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Amy Lou Jenkins is the award-winning author of Every Natural Fact: Five Seasons of Open-Air Parenting

"If you combined the lyricism of Annie Dillard, the vision of Aldo Leopold, and the gentle but tough-minded optimism of Frank McCourt, you might come close to Amy Lou Jenkins.Tom Bissell author of The Father of All Things 

"Sentence by sentence, a joy to read."   Phillip Lopate, Author of Waterfront

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Shut Up and Write!, released by Redbird Studio Press, is based on the popular class of the same name offered by Judy Bridges, founder of Redbird Studio in Milwaukee, for over fifteen years. The class has launched hundreds of writing careers, including those of dozens of award-winning authors of fiction and nonfiction. Bridges knows the value of encouragement. “The book will allow me to reach writers across the country – sharing the fun and nudging them along when they need it. Shut Up and Write! can be what every writer needs – a coach, a cheerleader, a kick in the pants.”     

 A Few Books by Redbird Writers who teach and learn with Judy Bridges.


Featured Writer: Judy Bridges,

author of Shut Up & Write!   (Includes an Original Interview)

Judy  Bridges founded Redbird Studio in 1993, after earning her living as a writer of short stories, magazine articles, plays and corporate communications. Students of all ages attest to her gifts as a wise, helpful, no-nonsense mentor and guide. She has been honored as "A Woman Who Put Her Stamp on Milwaukee" by the U.S. Postal Service, and the studio was named "Best of" area writing centers by Milwaukee Magazine.

Shut up and Write! may be the first book authored by Judy Bridges in quite a while, but you'll find her name in of scads of books. Especially if you scan the acknowledgements pages of the many authors under the  influence of Milwaukee's Redbird Studio. Bridges has been busy helping others.

Judy Bridges has been waiving off writers tendencies for peevish complaints about how hard is to write since 1993 when she founded Redbird Studio. If you want to complain about the challenges of writing meaningful prose, Bridges isn’t going to help you set up that roadblock for yourself. If you want to sit down and do the work, find effective methods, and build skills to inject art and clarity into your writing ─ she’s your gal.

Bridges ─an effective  mentor

 I attended her famed Milwaukee Shut-up and Write workshop when I felt ready to listen to literary instruction and criticism. There I found structures, inspiration, and validation for good work. I also found adroit advice for improvement when the writing fell flat. I spent several rounds of sessions in Bridges’ Writing Roundtables, where writers respond to each others work under expert guidance. Every group was warm, supportive, and effective in providing pointed criticism and praise. I completed several manuscripts that found publishers. I even rented a studio from her during some home remodeling. When my writing stalled and my goals became unclear, I attended a Bridges' Summer Boot Camp. The boot camp incubated and birthed the essay that would become my writing sample for admission to the MFA Writing Seminars of Bennington College and would go on to be published in the award-winning Lit Mag, Sport Literate. When my book Every Natural Fact debuted in June, Bridges came to my book launch and her joy seemed just as genuine as her happiness during her own book launch. She revels in others success', and it’s not an accident that you’ll find samples from her students and peers throughout  Shut Up & Write!.


Jealous that you don’t have a writing mentor like Judy Bridges? You don’t have to be envious, because Bridges has brought her magic to Shut Up & Write!.  

Interview With the Author of Shut up and Write!  

 ALJ: Amy Lou Jenkins  

   JB:  Judy Redbird Bridges

ALJ:  What led you to write Shut Up & Write!?

JB: My students kept saying, "Please, give us a book we can use when you're not around." I said, "Yes, yes, one of these days..." I started work on the book several times and like so many other writers, set it aside. Finally, I ran out of excuses and just had to Shut Up & Write!

ALJ: I’ve seen the long shelf of books in your office from writers you have helped.  About how many writers have you worked with, and could you explain the range of writing goals for your audience?

JB: I've worked with over 6,000 writers of all ages. The truth is, there were more, but I stopped counting at 6,000 because the number sounded ridiculous. The writers' motivations ranged from wanting to pass the SAT test to writing life stories, to business books, to novels, to plays and poetry. In my last Shut Up & Write class, I had a young widow, a high school student, a college student, a journalist, several "life" writers, an artist from New York and a doctor from Montana. Get a bunch like this all in one room at the same time and the air is electric.

ALJ: Your gift for offering pointed advice and specific frameworks that rev up a writers momentum is somehow in perfect balance with your take-no-excuses warm encouragement. Shut-Up & Write! perfectly reflects your personal style as a mentor. How did you capture this voice on the page?

JB: That was one of the hardest things about writing the book. As plain spoken as I am in real life, I kept sliding into teacher-talk  probably because of books I've read  but my critique group kept me on track. Every time I got stuffy, I'd find a note written in the margin of my manuscript, "Get bossy, will ya? That's the way we like you."

ALJ: How has Shut Up & Write been received? 

JB: I've received notes from all over the country saying, Yay, it's about time! The biggest kick is getting re-orders from people who purchased the book and want more. The readings are fun, too. I was nervous about these at first, but now we've had four and each time the audience was twice as big as expected, and engaged. People ask questions and share ideas, just like in class. I couldn't ask for more.

ALJ: What’s next for you?

JB: I'm working on a collection of family stories titled, "You drive, you're too drunk to sing." Like many people, I grew up in a complex web of parents, step parents, new houses, new schools, six brothers and sisters (although I was an only child) and more husbands than I really ought to have had. Getting a grip on all of this won't be easy. I estimate completion in late 2012.

 ALJ: What question do you wish I’d asked, and how would you answer?

JB: I'm perfectly happy with the questions you asked. But with no question in mind, here's a smattering of answers. 71. I wish I could sing. I like my life better now than at any time in the past, although I was cuter way back when. Never gorgeous. That was a good thing, because I was never lost in myself, although I was, according to my mother, born independent. I think that tendency is the gift that lets me think up new ways to help people with their writing. I feel a great surge of joy when a writer gets it done, says what they wanted to say, makes the words work. This random response to no question is fun. I might do more of it.

Much love to you, Amy Lou!

ALJ: Right back attcha, Judy!