Lakefly 2023 – Focus on Technique

Good writing doesn’t just happen. Hone your skills with these Lakefly workshops:

Time Ticks Away – Using the Clock or Calendar to Structure Your Novel
Patricia Skalka

Every novel unfolds over time. But how much time should pass between the beginning and the end?  Days, weeks, months, or decades? And why does it matter? We’ll look at the ways time affects the structure and pace of your work and how you can use this device to move your plot along. We’ll review books that use time as an obvious skeleton upon which the story is built and those that take a subtler approach. Finally, we’ll examine five different ways time is manifested and how these can be used to develop your storyline.

Patricia Skalka is the author of the award-winning Dave Cubiak Door County Mysteries. She turned to fiction following a successful career in nonfiction. Her many credits include: Staff Writer for Reader’s Digest, freelancer, ghost writer, writing instructor, and book reviewer.

Skalka is past-president of the Sisters in Crime Chicagoland Chapter and a member of several professional organizations, including The Authors Guild of America, Mystery Writers of America, and Society of Midland Authors. She lives in Milwaukee and Door County, WI.

Write Wisconsinably: The Power of Place
Patricia Kilday

“Come for the cheese; stay because your car won’t start.” Wisconsinites love making fun of our bubblers-sheepshead-upNort-stop’n’go lights culture, but this weirdness also can provide a unique atmosphere for a story. A strong sense of place intensifies the plot, sets the mood, and allows readers to leap into another world. In this workshop, we’ll explore ways to enrich writing through a sense of place, whether it’s rural Wisconsin, a bustling city, or a gator-infested swamp. Our goal is to transport readers into a world that feels so real, they’ll look up from the last page blinking, surprised to find themselves in their favorite armchair. Bring your current work in progress and best Badger-isms. Cheeseheads optional.

Pat Kilday, writing as Juliet Rosetti, is the author of The Escape Diaries, a romantic suspense series set in Wisconsin, as well as several Young Adult novels. Her non-fiction has appeared in Wisconsin Magazine, the Chicago Tribune, the Washington Post, and other publications. A farm girl, she grew up in the cheese/beer/Keep ‘er movin’ culture of America’s Dairyland. Her latest novel, The Care and Feeding of Orphans and Strays, also locally-set, was recently published.

Seven Touchstones to Writing an Award-Winning Crime-Thriller
Nicholas Chiarkas

A ‘touchstone’ is a fundamental or quintessential part or feature of a thing. In this workshop, Nickolas will explain the touchstones of writing a crime thriller, but with a bit of adjusting, he will explain how the touchstones can be applied to other genres as well.

Touchstones include point of view, characters, and keeping your promise to the reader. You will also learn the essential features of a perfect ending.

Nick Chiarkas is the author of the award-winning novels Weepers and Nunzio’s Way. Nick grew up in the Al Smith housing projects on Manhattan’s Lower East Side. When he was in the fourth grade, his mother was told by the principal of PS-1 that “Nick was unlikely ever to complete high school, so you must steer him toward a simple and secure vocation.” Instead, he became a writer, with a few stops along the way: a US Army Paratrooper, a New York City Police Officer; the Deputy Chief Counsel for the President’s Commission on Organized Crime; and the Director of the Wisconsin State Public Defender Agency. On the way, he picked up a Doctorate from Columbia University, a Law Degree from Temple University; and was a Pickett Fellow at Harvard.

Worldbuilding & Organizing Data
Valerie J. Clarizio

Worldbuilding is essential for any story, regardless of genre. Whether your story setting is simply ordinary, extremely uncommon, or remarkably bizarre, you must build your book world in a clear and consistent manner.

In this workshop, Valerie will give you tips and tricks to help you build a world to make your characters come alive in any environment. She’ll also share ideas on how to organize and keep track of your characters and the rules of your world, as well as a few ideas on how to write through roadblocks. 

Valerie Clarizio is a USA Today, Amazon and Barnes & Noble bestselling author and co-host of Inside the Romance Buzz who has published 17 romance books comprising both novels and novellas. She lives in romantic Door County, WI, with her husband of more than 30 years. She loves to read, write, and spend time at her cabin in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She is an outdoors enthusiast, of which her favorite activity is hiking in national parks. While out on the trails, she has plenty of time to conjure up irresistible characters and unique storylines for her next romantic suspense, time travel, or contemporary romance novel.

Nailing the Middle Grade Voice
Kate Penndorf

This interactive workshop will have attendees diving into how to write for younger readers. That means learning how to edit out your adult voice in order to express the worldview of children. We’ll bring fun and playfulness to the page as we step back into our own pasts recalling how we once navigated from dependence to independence. Come ready to laugh, talk, and write. Takeaways for attendees will include how to develop a character aged 8-12 as well as questions to ask during revisions.

This workshop is geared for writers of all levels of kid lit, though an emphasis is placed on middle grade.

Story time had always been Kate Penndorf’s favorite ‘subject’ in school. But when her second-grade teacher opted to read from a tattered old diary, Kate’s view on books changed forever. Books were now alive, with adventures, dilemmas, far away locations, heroes, villains, drama, and quite frankly, story. Kate is an author, whose premise for her first MG book came to her while commuting to work in NYC. As a developmental editor, Kate loves helping other writers hone their craft and polishing their manuscript. Inspired by the edits and workshops she has given, along with coaching writers as they plot their stories, the idea for her new adventure, Much Ado About, was born. You can also find Kate serving at the state level as an event coordinator for Wisconsin’s SCBWI chapter.

Well Begun is Half Done: Successful Story Openings
William Gillard

In this workshop, we’ll look at successful short story openings from a variety of genres to discover how to craft an opening so that a reader or editor will want to continue reading after the first page, which is our goal, after all!

Bill Gillard is a Professor of English at the UW-Oshkosh. His writing has appeared in dozens of journals, and he is the author of the poetry collection, The Vade Mecum of the True Sublime, the novel Down a Man, the short story collection, Crawl Cram Grind Fail, and a few others. He is co-author of Speculative Modernism, a scholarly study of the origins of science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

He earned an M.F.A. from Fairleigh Dickinson University, is a recovering youth hockey coach, and lives in Appleton with his wife and two daughters.

Colliding Conflict: Using Conflict to Add Depth and Tension
Emily Conrad

 Without sufficient conflict, stories fail to sustain reader interest. In this session, we’ll explore the differences between internal and external conflicts and how to use them together to enrich your novel. We’ll also discuss common conflict pitfalls that undermine tension and result in a less satisfying read.

Attendees will come away with concrete examples of internal and external conflict. You will also have a list of elements required to establish and sustain conflict to use as you troubleshoot your manuscripts.

Emily Conrad writes contemporary Christian romance that explores life’s relevant questions. She is the author of the stand-alone novel Justice and the Rhythms of Redemption Romance series, as well as numerous short stories. A member of The Alliance of Independent Authors and American Christian Fiction Writers, Conrad has traditionally and independently published and is an experienced contest judge. A life-long resident of Oshkosh, WI, Conrad enjoys bringing her home state and her faith to life in fiction.

The Big Bad: Does your Protagonist have a worthy Antagonist?
Kat Falls

If you’re having trouble with the middle of your story and it’s starting to feel like a slog, the problem is probably with your antagonist. A great antagonist challenges the protagonist on every level — emotional, physical, psychological — and thus sparks the tension and conflict that delivers a riveting read.

But how do you create an opponent (human or inhuman) that will propel your story forward and force your protagonist to change — all while fascinating the reader? In this workshop, we will discuss how the antagonist drives the plot; the different types of “Big Bads” and the qualities they tend to share; and overused tropes, motivations, and maneuvers. We will also do a series of writing exercises that will help you discover and design the antagonist who will best challenge your protagonist to their personal breaking point.

Kat Falls writes science fiction thrillers for tweens and teens. In her Dark Life series (Scholastic Press), Kat takes Middle Grade readers on action-packed adventures under the sea. The series has been translated into 18 languages and is in development for film at Disney. Kat appeared on The Today Show when Al Roker featured Dark Life on “Al’s Book Club for Kids.” Her Young Adult series, Inhuman (Scholastic Press), is a dystopian romance set after the outbreak of a mutagenic virus. Inhuman received glowing reviews from Publishers Weekly, School Library Journal, VOYA, a starred review from Kirkus, and made the Tome It List for “clean” teen reads. Kat teaches at Northwestern University and presents at schools and writing conferences across the U.S. She lives in Evanston, IL with her husband. Their three children are young adults now, but still very influential in Kat’s creative process.

The Lakefly Writers Conference will be held May 5-6 at the Oshkosh Convention Center. $75 advance registration; includes lunch on Saturday. $85.00 walk-in; does not include lunch. Students save $10 through April 30; use code WRITENOW

For more information or to register, please visit

The conference is sponsored by the Oshkosh Public Library in partnership with the Oshkosh Area Writers Club and Wisconsin Writers Association.

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