7 Things I Learned at The Writers Institute

Madison, WI capitol

Sunrise in Madison, WI.

From March 26-29, our Executive Director, Mare Swallow, attended the Writers Institute at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. This conference is a perfect complement to CWC. The Writer’s Institute happens every spring; CWC takes place in the fall. And Madison is a lovely place to visit!

Mare highly recommends you check it out, and here’s why:

1. “Inspiration appears to the creative and active mind.”

…said by author John DuFresne, during the Friday keynote. John’s advice was to stay active, stay involved, and keep writing, no matter what.

John talked about the famous writerly excuses and what bs they are: “I’m just not feeling it today,” or “I don’t have the writing vibe right now.”

John said, “Imagine if a mechanic said, ‘I just don’t have the repair vibe today,’ or ‘I don’t feel inspired to fix cars today.’” Writing is your work – so get past the bs excuses and sit down and work.

2. Twitter is your friend.

There are some useful (for writers) hashtags on twitter. #mswl is how agents tag their Manuscript Wish List. #pitmad is for “pitch madness” – a “pitch party on twitter,” which happens 4 times a year. Next one happens June 10. Search these hashtags, and see what you find!

3. Words cost you $10.

The best lesson in conciseness came from Lane Shefter Bishop: “Imagine every word you write is $10 out of your own pocket.”

4. The Badgers are a great team.

…even if they did lose the NCAA Championship. While I ate my fried walleye in a super-crowded bar on March 26, I watched half-assedly as the Badger fans around me cheered. You can see 3 bartenders at The Old Fashioned (above) watching the game. The food and Old Fashioned were amazing.

5. Twitter is your friend – Part 2


In a digital writing workshop with instructor Jesse Stommel, we were instructed to write a mini-story, mini-poem, or mini-non fiction in 140 characters. I winced at first, but this exercise forced me to write something concise and focused. What I came up with was powerful and stunning.  “The constraints of twitter are also its importances,” Jesse said. How true! 140 characters makes it concise.

6. “Read what you’re trying to write.”

If you’re writing Historical Fiction, read Historical Fiction. Business book? Read business books, etc. You can’t expect to sell your work if you’re not reading what’s currently on the shelves.

7. “Take 15 Golden Minutes.”

You can’t find 15 minutes a day to write? Sure you can. This was stressed by instructor Julia Tallard Johnson, but reinforced when I saw Steven Salmon, an author with cerebral palsy, speak at the success stories panel. Steven can only type one letter at a time, yet he makes time to write every single day. What an inspiration!


Join us to learn more about what writers wish they knew at Under 30/Over 60, on April 16. Free and open to all – RSVP on facebook.

Can’t wait for CWC? Neither can we! Mark your calendar: Sept. 25-27 in downtown Chicago.