2017 Schedule

2017 Speakers

2017 Agents


Conference Events


There are a number of writing resources available during and coinciding with the conference.  Below please find a description of these writers’ services. Take advantage of this opportunity to have your work read and critiqued by writing experts, be inspired at our annual Success Stories lunch, share common interests at our Writers’ Mixer and Live Literary Event, and other networking opportunities.




Pitching Information For You


Pitch Your Best Pitch Pitching Workshop with Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer

Thursday afternoon 3:00-4:30 only

Sure you’re nervous about your pitch and that’s why we’re offering a special pitching workshop on Thursday afternoon before the pitching fun begins. Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer offers the industry’s best advice for writing loglines, synopses and other pitch related materials. Additionally, practice pitches are conducted for everyone to observe. You’ll also receive a list of resources to gather information to make your pitch the best pitch in the room. This workshop is being offered after overwhelming demand from last year’s attendees. Prepare your pitch, arm yourself with information and awareness of your genre – pitch your best pitch at this year’s conference beginning here.

(Registration required, $15.00 fee)



Agents’ Information Sessions

Thursday evening. These sessions are included in your Registration fee.

Beginning at 6:00PM on Thursday March 24th, we’ve put together two amazing sessions – the first with agent Steve Salpeter of Curtis Brown Ltd. Entitled The 7 Biggest Pitfalls Writers Miss in Revision followed at 7:00 by agent Dr. Ewe Stender of TriadUS and his presentation The Business of Writing.



Personal Practice Pitch Sessions

Friday through Saturday afternoon

You may also practice your pitch through Practice Pitch Sessions. These sessions allow for 15 minutes of one-on-one meeting time with our industry experts Jeff Kurz, Sue Roupp, Kristin Oakley and Mare Swallow. Deliver your pitch, receive feedback, continue to perfect your pitch and then see your agent and/or editor and provide a stellar pitch. See the pitch sessions page for more details.



Pitch Sessions with Agents

The Writers’ Institute offers you direct access to accomplished literary agents who are looking for both fiction and non-fiction related materials. You have the opportunity to pitch your ideas to these agents via 8 minute pitch sessions. You may sign up to pitch to as many agents as you choose. See the pitch sessions page for details.




Success Panel Lunch

Friday 12:35-1:50

You’ll have the opportunity to be seated at designated tables featuring your writing genre, i.e. there will be tables for Romance, Mystery, Literary fiction, memoir, nonfiction, etc. There you can network with other writers writing in your genre. Join us in celebrating the success of your fellow authors and be inspired along the way.



Poem or Page Luncheon

Saturday 12:15-1:00

Join us as author/actor Coleman reads our contest winners selections and our winning essays from this year’s essay contests.  First place winners of our Poem Or Page Contest will be published in the 2018 issue of The Midwest Review Journal.


Essay Contests



Transformation at a Writers’ Conference Essay

This year we’re asking attendees to write a 300-word essay telling us about the most transformative experience they have had at a writers’ conference, including past Writers’ Institutes. The winning entry will receive a complimentary registration to this year’s conference. Deadline is February 14th, 2017 and only open to registered attendees of this year’s conference.



Writers’ Institute 2017 Student Essay Contest

If you are a part-time or full-time student within the University of Wisconsin System – you must be enrolled in classes at the undergraduate or graduate level – during the 2016-2017 school year, you are eligible to participate in our contest. In 300 words, tell us why you would like to attend our Writers’ Institute this year. The winner will receive all of the General Sessions at the Writers’ Institute 2017. If you are a UW student and would like to attend our conference the fee is $99.00. Deadline is February 14th, 2017 – please contact conference director Laurie Scheer at for details.


Writers’ Mixer

Friday 5:15-6:30

Brought back due to popular demand from the last couple of years…join agents, speakers, and writers – all are invited to this end-of-the-first-day Writing Mixer event. Get to know your fellow writers, approach your favorite speaker or chat up an agent.  We’ve heard your requests to have the opportunities to share your common interests and seek out new writing friends and associates.  A casual mixer with refreshing beverages will provide the backdrop to network and get to know your writing peers.


Book Fair Signing and Selling

Saturday 12:35-1:50

We offered our book signing event last year and it was a total success – we’ll do this again this year – with a slight change. This year, authors’ books will be sold at the conference by one of Madison’s favorite bookstores, Mystery to Me. Authors sign their books and fellow writers/readers show their support for them. Be sure to meet all of the authors including our speakers and attendees – and buy their books along the way.



Live Literary Event

Saturday 7:00-9:00

If you’re an author or soon-to-be published author, you’ll share your work – out loud – in public at some point. Mare Swallow, a public speaking coach and veteran storyteller, will share her do’s and don’ts for a successful public reading on Friday evening from 6:30-7:00. Writers who wish to present on Saturday will be chosen randomly at this session. She’ll discuss: How to choose and prepare a piece for reading, set up for a successful reading, working with venues and organizers and handling questions and comments from your audience. On Saturday from 7:00-9:00PM we’ll hold a Live Literary Event for Writers’ Institute attendees who want to present their work. Prizes for the top 3 audience favorites. There will be a cash bar available for writers who may need a little ‘confidence building’ and for other writers who may want to support their fellow readers who will be reading live.



Master Classes at the Conference


This year we are offering Master Classes with two of our Continuing Studies Faculty, Christine DeSmet and Christopher Chambers and with our two keynote speakers, Larry Brooks and Blair Braverman. These are workshops that are limited to 12 writers. The cost is $55.00.

Don’t miss this opportunity to write with these incredibly talented writers. Here are the titles and dates and times for these sessions:

  • Master Class with Christine DeSmet, The Important “Whats’ of Story Magic – Thur March 23rd
  • Master Class with Christopher Chambers, Short Story Writing – Thur March 23rd
  • Master Class with Larry Brooks, Harnessing the Power of Successful Storytelling – Fri March 24th
  • Master Class with Blair Braverman, Scene and Nature: How Vivid Details Can Bring Your Story to Life – Sat March 25th


Poem or Page Contest

Need a nudge to jump-start your writing? Enter the “Poem or Page Contest.” Deadline February 14th, 2017. Get complete details on the contest page.

All first place winners of the Poem or Page Contest will be published in the 2018 issue of The Midwest Review Journal.




Various Critique Services:


Conference Critique Service-Written

Advanced Manuscript Critiques

These various critique services are available during the conference; please see our critique services page for details.


Q & A Sessions with Agents and our Editors

Spend an hour with an agent discussing various topics in the publishing industry. These 1 hour casual sessions with each of the agents and with our two editors combined are $10 and space is limited.  Sign up when you register.


Guidebook* – available before and throughout the conference


Download the app Guidebook here.

Guidebook provides a complete listing of all Writers’ Institute events, agents and speaker bios and seminar hand-outs. Guidebook will be updated throughout the conference for up-to-the-minute changes within the conference and it will also provide maps of the Concourse Hotel and further information about resources nearby the conference venue.


Stay connected with your Writers’ Institute writers through Guidebook.
*Please note: If you wish to have printed copies of our hand-outs for the conference, please request our Conference Package during your Registration for the conference. The cost of the hand-outs is $25.00. The package must be ordered by March 10th, 2017. PDFs of the schedule will be available Monday March 20th, 2017. Please print the material ahead of the conference.

Questions? Contact director Laurie Scheer, 608-265-3972, or Laura Kahl, 608-262-3982,