2016 Writing Conferences

In 2009, I attended my first writing conference—the UW-Madison Writers’ Institute. I didn’t know anyone or anything. I didn’t even know the proper way to format a manuscript. Since then, I’ve learned a heck of a lot (ha/ha). Now, I definitely know how to format a manuscript, a query letter, a synopsis, an e-book, a paperback . . . you get the picture. The majority of this I learned from writing conferences and a healthy dose of trial and error.

Since that first conference I’ve returned every year except one and attended others throughout the state, but this one is the best by far. The keynote speakers are always inspiring and the smaller sessions are informative with so many to choose from no matter where you are in your publishing journey.

This year, Dan Blank skyped in and talked about finding the audience for your book. He shared lots of cool tricks with us. I highly encourage writers to sign-up for his weekly newsletter. On Saturday morning, the fabulous Hank Phillippi Ryan’s talk entitled “What I Wish Someone Had Told Me” was both informative and entertaining. She is a self-described storyteller and that is no understatement with 33 Emmy’s and 13 Edward R. Murrow awards for her investigative news stories along with a series of incredible awards for her fiction—including five Agathas and the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award. I have never read one of her novels, but now have a lovely signed copy of Prime Time that I promise to read soon. Additional faculty at the conference included the amazing author, Josie Brown (pictured at right). Both Hank and Josie were incredibly approachable and fun to chat with throughout the weekend. That’s what is so special about conferences like this—you get the chance to talk with successful authors—and incredibly famous ones at that. And they’re SO NICE!

Not only do you get to talk with famous writers, you also have the chance to meet new local writers and catch up with those you’ve met during previous conferences. It’s great to see who is now published after knowing them when their manuscript was in its earliest stages. There is SO MUCH TALENT at this conference. It’s really an honor just to hang out with this crowd. I’ve met so many good friends through the Writers’ Institute, and many of us stay in touch throughout the year, providing writerly support when needed—which can be fairly frequent.

This year was the first time I was invited to participate as faculty, and despite worry about potential technological problems, the sessions went very well. Author K.J. Klemme and I moderated an Indie Publishing session where we all learned from each other about the sometimes challenging path to publishing a book independently. I also presented my 30-Day Promotional Plan to Launch (or Re-Launch) Your Novel.

Finally, this conference offers the chance to submit portions of a manuscript for critique or for consideration in a contest. I have done both in the past, but this year I stepped out of my normal comfort zone and submitted a piece of Flash Fiction, which earned 2nd place! Woo-Hoo! This was definitely not my typical type of writing as Flash Fiction requires you to create a story with 500 words or less. I am very proud of this because brevity is not one of my strong points! (LOL)

I am now preparing for the next conference, the Wisconsin Association of Public Libraries on May 12 where my session is “Building a Buzz for Your Next Event” – a publicity how-to for library programs. The very next day in the same location in Oshkosh, I will be attending the Lakefly Writers Conference. Here I will again present my 30-Day Promotional Plan to Launch (or Re-Launch) Your Novel. I will also get to attend the remainder of the conference and sell and sign books, all the while rubbing shoulders with fabulous writers, including my uber-talented critique partner – Silvia Acevedo. (By the way, her new book “God Awful Thief” comes out May 4.)

If you’re considering a writers’ conference yet this spring, there’s still time to register for the Lakefly Conference! With writing being such a solo endeavor, conferences provide some crucial interaction for me (and a reason to actually break my pajama-all-day habit) for a little while.

Have you had a great experience at a writing conference? Please let us know which ones you’ve attended! 


Great to attend your "Birds of a Feather" session at UWWI that you taught with Karla Kroeplin, and to also chat with you a bit on Sunday morning. I look forward to reading "Circle of Nine- Bettany," then proudly adding it to my author-signed bookshelf.

Best of luck with your teaching and writing.

Chris Norbury

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