He has attended our Writer’s Institute and has been asked to speak at our 2018 Writers’ Institute to be held April 12-15th, 2018. His new book, Cucamonga Valley Wine: The Lost Empire of Winemaking (co-authored with George M. Walker) is available now.


Laurie Buchanan’s book garners magazine’s pick-of-the-month

Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth by Laurie Buchanan is on Aspire Magazine’s list of the Top 10 inspiring and motivational books for September 2017.

Note to Self has also been named a 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Awards Finalist. Laurie utilized Critique Services of UW-Madison Continuing Studies for her book. She is a recent past guest instructor at Writers’ Institute.

Laurie utilized Critique Services of UW-Madison Continuing Studies for her book. She is a recent past guest instructor at Writers’ Institute.


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.


Empty chairs book cover

Anne Davidson Keller’s historical novel debuts

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. 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. Anne notes her wonderful cover was created by local artist Jeanne Gomoll of Union Street Design.


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

Ron is a faculty associate in Creative Writing, UW-Madison Department of English, and 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.


Saving Arcadia book cover

Writers’ Institute speaker has 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.


Death in cold water book cover

Award for Wisconsin writer

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.


Heather Lyn Mann’s six-year ocean voyage captured in new book

Ocean of Insight/A Sailor’s Voyage from Despair to Hope, new this fall 2016 from Parallax Press, recounts the true story and incredible Atlantic Ocean journey Heather Lyn Mann, her husband, and their cat made on a small sloop over the course of six years starting in 2007.

Before publishing, Heather participated in the advanced critique sessions at Writers’ Institute. A Madison, Wis., resident most of her life, Heather now lives in the Charleston area.


Teria Robens wins Chicago Black excellence fiction award

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.


Bibi Belford, Chicago, sells another middle-grade novel

Bibi Belford has sold world rights to her middle-grade novel, Another D for DeeDee, to Sky Pony Press. This is Belford’s second sale since participating in a Master Class at the Write-by-the-Lake Retreat sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies. Belford was also a presenter at the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute 2016.

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.” Publication is scheduled for fall 2017.


Instructor Christine DeSmet wins script production contest

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 Living 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.