Madison, Wisconsin is a great city for writers. The place is virtually wall-to-wall (or perhaps I should say lake-to-lake) with poets, novelists, journalists, scholars, cartoonists, historians, and every other kind of writer you can imagine. There are also lots of great reading series. If you want to work on your own writing here or spend an evening listening to the work of others, consider some of these resources:
The Creative Writing Program in the University of Wisconsin’s Department of English offers workshops in fiction, poetry, playwriting, cartooning, and creative non-fiction to enrolled undergraduates, grad students, and “special students,” which is the university’s term for students who are not enrolled in a degree-granting program, but who wish to enroll in courses for credit. Note that not all genres are offered every semester, that admission to creative writing courses sometimes requires the instructor’s permission and/or a writing sample, and that creative writing courses tend to fill very quickly. Note, too, that creative writing courses are not open to guest auditors. If you have questions about the UW-Madison creative writing program and its courses, feel free to contact me and I’ll do my best to help.
The Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing awards year-long fellowships in fiction and poetry to writers who hold MFA or PhD degrees in creative writing and who have published no more than one book.
Time constraints prevent me from reading or commenting on writing by anyone other than my currently enrolled students, but there are many professionals in Madison who can provide you with excellent and reasonably priced guidance and feedback. Here are some of them:
Madison Writers’ Studio offers workshops and individual instruction in fiction, nonfiction, screenwriting, and other genres. The Studio’s founders are award-winning writers who have taught for the UW Creative Writing Program, and I recommend them highly and often. This is a great option if you’re not enrolled at UW, but would like to participate in a workshop.
Write-By-the-Lake is a 5-day writing retreat sponsored each summer by UW’s School of Continuing Education.
My UW colleague Ron Kuka not only teaches in our creative writing program, but also works as a book doctor. The professors in our creative writing program, including myself, have hired him to review the drafts of their books. I recommend him enthusiastically.
There are loads of great reading series in Madison. Here are some of the ones I like:
The Program in Creative Writing at the University of Wisconsin sponsors readings throughout the academic year. These readings are listed on the Events Page of the Creative Writing Website and in The Isthmus.
The Monsters of Poetry sponsors readings and performances by poets, prose writers, and musicians.
Just Bust! Open Mic, Madison’s oldest all-age open mic is sponsored by the University of Wisconsin’s First Wave Learning Community, the first university program in the country centered on urban arts, spoken word and hip-hop culture.
Felix: A Series of New Writing presents new and experimental work by writers who are typically working with small and independent presses.
And in a Class by Itself
Every now and again my UW colleague, the amazing Lynda Barry, offers free public sessions of her extremely popular workshop Writing the Unthinkable. Some are for adults, some are for children, but all are life-changing. These workshops are announced on Lynda’s The Near-Sighted Monkey blog and on the Wisconsin Institute for Discovery site. Even if you don’t think of yourself as a writer or an artist (yet), you should take one!