It turns out that Milwaukee’s history is intertwined not just with breweries and baseball, but also with writing, as the typewriter was literally invented here. With that in mind, it should come as no surprise that the click-clack of the metal keys has echoed through generations, building a robust writing community with a multitude of resources, which are listed and linked below.
Though the act of writing is solitary, most writers crave the feedback of other writers or need a safe space to work alongside fellow authors. Writing groups in Milwaukee fulfill this need, with groups in many neighborhoods and for writers of any level. Just Write It! is a notable selection, as are Milwaukee Writer’s Circle and Shut Up and Write! Milwaukee. Genre-based groups are also available, such as Milwaukee Comic Artists and Writers Meetup.
Many writers are also avid readers, thirsting for the rich story-telling of others to inspire their own work. Fortunately, Milwaukee contains a host of independent bookstores that provide both books and author events, like Boswell Book Company and Riverwest’s Woodland Pattern Book Center. Writers on a budget can head to Downtown Books, which is also home to two adorable cats, and the Milwaukee Public Library system, which offers free book rentals and a wide selection of book-related events.
Prime Writing Spots
When writing alone in their houses or apartments just doesn’t cut it, Milwaukee writers tend to head to a local coffee shop and stake out a secluded corner. Local favorites: one of Colectivo Coffee‘s 16 locations or Stone Creek Coffee‘s 13 Milwaukee-area locations. One-and-done cafes like Rochambo Coffee and Teahouse and Brewed Cafe on Brady Street and Hi-Fi Cafe in Bay View are also excellent options. For night writers, Rochambo is even open until midnight. Milwaukee’s lakefront and park system also have inspiring views, but with more and more writers switching from moleskin to laptop, Milwaukee’s mercurial weather conditions make those options a little riskier.
Celebrated Milwaukee Writers
Considering that the typewriter was invented here, Milwaukee has been a breeding ground for writers throughout its history, notably including acclaimed poet Carl Sandburg, who resided in Milwaukee as a personal secretary to famous socialist mayor Emil Seidel. In recent years, the city has been home to Ayad Akhtar, Pulitzer Prize winning playwright of Disgraced and the late Ellen Raskin, award-winning author of The Westing Game. Today, Milwaukeeans can see prolific writers Larry Watson, Lauren Fox, Liam Callanan, Valerie Laken and many others writing and searching for inspiration around town.
A number of excellent writing and creative writing programs are available in Milwaukee for those ready to take their writing to the next level. UW-Milwaukee is home to one of the oldest creative writing Ph.D. programs in the country, which offers a variety of opportunities to get published in student journals and learn from prolific local writers. Additionally, Carroll University, Cardinal Stritch University and Mount Mary University have writing programs with the option of taking creative writing classes. At Marquette University, such classes are taught by local greats like Larry Watson and CJ Hribal, among others.
Workshops for Writers
For those who do not desire to attend a full creative writing program, Milwaukee offers classes and workshops, like those at Red Oak Writing, which hosts round-tables, workshops and readings for writers of all levels. Genre writers can head to the Milwaukee Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop or Milwaukee chapter meetings of the Wisconsin Romance Writers Association. UWM’s School of Continuing Education also offers a number of writing classes for those who wish to be back in the classroom.
Publishing your work
After writers have toiled alone and shared their work with other writers, Milwaukee has plenty of opportunities for publishing. Both new and established writers have a chance of being published in UWM’s cream city review, as well as nearby journals like Great Lakes Review and MAYDAY Magazine. For those ready to publish a whole novel, treatise or chapbook, turn to local presses like Orange Hat Publishing, New American Press and Rescue Press.
Poetry Readings and Open Mic Nights
There are plenty of opportunities in Milwaukee to take a break from writing and listen to other writers’ read their work. Poets Read Some Stuff Someplace in Milwaukee is an excellent series out of the Var Gallery for spoken word fans, and Short Shorts, a new poetry reading series starting on August 17, is a great choice for poetry newbies. The monthly Poetry in the Park series at Juneau Park is made for those who love the outdoors, and at Linneman’s Poets Monday, a long-running open mic night, you can read your own work, if you’re feeling brave. For non-poets, Objective open mic series at the Var Gallery allows for comedy reading as well.