From Endorse

Late 14c. endosse “alteration,” from Old French endosser (12c.), literally “to put on back,” from en- “put on” + dos “back,” from Latin dossum, variant of dorsum. Sense of “confirm, approve” (by signing on the back) is recorded in English first in 1847.

“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.”

–Bill Mulcahy

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 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 or email Bill at

“Over the years of working in coaching sessions at VCW, I found that Debra has a rare talent for helping a story or poem along.  Her editor’s touch is light, yet clear and she is uncompromising in her standards for good writing.  Unlike some writer/coaches I’ve had, she doesn’t produce self-styled clones.  She helps writers discover and strengthen their own voices.  Debra helped turn my rough drafts into publishable pieces with just the right balance of encouragement and critique.  But she’s more than just an editor; she’s a mentor in every sense of the word.  She championed me and supported me, and genuinely cares about me and my writing.  She’s an oasis in the solitary and often arduous practice of writing.”


–Peggy Hong


Peggy Hong was Poet Laureate of Milwaukee 2006-2007, and is the author of three books:   The Sister Who Swallowed the Ocean, Hoofbeats, and Three Truths and a Lie. Also known by her Korean name, Gwi-Seok, she lives on the east side of Detroit, teaches Iyengar Yoga in Hamtramck, writes essays and poems, and blogs at An activist and organizer, she is involved with Healing Justice, New Work/New Culture/New Economy, Uprooting Racism/Planting Justice, and The Boggs Center to Nurture Community Leadership. Some of her recent work can be found in The Periphery Magazine.

“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.”

–Jude Ford

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 (  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

“I began my work at the Vest Conservatory for Writers as an unpublished poet and have been there many years. Coaching with Debra Kay Vest has taught me to turn my raw (and unpublished poetry) into finely tuned (and published) poetry.  I do readings at local bookstores and libraries. Debra also helped me set up a podcast (interview and reading) at Poetry Spoken Here out of Chicago: or Now, I’ve competed my first full-length book and two chapbooks and am working in my sessions with Debra to publish them. To sum it up, I got serious about my commitment to writing through coaching at the Vest Conservatory for Writers, and it pushed me through. The one-on-one critique and revision suggestions have proven to be invaluable. I would not hesitate to recommend this level of study to anyone who takes his art seriously.”


— John Sierpinski


John Sierpinski, a Pushcart Prize nominee in poetry, has published poems in over fifty literary magazines including California Quarterly, Stoneboat, Airplane Reading, Wisconsin People and Ideas, Out of Our, Indiana Voice Journal, Portage Magazine, Verse Virtual, Wilderness House Literary Review and several anthologies.  He was as featured poet for April Poetry Month 2016 for Woodland Pattern in Milwaukee.  He continues to get coaching (now also working in fiction) at the Vest Conservatory for Writers in Milwaukee and has just completed a full-length collection titled “Sucker Hole” and two chapbooks, “Receipts” and “VW Microbus, Burning”. He is beginning to seek publishers for all three.

“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.”

–Sara Mcgaughy

Author of Matilda Mae: The Dog Who Needed a Name

“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 Gómez


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


Anja Notanja Sieger is the Creator of Milwaukee’s typewriter poetry service La Prosette, 7th Pfister Hotel Narrator, Resident at RedLine Milwaukee, Co-host of The Subtle Forces on Riverwest Radio and Founder of The Museum of Advice and Advice Tent.
“I owe Debra Kay Vest, of the Vest Conservatory for Writers, a great deal. Several of my poems and flash fictions began as exercises in four of her workshops that I attended: Writing and the Senses, Animal Stories, Flash Fiction I and Flash Fiction II.  I loved those workshops and still refer to their notes. Later, I began working with Debra as my editor/coach, one-to-one. She has been immensely helpful with the first two of a series of essays for a memoir about my father, as well as with my poetry.
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!”


–Alessandra Foster


Alessandra Foster is an essayist, poet, and fiction writer

The Vest Conservatory for Writers
2125 N. Newhall St.
Milwaukee, WI 53202