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Debra Engle teaches the world the writing process from Winterset

Debra Engle

As a young girl Debra Engle would put together newspaper and magazine articles with her neighbor.

The duo would go on to be the editors of the Des Moines Hoover High School yearbook.

Engle would eventually find herself working for The Des Moines Register and Meredith Corp. in the marketing department and as an editor or writer.

Now she has three books published, her first novel is set to be released in 2018 and she’s constantly traveling to work with writers locally and around the world on their book, screenplay or manuscript.

“There’s always so much going on,” Engle says laughing.

Winterset Author Debra Engle
These three books have been published and are sold everywhere books are sold. Engle is also expecting a novel to be released in 2018.

Her home is her office

Engle lives with her husband on a spacious property just outside of Winterset and as hectic as her schedule is, her property is anything but hectic.

Just as Engle likes it.

“I spend a lot of time communicating with my own inner guidance,” Engle explains. “And people will call that a lot of different things but what’s great is being in this quiet atmosphere where I can hear it and pay attention to it, then try to follow it.”

Engle describes herself as an author, then as a speaker and then a workshop facilitator.

“My office really is the whole property, sometimes I’m on the porch, deck, I’ll take a walk. Whatever it takes to get some inspiration and a flow going.”

Her three books, Grace from the Garden, The Only Little Prayer You Need and Let Your Spirit Guide Speak, focus on spiritual themes, building community and personal growth.

A writing whisperer

Engle attends writing retreats across the world and hosts writers at her home in Winterset.

In October she will travel to France and Chicago, Ill. and will host a writer from Rhode Island in November.

“I get to work with people in a very creative environment, people who have great ideas,” Engle says. “But also here locally, I work with small writing groups. So wherever it is I just feel really fortunate to use both my interest in writing and personal development that way.”

She doesn’t consider herself a book doctor, rather a teacher who personalizes her curriculum for each student.

Engle uses skill builders to help aspiring authors understand how to write a scene, dialogue between characters, character development and organization.

She says writers can try to say too much in their books.

“Work on getting at the core message and who is the one person that you are writing this for,” Engle explains. “Think of that one person you are writing this for and believe you are having a conversation with them across the table. The writing becomes so much more personal, it becomes a conversation, it will be you instead of you trying to perform or say what other people want you to say.”

Engle has done some adjunct work as a college professor but called it frustrating because she loves working one-on-one with writers.

“Then to customize the help that they need, that’s what I truly love,” Engle said. “It was frustrating in front of the classroom, because I didn’t feel like I could do it in as complete a way.”

Debra Engle teaches the world the writing process from Winterset | Clay & Milk
A central Iowa ag-tech accelerator has secured more backers and finally has a name. The Greater Des Moines Partnership first announced the accelerator last year, naming four initial investors. On Monday, the Partnership said the program will be called the "Iowa AgriTech Accelerator" and named three new investors. The new investors include Grinnell Mutual, Kent Corp. and Sukup Manufacturing, all Iowa companies. They join investors Deere & Co., Peoples Co., Farmers Mutual Hail Insurance Co. and DuPont Pioneer. Each investor has agreed to put up $100,000 for the first year of the accelerator. Startups entering the program will receive $40,000 in seed funding in exchange for 6 percent equity. Tej Dhawan, an angel investor and local startup mentor, is serving as interim director until the AgriTech Accelerator names a permanent leader. Dhawan held a similar role with the GIA before Brian Hemesath was named as managing director. As interim director, Dhawan said his main job includes hiring the accelerator's executive director, establishing a business structure and initial recruiting for the first cohort. The accelerator will place few filters, such as location and product, on the applicant pool, Dhawan said. "When you’re seeking innovation, innovation can come from every corner of the world so why restrict ourselves," he said. One area the the AgriTech Accelerator won't recruit from is biotech. For its first cohort, the AgriTech Accelerator will work out of the GIA's space in Des Moines' East Village, Dhawan said. A future, permanent home is still to be decided. The accelerator's program will host startups from mid-July through mid-October, ending with an event connected to the annual World Food Prize. The GIA, which the AgriTech Accelerator is based on, also ends with presentations at an industry event. The accelerator has also started lining up a mentor pool. The Iowa Corn Growers Association, Iowa Soybean Association and the Iowa Pork Producers Association have agreed to provide mentors, as has Iowa State University. While the AgriTech Accelerator is loosely based off of the GIA, it will differ in its business structure, Dhawan said. The GIA runs through a for-profit model for both operations and its investment fund. The AgriTech Accelerator will have a nonprofit model for its operations and a for-profit setup for its fund. Dhawan said the nonprofit model is being used so the accelerator can better work with other nonprofit partners, such as trade associations. "These are all organizations that are nonprofits and can be amazing stakeholders without ever having to be investors in the accelerator," he said. "It becomes easier to work with trade associations in their nonprofit role when we are also a nonprofit." When it's up and running, the AgriTech Accelerator would be one of a handful of ag-focused startup development programs in Iowa. Others include the Ag Startup Engine out of Iowa State University and the Rural Ventures Alliance from Iowa MicroLoan. Matthew Patane is the managing editor and co-founder of Clay & Milk. Send him an email at
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