Success Stories

Here are the stories we received after the 2013, 2014, and 2015 conferences. If your story is not here, please email Jessica Willard at

Scott Beal

Scott’s first full-length book of poems, Wait 'Til You Have Real Problems, was published by Dzanc Books, November 2014. The book includes a crown of sonnets called "Hologram for Ice and Axe" which he wrote during his first Bear River Conference in 2010, when he participated in Thomas Lynch's workshop. "The Academy" was published in Beloit Poetry Journal in Spring 2014, which he wrote as a participant in Patricia Clark's workshop at Bear River 2012. "Memorial Day" was published in Midwestern Gothic in Spring 2015, which he wrote also as a participant in Patricia Clark's workshop at Bear River 2012. "Sugar Rush" was published in Sonora Review in Fall 2014, which he wrote as a participant in Marianne Boruch's workshop at Bear River 2013. And "When I Died of Fire" was published in Four Way Review in Spring 2015, which he wrote as a participant in Michael Dickman's workshop at Bear River 2014. 

Judith Brice

Judy has had several poems published over the last few years; one earning honorable mention in the last Paterson Literary Review. Even more exciting is her book publication coming out in the fall. Renditions in a Palette will be published by WordTech Communications. Check it out here.

Robert Brunk

Robert's essay "A Samuel Beckett Song," which was published in the Michigan Quarterly Review last year, was selected as a Notable essay for Best American Essays 2014. He began his writing career at the Bear River Writer's Conference in 2011 and has not missed a conference since.  

Deborah Burand

This spring Deborah won first place for short form fiction in a Creative Writing Contest sponsored by the Clinical Legal Education Association for her flash fiction piece, "What Counts."

Kelly Fordon

Kelly worked with Antonya Nelson at the 2008 conference; the short fiction she workshopped are included in her collection of short stories, Garden for the Blind, forthcoming from Wayne State University Press.

Dave Hardin

Dave's poem "Blank" appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of the Dunes Review. He read his poem at the Dunes Review launch event at Brilliant Books in Traverse City on Saturday, October 18th, 2014. His poem "Cemetery Beautiful, Avenue Love, Row Paradise" was also published in the Fall 2014 online literary journal of The Madison Review, published through the University of Wisconsin Madison.

Diane Marty

Diane was inspired by the Bear River 2013 panel on memoir, especially Rhoda Janzen, who explained so clearly what memoir is and what it is not. Diane was also inspired by her interactions with fellow writers at Bear River as well as the strong emphasis on memoir at the conference. Click on the link below to read Diane’s excellent article on living single in Psychology Today online.

Caroline Maun

The poems that appeared in Bear River Review 2012, "Directions Home: 1986," "Venus Fly Trap," and "Beauty," are now included in a new volume of poetry titled What Remains (Main Street Rag, July 2013). Caroline says, "Directions Home: 1986" was first drafted in Richard Tillinghast's workshop on journeys in poetry. Main Street Rag Website.

Debbie Merion

Debbie Merion's short story, Magnetic North, was published in April, 2013 as part of the award-winning eBook app The Silent History.

Thomas Mitchell

Thomas Mitchell attended Barry Wallenstein's workshop for poetry, his first love. He credits the workshop for teaching him to be real and efficient in his work. Barry Wallenstein also encouraged Tom to publish his work. Tom became earnest about publishing and finally completed his work last August. Being around writers at Bear River who were skilled and dedicated, yet down to earth, helped him believe he could succeed. This past year, he was further encouraged to write fiction in his workshop with V.V. Ganeshenanthan and is progressing well on a new mystery novel. He recently published the book, New England Son, a memoir that describes his life growing up in "an ethnic blue collar immigrant community in Boston area from 1938 - 1982. The frugal, simple, yet happy days, our values of faith, loyalty, and self-reliance – the enjoyment of street games, homes fueled by coal, political rascals and war heroes. Parents who sacrificed so that their children could go to college and achieve their version of the American Dream." Available here.

Tanya Muzumdar

Tanya’s poem, “When the Road Broke in Two” was published in the fall 2015 issue of Front Porch, the literary journal for the MFA program at Texas State University. She wrote this poem at the 2014 Bear River Writers’ Conference during Linda Gregerson’s workshop.

Jim O'Brien

Jim O'Brien, publishing under the pen name James Escher, won the 2013 Kentucky State Poetry Society Poetry Grand Prix Category Third Place Award for his poem, "The Universe Before the Breakup." The poem was workshopped at the 2013 BRWC.

Kathleen Pfeiffer

Bear River gave Kathleen instruction and support to develop her skills in memoir and creative nonfiction. As a result of this, she was named Kresge Artist Fellow in Literary Arts for 2012. There's a profile of her fellowship in the Kresge Arts in Detroit website here.. Kathleen also participated in Art X Detroit on April 12 and 13, 2013, performing work that began in Bear River workshops. More details and information (including news coverage) are available here.

Ksenia Rychtycka

Ksenia’s short story collection, Crossing The Border, was published on October 15, 2012 by Little Creek Books (an imprint of Jan-Carol Publishing). It was recently selected as a finalist in the 2013 Next Generation Indie Book Awards in the category of Short Story – Fiction. When Ksenia first came to Bear River, she says she was a bit stuck trying to find a publisher for the collection. Bear River unleashed her creativity and instilled the confidence to keep writing no matter what. She was invigorated by the genuine support and feedback in each of the workshops.

Susannah Sheffer

Susannah’s chapbook This Kind of Knowing was published by Cooper Dillon Press in March, just in time to be available at AWP in Boston. Several of the poems in the collection began at Bear River, and the encouragement from other Bear River poets certainly helped too. More information is online here. Susannah’s book Fighting for Their Lives: Inside the Experience of Capital Defense Attorneys also came out in March, published by Vanderbilt University Press. While this book is less directly connected to Bear River, Susannah has talked with Bear River friends about the project at each conference for the past few years, and their questions, insights, and interest are all part of the experience. More information on that book is online here.

Elaine Steinon

Elaine had a historical novel, The Way to the Shining City, a story of the early Mormons in Missouri and Nauvoo, Illinois, published June, 2011 by AuthorHouse. The novel has won an honorable mention in the 2011 Los Angeles Book Festival Contest in the category of general fiction. Elaine’s second success was a flash fiction piece entitled "Skipping School," which won the Potomac Review Flash Fiction contest in 2011. I worked on both of these pieces of fiction at Bear River. The flash fiction story was written in Richard McCann's class. Elaine’s website is online here.

Ellen Stone

Ellen’s chapbook of poems, The Solid Living World, was published by Michigan Writers Cooperative press in 2013 as a contest winner. It would not have happened without Bear River, as a third of the poems were written at the conference or shortly thereafter. Ellen met Michigan Writers at Bear River and started publishing in their Dunes Review.

Shannon Sweetnam

Following the 2014 Bear River Writers' Conference, Shannon has been published in multiple journals. These include “Alphabet Letters,” forthcoming in SmokeLong Quareterly; “Jubilee,” in The Golden Key, Issue 5, Winter 2014; “How Not to Rescue Your Uncle from Accidental Drowning,” in NANO Fiction, Fall 2014; “Ester,” in The Pinch, Summer 2014; “Macarons,” in Cleaver Magazine, Issue 7; “Mirabel River Girl, Champion Speller” in Cleaver Magazine, Issue 5; and “Bernard, Amongst the Sea Oats,” published in Issue 33, summer 2013 in Terrain: a Journal of the Natural + Built Environments. She also met success in a number of competitions. Her story “Proclamations” was shortlisted for the 2014 Bridport Prize (Dorset, United Kingdom); “Affection” received second place in the 2014 Literal Latte Fiction Award, Fall 2014; “Mirabel River Girl, Champion Speller” was a 2013 A Room of Her Own Foundation's Orlando Prize for Short Fiction finalist; and “Proclamations” was a 2013 David Nathan Meyerson Fiction Prize finalist.

Pia Taavila-Borsheim

Pia’s experiences with Bear River have led to several poems that were either started, workshopped, revised, or compiled into her third book, titled Notes to David, currently in manuscript form. In 2015, she published works including “After He Leaves”, “Delray Again”, “Piazza”, “Remorse”, “The Carp”, “Fashion Forward”, “Wednesday Mornings”, “Past the Perimeter”, “Hotel Window”, “Flagpole”, “Salem”, “Two Birds”, “Yom Kippur”, “Peaches”, “Towards Death”, “Promises”, “Refugees”, “Travel Plans”, and “Return to Walloon Lake”. Additional publications can be found online here.

Vivian Wagner

Vivian Wagner published an essay, "Kickback," in the Fall 2013 issue of Zone 3. She wrote this essay in Bich Nguyen's memoir workshop at Bear River in 2012, and she read it at the participant reading at that conference.