Facets of a Muse

Examining the guiding genius of writers everywhere

Another awesome conference! #UWWriters #writingcommunity #amwriting



Whew! What a weekend! I’m here in Mad City, Wisconsin for the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute. The conference has gotten so popular that it now runs from Thursday morning through Sunday noon. And there is plenty of great stuff to go around. First, though, a well-deserved round of applause to Laurie Scheer and her team of tireless minions–er, assistants who help organize and run this conference.

(yes, you can say it: Julie takes lousy pictures.)

Laurie Scheer 2019 cr

Laurie Scheer welcomes writers to the 30th Annual Writers’ Institute

One of the keynote speakers this year was Jane Friedman, who spoke about writing for love and money, and about the myth of the “starving artist”. She shared the stories of various artists who managed to combine their creativity and business models into successful careers, such as Jim Henson and Alain de Botton. The key to success: use creativity to find more readers, because as more people demand your work, the more your writing (business) will grow.

Jane Friedman

Jane Friedman


The following day Jennie Nash was our keynote speaker. She shared three reasons authors give for writing a book. Writing a book has a high emotional cost, and low ROI (return on investment), so every author she and her team work with over at Author Accelerator are presented with the question: Why write a book? The answers boil down to these: to find and claim your voice (which may have been suppressed in the past), to influence other people or make an impact, or to write a book before reaching those pearly gates. And ultimately, “writers gotta write”. Find the reason that speaks to you and tap into that energy.

Jennie nash

Jennie Nash

So many great sessions, so little time. I got to the conference on Thursday and caught three sessions. One was about a digital brand cheat sheet, presented by a high-energy social media influencer. She showed us the potential of social media to reach far beyond your family and friends.

Another session explained how bookstores–at least independent ones–go about decided what books to stock, and the best ways for writers to succeed in getting books on their shelves. It comes down to Fit–is your book a fit for that store, Timing–is the store ready to pull in new books, and Approach–suggestions on how to approach a bookstore about carrying your book and the things to accomplish beforehand (like ISBN numbers and early reviews).

An agent shared the biggest pitfalls writers make while revising their stories, starting with the familiar “starting the story in the wrong place.” Other things to watch for include characters that are not fully formed on the page, a lack of a physical sense of setting, raising stakes, and not following through on your promise to the reader (what is the story you are setting in motion). These things can be spotted by critique partners and beta readers, so the moral of the story: you can’t do it all on your own.

I popped into a session about author websites, which gave a lot of the same information Dan Blank did in his author website video series (check out his WeGrowMedia site and sign up for his newsletter. Really. If nothing else, his kids are cute πŸ˜€ ). Another session listed ways to “bring back the thrill” of your writing; making it fun again. The ten points included giving yourself easy goals and rewards for your accomplishments (and yes, a piece of good chocolate or a latte counts πŸ˜€ ), playing with your reader by inserting inside jokes (case in point: R. R. Campbell used the names of the universities in his books for the jokes, and no, I’m not going to tell you–mwahahahaha), listening to your characters and what they want to do, and surround yourself with people who believe in your abilities and encourage you. Finally, remember you are competing against no one–you are the only one who can tell your story.

Good stuff. I participated on a panel about writing books in a busy life, where we shared our own strategies and offered ideas on how other writers could carve out that time to write. A number of attendees found me later to express their appreciation for the panel, because it gave them some direction on how they could overcome the excuses of not having time to write. And yes, I learned a few things myself. I’m sure my Muse will remind me the next time I complain. πŸ˜€

I presented two sessions, one on “Setting as a Character”, which had a full room. I hope the writers got something out of the session. It was my first of the conference, and somehow I ended up with a lot of time left over. Hmm. My second session, about point of view, was much less attended, but one of the other sessions about outlining was very popular (I know it was, because some writers spoke to me before the session about wanting to sit in, but they also wanted to sit in on the outlining session).

The highlight of my experience, though–besides getting to see some of my Writing Sisters–was the Success Panel, where authors who have utilized the WI or Write-by-the-Lake or other writing programs from UW-Continuing Studies are now newly-published or have a new book out. Check us out.

success panel full_cr

Success Panel 2019

The closing ceremony is Sunday, when we wrap up the conference. The energy generated by so many writers and creative people infuses the atmosphere here. It always amazes me how wonderful the writing community is. We try to help each other, support each other, and encourage each other. And every year I encounter writers who are attending for the first time, and see their wonder at these welcoming arms.

There is a reason the Writers’ Institute is listed as one of the top writing conferences in the country. And every year I have to agree. It has once again recharged my creative energies and given me lots of ideas on how to approach aspects of my journey as a published author, including wielding social media tools and focusing on “butt in chair, hands on keyboard”.

If you have a writing conference on your wish list, take a look at this one for next year. You won’t be disappointed!


Author: Julie Holmes, author

A fiction writer since elementary school (many years ago), and NaNoWriMo annual participant for over a decade, I have been published in small press magazines such as "Fighting Chance" and "The Galactic Citizen". I write adult mystery with a touch of romance, mystery with extrasensory elements, contemporary fantasy, and epic fantasy, and I'm represented by the fabulous Cynthia Zigmund of Second City Publishing Services. My debut novel, "Murder in Plane Sight", has been released by Camel Press (an imprint of Coffeetown Press/Epicenter Press). In real life, I am a technical writer and empty-nester with a wonderful hubby, one cat (what writer doesn't have cats??), two dogs, four chickens, and more chipmunks, squirrels, and rabbits than any garden should have to deal with. My garden, our hobby farm, and Nature's annual seasons are some of my muses.

27 thoughts on “Another awesome conference! #UWWriters #writingcommunity #amwriting

  1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the conference! And it sounds as though there were some fantastic presentations, panels, and so on, too. That’s the best thing about a good conference – the things that you learn. Thanks for sharing.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thanks, Julie, for a great summation of the conference. Laurie Scheer, the director, works soooooo hard to make it special to all writers. I’m so glad you could be with us this year. Congratulations on your huge success this year with your new novel. So glad I could get a signed copy yesterday at the book event and even see your real plane mechanic’s tool.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. This does sound like a great conference. There’s a similar one sponsored by University of California San Diego out here I love. Jane Friedman–what a bonus! And congrats on the panel. Your book looked great lined up with the others.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you, Jacqui! I think conferences are such a valuable resource for learning about the craft, and a great way to meet other writers who can be possible critique partners or members of a writing group.

      Have a wonderful week, Jacqui!


  4. Sounds like you had a wonderful and successful conference. (And your pictures are fine.)

    Liked by 1 person

  5. It sounds like a great time with lots of good information, too! I’m happy to hear your sessions went well:) I have never been to a writer’s conference and you make it sound so fun I may have to do it someday.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I am SO impressed that you STILL had a Zoey picture at the ready even though you’re writing this from the conference?! Sounds like you’re having such a great time. So glad for you. Way to go presenting and all that–amazing! Thanks for taking the time to write up all the great info too!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Betsy! I thought about leaving the picture of Zoey off, but then I thought, “What would Betsy say?” So I had to include it πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€ It was a great, if busy, weekend.

      Enjoy your week! Sounds like Winter is tossing us one last hurrah later this week. And here I thought we were in the clear 😐

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ugh–one last hurrah! Let’s hope, if it is the last, it really means it this time.
        So Paul started reading your book before me (the jerk) and is really enjoying the familiar place names and winter situations. Bringing back memories for him. Just about finished with my current read. Then I can get started too!

        Liked by 1 person

      • LOL! I had to laugh at Paul getting to the book before you. I know winter isn’t the best part of MN weather (well, unless you really LIKE winter), but you have to admit it is memorable πŸ˜€ Glad to hear he’s enjoying it!

        Liked by 1 person

  7. Wow, the conference sounds utterly amazing. The only conferences I have attended in my day are real estate related. I would LOVE to attend a writing conference. I just have to find one that works and is reasonable as far as travel, distance, and cost.

    Kudos to you for all those panels and sessions you did. And I love the final pic with all the newly published authors. Success indeed. Congrats!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. P.S….Zoey is a cutie as always πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Conferences are awesome! Happy to see you had a great time.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Julie,
    Thanks for this, truly!
    I have posted it on the Writers’ Institute website as the last welcoming post for this year – told everyone to register for your future posts.
    YOU are amazing. Thank you for being such an important part of our writing community and for being so flexible and overall just wonderful.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you so much, Laurie! You always do such a marvelous job with the conference, and it is such a valuable part of learning the craft and meeting other writers. And every year so many writers enjoy the conference!

      May your week be quiet–or quieter than this past weekend! And don’t forget to take some time off πŸ˜€ πŸ˜€


  11. Sounds like a great time and so much to learn. That’s awesome that you are presenting, Julie. Adds to your credibility, name recognition, and brand! I’ll have to get more involved in our local Portland conference. You’ve inspired me. πŸ™‚

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Julie, it’s great to see you attending this and getting the play-by-play. I get to live vicariously through you as I trudge through a very long-haul of ‘real life’ matters. I love conferences like this one. Times when I can focus on the craft and only the craft.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Absolutely! That also why I love the conference–I get to think of nothing but writing, and get to put the rest of real life on hold for a few days. Glad this let you “attend” the conference, and may ‘real life’ give you a break so you can get some writing done.

      Have a great rest of your week, Mark!

      Liked by 1 person

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