MWW50th Alumni Roundup

Meet Some of Our Alumni Faculty — More to Come!

D.E. Johnson, a graduate of Central Michigan University, has been a teacher, a salesperson, a manager, and a business owner, but through it all he was a writer. (It just took him a while to figure that out.) The four books in his historical mystery series, beginning with The Detroit Electric Scheme, were published by Minotaur Books and all garnered starred reviews from at least one of the major review publications. The Detroit Electric Scheme and Motor City Shakedown also won Michigan Notable Book awards. Follow him on Facebook and check out his website! 

D.E. Johnson is teaching “Characters You Can’t Forget.”

Q&A with D.E. Johnson

MWW: What drew you to your genre and the type of books you’ve written?

DEJ: I’ve always been a fan of crime fiction, by both genre writers like Elmore Leonard and literary writers like E.L. Doctorow. For me I think it’s an attraction to risk, which is much easier to choose in fiction than in life. At the same time, I love history and historical fiction, so marrying the two made sense to me. My books always have a strong historical component accompanying the mystery. My goal is to help my readers understand an important part of history while (hopefully) being entertained.

MWW: What’s your favorite takeaway from the session you’ll be teaching? Why do you think this is important for writers to consider in their own work?

DEJ: The most important lesson I’ve learned regarding character is that everyone–including your antagonist–is their own protagonist. It’s easy to write antagonists who have no compelling reasons to do what they do: serial killers, for example. They kill people because they kill people. I want antagonists whose ideas make sense, at least to them, and are understandable to readers.

MWW: How has MWW figured in your writing career?

DEJ: I went to MWW in my first year of seriously writing. I was very impressed by the material, the welcoming attitude of the faculty, and the ease of getting to know some of the attendees. I learned a lot about writing, which was great for me, since I was still working on a lot of fundamentals, not just looking for an agent. In 2009 I won a fellowship to the MWW Summer Retreat, and Terry Feherty helped me finetune The Detroit Electric Scheme, my first published book. Since then, I have taught at MWW on numerous occasions, and always look forward to seeing my friends and making new ones in Muncie. MWW is always my favorite writing event of the year!


Sherry Stanfa-Stanley is an award-winning writer and author of Finding My Badass Self: A Year of Truths and Dares, a bestselling memoir that chronicles her hilarious and enlightening year of midlife misadventures. Sherry’s writing has appeared in The Rumpus, Healthy Aging, First for Women, and The Huffington Post, and in the anthologies Fifty Shades of Funny, Laugh Out Loud, and You Do You. A Toledo-area native, Sherry recently retired from a long career in the field of journalism and communications.

For more information, check out her website!

Sherry is teaching “Looking For Laughs in All the Right Places.”


Q&A with Sherry

MWW: What drew you to your genre and the type of books you’ve written?

SSS: When I was packing boxes to move several years ago, I came across a satirical short story I’d written when I was eleven years old. Surprisingly, it still made me laugh out loud. My sixth grade teacher — the same one who regularly sent me out to stand in the hall or down to the principal’s office for my disruptive class clown antics — had written on the last page: “If you don’t do something with all your talent, I’m going to come back some day to haunt you.” Apparently, she saw me as a diamond in the rough. I figured even then that writing, with a focus on humor, was my future. Either that or else a lifetime sentence in a haunted women’s reformatory. (Phew. I missed it by THAT much.) I’m still grateful for her early encouragement.

MWW: What’s your favorite takeaway from the session you’ll be teaching? Why do you think this is important for writers to consider in their own work?

SSS: Carrie Fisher once wrote, “If my life wasn’t funny it would just be true, and that is unacceptable.” Finding the funny is obviously integral if you are writing in the humor genre. Yet even the tragic memoir Angela’s Ashes by Frank McCourt is punctuated by wry humor in several scenes and sentences. It provides much needed comic relief in an otherwise bleak life story. A sense of humor can buoy us and carry us through even the grimmest parts of our life. And including snippets of humor in our writing does the same for our readers, no matter what genre we write.

MWW: How has MWW figured in your writing career?

SSS: I would not be a published and successful author if it weren’t for MWW. Full stop. From the affirmation of receiving an MWW fellowship in 2011 to the knowledge I gained from each of the workshops I attended since, the Midwest Writers Workshop has proven to be a meaningful force in my writing career. When a New York Times bestselling author met with me to discuss the work in progress that would become my book Finding My Badass Self, she leaned back in her chair, looked at me, and said, “When I read this, I said to myself, ‘Wow — This woman can write.'” Thanks to her and to the rest of the MWW faculty who taught and inspired me, I believed that I could. And so can each of you.


Kelsey Timmerman is the New York Times bestselling author of the Where Am I? series: Where Am I Wearing?, Where Am I Eating?, and Where Am I Giving?. Kelsey has reported from more than 60 countries and written about topics such as sweatshops in Bangladesh and slavery in Ivory Coast. He educates audiences and readers through humor and storytelling, and encourages them to think globally and act locally. He is also a co-founder of The Facing Project, a national community storytelling nonprofit that has collected more than 1,500 stories. Kelsey’s next book on regenerative agriculture will be published by Patagonia Books in 2023. Kelsey seeks to create understanding and empathy through stories that inspire action.

Follow Kelsey on Twitter and Instagram, and check out his website for more information.

Kelsey is teaching “Finding and Telling True Stories.”


Q&A with Kelsey

MWW: What drew you to your genre and the types of books you’ve written?

KT: After college I wanted to know more about the world beyond the Midwest. So I saved up money and started traveling on the cheap–bad buses, sketchy accommodations, hitch-hiking, camping, and, in general, living like a vagabond. Journal entries became emails to friends and family, emails became blog posts which became a newspaper column, which led to writing books.  My hometown wasn’t the most diverse place to grow up, so I became fascinated with how people thought and lived around the world. While I was traveling in Honduras I met a man my same age who worked in the factory where my T-shirt was made. My work shifted from stories of adventure travel to stories of how we are all connected and how those connections come with responsibilities to live our lives in a way that makes a positive difference on others and on our planet.

MWW: What’s your favorite takeaway from the session you’ll be teaching? Why do you think this is important for writers to consider in their own work?

KT: There are tools and techniques to use during the researching and writing phases that can make the nonfiction writing process so much easier. To write a single book, I will have clips and notes for hundreds of articles, hundreds of hours of audio interviews, and I’ll read 35+ other books. That’s a lot of info to sift through when it comes time to write. It can be overwhelming. I’ve adopted a few tools and techniques that can make this way less of a headache.

MWW: How has MWW figured in your writing career?

KT: If you cut me, I bleed MWW. Sure, MWW has played a key role in my writing career. I met my first agent here who sold my first book (Where Am I Wearing?). When she quit agenting she introduced me to my second agent and then my third. Then I met my fourth and current agent at MWW. (That’s a lot of agents, huh? I promise I’m not hard to work with. They all left agenting.) So, yes, MWW has played an important role in my writing career, but it’s played an even bigger role in my writing life. I think of the friends and community that have helped keep me sane (for instance when yet another agent leaves the publishing world) and keep me inspired. I love being around people who love words, and I’m pumped to celebrate all of our attendees and MWW’s 50th!

Stay tuned! We’ve got more Q&As with our All-Star faculty members.

They will help you write your story!

Check out the In-Person and Virtual Schedules


MWW is dedicated to building a community where writers can network with others and grow.

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MWW50th Alumni Faculty Roundup Part 2
MWW 50th Alumni Roundup Part 3

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