Last weekend the Madison Concourse Hotel became the Midwest’s literary hot spot. The University of Wisconsin-Madison Writers’ Institute showed 350 authors how to improve their craft and sell their manuscripts, with dozens of lectures, workshops, and networking events. Participants signed up for manuscript critiques and pitching sessions with prominent agents and publishers, hoping to walk away with a contract. They hobnobbed with best-selling novelists like Hank Phillippi Ryan and J. Ryan Stradal, and they got tips from previous attendees who’ve gone on to publishing success.

Most of all, they had fun. The Writers’ Institute offered easy entrée to the literary life, including mixers, critique groups, a themed lunch, and a live literary event where attendees could read their own work. See below for a glimpse of the action and here for updates on the 2017 event. All photos are by Sharon Vanorny.