Lakefly News & Updates

One-on-One Sessions Now Open!

Registration is now open for the Lakefly 2024 one-on-one sessions! Pre-registration for the conference is required sign up for any/all of the five sessions offered:


Website Coaching with Celeste Anton

Meet with Dandelion Web Marketing and Consulting owner Celeste Anton to discuss options for enhancing your existing author website or how to begin creating a website. Ask questions about the other pieces of an online writer’s platform such as social media marketing, email lists and google analytics. Each session will be 15 minutes.

Headshots by Shaena Friedman & Andrea Holmgreen

A professional photographer and makeup artist will be on-site to create a quality headshot for use on your book jackets, website and marketing materials. Learn about them at Note: There is not included in your conference fee; cost is $85 for five digital images.


Free Pitch Sessions

Dan Cramer, founder/agent of Page Turner Literary Agency, will accept pitches for children’s literature – picture through YA, and graphic novels. Each pitch session will be 10 minutes.

Prior to opening his own agency, Dan was an associate agent at Flannery Literary, working directly with Jennifer Flannery, agent to the late Gary Paulsen.

Writing Coaching Sessions

Kate Penndorf of Much Ado About Writing will offer 15-minute, individual writing coaching sessions.

Option 1: Submit 300 words and get a critique

Submit 300 words in advance and come ready to tackle questions about the premise, writing, characters, POV, and direction of your story. Deadline for submitting a sample is Sunday, April 28, 2024.

Option 2: Sit, chat, and ask questions

Don’t have words to page yet, but have questions about an idea or plotting? Get answers for all genres of both fiction and non-fiction.

Social Media For Beginners

A presence on social media is vital to launching your writing career. Meet one-on-one with Kaila Mielke to get a social media account started or learn how to better use the one you have. Sessions are 20 minutes long; social media options include Facebook, TikTok, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram. Please come with your own device and some potential passwords at least 8 characters long that include an upper case letter, a number and special character.

One-on-One Sessions Now Open! Read More »

2024 Lakefly Conference Preview: Poetry

Writing Poems Helps You Write Everything Else

In this fun and interactive workshop led by UW-Oshkosh Professor William Gillard, we’ll dive into the elements of poetry that are shared by other literary forms, including metaphor, imagery, rhythm, voice, and sound. If you write fiction, nonfiction, song lyrics, or anything else, this session is for you. Bring pen and paper, because we’ll all be writing!

Between The Lines: Poetry and Imagination

During this engaging workshop, Tom Cannon (Poet Laureate of Oshkosh) and Jeffrey McAndrew (Poet Laureate of North Fond du Lac) will delve into how poetry can assist in navigating challenging times. Writing poetry aids in understanding our emotions and pinpointing issues that may seem overwhelming. Expressing our feelings through writing can bring relief. Furthermore, revising our poems helps us refine and structure a strategy to cope with life’s challenges. The speakers will share a few of their poems they wrote during difficult times and lead the attendees through creating a poem.

Lakefly After Hours Open Mic

It’s your turn to take the stage! At Lakefly After Hours Open Mic, you’ll have five minutes to read your work in front of an audience. Join other writers for a fun night of listening and sharing. Held under the Dome at the Oshkosh Public Library, just a few blocks from the Oshkosh Convention Center.

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Lakefly 24: Subject Specialists

It’s often said that you should “write what you know.” When writing about something you don’t know, research is crucial in creating accurate and authentic scenes/settings. This year, we’re offering three subject specialists who will talk about their professions and answer questions to help you nail down the details that will make your writing realistic and believable.

  • Forensic anthropologists utilize their knowledge of the human skeleton to assist law enforcement agencies in death investigations. This work includes estimating the sex, age, ancestry, and stature from skeletal remains, searching for clandestine burials, and examining trauma. In this presentation, Dr. Jordan Karsten will introduce attendees to the scientific methods employed by forensic anthropologists through a series of case studies from around the state of Wisconsin.

Dr. Karsten is an Associate Professor of Anthropology and Chair of the Department of Anthropology at the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. He specializes in forensic anthropology and consults on death investigations for law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin, including the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Wisconsin Department of Justice-Division of Criminal Investigation, and Wisconsin State Crime Lab. His work includes developing biological profiles for unknown human skeletons, excavating burials, and conducting trauma analyses. He also co-hosts Cold Case: Frozen Tundra, a True Crime podcast focused on cases in Northeast Wisconsin.

  • There is a lot of talk about nurses these days, but most don’t really know what nurses really do. Media portrayal is mostly inaccurate. What is it like to be responsible for the lives and safety of others? Work in a difficult environment? Work long hours in situations that take a toll on your physical and emotional health? And why would I never do anything else?

Karen L. Leavitt has been a Registered Nurse for the past 37 years. She worked in pediatrics at two nationally renowned children’s hospitals: Primary Children’s Medical Center in Salt Lake City (6 years) and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (25 years). In her capacity as a pediatric nurse, she worked in medical/surgical units including neurosurgery, hematology/oncology, diabetes education, neonatal ICU, infectious disease, cardiology and vascular access. She also
served as a House Supervisor at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.

Karen grew up in Yuma, AZ and received a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from the University of Arizona. She is married to Andrew Leavitt and they have three grown children and two grandchildren, all living in Atlanta, GA. In 2015, Karen moved to Oshkosh, WI and joined Aurora Medical Center as a nurse in the Infusion Clinic. She is an avid reader, gardener, and any other activity where she is outdoors.

  • Almost all genres of books attempt to describe the use of some sort of weapon. Often, writers don’t get it right. The difference between a novice “shooter” and an expert in violence is profound. Jeff Miller will demonstrate the way a 25-year military and law enforcement trained and presented their firearm in lethal and non-lethal situations. He will explore the use of weapons as they relate to movement, proxemics, balance, distance, and timing.

Jeff Miller grew up in Marseilles, IL. He attended Illinois State University and graduated in 1993 with a history and legal studies degree. In 2009 he earned a Masters degree in Law Enforcement Administration from the University of Wisconsin Platteville. He joined the US Army in 1994 where he trained as a Military Police officer. He spent time on deployment to Korea and Bosnia.

He transitioned to the Appleton police department in 1999. Jeff served in a variety of assignments at APD over a 21-year career. He was the SWAT team leader for five years, a member of the police Honor Guard, bike patrol, and community resource unit where he served in the drug and gang unit as a detective and supervisor. He retired in 2000 and worked as a corporate trainer in healthcare.

In 2024 he transitioned again as the Director of Campus Safety at Lawrence University.

Jeff has been married for 28 years to Julie, who he met in college. They have two daughters. In his off-time, Jeff is addicted to road cycling, logging over 100 miles a week. He’s an avid board and fantasy miniature gaming player. He loves many book genres but leans towards science fiction and historical fiction novels.

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2024 Lakefly Conference Preview, Part 2

Memoir is having a moment in the publishing industry. Fifty percent of nonfiction books on the bestseller list are in the Biography & Memoir genres. You too have a story, that deserves to be told! In the session Writing a Memoir that People Want to Read, Tara Meissner Huck will teach techniques of memoir writing through exercises and prompts. She will also show how to use fiction-writing techniques to develop scenes that bring your personal story to life!

Setting are a vital part of any story. Kate Pendorf will examine how the setting can ground a reader in genre, time, and place, as well as the importance of interacting with setting. Two takeways of her workshop, Setting the Scene, are determining a character’s dominant impression and how that affects their interiority, actions, and dialogue, as well as discovering how setting can affect mood, reveal cast of characters, motivation, back story, hint at foreshadowing, act as an obstacle and/or display symbolisms. 

A 10-Step Plan for Self-editing. Nicholas Chiarkas advises that you never self-edit all at once. As you begin the rewriting process, you also start the editing process. This is the art and the heart of it; this is when you begin to build castles and rewrites you can share with your writing group or your initial reader. A poorly edited manuscript is certain death for any legitimate agent or publisher. And it is one of the things within your control along the journey to publication. Learning how to edit your manuscript will reduce costs and improve your writing skills at his presentation,

Have a manuscript ready for publication? Dan Cramer of Page Turner Literary Agency will present a special two-hour presentation on Perfecting Your Pitch Friday afternoon. In this workshop, Dan will go over the components of a great pitch, conduct multiple exercises on pitches, and have a Q&A session at the end. At the end of the workshop, you will know what a pitch is and how it is part of a query letter, understand the impact of word choice, and how to create your own pitch that highlights the main character(s), the hook, and the stakes. For the exercises you should familiarize yourself with the fairytale Little Red Riding Hood. Please bring something to write with or type on for the exercises.

During the conference, Kate Penndorf of Much Ado About Writing will be offering free individual writing coaching sessions. Also, Dan Cramer will be accepting free individual pitches sessions on behalf of Page Turner Literacy Agency, Chicago. Advance registration required for both ; watch for details the first week in April!

The Lakefly Writers Conference is May 3-4 at the Oshkosh Convention Center. Register before March 10 and save $15.

The conference is sponsored by the Oshkosh Public Library, in partnership with the Oshkosh Community Foundation, Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Oshkosh Area Writers Club.

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2024 Lakefly Conference Preview

Below is a preview of some great workshops we have planned:

Me Talk Good For Money

Actions speak louder than words, but it’s the great one-liners we all remember. Novel and comic book writer Shaun Harris, will take you through the 10 Ironclad Rules of Dialogue and why they should be broken. Expect some group participation and on the spot work-shopping.

Developing and Revealing Three-Dimensional Characters

To ring true to readers, characters need to be as unique as the people around us. If filling out pages of character interviews to flesh out a hero or heroine sounds daunting, join this session. From using photos to inspire unique physical descriptions to consulting personality types, attendees will come away with a variety of strategies for creating well-thought-out characters readers can root for. We’ll also discuss how to reveal layered characters in a way that intrigues readers into turning pages. Led by Emily Conrad.

Self-Publishing on a Shoestring

What are the must-haves of self-publishing? What things aren’t worth your time early on and what
are essential? What does it mean to go wide and when do you get paid? Learn the basics and more in this session led by Bailey Hansen about launching your writing career on a shoestring.

Back by popular demand, forensic anthropologist Dr. Jordan Karsten is one of three subject specialists. Co-host of Cold Case: Frozen Tundra, the UW-Oshkosh professor consults on death investigations for law enforcement agencies across Wisconsin, including the FBI and Wisconsin State Crime Lab.

Bram Stoker Award winner Sarah Read will present The Art of Anxiety: How to introduce tension into your writing and keep the reader turning pages. She will address story structures, character development, dialogue, and sentence-level techniques that contribute to raising the stakes on the page. Each technique includes a mini writing exercise that builds throughout the lesson, so the students have a completed scene written by the end. The desired outcome is that students will have learned techniques that they can intentionally employ in order to make their writing more engaging and exciting.

The Lakefly Writers Conference is May 3-4 at the Oshkosh Convention Center. Register before March 10 and save $15.

The conference is sponsored by the Oshkosh Public Library, in partnership with the Oshkosh Community Foundation, Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Oshkosh Area Writers Club. 

2024 Lakefly Conference Preview Read More »

Keynote Speaker: Holly Day

We’re pleased to announce Holly Day as the keynote speaker at #Lakefly24!

Holly has worked as a freelance writer for over 30 years, with over 7,000 published articles, poems, and short stories and 40 books and chapbooks—most recently, the nonfiction books.

She offers workshops and classes to writing centers all over the country, including the Flatiron Writers’ Center in North Carolina, the Hampton Roads Writers group in Virginia, Hugo House in Seattle, and the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis.

Welcome, Holly!

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It’s Happening!

The good news? Registration for the 2024 Lakefly Writers Conference is open!

The bad news? You’ll notice a price increase. The registration fee was last raised in 2018 and maintaining financial sustainability will ensure the event’s continuation – something we all want.

The “new” news? In response to a demand for a local book fair and to expand the customer base of our vendors, we’re introducing a stand-alone Lakefly Book Fair. Same location but separated from the conference.

The book fair will be free and open to the public from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 4. Plans include scheduled book signings and specialized “author alleys.” Please note: The number of vendor tables is limited to 50.

What’s the same?

  • Free pitch sessions
  • An opportunity to have a professional photo taken for use on social media, book jackets, etc.
  • One-on-one sessions with writing and marketing coaches
  • Lakefly After Hours Open Mic

… and another wonderful line-up of speakers whom we will begin to announce shortly!

You can register for the conference, the conference and a vendor’s table, or just a vendor’s table. The early-bird rate ends March 10.

I can’t wait to see you!

~ Ruth

The conference is sponsored by the Oshkosh Public Library, in partnership with the Oshkosh Community Foundation, Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Oshkosh Area Writers Club.

It’s Happening! Read More »

Conference add-ons

Friday only! A professional photographer and makeup artist will be on-site at the Lakefly Writers Conference Friday, May 5, to create a quality headshot for use on your book jackets, website and marketing materials.

Each session is 20 minutes long and includes light styling, light make-up and hair touch-up. Five professionally edited headshots will be emailed directly to you. Fee is $75 and due at the time of your session.

Saturday only! Kate Penndorf of Much Ado About Writing will offer 15 minute, individual writing coaching sessions at no charge.

You must be registered for the Lakefly Writers Conference to schedule appointments for both of these events. More information on the add-ons  can be found here.

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Michael Perry and the Long Beds

Exciting news! Michael Perry and the Long Beds will perform at the Oshkosh Grand at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 6th. Tickets are: $29-$35 inclusive of tax, facility, and ticketing fees. 

But wait! Lakefly Writers Conference attendees get a 20% discount by using the code LAKEFLY23

Just enter the coupon code at checkout to access the discount. If there are any issues or questions, contact The Grand’s box office at 920-424-2350, open Monday-Friday, 11:30am-5:00pm.

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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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