In the spring of 2013, I became an author. No…seriously…I did.
I’d always been a writer and a storyteller, but I had never put pen to paper or sat at a keyboard with the intention of telling a story I could share with the world. But that April evening in the ballroom of the Madison Concourse Hotel in Madison, Wisconsin, I stood at a mic and spilled my guts (https://deborahloi.livejournal.com/2013/04/12/).
It all started when a good friend of mine convinced me that going to a writer’s conference to bask in the writeryness would be a good way to get inspired and begin telling my story. It was something I could afford (at the time), so I got tickets for my aunt and myself. The conference was well organized with panels and workshops and agents and professors and everything and everybody literary. For 4 days I was in writer’s heaven.
And I belonged. I was among my people…my tribe. I was home.
The conference—the Writer’s Institute— was a function of the UW-Madison Continuing Studies in Writing department. They also offered two retreats that year, Write-by-the-Lake and Weekend-with-Your-Novel. These programs and attendees and instructors embraced me. They appreciated me and encouraged my writing and celebrated my successes. I had the good fortune to attend all of the programs and soak up the incredibly creative atmosphere that is Madison. I planned my vacations around these events and immersed myself in the student life. I brought friends and shared my experiences.
And I wrote.
I finally finished a novel I started in 1992, and two years later I finished it’s sequel. When I published it, UW-Madison celebrated with me.
When I won a writing contest, again UW-Madison was there.
In the Master Class and other workshops, I made lifelong literary contacts and friends; and I will be forever grateful to Laurie Scheer, Christine DeSmet, Christopher Chambers, Laura Kahl, Tim Storm, and Kathy Steffen for teaching me to be an author.
That’s why my heart is breaking now. Last week, UW-Madison announced that the Continuing Studies in Writing department is being discontinued. (https://continuingstudies.wisc.edu/writing/) I know each of these talented teachers and authors will go on to great things and I know that there are other writing programs at other schools…but there will be nothing quite like the rooftop of the Pyle Center, or breakfast at the Lowell Center, or writing by the lake at the student union.
Thank you UW-Madison for helping my writing dreams come true.