January writing workshop will feature variety of authors

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Countless journalists have dreamed of writing and publishing books, such as memoirs, biographies, investigative reports, novels, short stories, poetry collections, literature aimed at children or young adults. Whether you are an unpublished author who wants to break through or a published author who want to move to the next level, you are encouraged to attend a one-day workshop Friday, Jan. 22, at the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia to learn more about writing and publishing your own book.

The workshop will be led by organizers of the Unbound Book Festival and topics to be covered will explore why you want to write a book; who doyou expect to print and sell your book; whether or not you should seek a literary agent; can you earn a living as a book author; and writing a book while employed at a salaried job.

Registration for the workshop is through Missouri Press Association; a registration form can be found online. The authors are donating their time. MPA will serve a box lunch and provide a parking pass for $20 per participant.

Each week, MPA will feature more information about some of the authors participating in the workshop, beginning with Steve Weinberg, who is also helping to organize the event, and Laura McHugh. Together they will discuss why you want to write a book.


Steve Weinberg started his writing career in newspaper newsrooms, eventually moving on to magazines in order to write longer features before authoring his first book. In addition to his book writing, he is also a freelance writer for magazine features, newspaper op-ed pieces and book reviews. Topics he has covered range from the biography of Bill Cosby to criminal justice to the environment.

His books have included “Taking on the Trust,” a dual biography of Ida Tarbell and John D. Rockefeller; “Trade Secrets of Washington Journalists,” a guide to journalism in Washington, D.C.; and “Telling the Untold Story,” a guide to reading and writing biography.

Prior to retiring in 2010, Steve taught in-depth reporting and writing courses, as well as courses related to covering the criminal justice system as part of an innocence project at the University of Missouri. He graduated from MU’s School of Journalism in 1970, returned later for a master’s degree and joined its faculty in 1978 as director of its Washington, D.C. reporting program. In 1983, he became executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.


Columbia-based writer Laura McHugh is the author of “The Weight of Blood,” a suspense novel set in Missouri’s Ozarks and published in2014. Laura said she had always liked to write and wrote the book after losing her job as a computer programmer and being encouraged by her husband. She is currently working on her second book.

“The Weight of Blood” draws on experiences Laura had as a child growing up in Ozark County, Mo. She also found inspiration in modern-day news stories, specifically the case in Lebanon, Mo. where a young girl was held hostage as a sex slave for several years.

Laura received a bachelor’s degree in English at Truman State University, as well as a bachelor’s degree in computer science and master’s in library and information science at the University of Missouri at Columbia.

A current professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, Nina Furstenau teaches food and wine writing in the Science and Agricultural Journalism Program. Following a stint in the Peace Corps in the 1980s, she returned to the U.S. with her husband to launch five business magazines and two international trade shows in the heavy equipment and environmental industries.

Since selling her company in 2001, Furstenau has written a culinary memoir, “Biting Through the Skin: An Indian Kitchen in America’s Heartland,” and “Savor Missouri: River Hills Food and Wine.”

A graduate of the J-school in 1984, Furstenau also has a master’s in English with a focus in creative writing. As an editor and publisher, she focused on the principals of service journalism and technical writing. Now she teaches students to craft clear, concise writing from hands-on learning in the field and from a knowledge base rooted in agricultural systems.

Mary Kay Blakely is an associate professor emerita of magazine journalism at MU’s School of Journalism. She has been a contributing editor to Ms. Magazine since 1981 and a former Hers columnist for The New York Times.

Blakely is also the author of several critically acclaimed books, including “Wake Me When It’s Over,” “American Mom,” and “Red, White and Oh So Blue.” Her work has been collected in 14 writing anthologies and published in Australia, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Germany and Japan.

She has served on numerous national boards, including those for Women’s Enews, the National Writer’s Union and MOMbo and the Journalism and Women Symposium. Blakely has received the Exceptional Merit Media Award and Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists. She is currently assembling an anthology of literary journalism by former students who have graduated from the J-school.

Deborah Zemke is a Columbia-based writer and illustrator nationally renowned for her work on children’s books. Her work has appeared in more than 40 books, including eight she authored herself.

Some of the publishers she has worked with include Blue Apple Books, Ranger Rick magazine, Dutton Children’s Books, Grosset & Dunlap, Handprint Books, Houghton Mifflin, Andrews McNeel, National Wildlife Federation, Scholastic, Sterling Publishing and Workman Publishing.
Her work is created through a variety of means, including gouache paint on paper and digitally. Zemke’s website includes links to some of her work and even a how-to for drawing a quokka.

Author of several collections of poetry, Ashland, Mo.’s Walter Bargen was working full-time when he first began publishing his award-winning work. In 2008, he received the honor of being named Missouri’s first Poet Laureate, which he held until January 2010.

Bargen’s books include “West of West,” his first book published in 2007; “Endearing Ruins – Lienenswerte Ruinen,” a bilingual German/English edition of poetry; and his most recent work, “Trouble Behind Glass Doors.”

Poetry by Bargen has also appeared in more than 100 magazines, including American Literary Review, American Letters & Commentary, Beloit Poetry Journal, Denver Quarterly and Seneca Review. His awards include a fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts; the Quarter After Eight Prose Prize, the Hanks Prize and the Chester H. Jones Foundation poetry prize.

Alex George, born in England and presently living in Missouri, is a writer and a lawyer. He read law at Oxford University and worked for eight years as a corporate lawyer in London and Paris. In 2003, he moved to the United States and re-qualified as an attorney here.

His last novel, “A Good American,” was published by Amy Einhorn Books, an imprint of Penguin, in February 2012. It was a national and international bestseller, and was a Library Journal Best Book of the Year, a Book Page Best Book of the year, an Amazon pick of the month, a Barnes & Noble Discover New Writers pick, the No. 1 Indie Next List for February 2012 and chosen as a “Top Summer Read” by NPR.

His new book, “Setting Free the Kites,” will be published by Penguin in January 2017. In addition to writing, he also runs his own law firm and is the founder of the Unbound Book Festival.

Marlene Lee currently lives in Columbia and is the author of several books of varying styles, including novels and short stories. Her career as a court reporter, which saw her moving all around the country, served as inspiration for some of her stories. Before that, she taught high school, children’s special education, college English and vocational school classes in Stenotype.

Two of Lee’s books were published in 2013: “The Absent Woman” and a collection of short stories, “Rebecca’s Road.” In 2014, she published “Scoville,” a collection of three mystery novellas; and in November 2014, she published the novel “Limestone Wall.”

Her next book, “No Certain Home,” a historical novel based on the life of international journalist Agnes Smedley, will be published by Holland House Books in April 2016. In the meantime, Lee can often be found holding down a table at Lakota Coffee House in Columbia.

Prior to moving to Missouri, Cathy Salter worked two years for National Geographic magazine and 15 years as a junior high history and geography teacher in south central Los Angeles. Today, she and husband Kit are on their second stint living in Missouri, just outside of Ashland, on five acres they call “Boomerang Creek.”

Salter is the author of “Notes from Boomerang Creek,” formerly “Notes from Breakfast Creek,” which is published weekly in the Boone County Journal and Columbia Daily Tribune. In the fall of 2008, she published “Notes From Breakfast Creek: A Look at the World,” a collection of essays drawn from her newspaper columns.

An article entitled, “Lewis and Clark’s Lost Missouri” appeared in the April 2002 issue of National Geographic. She continues to write her weekly column, which has been in the Journal since 1993 and the Tribune since 1997.

Stephanie Williams is marketing manager for University of Missouri Press. The Press was founded in 1958 by William Peden, writer and member of the university’s English Department faculty.

The Press endeavors to share original scholarly research, outstanding writing, as well as uniquely focused studies by, for and about Missourians. Making these works available to the public enables the Press to fulfill its mission as a partner to the university in the dissemination of scholarship and knowledge.

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