The Fox Cities Book Festival highlights writers with ties to Wisconsin and the Fox Cities, and celebrates the diversity of their genres, backgrounds, cultures, and lifestyles. On this Wisconsin Wednesday, we celebrate the work of five women – all who have made a significant contribution and continue to make an impact upon Wisconsin’s (and the nation’s) literary fabric.
Kelly Harms has paved her own literary way. From editor, to literary agent, to novelist, Harms has gone from her up-bringing in Iowa, to college studies in Minnesota, to landing in New York for a spell, and finally to returning to her Midwestern roots, in Madison, Wisconsin. And we are happy to have her!
Harms’ idiosyncratic style pervades her prose. Whether it be her fiction narratives or auto-biographical descriptions, Harms’ personality shines through in all her writing.
A bit more about her background, and in her own, inspired words:
“Kelly (me) grew up in Iowa, and her much bigger brother only tortured her sometimes. Sometimes he played Home Run Derby with her and every time she hit a 400-footer, he made mouth sounds like the crowd was going wild.
She studied Biology and Violin Performance at Gustavus Adolphus College, then worked selling shoes and interning at the Utne Reader, which had a huge books section. That’s where things went downhill—too much book publishing exposure resulted in a decade in New York in the publishing business. It cannot be helped. On the plus side, while there she rooted for the Mets and heard a lot of great bands and worked as Docent at the American Museum of Natural History and sang in a great choir and, once, attempted to host a dinner party in her 300 square foot studio.
Eventually she came to her senses and moved back to the Midwest, though she misses New York all the time. In Wisconsin, she roots for the Cubs AND the Brewers which is very confusing. She likes snow and cross-country skiing and knitting and playing games with friends and kids and kids of friends. In Madison she became a Tall Poppy Writer, a mother, and a fan of craft breweries. Her seven-year-old thinks her books need more ninjas.
She loves writing by a fire in the winter and in the sunroom in the summer. She’s currently at work on her fourth work of comic fiction and who knows what else.”
As an editor and literary agent, Harms worked with a wide array of bestselling and award-winning authors of commercial fiction. The Good Luck Girls of Shipwreck Lane (2013) was her first novel. Harms has since published two other novels, The Matchmakers of Minnow Bay: A Novel (2016), and her latest, #1 Amazon bestseller, The Overdue Life of Amy Byler, released May 1, 2019.
The Overdue Life of Amy Byler centers on main character – overworked and underappreciated, single mom Amy Byler. When the guilt-ridden husband who abandoned her shows up and offers to take care of their kids for the summer, she accepts his offer and escapes rural Pennsylvania for New York City, where she soon discovers a newfound life filled with culture and sophistication. Harms will be presenting on Friday, October 11th at 6:30 pm to 7:30 pm at the Elisha D. Smith Public Library in Menasha. During “Ladies’ Night Out with Kelly Harms,” Harms will discuss her latest novel, drawing on themes of self-care, and finding a sense of purpose and identity as a woman.
In researching this and her next release, she learned that truly restorative self-care may not be as complicated (nor expensive) as the average person may think. Harms discusses a few key steps, applied with a touch of neuroscience and pampering. It doesn’t take that long, and anyone can do it – and she begins with the adage of curling up with a good book. Join Kelly for a night of laughs, books, and great ideas for making yourself a priority in these busy times.
Christine Keleny is a writer, reader, award-winning author, certified copy-editor, book designer, and publisher. She enjoys writing and helping others publish the book of their dreams through her publishing company: CKBooks Publishing.
Keleny was struck by the writing bug in college, and never recovered. In 2003, she decided to pursue writing a novel, taking a leap from short children’s stories. In 2008, Keleny self-pubished Rosebloom which won a national Independent Publisher Book Award (or IPPY) award for historical fiction in 2008.
In 2010 she published book II in the Rose Series, A Burnished Rose, and got to work on an accompanying screenplay. She published her third and final novel in the Rose Series, Rose from the Ashes, in September, 2012. She has worked on short stories, biographies, and historical non-fiction. Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up? was a finalist for a Midwest Book Award. In 2016, Keleny took her first step into MG (middle grade) fiction with Intrigue in Istanbul: An Agnes Kelly Mystery Adventure, the first in the three-book, Agnes Kelly mystery-adventure series. For Intrigue in Istanbul, Keleny won a 2016 Moonbeam Children’s Award and in 2017 a Midwest Book Award.
Keleny grew up in south central Wisconsin. She is wife and a mother of two. In her own words, “I like working with my hands so when the need or desire arises, I crochet, sew, tile, paint, cross stitch, frame pictures, stain furniture, cut and split fire wood, x-country ski, train and ride horses…
Part of working with my hands is the joy I get with being creative. This, along with my love of writing, naturally took me to in the direction of helping others publish through the services I offer at CKBooks Publishing.”
Keleny lives in the Wisconsin countryside with her husband and many animals.
On Saturday, October 12th, from 9:30am to 10:30am, Keleny will present, “The Mystery of Carolyn Keene.” Keleny discusses Will the Real Carolyn Keene Please Stand Up, her historical fiction work that explores and postulates on the lives of the three primary creators of the Nancy Drew mystery series: Edward Stratemeyer, Harriet Stratemeyer Adams, and Mildred Wirt Benson.
“Learn how the plucky, intelligent, resourceful, and famous girl sleuth came to life, along with the controversy that still rages on about who really created the Nancy that millions of readers across the globe have come to know and love.”
Judy DuCharme grew up in a small town on Lake Huron and now lives in the woods of beautiful Door County in Wisconsin. She graduated from Michigan State University with a degree in Communication Arts. After two years as a radio announcer at a Christian station, she married Lee. When their children were five and three, they moved to Wisconsin where DuCharme returned to school to obtain her teacher certification. She retired in 2012 and has since had six books published.
Her titles include, Run with the Wind, A Gift from Heaven…Christmas Ivy, Society of the L.A.M.B, and The Cheesehead Devotional. Her most recent release is Blood Moon Redemption, in which her son is one of the characters. The Cheesehead Devotional Hall of Fame Edition (2017) and Blood Moon Redemption (2018) have won nine awards.
DuCharme has been writing her entire life. Starting with short stories and poems, her love of writing became a spiritual calling within the last few years, and a natural succession to her decades-long teaching career.
“I was a teacher for 22 years, retiring in June of 2012. Coming from a family of teachers, it seemed a natural fit for me after my children were in school…I taught 5th grade my whole teaching career and loved it. Science was my area of specialty, teaching two or three 5th grade classes of science each year. Of course, reading, language, spelling, social studies, and math were part of my teaching as well. Each subject is unique in its own way.”
DuCharme’s love of writing made its way not only into the classroom, but also within her personal life.
“All the while I was growing up I enjoyed writing short stories and poems…The desire to write was always in me, but the time commitment never quite seemed feasible. A few years ago the desire grew stronger, and I felt it was becoming a calling from the Lord.”
DuCharme says of her newfound career and explorations as a writer and author, “Since that first publication, a novel, a novella, and a short story have been published as well as stories for Guideposts Magazine. I’m so honored and blessed to be a writer.”
On Monday, October 7th at 9:00am to 10:00am at Gerard H. Van Hoof Memorial Library in Little Chute, DuCharme, presents, “Novels to Keep You Up at Night.” She discusses walking the line of politics, prophecy, and history in her edgy, suspenseful, and page-turning work. She will talk about the writing, researching, and marketing processes. She will also discuss her work-in-progress, and how to write inspirational and factual content, while keeping the readers interested through character development.
Shannon Schuren is as plucky as the characters she writes, and those that have inspired her. Growing up, Schuren was an avid reader and devoted Trixie Belden fan. Her debut novel, The Virtue of Sin, was published 2019 by Philomel Books. It’s a contemporary young adult novel about a young woman raised in a patriarchal religious cult who is forced into an arranged marriage and must learn to use her own voice to stand up for what she believes. Schuren’s short stories have been published in Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Toasted Cheese Literary Journal , Big Pulp, The Flash Fiction Offensive, and The Binnacle Ultra-Short Edition, among others.
In an interview with The Book Goat, Schuren describes her experience as a new author. “There’s quite a learning curve to being a debut author! I will say I am constantly surprised and grateful for all of the support I’ve received, from my own team as well as the writing community and my fellow debuts.”
Schuren said the writing process for The Virtue of Sin lasted nearly four years and included many revisions. For Schuren, the ending was the hardest scene to write, and went through countless rewrites. On her own process, Schuren eschews most forms of outlining to a more linear approach, and does most of her work in her personal writing space – what she affectionately refers to as her “she-shed.” “It’s not huge – 8×10—but it has everything I need: desk, bookshelves, electricity, portable heater, teapot, and a tiny front porch for brainstorming. It is my happy place.”
Schuren works as a children’s librarian at a public library. She lives in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, with her husband of more than twenty years, and their three, teenage children. Her interests outside of reading and writing include: traveling and seeking out roadside attractions, watching B-movies, or re-watching Ghostbusters (for the thousandth), or challenging friends, strangers, and acquaintances alike to a lively game of Clue. Shuren is also, involuntarily, gluten-free and is always on the lookout for an acceptable gluten-free recipe for chocolate chip cookies.
A few more facts on Schuren, in her own words: “Someday I will own and renovate an old house, travel the world, and eat warm rolls at a restaurant again. Today I will write a novel.”
Join Schuren on Monday, October 7th at 4:00pm to 5:00pm, at the Kimberly-Little Chute Public Library for “Imaginary Stories – Real World Inspiration.” She will talk about The Virtue of Sin, the real-life cult that inspired her, and the difficulties involved in inventing an imaginary religion.
Local author, entrepreneur, businesswoman, wife, and mother of three, Carla Manns, ministers to many sides of her community. She serves in the ministry of Appleton Sanctuary Outreach Ministries, Inc, as a board member, treasurer, praise and worship leader, and she does outreach within the prison ministry and feeding the homeless. She has also served on many community boards, providing a voice for those who are often not heard, where she strives to shed a light on issues concerning the recognition of cultural differences and injustices of African Americans in her community. She volunteers for several organizations in her community including the Salvation Army, African Heritage Inc. and the Homeless Connection.
She received the 2018 Sistah Power Award for her long-standing work in her community, was one of the leaders for the largest multi-level Girl Scout Troop in Northeast Wisconsin, and helped create the Girl Power Group for Northeast Wisconsin.
Manns is a true renaissance woman: she is the first African American to have two salon businesses within the Sola Salon business franchise in the United States. She has an online business with distribution across the US. And in 2018 Manns wrote and self-published, I Am My Sister’s Keeper, with the hope of encouraging women to be self-motivated in helping them move forward in their spiritual walk with Christ.
On Wednesday, October 9th, at 1:30pm to 2:30pm, at the Appleton Public Library, Manns will go through her book I am my Sister’s Keeper, explaining each section and why she believes it is important in development for self-help. Manns seeks to teach others how to take care of themselves then reach back and help someone else.