Lakefly Writer’s Conference

Measure Life in Bookmarks at the Lakefly Writer's Conference

Measure Life in Bookmarks attended the 2017 Lakefly Writer’s Conference in Oshkosh. I’m having a lot more fun than it looks.

Last weekend I attended the Lakefly Writer’s Conference in Oshkosh. It was exactly what I needed to recharge after a long, busy winter churning out copy for work without having time to sit back and reflect on the beauty of the process.





measure life in bookmarks at lakefly writer's conference

Photo courtesy of Lakefly Writer’s Conference.

It reminded me that every few months, creatives must put themselves in front of other like-minded artists to revive their inspiration. I was grateful to have attended all the presentations I could, conversate with other hardworking writers and touch all the published book displays.




Some of the more memorable moments at the conference included:

Lakefly Writer's Conference Kristin Adams

Photo of Kristin Adams. Courtesy of Lakefly Writer’s Conference.

Kristine D. Adams talked about her experiences in writing memoir and recommended techniques to tell your story. I spoke with her afterward, as writing memoir has always been an interest of mine, and we discussed capturing family history. One of my goals is to interview and record my grandmothers’ stories and turn them into biographies to remember where I’ve come from. But also to remind them how far they’ve com. Plus, it’s always a nice excuse to have coffee or tea with your grandma.

Lakefly Writer's Conference Jill Swenson

Photo of Jill Swenson. Courtesy of Lakefly Writer’s Conference.

Jill Swenson of Swenson Book Development presented a novel’s worth of information on how to know when you need to hire an agent, how to get one and what to do once you start working together. She shared her knowledge of the publishing industry while inspiring everyone in the room how simple it could be if you could just find your spirit agent. Someone who believes in your story as much as you. She taught me that a writer should never have to beg for an agent’s unconditional love. NOTED!


Orange Hat Publishing

Orange Hat Publishing staff at the Lakefly Writer’s Conference.

And, finally, Orange Hat Publishing. It is a small, indie publishing company in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Kristen Bratonja, editor and head of marketing at Orange Hat, presented on the evolving publishing world, including how to avoid scams, the rise in indie publishers, and the pros and cons of each type of book publishing.




Thank you to everyone who was a part of this great conference! Looking forward to next year.

You Don’t Own Me

At a time in our country when facts are alternative and grabbing women by the p***y without consent is acceptable, standing in line to meet Margaret Atwood has become important.

Margaret Atwood author

Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid’s Tale, signed my copy at UntitledTown Book and Author Festival in Green Bay.

I did just that on Sunday, April 30 at the UntitledTown Book and Author Festival in Green Bay.

Margaret Atwood author

Margaret Atwood signed my copy of The Handmaid’s Tale at UntitledTown.

In case you haven’t read the book or watched the new TV series on Hulu, I highly recommend both! Book first, though. Always.

Then this:


The Power of Creatives

Let’s just get it out there because we all know it’s true:

2016 sucked!


Too many people were taken too early from this earth, including one of my best friends growing up. I have not experienced grief like that before and realize it will always be there, even if the intensity changes over time. While the loss of someone important to you can send you to a dark place of questions unanswered and “what if’s,” it can also wake you from hibernation.

When a friend passes away in the prime of his or her life, it can open windows, clear fog, unlock doors, free fear and knock you into the next chapter. It can give you perspective: Life is short. Things that bothered you before, seem to take a backseat. Things you’ve been putting off for years suddenly seem important to tackle.

Intangible goals aside, I focused on writing and traveling endeavors. My first goal was to reconnect to creativity by meeting up with some of my former female educators who have inspired my writing over the years.

I also kept in mind all the strong, inspirational women that have influenced my perspective of the world.

Next, it was time to let the world fall at my feet. My BFF and I found out our favorite podcast, GWF podcast with Krystyna Hutchinson & Corinne Fisher, were touring in Chicago before the holidays! So we spent a weekend with our feminine selves in the big city.

Guys We Fucked Live Podcast in Chicago

Kyla and I with Krystyna Hutchinson and Corinne Fisher after the GWF live podcast at the Amethyst Theatre in Chicago on Nov. 18, 2016.

Listen to Live in Chicago episode here.


This was the first trip I’d taken in far too long. And it certainly won’t be the last one.

Next up … Cancun in October for another incredible woman’s wedding! It will be my four college buddies (a bride and her three bridesmaids) at an all-inclusive resort — the Spring Break we never took! #CantWait

After that — who knows where I’ll end up. But I do know I’ll be going somewhere. What with this new luggage I got for Christmas and all …

Traveling writer

Seek out adventures and the stories will come.

Under Pressure

David Bowie has died at age 69.


Photo courtesy of

Today felt like I’d lost an old friend. One that you no longer speak with, but still have memories surface every time you listen to a nostalgic tune. David Bowie has been popping up a lot lately in my life, which has made it all the more strange that he passed away.

Jan. 10 was a day, eight years ago now, of a funeral. It was a day that rattled me like a caged bird. And now in 2016, there was another death on Jan. 10. This time of a rockstar that linked me back to those days leading up to that moment. Only grieving for David Bowie ended up being, in a sense, therapeutic.

Before I turned in for the night, I read Elizabeth Gilbert’s post:

David Bowie

I watched his goodbye message to his fans in the form of a music video.

“Look up here, I’m in heaven
I’ve got scars that can’t be seen
I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen
Everybody knows me now

This way or no way 
You know, I’ll be free
Just like that bluebird
Now ain’t that just like me”
– David Bowie

* * *

Jane Eyre Bird

“I am no bird;
and no net ensnares me;
I am a free human being
with an independent will
(which I now exert to leave you).”
– Jane Eyre

Now ain’t that always the way?


Pursuing the Next Page

Dear English Major is a website dedicated to showing English majors all that is possible with an English degree. My interview is being featured this month. Visit to read the rest of my interview and learn more about where I started and how far I’ve come! Also, please check out the other language connoisseurs‘ stories!

Dear English Major

National Novel Writing Month

November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo!

Madison Writing Spot

NaNoWriMo is a 30-day contest to try and write a 50,000-word novel, starting Nov. 1. You can also find writing tools and chat with other writers from around the world or in your region to help you reach your goal. I signed up three years ago, but barely started the contest before I quit. I found my old username and password to pick it back up again this year with a different story that I’ve been working on for several years now. You can learn more about it on my NaNoWriMo WritingFlea page.

Will you be participating this year? If you have more questions, visit their FAQ and How It Works pages.

Happy Writing!

She Survived Her Last Summer


Colleen Sutherland enjoying the outdoors.

Colleen Sutherland enjoying the outdoors.


I am so very sad to have to write this blog, but I feel I must. It is the only way to put this all to rest. I know she would want something like this written about her, especially since she could not share much herself in her final days.

A friend, former writing group mentor, traveling storyteller and fellow writer Colleen Sutherland passed away Saturday, Oct. 4. Over the last year and a half, she wrote blog posts to update loved ones about her condition and recovery period in partial sentences with missing letters and poor grammar. Definitely out of the ordinary for her! I remember wondering how she was dealing with this change. I couldn’t imagine what that must have been like.

Wade Peterson and Colleen Sutherland at a coffee shop for their writing group.

Wade Peterson and Colleen Sutherland at a coffee shop for their writing group.

About three years ago, I joined a writing group at Copper Rock Cafe with three others. Colleen was one of them. She often shared fascinating stories from her past, including weddings in Chicago the day Martin Luther King Jr. was killed. She would later write about it as a foreshadowing to her first divorce, as only a brilliant writer would do.

But then there were stories about Gary. They shared a love of nature and travel. Colleen hated the cold and snowy winters, and the two of them would often travel to warmer places so she could find inspiration to write again. When Colleen was depressed in the winter, he was there trying to cheer her up or load her with Vitamin D. When she decided she wanted a puppy after her operation, Gary went and bought her a puppy. She was a woman who believed in love but not in marriage. She was happy with Gary as her lifelong partner. Overtime, this has led me to believe that Colleen may have even been ahead of her time. This is a good indication that her stories may be more powerful years from now.

Black Coffee Fiction Volume 2 with short stories of Colleen Sutherland and Wade Peterson.

Black Coffee Fiction Volume 2 with short stories of Colleen Sutherland and Wade Peterson.

Over the last few years, Colleen and Wade, another writer from our writing group, started Black Coffee Fiction. It was a blog of short stories they published once a week. After about a year of this, they self-published two books! The second contained 33% more caffeine, of course. Colleen’s stories were humorous, typically revolving around finding love at the most inopportune times and depressing Christmas stories. Her work was bold and spotlighted many courageous women. She hated the 1950s culture and lived for the independence and freedom of women in today’s world.

Colleen gave me a new perspective on many things. One moment I will never forget is when we were discussing writing and completing our stories to send for publication. I mentioned how much I struggled finishing anything. How I have eight (or so) unfinished novels and about double that of short stories. She said to me,

“Life is too short to leave your stories unfinished.” She told me my stories should be told, so I should tell them. She also said I needed to work hard to finish them before it was too late to try publishing them.

“I’m nearly 70,” she said. “So I figure I have only a few years left to crank out as many stories as I can.” I didn’t know she would be so right about this. She may have been in her late 60s, but Colleen had the spirit and energy of a 20 year old.

Life’s too short.

I remember realizing how right she was. It was because of her words that day that I even began sending out my first story for publication, and I’m not giving up on it. Especially now that it’s Colleen’s words that are all I have left of her. If I had been able to say goodbye, I would have told her:

Thank you for sharing all your stories with the world, and I’m so happy I met you. Thank you for inspiring me to get published. Even if I don’t, at least I know you had my back. Your words will live on forever!

Life is too damn short.

Gary and Colleen taking Valentine's Day photos together.

Gary and Colleen taking Valentine’s Day photos together.

* * * *

Rest in peace, my dear friend. At least we will always have Toni Morrison and Black Coffee Fiction.