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Writers’ Institute provides transformative experience for lifelong learners

November 30, 2016 By Dean Robbins
Attendees talk about ways to polish their work at the 2016 Writers’ Institute in the Madison Concourse Hotel.

Attendees learn to polish their work at the 2016 Writers’ Institute in the Madison Concourse Hotel. Sharon Vanorny/UW-Madison

Doreen Pfost recently published the essay collection This River Beneath the Sky: A Year on the Platte. Teri Woods published the mystery novel Dead End Fix. Margaret Goss published the supernatural thriller The Uncommitted.

These three successful authors have one thing in common: they are among the many people who have found a path to publishing through the University of Wisconsin–Madison’s Writers’ Institute. The 28th annual event is scheduled for March 24-26 at the Madison Concourse Hotel, featuring presentations by prominent authors and literary agents.

The Writers’ Institute provides UW–Madison expertise for both aspiring and established writers. They get practical tips for improving and selling work in any genre, as well as the chance to pitch manuscripts to industry professionals. Some walk away from the weekend with a new agent or a publishing contract, while others gain the skills and confidence to take their writing to a new level.

“With this conference, UW–Madison reaches out to the community in the best tradition of the Wisconsin Idea,” says Laurie Scheer, director of the Writers’ Institute. “It’s designed for anyone who needs help starting a book, finishing one, or exploring the publishing process. Our participants range from people who write as a hobby to those who aspire to a number-one bestseller.”

The 2017 Writers’ Institute includes lectures, workshops, manuscript critiques, and a reading that features participants’ work. UW–Madison faculty and staff will be on hand to lead sessions and consult with attendees one-on-one. Agents from Curtis Brown Ltd., Harold Ober Associates, and other literary agencies will serve on panels and listen to writers’ pitches.

Guest authors include dog sledder Blair Braverman (Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North); writing guru Larry Brooks (Story Engineering); and videogame designer Matt Forbeck (Halo: New Blood). Along with lecturing, Braverman, Brooks, and UW–Madison faculty will conduct master classes on the writer’s craft.

The Writers’ Institute has a track record of providing transformative experiences for lifelong learners.

“I came a genuine novice, not knowing if I would fit in and be comfortable,” says 2016 attendee John Perrigo. “I walked away thinking this may change my life. I’m recently retired at 57 years old, wondering and worrying how the remainder of my life might look, and the Writers’ Institute provided a direction.”