Write Meaningful Nonfiction: WRITE-By-THE-LAKE, UW, Madison, in JUNE, 2018

Date: June 26, 2018

Write Meaningful Nonfiction: Turn Your Personal Experiences, Knowledge, and Journaling into an Inspiring Book, Blogs, or Other Writing


Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat

Some time in June, 2018

9:30 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. each day

Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison


  • MY SECTION: Sections 1 through 12: Fee is $395 until May 15 for 1 through 12. Goes up $50 after May 15.
  • Master Class Section 13 with Angela Rydell: $495. (same after May 15)
  • Master Class Section 14 with Christine DeSmet: $775. (same after May 15)
  • Optional University credit is extra.  (See below for more information.)

College credits cost extra. For adult students taking only this class, you pay the UNDERgraduate rate and will receive graduate-level credit. Nonresidents also pay the resident, undergraduate fees. UW-Madison credit fees are listed here:

Write meaningful nonfiction based on your personal experiences and knowledge.

Write a book based on just an idea or theme.

Write on a subject that has captivated your attention.

Write a book taken from your blogs.

Write a book, blog or article based from your field notebooks.

Write transformational nonfiction based on journal entries or letters.

Write a book based on your travels, spiritual experience, encounters or views.


Whether you have just an idea for a book, journals full of notes and stories, a series of blogs, or, have written a first draft of a manuscript, you will leave this week with simple, applicable methods for the writing and completing of your book. This means, you will have a personalized architecture, relevant skills and the means to take your idea and experiences to a full crafted book. You will leave fully equipped and ready to continue to write about your life experiences, stories, and wisdom.

I will give you hands-on tools and practices to write compelling and informative narratives based on your personal experiences and knowledge. This dynamic course has helped dozens of writers frame their ideas, get their book written and out to publishers. You too will know how to share your wisdom, ideas and stories in a captivating way. Write a narrative that reaches readers and gets publisher’s attention. The magic and skill is in making what is personally meaningful to the writer (you), meaningful and captivating for our readers. I use transformational writing prompts that inspire you to write and the reader to be engaged in your stories. We will be writing inside and outside the class, with every day full of writing prompts, explorations, and methods to inspire you to write captivating nonfiction.

A couple extra caveats from this class will be your ability to write better blogs, articles, or any other creative nonfiction piece. (Many of these may end up in your book.) In addition, all my work with writers includes helping them to identify personalized ways to make a living from their writing, before and beyond publication of a book.


As an author of 11 inspirational books, a popular blog and several fiction and nonfiction pieces, I can help you forge your own path to writing and completing a captivating book that others will want to read. I have worked with writers for over 20 years and have simplified a book writing process so that when you go home you will have established a solid foundation for your ideas and writing intentions.

During the week, I can answer any questions you have about putting your work out in the world, whether it be through a blog, a manuscript sent to a publisher, an article for a magazine, or even a group email. You will have the basic template of what you need to take your personal experiences and make them meaningful to readers. If you are ready to have something considered for publication within 6 months from your time with me at WBTL (by November 15th, 2017), I will critique up to 10 pages of your piece.

Endorsements from Students and Authors:


“I took a writing workshop with Julie in early 2012. I learned so much from that one day that I would be hard-pressed to detail all the value I received from it. Both personable and friendly, Julie is truly an experienced mentor on the writer’s craft. With a 10th book soon to be published, there is no doubt she knows the topic exceedingly well. Where some might hold back, Julie doesn’t hesitate to share what she has learned from her wealth of experience. During our workshop, she shared loads of tips on moving past writer’s block, staying focused on the purpose of your book, and even a few pointers on selling your idea to a publisher. I continue to use the tips I picked up that day and would recommend Julie’s workshops without hesitation to any who want to take their writing to the next level. I look forward to my next opportunity to attend one of her workshops!” –Didi Densmore, 2014

“Thank you, Julie! Such a fun experience—and, such a helpful experience. I am confident with my unique writing “voice,” but your prompts and creative explorations gave me tools for finding new voices and new approaches. Most of all, the template concept was revolutionary in helping me wrap my brain around the story I wanted to tell, and will continue to be a guide as I approach storytelling in my future as a writer.”–Jay, Write-By-The-Lake Student, 2014


“I would not be calling myself a published author if it weren’t for Julie. Her way of teaching and instructing always leads to success for the fortunate student.”  ­–Lauri Lumby Schmidt, author of Authentic Freedom, Oshkosh Wisconsin

 “I am only just feeling the waves of all that we learned and experienced. I am truly amazed at how deeply this affected me–something about the group, the safe space, the passion within everyone and the personal stories–it was truly a beautiful week. And challenging! Thank you Julie for creating a space where we could each arrive with whatever was in our bowls and then with words and tears empty them in each other’s presence only to begin filling them again. –Margaret Jankowski, The Sewing Machine Project, 2014 WBTL

“The likelihood that this book would have taken any shape at all without Julie Tallard Johnson’s skillful writing coaching seems very, very small. I think of Julie as a book doula, and her combination of skill and experience as a coach and editor on the writerly side of things and as a clinician on the conceptual side were a perfect match for the development of this project. This book is not my first, but with Julie’s coaching and support, this is the project that has, at long last, crystallized a piece of my identity as a writer. For all of that magic, I am grateful. Taken from acknowledgments in “The Lesbian Guide to Getting Free of Crazy-Making Relationships” ” – Amber Ault, Phd, MSW


“Thank you Julie, for all your encouragement, feedback, support. You are a great, loving soul and writer…and so generous and inspiring in your commitment to the word and to other writers. I have benefitted on many levels.” ­–Greg Newman, writer, relationship coach



Julie Tallard Johnson, MSW is the author of The Zero Point Agreement: How to Be Who You Already Are https://www.amazon.com/Zero-Point-Agreement-How-Already/dp/1620551772/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381068697&sr=1-1&keywords=the+zero+point+agreement  “In this beautiful book, Julie Tallard Johnson–a gifted teacher and writer–brings fresh insight to an ancient truth: each of us must live from the inside out. This book–full of resources that range from heart-deep insight to helpful, practical exercises–can help us reclaim the treasure-trove of our own experience and being.” (Parker J. Palmer, author of Healing the Heart of Democracy, Let Your Life Speak, and The Courage to)  “The grounded writing in Julie’s books makes for an appealing invitation to self-discovery.”  (Mothering  Magazine)   “For me the highest plane of creativity is found in one’s practice, and Julie offers the reader a real means to follow through on one’s creative and spiritual intentions. The read is straightforward and gratifying; the pilgrimage itself a worthwhile, even required engagement for the spiritual hero.” (Steven Pressfield, author of The War of Art and The Legend of Bagger Vance, endorsing The Wheel of Initiation) 




For mainstream/self-help/autobiographical & instructional/inspirational/ memoirs/personal experience/books

Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat

June 26-30, 2017.9:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. each day Pyle Center, 702 Langdon St., Madison

UW-Madison Continuing Studies & UW-Madison Dept. of English Instructor: Julie Tallard Johnson, MSW, LCSW, UW-Madison,


Workshop Description


I will help you to shape your stories and narrative. You will know how to use description and details to bring out your story and meaning. You will leave with the architecture to continue to write and complete your book. You will understand and communicate your theme. I use my Rainbow Theme Arc, stealing like an artist, the craft of details, the power of personal and universal myths and narratives, and the magic of metaphors. I help you to write your truth and not get lost in the “facts” of your story through the various skills needed to write and publish personal stories of your experiences. We will cover every step in the writing process, from brainstorming to researching to writing to revising. You will consider this one of the best five days you have had as a writer. 


Come with just an idea leave with a fully blossomed template for a book. You will leave with simple and constructive ways to write about your experiences and knowledge in a uniquely creative way.


I will be sending out a few questions and writing prompts beforehand to get us started.

 “I cut the cord. I said, I will do only what I can do, express what I am–that’s why I used first person, why I wrote about myself,’ I Decide to write from the standpoint of my own experience, what I knew and felt. And that was my salvation.” –Henry Miller

  • Each day we begin with an overview of our evenings explorations and some sharing points. You will have time to read some of your writing as well.
  • I will offerthe basics of turning your personal experiences and knowledge into a compelling narrative.This first day includes an introduction to a couple of templates to use or borrow from in bringing together your ideas. You will choose and create your own template to work with by the end of the week. This will create a foundation and template for your book or book concept that you can rely upon. (I used a different template for each of my 11 books.)
  • We begin with moving through a major point of resistance—Who are you to write this book? We begin to build the confidence and momentum in your writing. We will go over theTen Methods of Writing From the Zero Point.These describe how to write masterfully from your own experience and knowledge.

We will practice a variety of methods throughout the week to further develop your theme(s), voice and the structuring of your book.

  • This process will introduce you to yourbook’s “voice”. (Or develop it more if you already have it). You will discover the storyteller’s voice and the voice of the “expert,” and how to weave those in together throughout your book. The expert voice is the voice of personal experience. You will also explore who your book is for – the general public or a special audience of readers.

To prepare for Day 1:

Please read the handout: Writing from the Zero Point that I will send to you once you register for my class. And send me your introductory piece and response to my questions I sent you after you signed up for the class.



Beginnings and IntroductionsThemes, Pivotal Moments, and some UNrules for the week. We will identify subject and theme and how to write on both. Exploration and Writing Prompts: Explorations and writing prompts around subject, theme, Pivotal Moments & Who Am I To write this book? Use of the Streamline technique to bring forth your ideas and narratives.


We have Everything We Need and Writing the New Autobiography

Using a template (the architecture of your idea) and field notebooks.  Hunting and Destroying Clichés.  Choose a Template for your Book. This will be the core of the day’s lesson and explorations. There are a multitude of templates to choose from, and you will choose one that is uniquely yours. Steven Pressfield used the game of golf for his book Bagger Vance and, for his popular book, The War of Art he borrowed from the Chinese classic, The Art of War. I used the medicine wheel and Buddhist mandalas for my Wheel of Initiation book & basic principles of metaphysics for my Zero Point Agreement book. I will present several templates and invite you to consider one you could use to explore and develop your book’s ideas more deeply and to apply in the writing of your book.Exploration and Writing Prompts: Transforming Your Writing by Transforming Clichés; Exploring with your template; Using Your Field Notebooks, and, Seeing Your Theme Everywhere.


The Mythical Journey of the Writer: The Third Thing and The Power of Myths and Re-mything   Writing your narratives in ways that are meaningful for the reader. “Fairy tales, as G. K. Chersterton once said, are more than true. Not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be defeated.” ­–Neil Gaiman, Smoke and Mirrors  Using your Thematic Arc Writing with your Thematic Arc; exploring the promise that your narrative presents, and harvesting thematic words. Explore a symbolic meaning in your book.  Practicing the basics, the craft of writing: 13 reminders.  Exploration and Writing Prompts: Find a favorite poem, teaching story, myth, lyric, sutra, koan or quote to share tomorrow Explore a symbolic meaning in your book.



Writing Our Truth in Meaningful Ways, Using Writing Prompts, and How to Steal Like an Artist (and write something worth stealing). “There are many truths to a story and many versions of the same story.”  Lee Gutkind, You Can’t Make This Stuff Up. Differences between facts and truth. Exploration and Writing Prompts: Use of and creating your own writing prompts; Stealing like an artist, using poetry, how it all gets down to the details. Identifying writer invasion and to stop hitting our readers over the head.  Who are You?: Identifying yourself to your readers. Writing our Truth in Meaningful Ways, handout.


DAY 5 

Coming Full Circle with our Subject and Theme. A little about dealing with resistance and how to keep writing. Completing Our Rainbow Arc. 10 Reminders to Integrate this weeks material into your writing life.  What You Need in a Dynamic Book Proposal. Getting out there and getting published.  Exploration and Writing Prompts: 10 Reminders for the Writer, and some writing prompts for the road.

* You will also gain methods of creating your own writing prompts to keep you writing to completion!

Credit Option: Participants earn 1 credit by attending class and completing the assigned work for the week: daily reading, writing at least five pages of original work, and critiquing of own and others’ work. To earn 2 credits, participants submit an additional five pages of their work. Participants earning 3 credits complete all of the above requirements supplemented by another five to 10 pages of creative work or a short paper synthesizing how the material covered during the week applies to their own creative projects and/or teaching. The work must be handed in within two weeks of final class date.