Marianne Flynn Statz is a veteran of the Madison Police Department who finds a creative outlet in writing. Statz threw herself into a fictional account of a real-life murder case she’d investigated as a detective, polishing it with help from writing programs at University of Wisconsin-Madison Continuing Studies. Finally, she was ready to pitch the manuscript to an agent at last year’s UW-Madison Writers’ Institute.
Several expressed interest, but Statz was intrigued by an offer from West Coast agent Paul S. Levine: He would represent her if she reworked the book as a true-crime story.
“Paul’s no-nonsense manner, coupled with his years of experience in the industry, led me to trust him,” Statz says. “His challenge was inspiring and terrifying—it meant I had to start all over again.”
Similar dramas will play out at this year’s Writers’ Institute, which features lectures, workshops, book signings, manuscript critiques, and networking events on March 24-26 at the Madison Concourse Hotel. For 28 years the conference has offered practical advice for improving and selling manuscripts, as well as the unique opportunity to make pitches to publishers and literary agents like Levine. It’s geared to both aspiring and established writers in all genres.
“I’ve recommended the Writer’s Institute to many people, and I encourage anyone interested in writing to attend this year’s event,” says Statz. “If you haven’t gotten serious about your writing, it’ll be like a shot of adrenaline.”
‘The event will reinvigorate you’
The Writers’ Institute has a track record of helping participants publish their work. Recent success stories include Heather Lyn Mann, who published the sailing memoir Ocean of Insight (and thanked the Writers’ Institute in the acknowledgments); Teria Robens, author of the award-winning novel What the Mirror Sees; and Kristin Oakley, whose novel Carpe Diem, Illinois won a Chicago Writers Association Book of the Year Award.
This year’s Writers’ Institute features keynote speeches by Blair Braverman, author of the acclaimed memoir Welcome to the Goddamn Ice Cube: Chasing Fear and Finding Home in the Great White North; Larry Brooks, the bestselling novelist and creator of Storyfix.com; and writing guru Nina Amir, author of Creative Visualization for Writers. UW-Madison faculty and staff will be on hand to lead sessions and consult with attendees one-on-one; and agents from Curtis Brown Ltd., Harold Ober Associates, and other literary agencies will serve on panels and listen to writers’ pitches. Levine will be on hand too.
Statz will be among the attendees, seeking tips for the revised version of her crime story.
“If you’ve hit a low point in your craft, the event will reinvigorate you,” she says. “The presenters are experts in the industry, willing to share the good, the bad, and the ugly. I’m eagerly anticipating the Thursday evening class on the biggest pitfalls writers make with revisions, the keynote speakers, and so much more.”