For 27 years, authors have come to the University of Wisconsin-Madison Writers’ Institute for practical advice about improving and selling their work. The 2016 conference offers a new opportunity: a live literary event where participants can read to one another.
“The vibe will be fun and supportive,” says coordinator Mare Swallow. “This is a great opportunity for attendees to showcase their work and see how an audience responds.”
Swallow has run a similar event at the Chicago Writers Conference, which she founded. Writers’ Institute attendees can submit their names at her session Reading (Out Loud) Skills for Writers on April 15, and six will be chosen at random to participate in the 7 p.m. reading on April 16. A panel of judges will award prizes based on the quality of the work and the audience’s reaction.
The Writers’ Institute takes place at the Madison Concourse Hotel on April 15-17. Geared to writers in all genres, it includes lectures, workshops, book signings, and networking events. It also offers a unique opportunity to make pitches to literary agents and publishers.
The live literary event will feature a cash bar and a chance to mingle.
“The Writers’ Institute is such an inspirational, engaging event, and the literary readings will underscore that,” Swallow says. “This also shows how supportive the Writers’ Institute is of its audience. Any other conference can throw up a bunch of talks, but to give your writers a stage—that’s awesome. It shows support and commitment to your audience.”
Swallow is a public speaking coach, and in Reading (Out Loud) Skills for Writers she’ll share strategies for engaging listeners. She thinks the live literary event at the Writers’ Institute will be perfect training for a public reading.
“It’s a safe space, you’re among friends and fellow writers, and this is the lowest-pressure scenario imaginable,” she says.
The event will be valuable even for those who aren’t selected to read.
“For the audience, it’s a chance to strike up some conversations,” Swallow says. “One of the benefits of attending a conference is you can find your tribe. You might discover a great fiction writer reading her work, and you might then ask her to join a writing group. Plus, performed literary pieces are great conversation starters.”