Lakefly Writers Conference 2024

Patrick McCorkle
5 min readMay 7, 2024


Another year, another Lakefly!

Oshkosh continues to be a literary center in the Midwest. I spent my weekend at the Lakefly Writers Conference which took place on Friday May 3rd and Saturday May 4th at the downtown Oshkosh Convention Center.

Lakefly offered a lot for its low sticker price:

  • 21 Breakout Sessions, divided between the craft and business sides of writing
  • Open mike session under the Oshkosh Public Library’s rotunda
  • Multiple literary agencies hearing and critiquing novel pitches
  • Professional writing, website and social media coaching
  • Professional headshots for book jackets and publications
  • A keynote speaker published in the “For Dummies” series
  • Catered Saturday lunch
  • Writing Contests with cash rewards
  • 11 Door Prizes

As I did in 2022 and 2023, I will summarize my experience as a volunteer, attendee and speaker.

To kick things off, I introduced and attended literary agent Dan Cramer’s Breakout Session “Perfecting your pitch.” To begin, Dan gave an overview of a few terms that people use when they are querying agents.

Query letter: convinces the agent to read your work.

Pitch: a 20–60 word segment of your query letter that contains a hook, main character(s) and stakes.

Dan had us write pitches for the fairy tale “Little Red Riding Hood.” He began with asking us to write one for the original story.

Here’s what I came up with:

“Little Red Riding Hood must deliver food to her grandmother but she risks delivering herself right into a wolf’s jaws. Whose hunger will be sated?”

Next, Dan asked us to write a pitch from the wolf’s perspective.

Here’s mine:

“As the wolf starves, a little girl dressed in red strays off the forest path into his domain. He rejoices, for his stomach will growl no longer.”

Later Dan asked us to write a tagline for a “fractured fairytale”- a story based on a fairytale but it changes characters, plot, setting or a combination of all three.

I thought of reversing roles for the Big Bad Wolf and Little Red Riding Hood.

Here’s mine:

“This hunter doesn’t need claws. And she prefers red.”

You can never get enough practice with pitching. Thank you Dan for a wonderful workshop!

Next I gave my talk which was titled “So You Want To Start A Writing Critique Group?” I gave tips and tricks for both public and private groups. A few members of my critique groups came to support me, which felt very satisfying. I feel a bit odd summarizing my own program, so if you’d like my outline, shoot me a message!

As per past years, I ate at Beckets right on the Fox River. I had some great conversations with old and new acquaintances.

The last event on Friday was the After Hours Open Mic in the original section of the Oshkosh Public Library. The combination of being surrounded by so much history while enjoying varied fictional and non-fictional words is sublime, I have to say.

Saturday began with author Holly Day’s keynote address “Two Steps Forward, One Step Back.” In an era of slow, dial-up Internet, Holly would send out 400 resumes and get 10–20 responses for freelance projects. She managed to write “Musical Theory For Dummies” and “Musical Composition For Dummies” in a span of a few months while copying things manually, working late with her husband Sherm. The nights were long and hard, but the key is persistence. “Musical Theory For Dummies” has sold 1 million copies to this date.

I was impressed by how determined Holly was back in the early days of the Internet. Everything was much more complicated technologically 20 years ago, but she made it work! There’s no reason why we can’t now with all our tools.

For Saturday’s first Breakout Session, I introduced Oshkosh Poet Laureate Thomas Cannon and North Fond du Lac Poet Laureate Jeffrey Charles McAndrew for their “Between The Lines: Poetry And Imagination.” Poetry, as with many forms of art, is a tool for processing many complex emotions. It can be therapeutic as we deal with traumas and problems. They asked attendees to write about a difficult event in their lives.

I wrote:

Grandpa and grandma, my early friends

I didn’t want the fun times to end

Years later I’ve tried to mend

Because I realize ’tis the nature of things

Not to their memory cling

But their joys to others bring

And their tree in the park shall grow.

Next was author and fellow OAWC member Bailey Hansen’s “Self-publishing On a Shoe String.” Through her own experience publishing the Freak Camp series with co-author Laura Rye, Bailey had a ton of useful information about the cost, feasibility, advantages and disadvantages of self-publishing compared to traditional options. Oh, and her book is worth a read!

After lunch I introduced Kate Penndorf for her “Settings” talk. She focused on the importance of sound and other senses as opposed to sight. It’s important for writers to utilize all their senses to make the most compelling scenes. For a sci-fi and fantasy writer such as myself, that can manifest in different creatures whose preferred and ignored senses are different than humans. Still, anyone writing in any genre can benefit from examining scenes from all five senses. You can get Kate’s advice and tips about setting through her “Much Ado About Writing” writing services.

The last session was author Shaun Harris’s “Me Talk Good For Money.” I have to admit I was drawn in by the title but the content kept me. Shaun emphasized how important dialogue is to a story and how it can really enhance or detract from a movie. We compared dialogue from Michael Bay, J.K. Rowling and others. Check out Shaun’s work- he has written for Star Wars!

In between sessions I checked out the Lakefly Book Fair, an expanded marketplace from past years. There were so many authors and books I wanted to purchase though I limited myself to four. Waupaca radio host Richard Sweitzer has Ode: The Scion of Nerikan, which received a star from the Kirkus Review! Only 2% of reviews receive a star, so that is quite impressive. I also purchased Nunzio’s Way from longtime Lakefly presenter Nicholas Chiarkas, in addition to Hades’ Redemption and Walking in the Graveyard: Creepy Short Stories from Oshkosh educator, writer and fellow Lakefly planning committee member Dixie Jarchow.

Lakefly 2024 was blast from start to finish. Per usual, I’ll end with its unofficial slogan:

“Everyone has a story. Let us help you tell yours.”

Join us for 2025!



Patrick McCorkle

I am a young professional with keen interests in politics, history, foreign languages and the arts.