School of Professional and Continuing Studies

Core Courses | Seminars | Registration/Fees | Instructors

Learn From Experts and Enhance Your Skills With UMSL's Write Stuff Certificate Program.

Complete two core courses (one fiction and one nonfiction) and choose from a selection of seminars on a wide variety of topics that will improve your writing skills as well as your knowledge of the business of writing. When you’ve completed a total of 50 contact hours, you’ll be awarded a Chancellor’s Certificate in Writing. If you aren’t interested in earning a certificate, that’s okay! Simply pick and choose the classes or seminars that interest you. All of them will take you closer to realizing your dream.

Feel confident in learning from the best at UMSL. All seminars are taught by published authors, and core courses are taught by top students in UMSL's distinguished Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing Program.

For more information on The Write Stuff Certificate Program or to register, please call (314) 516-6590.

Core Courses: Fall/Spring

Core courses will provide specialized instruction, and opportunities to write, discuss and analyze participants' work.

Fiction Writing Workshop (8 weeks)

Tuesday, January 28–March 18, 2014 • 6:00–8:00 PM | Register Online

This class provides an in-depth look at fiction writing: building characters, plot-driven vs. character-driven stories, development of dialogue and plot, the function of theme and how theme shapes the evolution of a story, and the use of imagery, emotion, and insight. Participants will have ample opportunity to brainstorm, write, and revise.

Creative Nonfiction Workshop (8 weeks)                                       

Wednesday, January 29–March 19, 2014 | 6:00–8:00 PM | Register Online

Creative nonfiction refers to, but is not limited to, belles lettres, personal narratives, memoirs, and literary journalism. This course focuses primarily on personal narratives and literary journalism. Students will analyze professional creative nonfiction essays to better understand the craft that goes into writing them, and will also write and workshop their own creative nonfiction essays. In every type of creative nonfiction writing, the goal is to capture a truth. That will be the goal of this course—to tell a truth through a creative rhetorical method.


Write to Win: Writing Tips from a Contest Judge

Saturday, September 14, 2013 • 1–4 PM Instructor: Donna Volkenannt

Good writing isn’t always enough to win writing competitions. Often it’s the little things that give winning entries the edge. During this seminar, frequent contest judge and first place winner of the 2012 Erma Bombeck Global Humor Writing Competition, Donna Volkenannt, will share tips and strategies she’s learned over years of judging and entering writing competitions.

Intensive Business Writing: Grammar & Punctuation

Saturday, September 28, 2013 • 9 AM–noon Instructor: Mary Menke

“Intensive Business Writing: Grammar and Punctuation” will explain the basics of business writing, including which grammar and punctuation rules you must follow and which are now considered “personal preference,” as well as give you techniques for getting started when you’re having trouble putting “fingers to keyboard.”

Publishing From A to Z

Saturday, October 12, 2013 • 9 AM–noon • Instructor: Bobbi Smith

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author (and UMSL graduate) Bobbi Smith shares the secrets of getting a novel written and sold in today’s rapidly changing publishing industry. She discusses where to get story ideas; how to target your work to a specific market; how to write a solid, salable manuscript; creating the story outline, synopsis, and selling proposal; approaching and working with literary agents and editors; and how to sustain a successful and personally rewarding writing career.

Copyright, Permissions & Ethics of Creative Writing

Saturday, October 26, 2013 • 1–4 PM • Instructor: Catherine Rankovic | Register Online

After the writing is finished, the next step is protecting your rights to your work and protecting yourself from legal challenges. This seminar answers questions such as: Should I use people’s real names in my memoirs? How do I legally copyright a work? How can I make sure my online poem or article won’t be plagiarized or stolen? Whom do I call if I want to use song lyrics in my memoir or short story?

Research & Writing: Where to Start, What to Do, & When to Stop

Saturday, November 9, 2013 • 9 AM–noon • Instructor: Margo Dill | Register Online

Almost any book you write or article you query requires some research—from historical facts to police procedure to various breeds of animals. Research is fun, but you have to stop somewhere and write the manuscript. This workshop provides advice and tips on researching a subject, when to stop, and when to get writing. Margo also includes ideas for organization and a reality check about just how much research makes it into a book. The workshop is hands-on with time for short writing prompts and brainstorming on a current work-in-progress.

Business Writing & More: Creating Marketing Materials

Saturday, November 16, 2013 • 1–4 PM • Instructor: Dianna Graveman | Register Online

Write and build compelling, eye-catching business brochures, newsletters, ads, and infographics—a valuable skill set for solopreneurs/entrepreneurs, marketing professionals, and freelancers.

Writing for Dollars: Earn Income as a Freelancer

Saturday, December 14, 2013 • 1–4 PM • Instructor: Dianna Graveman | Register Online

You've written a short story or have a great idea for a magazine article or personal essay. Now what? Where and how can you get it published and earn money for your work? Find places to publish, choose a market for your story, pitch an article, and more. Come away from this class with a wealth of information about how to start writing for dollars.

Poetry Writing

Saturday, February 8, 2014 • 1:00–4:00 PM • Instructor: Catherine Rankovic | Register Online

Beginners or advanced poets: enjoy some easy writing games and exercises that help you create new poems on the spot. Learn about diving inside yourself and saying what you see. Find out about, or reacquaint yourself with, some of the tools in poetry’s “literary toolbox,” such as similes, rhythm, effective line breaks, and how poem titles can “make or break” a poem.

Characters & Plotting, the Heart of Your Story

Saturday, February 22, 2014 • 9 AM–noon Instructor: Bobbi Smith | Registe Online

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author (and UMSL graduate) Bobbi Smith will help you create believable and exciting characters who enhance your plotline and make your story a real page-turner.

Keep the Customer Satisfied: Dos & Don’ts of Successful Freelance Book Editors

Saturday, March 8, 2014 • 1–4 PM Instructor: Dianna Graveman | Register Online

With the upswing in indie publishing, more authors are seeking freelance editors to help them polish their manuscripts. And many accomplished authors have found that editing as a sideline has helped them hone their writing skills by learning to cut redundant words and phrases, watch for inconsistencies, and listen for awkward-sounding dialogue. Blogs abound with advice for authors on what to expect from an editor. But what should you, as an editor, expect from your clients? And what can you realistically provide? Learn or revisit some dos and don’ts successful book editors use to gain a following and keep authors coming back for more.

Overcoming Writer’s Block

Saturday, March 15, 2014  9:00 AM–12:00 PM  Instructor: Catherine Rankovic | Register Online

Call it procrastination, fear of exposure, fear of rejection, fear of failure, or wanting to quit—this seminar helps with how to get past it.

So. You Want to Write a Kids’ Book

Saturday, April 12, 2014 • 9:00 AM–12:00 PM  Instructor: Jody Feldman | Register Online

Award-winning middle grade author, Jody Feldman will take you through the complexities of writing for children, including: understanding your target readers (and the kidlit gatekeepers), evaluating your story ideas, and writing in a voice children want to hear. Other topics—which may include on-point revision, manuscript formatting, dialogue, setting, submission tips and more—will be determined by your interest and input.

Novel Ideas 101: From Great Idea to Published Author*

Saturday, June 14, 2014 • 9:00 AM–6:00 PM  Instructors: Bobbi Smith and Mia Marlowe | Register Online

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Bobbi Smith and award-winning, multi-published author Mia Marlowe will join forces to guide aspiring authors through the writing process to publication.



Fees are payable by cash, check, or charge. (Make checks payable to the University of Missouri–St. Louis.)


The University reserves the right to modify by increase or decrease the fees charged for attendance and other services at the University, including but not limited to educational fees, at any time when in the discretion of the governing board the same is in the best interest of the University, provided that no increases can or will be effective unless approved by the governing board not less than thirty (30) days prior to the beginning of the academic term (semester, etc.) to which the fees are applicable, with all modification of fees to be effective irrespective as to whether fees have or have not been paid by or on behalf of a student prior to the effective date of the modification. In the event of cancellation, you will be notified immediately, and all program fees will be refunded or applied to a future program at your request. If you must cancel a registration, you are entitled to a full refund only if you cancel prior to the first class meeting. After a course begins, refunds are made on a prorated basis in accordance with campus policy. Call (314) 516-6590 for information on canceling a registration once a course has begun.



Margo Dill

Margo is the author of Finding My Place: One Girl's Strength at Vicksburg, a middle-grade historical fiction novel set during the U. S. Civil War. She is also a freelance writer, editor, speaker, and teacher, living in St. Louis, Missouri. Her work has appeared in publications such as Grit, Pockets, True Love, Fun for Kidz, Missouri Life, ByLine Magazine, and The Chicago Tribune. She is a columnist, instructor, and contributing editor for WOW! Women On Writing. She is the memoir, middle-grade novel, and YA editor at High Hill Press and the assistant editor for the Sunday Books page in The News-Gazette. High Hill Press will publish her children’s picture book, Lucy and the Red Ribbon Week Adventure, and she will also have a picture book out from Guardian Angel Publishing. She writes a blog called, Read These Books and Use Them, for parents, teachers, and librarians. She owns her own copyediting business, Editor 911. When she's not writing or speaking, she loves spending time with her husband, stepson, daughter, and dog—Chester, a boxer. You can find out more about Margo by visiting her website:


Dianna Graveman

Dianna is a former corporate training designer, teacher, and full-time manuscript editor for a traditional publishing house. She has taught both graduate and undergraduate writing students at several area colleges and universities, and her publishing portfolio includes over 160 writing credits, 22 awards, and coauthorship of four regional histories and one anthology. Dianna is a graduate of the University of Missouri-St. Louis (Summa cum laude) and earned an MFA from Lindenwood University, where she also taught in the program. She is the founder, writer, editor, and designer at 2 Rivers Communications & Design and a partner at Treehouse Publishing Group. Read more at and


Jody Feldman

Jody blames her 7th grade English teacher (justly or not) for turning her away from writing, yet the world mysteriously led her back. Through a series of happenstances she found herself enrolled in the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, discovered she really could write, and holds a Bachelor of Journalism degree in advertising.

Her children’s novels—The Seventh Level and The Gollywhopper Games series (all from Greenwillow/HarperCollins) have won a number of honors including the Georgia Children's Book Award, the Grand Canyon Readers Award, Missouri Writers Guild Show Me Best Book Award, plus debuts on the Indie Next List and placement on 16 state reading lists.

Learn more at, @jodyfeldman on Twitter, or JodyFeldmanAuthor on Facebook.


Mary Menke

Mary Menke teaches writing and oral communication classes for Ranken Technical College and University of Phoenix. She led business writing workshops for SkillPath Seminars for 3-1/2 years before starting her own writing and editing services business, WordAbilities, in 2006.


Catherine Rankovic

Catherine Rankovic’s books include Meet Me: Writers in St. Louis (Penultimate, 2010), Island Universe: Essays and Entertainments (WingSpan, 2007); Fierce Consent and Other Poems (WingSpan, 2005) and Guilty Pleasures: Indulgences, Addictions, and Obsessions (Andrews McMeel, 2003). She received her MFA from Washington University, where she taught for 21 years; she now teaches poetry and creative nonfiction in the online MFA program at Lindenwood University. Her essays and poems have appeared in The Missouri Review, St. Louis Magazine, The Iowa Review, Boulevard, River Styx, Umbrella, Garbanzo, Bad Shoe, The Progressive, Natural Bridge, Gulf Coast, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch, and other journals and anthologies. Her awards include the Missouri Biennial Award for essay writing, and an Academy of American Poets award. She is a professional book editor and her website is


Bobbi Smith

After working as a department manager for Famous-Barr, and briefly as a clerk at a bookstore, Bobbi Smith gave up on career security and began writing. She sold her first book to Zebra in 1982. Since then, Bobbi has written more than 40 books and 6 novellas. To date, there are more than five million of her novels in print. She has been awarded the prestigious Romantic Times Storyteller of the Year Award and two Career Achievement Awards. Her books have appeared on numerous bestseller lists.


Donna Volkenannt

Donna is a former UMSL student whose essays, short stories, book reviews, interviews, and articles have appeared in numerous commercial and literary publications.

Winner of almost 100 writing awards, her works have also been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and a Spur Award. She received honorable mention in the Fourth Annual National Steinbeck Short Story Competition. In 2012 she won first place in the Erma Bombeck Global Humor Writing Contest.

Donna has edited several literary anthologies and has served as a judge in local, state, regional, and national writing competitions.

A past president of the Missouri Writers’ Guild and founding president of Saturday Writers, when Donna's not reading, writing, or talking about writing, she blogs about the sweet mysteries of life at