Welcome writers! The UW–Madison Writers’ Institute is 30 years old.

Don’t have a writing coach? Yes, you do.

It’s called Writers’ Institute. This conference is your coach.


Like any good coach, this conference:

  • Sparks your creativity
  • Helps you plan for success now, but also at your pace
  • Informs with up-to-the-minute industry know-how
  • Hones your writing skills
  • Provides you with connections
  • Broadens your world as a writer

Writers’ Institute has established itself as the Midwest’s premier writing conference. In addition, we listened to your suggestions on how to improve this event from year to year. We know that writing and publishing books are the main writing goals of most writers, and to address these main goals, we are offering HOW TO WRITE and HOW TO PUBLISH tracks for you to follow to enhance your conference involvement. Additionally, we hope you will want to continue your conference experience and join us as part of our wildly popular coaching program after the conference entitled Pathway to Publication.

As the director of the Writers’ Institute, I present to you the new additions to our conference, along with our tried and true events. Please peruse this website for the details of all of these events.

New This Year:




Receive a free critique if you register for Writers’ Institute between January 9 and February 8, 2019.

If you or someone you know has not previously attended the UW–Madison Writers’ Institute, don’t miss this great opportunity to receive a free critique AND be prepared for pitches, critiques and master classes at the conference.

Register for Writers’ Institute between January 9 and February 8 to receive a complimentary 3-page critique from UW–Madison Continuing Studies Writing Department faculty members Christine DeSmet or Laurie Scheer during the weeks leading up to the conference. Your complimentary critique prepares you for your Master Class, pitches, advanced critiques and our Right Here, Write Now 30-minute critiques to be held at the conference.

Don’t miss out on this informative opportunity

  • Free critique!
  • Premier writing conference of the Midwest!
  • Opportunity to prepare ahead for your best conference experience!


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 laurie.scheer@wisc.edu.



Right Here, Write Now Critiques – 30-minute sessions

Right Here, Write Now Critiques are 30-minute sessions conducted by a variety of our talented speakers. Each of these speakers will give you their undivided attention for an in-the-moment critique of your work. You can opt for a critique or discuss any aspects of genres and subjects such as historical fiction, memoir, marketing, Young Adult, query letters – you name it.

Right Here, Write Now Critiques are $20 and there is no limit to the amount of critiques you may want to request. Just simply sign up for the date and time while you register for the conference. Your conference schedule will reflect your meeting time.

Learn more about the Conference Critique Services >>

Start Fast on Your Path

This year the conference begins at 8:45 on Thursday morning and runs through to noon on Sunday. Enjoy three full days and Sunday morning. Early evening sessions are scheduled also. The 30th Anniversary of the UW–Madison Writers’ Institute is your coach – with more time and information than ever.

New to the Conference?

New this year, this session is offered twice.  Writers’ Institute director Laurie Scheer will present What to Expect at A Writing Conference – Introduction to Writers’ Institute Thursday afternoon at lunch and again at 4:30 PM

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 and more.  Questions are welcomed and encouraged. Be there to be sure your 2019 Writers’ Institute experience is the best that it can be.

Returning This Year:

“Bring-a-Friend” Offer

Back by popular demand, for the period of December 4, 2018, through January 8, 2019, we are offering an exclusive Bring A Friend offer – $35 off registration for you and your friend who has previously not attended the Writers’ Institute conference.

Master Classes at the Conference

This year we are offering Master Classes with Continuing Studies instructors Angela Rydell and Tim Storm.

Additionally, don’t miss out on the opportunity to work directly with nationally known writing/marketing professionals Jane Friedman and Jennie Nash. Authors Ann Garvin, Heather Shumaker, and Libby Fischer Hellmann are also offering Master Classes.

These intensive workshops are $95, are limited in attendance and are offered on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. See the schedule for details.

Do not miss this opportunity to write and master your craft with these incredibly talented professionals.

Learn more about Master Classes >>

Pathway to Publication 

Take advantage of our EXCLUSIVE publishing opportunity for attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Institute.

PLEDGE to PUBLISH your work during the next year. If not now, when?

Last year’s PATHWAY TO PUBLICATION program sold out in minutes.

Here’s what two of our inaugural writers are saying about the program:

“I’m having a great experience with Pathway to Publication,” says Sylvia Cavanaugh, who’s writing a novel with help from writing coach Christine DeSmet. “I feel that my writing is already improving with Christine’s guidance. She is incredibly supportive and helpful, and I’m so glad to have embarked on this journey.”

“Pledging to participate in the Pathways to Publication program is the opportunity I needed to finally make the act of completing my book a priority,” says Christine Schultz, who is working on a nonfiction manuscript with writing coach Laurie Scheer. “When someone wants to get serious about accomplishing anything that requires discipline and effort, they have a coach to hold them accountable and push them to that success. My coach is making crossing the finish line less scary, more exhilarating, and most importantly, achievable!”

Take advantage of our EXCLUSIVE publishing opportunity for attendees of the 2019 Writers’ Institute.

2020 is your year to complete your manuscript and/or publish.

Register now; this program is open to 40 exclusive writers.

Learn more about Pathway to Publication >>

Poem or Page Luncheon

Join us on Friday at the beginning of our networking lunch when winners of our Poem or Page Contest are announced and celebrate the honored writers.

The Fourth Annual Live Literary Event happens on Saturday

The Fifth Annual Writing Mixer event happens on Friday

Meet your fellow writers, speakers, and agents in an informal setting

Advanced Manuscript Critiques

Take advantage of these opportunities to work one-on-one with instructors Christine DeSmet, Angela Rydell, and Julie Tallard Johnson specializing in fiction, nonfiction, book proposals, memoir, and other genres.

Paperless Conference

You will receive your PDF of the conference the week of April 2. Please be sure to make copies or download the conference handouts before attending the event. You will receive information about your schedule, session room locations, and conference sponsorship opportunities when you register, but know that we are saving a nice number of trees by offering our conference handouts via a PDF version. Please make copies or download the PDF information before the conference. NO COPIES OF THE HAND-OUTS WILL BE AVAILABLE ON SITE AT THE CONFERENCE.

Tried & True:

Agent pitches, workshops, book-signing event, networking, practice pitch sessions, critiques, and our success panel and Meet the Agents panel.

We here at the Writing Department of Continuing Studies reach out to our community on a daily basis. The Writers’ Institute is just one of many programs we offer to our nearby, national and international writers. We are not only celebrating 30 years of writing, but also 30 years of being part of the best writing community in the Midwest. We hope you will join us and be part of this community if you have not already.

Join our mailing list to receive information about our programs.

We invite all writers to experience our conference – the new, aspiring writer as well as the established writer. Writers of novels, nonfiction books, scripts, blogs, and freelancers aching to mine the Internet for dollars—we have something for each of you. If you have questions about any of the conference events, email or call me at any time at laurie.scheer@wisc.edu or (608) 265-3972.

I look forward to meeting all of you and working toward some new and exciting writing horizons as we look toward the next 30+ years of writing excellence!



Laurie Scheer