“I first met Deb Vest in one of her workshops at a Writer’s Conference at Cardinal Stritch University. The workshop spoke to me and I called her sometime later to begin working with her privately at VCW, primarily on fiction. As my writing coach for four years, Deb Vest provided me with on-going support, critique and deep feedback which led to the betterment and completion of many short stories, poems, and longer pieces of fiction. Deb’s personal coaching approach involves deeply examining a piece of fiction, often line by line, with eye and ear, as well as head and heart. Deb furthers this approach by suggesting appropriate pieces of literature to read and study to further a writer’s skills and experience. I’ll especially never forget my dabbling in writing a Magical Realist short story while reading the likes of Jorge Luis Borges, Tommaso Landolfi and my favorite, Gabriel Garcia Marquez. It changed my view of literature forever. In addition to all this, I was able to successfully publish several pieces of fiction while working with Deb. But perhaps most importantly, Deb helped me connect with who I was as a writer discovering my own inner voice and writing path. I cannot thank her enough for her insight, wisdom and grace.”
William “Bill” Mulcahy is a Licensed Professional Counselor, psychotherapist, and owner of Kids Cope Now, a program for providing books and tools for teaching children to cope with the challenges and demands of life. Bill is the author of the Zach Rules Series (Free Spirit Publishing): Zach Apologizes and Zach Gets Frustrated, 2012; Zach Makes Mistakes, 2016; Zach Hangs in There, 2017. Learn more about Zach at www.freespirit.com/zachrules. Bill is also the author of Zoey Goes to the Hospital, 2015, an honest and comforting story, written in English and Spanish, to support kids in the hospital or receiving medical treatment. Learn more about Bill and Zoey at kidscopenow.com or email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“I worked on several manuscripts in multiple genres during my tenure of coaching at VCW, but primarily fiction and memoir. My coach was editor, Debra Kay Vest. During the period of time I worked with Debra, my writing went from being just respectable, to quality work I am proud of. I’ve published stories and poems and been named for prizes in both poetry and fiction. I’ve written a long memoir that Debra has helped me develop from diary status to a piece of literature. Already, one of the plotlines of this book was used for an episode of Mystery ER, on the Discovery Channel. During coaching sessions at VCW, Debra also helped me prepare a proposal packet to send out to literary agents. Debra’s exacting, and compassionate skill as a developmental editor was essential to my shaping a successful writing career. Through VCW, I also participated in public readings at area bookstores.
Because Debra is a writer herself, she provides the best possible guidance. She challenges indistinct or untrue phrases and at the same time creates an atmosphere in which the writer’s spirit is encouraged to come forward. I came away from every session with my joy in writing strengthened and my belief in myself increased immeasurably.”
Judith Ford is a Pushcart Prize nominee in fiction and poetry, winner of the Willow Fiction Prize and the Margaret Reid Poetry Contest for Traditional Verse (https://winningwriters.com/people/judith-ford). Her work been published widely in Southern Humanities Review, Connecticut Review, Quarter after Eight, Red Ravine, and Porcupine Literary Arts Journal, to name a few. She is also the author of the memoir “Fever of Unknown Origin”. To learn more about Judith see http://judithford.com/.
“I worked with Dr. Debra Vest at VCW in a series of by-phone coaching sessions during the process of writing a book of fiction for children, Matilda Mae: The Dog Who Needed a Name. My goal for this book was to give kids and their families a real understanding of the good done by The Humane Society and use a portion of the proceeds of the book’s sale to further their work.
I was a first-time author. I needed a coach who could help me create and edit my work, but I wanted to find and maintain a voice that was and is my own. Dr. Vest was exactly what I needed and a joy to work with. Her professionalism and writing expertise helped me immeasurably.”
“Debra at VCW came recommended by a friend, a published poet who had completed a book while being coached by her. I began my coaching sessions slowly, but am now a regular. I’ve found that Debra has an extensive knowledge of poetry, as well as poetic forms and craft. Since I began receiving her objective critiques, I’ve created poetry that I cherish. As a bilingual Latina, I need the bountiful space VCW provides for me to explore and write poetry about my cultural experiences, in my two languages. Receiving coaching from a former magazine editor, will, I believe, also better position my poetry to be published… Gracias, Debora!”
Eloisa Gomez is a poet and co-author of Wisconsin’s Latina Activists forthcoming by The Wisconsin Historical Society Press in 2018
My poem for the Vest Conservatory for Writers:
“Debra is like a bird of prey when considering your manuscript. She might be flying several feet above so as to get the whole of the 20+ page composition, but her eagle eye can always spot the scampering vermin. Some vermin you want and others must go, and Debra always can tell what to do, she’s decades in the know!”
–Anja Notanja Sieger
I can highly recommend Debra Vest as a wonderful teacher and coach. Being a lovely person is a bonus. Debra is careful, attentive, specific, constructive, supportive, and not afraid to make suggestions about changes and cuts (!) she thinks would improve your work. As a published writer, and long-time editor, she knows what she is talking about. I don’t have to agree with everything she says, but I’m always grateful for her substantive comments. Plus I find that I may eventually end up thinking her suggestion is best, and doing just what I balked at in the first place!”
The Vest Conservatory for Writers
2125 N. Newhall St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202