On March 24-26, Michael Popke found himself in a large group of writers “who want to hone their craft, learn more about the publishing industry, and make potentially life-changing professional and personal connections.” Popke detailed his experience in an Isthmus cover story about what he calls “the Midwest’s premier writing conference”: the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Writers’ Institute.

It was a busy three days at the 28th annual event, with dozens of lectures, workshops, and networking opportunities. Participants had a chance to meet bestselling authors like Blair Braverman, Larry Brooks, and Matt Forbeck and to learn their secrets for publishing success. They pitched their manuscripts to prominent agents and publishers in hopes of making a deal, like previous attendees. They discussed their work with UW-Madison experts and each other, and they came away with new ideas for taking their literary careers to the next level.

How fun is it when hundreds of writers find inspiration en masse? See below for a collection of great moments from Madison’s Concourse Hotel; all photos are by David Giroux. And check here next fall to see what UW-Madison has in store for the 2018 Writers’ Institute.