About Us

The Mill: A Place for Writers is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) tax-exempt organization headquartered in Appleton with outreach across Northeastern Wisconsin. The organization was founded in 2013 by Steven Polansky and Karla Houston (see bios below) with the mission to support the artistic development of writers, foster a writing community, and build an audience for literature.


The Mill co-founders - Steve Polansky and Karla Huston

The Mill offers a broad range of classes and workshops in fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction including memoir, taught by experienced teachers, themselves accomplished, widely published writers. The Mill hosts a variety of local events, and also sponsors the Mill Prizes, an annual writing contest for short stories and poetry. 

Our Teachers



Steve Polansky

Steven Polansky, co-founder and president of The Mill, is an author and professor from Queens, NYC. He was educated at Wesleyan (BA), Hollins (MFA), and Princeton (PhD) and has taught at Princeton, St. Olaf College, Macalester, and the University of Minnesota. Polansky is a two-time recipient of a McKnight Artists Fellowship for Writers. His short fiction has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, Glimmer Train, Best American Stories, New England Review, and Minnesota Monthly. A collection of stories, Dating Miss Universe, won the Sandstone Prize for Fiction and the 2000 Minnesota Book Award. His novel The Bradbury Report was published in 2010 by Weinstein Books. In a New Yorker podcast, novelist David Gilbert and New Yorker Fiction Editor Deborah Treisman read and discuss Polansky’s short story “Leg.” His story “Obsequies” was published in the 2017 spring/summer issue of Glimmer Train.



Karla Huston

Karla Huston, Wisconsin Poet Laureate (2017-2018), has an MA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She is also the co-founder and vice president of The Mill. Huston authored a full collection of poems, A Theory of Lipstick (Main Street Rag Publications, 2013), which won an Outstanding Achievement Award from the Wisconsin Library Association (the title poem won Pushcart’s Best of the Small Presses Award in 2011). She has published eight chapbooks of poetry, most recently Grief Bone (Five Oaks Press, 2017). Huston serves on the board of directors for the Council for Wisconsin Writers and is also a member of the authors’ committee for the Fox Cities Book Festival. Her poems, reviews, and interviews have appeared in many regional and national journals.


Memoir and Publishing

Jill Swenson

Jill Swenson is a developmental editor, literary representative, and writer. She owns Swenson Book Development LLC, a boutique agency representing clientele who write memoir, narrative nonfiction, children’s picture books, middle-grade fiction, art/photography poetry, and young adult (YA) fiction. With a Ph.D. from The University of Chicago and 30 years of teaching, editing, and coaching writers, Swenson is an author’s advocate. She recently won the first Muskeg and Spruce Writing Contest for her piece, "If We Were Good,” and has previously taught at the Loft Literary Center, Ithaca College, and the University of Georgia-Athens. Her current work-in-progress is set in Warroad, Minnesota, on Lake of the Woods.


Poetry and Creative Nonfiction

Tom Montag

Tom Montag is the author of In This Place: Selected Poems 1982-2013; This Wrecked World; The Miles No One Wants; Love Poems; and Seventy at Seventy. His collection, The River Will Tell You: Poems Along the Keya Paha, is forthcoming. Montag's prose works include the memoir Curlew: Home; Kissing Poetry's Sister; and The Idea of the Local. He has been writing and publishing poetry and creative nonfiction in a wide variety of little magazines for more than fifty years and was a Founding Contributing Editor for The Pushcart Prize. He blogs at The Middlewesterner. With David Graham, he co-edits Local News: Poetry About Small Towns



Abby Frucht

Abby Frucht is the author of two short story collections: Fruit of the Month, for which she received the Iowa Short Fiction Prize in 1987, and The Bell at the End of a Rope (Narrative Library, 2012). She has also written six novels: Snap; Licorice; Are You Mine?; Life before Death; Polly’s Ghost; and A Well-Made Bed (Red Hen Press, 2016), on which she collaborated with her friend and colleague Laurie Alberts. Frucht has served as mentor and advisor for more than 25 years at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She lives in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Her first book of poetry, Maids, tells the story of Abby’s efforts to speak to and about the women employed by her parents as “maids” when she and her sisters were girls on Long Island in the 1960s, ‘70s, and ‘80s.


Emily Bowles


Emily Bowles holds a PhD in English and a certificate in Women's Studies from Emory University.  Her academic writing examines issues of gender in literature before 1800.  Her chapbook--"His Journal, My Stella" (Finishing Line Press, 2018)--explores literary history through the figure of Jonathan Swift's Stella, and her current poetry focuses on issues surrounding the recovery of lost and marginalized women's voices, with some attention paid to the domestic arts.

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Laura Winkelspecht


Laura Winkelspecht is a Wisconsin poet and writer who writes with the hope of finding some lightning among the lightning bugs. She has a Master’s degree in English from UW-Oshkosh and has worked as a writer and editor at various businesses throughout Northeast Wisconsin. Laura has been published in One Sentence Poems, Rat’s Ass Review, The Lake, Poets Reading the News, Antiheroin Chic, among others. She received an honorable mention for The Mill’s 2017 Janet Dee Wullner-Faiss Memorial Prize for Poetry. Laura is also a Pushcart Prize nominee.


Steven Polansky - President

Laura Winkelspecht - Vice President

Fredric Hildebrand - Secretary

Mike Seybert - Treasurer

Michael Hopkins

Emily Bowles

Karla Huston - Board Member Emeritus

Christopher Kunz - R.I.P.