Success stories updates!

Barbara Belford and Blair Hull receive novel contracts!

Two members of the same Master Class at Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat recently signed contracts for the publication of their novels.

Barbara Belford, Chicago, writing as Bibi Belford, sold her middle-grade historical novel, Crossing the Line, to Skypony, a division of Skyhorse Publishing. This is Barbara’s second novel sale. Her first hardcover novel for middle-grade readers, Canned and Crushed, was published recently and features a Hispanic boy and his family.

Blair Hull, of San Jose, CA, sold St. Mary’s Private Dancer, a mystery featuring a woman minister sleuth, to Apocryphile Press in Berkeley, CA. It will be a Spring 2016 release.

Both Belford and Hull were in the 2012 Master Class led by Christine DeSmet at Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat, sponsored by UW-Madison Continuing Studies.  

Katherine Kane publishes flash fiction!

“Don’t,” a flash fiction by Katherine Kane of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, appears in the fall 2015 issue of Serving House Journal

After her acceptance, she wrote to share her good news. “So many thank you’s go to Angela Rydell, Christine DeSmet, and Tim Storm for sharing their wisdom with me.”

Jim Swierzynski publishes 2 stories and a poem 

Jim Swierzynski of Reeseville, Wisconsin  published the stories “Spring Break for Poor Guys” and “Where the Kigh Oats Howl” in the Summer-Fall 2015 issue of The Rockford Review. His poem “Loverly Uglies” was also published in the same issue. Jim’s instructor was Noelle Rydell in the online course, “Grammar and Punctuation: Paths Toward Clarity.”

Margaret Trapnell publishes 3 poems!

Mused Literary Review,, chose three poems by Margaret Trapnell of Charing Cross, Ontario, Canada for their Spring Equinox issue: “Holy Words,” “Summer Chiller” and “Wallflower.”

Margaret workshopped “Holy Words” and “Summer Chiller” with Angela Rydell in the online poetry workshop “Getting to Good.” And her poem “Wallflower,” says Margaret, “started out from one of the exercises but took on a life of its own.”

 Leland Whipple has poem published!

A villanelle entitled “Another Art,” by Leland Whipple  (writing as Leland James), of Bellaire, Michigan, has been accepted by The Lyric, a magazine featuring traditional poetry that has been in continuous publication since 1921.

Leland wrote the poem in the online course, “Poetry Writing: A Guide to Poetic Forms,” taught by Wendy Vardaman 

Poet Patricia McConnell published again!

Avalon Literary Review will publish Patricia McConnell’s poem “Enduring Goodbyes” in their September issue. Patricia, from Portland, Oregon, honed her writing skills working with Angela Rydell through UW-Madison’s Critique Services, as well as the online courses  “Poetry Writing: Getting to Good” and “Poetry Writing: Taking the Poetic Leap,” and is currently dabbling in flash fiction through the course “Fiction in a Flash.”

D. B. Kennison publishes a novel! 

Still Life, the first novel in D.B. Kennison’s Randi Lassiter series, debuts August 11th, 2015, from Samhain Publishing. Darlene Kennison lives in Monroe, Wisconsin. This quirky murder mystery with Evonovich-esque humor got Kennison a contract on her birthday.

Darlene’s manuscript opening was workshopped in Angela Rydell’s fiction critique group during “Weekend with Your Novel.”

Darlene wrote to Angela Rydell, “I feel like my writer’s journey is just beginning and I wanted to say thank you. Your feedback, as well as the group’s, was invaluable to my completing the manuscript. I literally cried tears of joy as I drove out of Madison that night because of the guidance and encouragement that the experience gave me… There were two big take-away items from the group: Everyone laughed (so they got my humor—bonus!), and everyone said I needed to get to the dead body sooner. We handed in ten pages and my dead body showed up on eleven. LOL. When I got home, I first moved the body and then finished the novel.”

Darlene’s advice to other writers: “Be fearless! No matter what point you’re at in the writing process, stay focused, work on your craft and don’t give up.” She blogs at Whispers in the air (

Julian Renner’s script advances at Sundance!

Little Girl Found, a screenplay written by Julian Renner of New Rochelle, NY, in the UW-Madison Continuing Studies’ online screenwriting course, has advanced to the second round of consideration for the Sundance 2016 January Screenwriters Lab.

The script has also been selected for the festival sponsored by Filmmakers International Screenwriting Awards. This follows Julian receiving second place recently in Cinestory’s Foundation 2015 fellowship contest.

Julian’s instructor was Christine DeSmet, who teaches “Screenwriting: Write Your First Draft Fast.”

The script is about a destitute teen girl in Sierra Leone who navigates a treacherous world. 

Julian Awooner Renner earns Cinestory’s 2nd place!

“Little Girl Found,” a screenplay by Julian Awooner Renner, New Rochelle, New York, earned second place in the Cinestory Foundation 2015 fellowship contest. The Foundation is located in Los Angeles and provides mentorships and retreats for aspiring screenwriters.

Julian’s screenplay is about how a destitute teen girl in Sierra Leone navigates her treacherous world. Julian worked on his screenplay start to finish with instructor Christine DeSmet in the online course, “Screenwriting: Write Your First Draft Fast.”

Ed Timmer essay published in literary journal! 

Ed Timmer, Janesville, Wisconsin, a graduate of our online course in creative nonfiction with instructor Wendy Vardaman, has been published in the online literary journal About Place Journal with his essay, “The Ephraim Fog.”

About Place Journal is published by the Black Earth Institute.

Sean Higgins publishes stories in two literary magazines!

Sean’s story, “Hypnotizing Chickens,” is forthcoming from Bluestem Magazine ( in June 2015, and “The Night Shift Sardine and Sauerkraut Club” will be published shortly in Crack the Spine literary journal (

Sean, from Ann Arbor, Michigan, is currently taking the UW-Madison Continuing Studies online course “How to Write Compelling Fiction” with Angela Rydell. He said the course “is exactly the jolt that my writing life needed. The lessons themselves delve into technique in a very practical way, and Angela’s critiques are specific and detailed–enough so that I was able to start using them in my writing immediately. I’m happy I took this course, and I plan on signing up for further classes that Angela has in the future.

Kathleen Serley publishes poem in literary journal!

Kathleen Serley’s first sestina, “Faded Faces,” will be published in Volga River Review, Upper Iowa University’s literary journal. She wrote the sestina in “A Guide to Poetic Forms,” working with Angela Rydell.

Kathleen, from Wausau, Wisconsin, says of the course:  “‘A Guide to Poetic Forms’ is an interesting class with well-organized, informative units. I have enjoyed the challenge of shaping my poetic intent to fit a form, and a little surprised that I could actually do it.”

Ramon (Ray) Collins publishes in literary journal based in Ireland!

The quarterly journal The Linnet’s Wings ( snapped up Ray’s flash story “Smell of Rain” for their Spring 2015 issue.

Ray, from Boulder City, Nevada, honed the story in the course “Fiction in a Flash” with instructor Angela Rydell. He says, “The University of Wisconsin has its ear to the wall of fiction’s future with ‘Fiction in a Flash.’ It’s probably the way future generations will read; consequently, fiction editors will be interested. Angela Rydell provides knowledgeable suggestions to make our words into professional stories.”

Tim Caldwell publishes another short story!

Tim Caldwell’s beautiful story featuring a little boy and his grandfather, “Natural Wonders,” will be published later this week (around March 28, 2015) in the on-line journal, The Penmen Review (

Tim, from Mount Pleasant, Michigan, used our Critique Services with Christine DeSmet to help polish the short story.

Sylvia Cavanaugh publishes poetry in two literary journals!

Sylvia Cavanaugh’s poem, “Cherry in Seattle,” can be read in the latest issue of Seems Literary Magazine (, and “Biker Bar” will be published in spring issue of Midwest Prairie Review (

Sylvia, from Cedar Grove, Wisconsin, wrote both poems in the UW-Madison Continuing Studies online poetry workshop “Getting to Good” while working with Angela Rydell. When she emailed Angela the good news, she shared this: “I learned a great deal from the class, and continue to revise my poems based on what I learned in the class. I plan on taking the other poetry class in the future. Thank you very much for being such a good instructor, and helping me to get closer to good.”

Tim Caldwell publishes short story and essay, in print and online!

The printed version of the Crab Creek Review (2014, Volume 2) came out in December with Tim Caldwell’s short story, “The App.” Tim, of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, got critique help from Christine DeSmet, UW-Madison Continuing Studies.

Diverse Voices Quarterly, Volume 7, Issue 24, is available as well on the Crab Creek Review site ( or on the Kindle. It has Tim’s personal essay, The Fire Chief. 

Instructors Christine DeSmet and Rebecca Williams earn script awards!

Christine DeSmet and her screenwriting partner Peggy Williams earned third place in the short script contest sponsored by the Project Famous group in Madison with their script, “The Stone Carver of King Street.” Winners were announced on stage at an event Sunday, Feb. 8. Christine’s script is about a stone carver who is grieving a loss and finds hope in unexpected ways. Christine teaches the UW’s online course in screenwriting.

And first place went to one of Christine’s screenwriting students—Rebecca Williams, who wrote “Wrong Number? Right Day.” It’s about what happens when a wrong number is dialed and two strangers do the unexpected. Rebecca teaches an online course in young adult fiction for UW-Madison Continuing Studies. Rebecca’s 12-page script will be produced this summer by the Project Famous filmmakers.

Both Christine and Rebecca were among the instructors at the Writers’ Institute in Madison this year.

Kristin Oakley’s novel takes top prize!

Carpe Diem, Illinois, the debut novel by Kristin Oakley, of Madison, Wisconsin, has won the Chicago Writers Association 2014 Book of the Year Award for Non-traditionally Published Fiction.

In Carpe Diem, Illinois, the first in a planned series with journalist Leo Townsend, a small town’s embrace of “unschooling” reveals massive government corruption and personal battles.

Kristin worked on her novel at the our Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop and Retreat in a section for first-time novelists led by Christine DeSmet. Kristin now teaches writing online and in person at conferences for UW-Madison Continuing Studies.


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