Conference Extras

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 Panel, share common interests at our Writers’ Mixer and Live Literary Events and explore your writing interests through other networking opportunities.


Start fast on your path

The Conference Opens on Thursday morning, April 4. This year, you’ll have three and a half days to spark your creativity, gather up-to-date information about the latest trends in the publishing industry, hone your writing skills, and connect with speakers, agents, publishing representatives and other writers.

Pitching Information for You

Pitch Your Best Pitch Pitching Workshop with Jeff Kurz – Thursday afternoon 1:45-4:45 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. Seasoned media executive Jeff Kurz 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, $20 fee)

New to the Conference?

New this year, Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer will present What to Expect at A Writing Conference – Introduction to Writers’ Institute twice on Thursday

First session: 12:45-1:15pm

Second session: 4:30-5pm

For those who are new to attending a writing conference – and for those who have joined us previously — Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer walks you through the overall general logistics of the complete four-day event. Included is a run-down of the conference schedule, the sessions and tracks, the hotel layout, pitching procedures with our agents and author-publishers and more.  Questions are welcomed and encouraged. Join us to be sure your 2019 Writers’ Institute experience is the best that it can be.

Information Sessions – Thursday evening.

At 6:00, join Joanne Berg, the owner and manager of Madison’s Mystery to Me bookstore in a session entitled Writers and Bookstores; An Inside Look at How Writers Can Improve Their Sales.

Joanne’s session is followed by agent Steven Salpeter who will present: A Literary Agent Reveals the Biggest Pitfalls Writers Miss in Revision – Steven Salpeter

Are you getting your novel ready for submission? Before starting to build his own list, literary agent Steven Salpeter read manuscripts for agents at three major agencies, and has sent revision notes to over 100 successful authors. Whether you’re writing your debut or your breakout, the mistakes covered in this session could potentially stop your polished manuscript from finding the success it deserves. Don’t let this happen to you! Let a literary agent at one of the top literary agencies walk you through the biggest mistakes writers make when revising their manuscripts and querying literary agents looking for new authors.

From Friday through Saturday, please enjoy the following:

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, Kristin Oakley, Sue Roupp, and Nick Chiarkas. 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 (Friday and Saturday)

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 eight-minute pitch sessions. You may sign up to pitch to as many agents as you choose. See the pitch sessions page for details.

Networking Poem or Page Lunch

Friday 12:30-1:45pm

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 and meet the winners of our Poem or Page Contest. See our Poem or Page Contest page for details about how to submit >>

Taco Buffet

Seasoned ground beef
Refried beans with Spanish rice
Shredded lettuce | Mixed cheese
Salsa | Sour cream
Flour tortillas | Corn tortilla chips

Success Panel

Friday 4:15-4:45pm

Meet our authors who have realized their publishing dreams this year. Celebrate their successes!

Writers’ Mixer

Friday 4:45-6pm

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.

Networking Book Day Lunch

Saturday 12:30-2pm

Grab a to-go sandwich (pre-order during your registration process) and meet other authors at designated genre tables. After lunch, support your conference authors and attend the book fair.

Choice of Honey Baked Ham, Sliced Turkey or Chef’s Choice Vegetarian, Cheddar or Swiss Cheese, Lettuce, Tomato, Kaiser Roll, Condiment Packs, Chips, House Baked Cookie

Book Fair Signing and Selling

Saturday 12:30-2pm

We offered our book-signing event the last three years and it was a total success – we’ll do this again this year – authors sign their books and fellow writers/readers show their support for them. Be sure to meet all of the authors – and buy their books along the way.

Live Literary Event

Saturday 7-9pm

This is one of the Writers’ Institute’s most favorite events. Join your fellow writers for the third annual Live Lit Event. Judges this year are Kevin Mullen, (The Writing Doctor), Kristin Oakley, (instructor-extraordinaire and practice pitch expert), and Silvia Acevedo, author and guest hostess for a television morning talk show in Milwaukee. There will be small door prizes for the top three writer-entertainers. Read your work, share your magic, and celebrate your voice – some attendees have said this session was the highlight of the conference in past years. Instructions about how and where to sign-up will be given at the conference. Join us!

Master Classes at the Conference

This year we are offering the following Master Classes. Please consult the conference schedule for details about these sessions and/or contact Laurie Scheer at Don’t miss this opportunity to write with these incredibly talented nationally known writers.

Master Class with Angela Rydell, Thursday April 4 (limit 6)
  Your First Five Pages: How to Hook Readers and Keep Them Turning Pages
Master Class with Ann Garvin, Thursday April 4 (limit 12)
  The 3 Keys to Plotting Your Book
Master Class with Tim Storm, Thursday April 4 (limit 15)
  How to Get Tension on Every Page
Master Class with Heather Shumaker, Friday April 5 (limit 15)
  Mastering the Book Proposal
Master Class with Jane Friedman,  Friday, April 5 (limit 25)
  Getting Your Book Published: The Ins and Outs of Traditional Publishing and Indie Publishing
Master Class with Libby Hellmann,  Friday, April 5 (limit 20)
  Building Suspense
Master Class with Jennie Nash, Friday, April 5 (limit 20)
  The Stoplight Strategy: A Three-Part Method for Revising a Full Rough Draft and Putting an End to the Overwhelm of Rewriting
Master Class with Jane Friedman, Saturday, April 6 (limit 25)
  The Art & Business of Author Platform: Building and Growing a Career-Long Relationship


Various Critique Services:

See the schedule for details and times >>

Advanced Manuscript Critiques

These various critique services are available during the conference.

The Writing Doctor, and Right Here, Write Now Critiques

See information about these critique opportunities being held during the conference this year.

Q & A Sessions with Agents (Friday and Saturday)

Spend an hour with an agent discussing various topics in the publishing industry. These one-hour casual sessions with each of the agents and with our two editors combined are $15 and space is limited. Sign up when you register.


And finally, on Sunday:

Pathway to Publication Success Panel/introduction to 2019 Pathway to Publication Coaching Program

Last year, 30 writers began their Pathway to Publication at the end of the 29th annual Writers’ Institute. Meet the writers who realized their publishing dreams in this past year. Hear their stories, share their successes, and take-home valuable tips and advice for advancing your writing career. After the panel, information about the 2019 Pathway to Publication program, along with mentors Christine DeSmet, Laurie Scheer, Angela Rydell, and Julie Tallard Johnson will be present to answer any questions about the program.

We will be offering detailed information about our new program:

Online Writing Badges and Writing Certificates

NEW this year at Writers’ Institute— 

Online Writing Badges and Writing Certificates

  • Your conference participation can be used to create your capstone project for a certificate!


What is the Online Writer’s Badge? A reward program for you!

The UW-Madison Continuing Studies Online Writer’s Badge is a recognized credential designed to reward yourself for growing professionally and updating your writing skills on a regular basis by enrolling in online courses or workshops.

The badge itself is specially designed with the University of Wisconsin-Madison logo.

While the focus is on online courses—convenient for you—your participation in the Writers’ Institute and the Write-by-the-Lake Writer’s Workshop & Retreat may be used as the basis for a capstone project completing a certificate.

You choose your own field of interest:  fiction, nonfiction, scripts, poetry, or essential writing skills for any workplace.  You can earn badges in all fields, or mix-and-match badges to show your achievements across a broad spectrum of writing.

At this time, badges can help you earn any of 5 certificates:  Certificate in Fiction, Certificate in Creative Nonfiction, Certificate in Poetry, Certificate in Scripts, or Certificate in Essential Writing Skills for the Workplace.

Why earn a UW-Madison Continuing Studies Online Writing Badge?

Badges in writing skills are important to:

  • employers in all sectors,
  • nonprofit organization managers who hire volunteers and managers,
  • editors who want to find professional-level help, and
  • other publishing industry professionals such as literary agents.
  • Teachers in K-12 may also want to earn badges in writing to enhance their careers.

Badges can lead to UW-Madison Continuing Studies Certificates in writing. These may help individuals who are applying to a college or university program such as a master’s degree or MFA program. Badges show that you’re serious.

Employers seek and prefer individuals who are current in their skills and can bring excellence in their written communications to the workplace or nonprofit organization setting.

For the creative writer, badges provide a much-needed goal and path to achieve a goal. They help mark progress in a timely way. As your skills improve, and as you accumulate badges, the badges mark your progress toward publication-ready status or whatever you’d like to achieve in your writing life.

A UW-Madison Online Writing Badge is something you can include on a resume, in a query letter to a literary agent or editor, or publisher as proof that you’re serious about being professional. You receive an official badge icon to use as you wish in your materials.

Information about this new program will be available throughout the conference weekend. If you have questions before the conference, please contact Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer at