Read. Write. Tivo.
Help build a writer's conference list
What really drew me to this forum was all of the wonderful opinions and insight into the industry. As a research fanatic, AW kept popping up on my searches -- one of them being for writer's conferences. It can be difficult deciding which ones to attend -- or to even find one in your area. I thought it would be good to have a comprehensive list of conferences -- with opinions.
I recently attended the SBWC and loved it. A faculty member commented that conferences are where we introverts get together and pretend we're
extroverts. So true!
Please share -- list any/all conferences you've attended, with your views and reviews. A varied list of conferences would be ideal, multiple opinions
on the same conference very helpful. Here's mine:
Conference: Santa Barbara Writer's Conference
Attended: June 2008
Locale: Annually in Santa Barbara
MS Critiques: Yes -- For a fee, submit up to 1,000 words for a faculty crit
Participated?: Yes -- Very worthwhile. I chose a published children's author on staff and her crit was fantastic -- definitely helped me.
Agent Sessions: Yes -- For a fee, meet with up to 3 agents for 10 mins each
Particpated?: Yes -- I had never pitched before and the experience alone was worth the money and stress. Great practice and invaluable one-on-one time with agents. Plus, both agents requested partials!
Overall: A full conference -- workshops, speakers, book signings, networking, dinners, cocktails, agents, etc. Casual environment -- dress and behavior. They encourage you to try different workshops (quietly entering and leaving during sessions) until you find a good fit or you can try them all throughout the week.
Lots of read & critique -- with several dedicated read & crit workshops. Most leaders teach, discuss, etc. for the first half, then read & crit for the
second. I liked getting instant feedback from my pages -- and many opinions at once (in a positive environment), but I think I learned more from listening to other's works and crits.
Highlight: Sue Grafton spoke and I loved her! Funny, insightful, full of advice. Workshopping my writing for a week on the beach -- my kind of place.
Cons: Price and time can be a factor, but if you can swing it, I recommend it.
Will I Return?: I hope so!
I don't have anything to contribute to this post, but wanted to thank you for starting it. I sure hope others share their experiences.
I'm sure many of us (including me) want to attend a conference in 09. This information is priceless.
Read. Write. Tivo.
Just returned from an intensive workshop. Here's the scoop:
Conference: Intensive Workshop - Writing the Breakout Novel
Attended: September 2008
Locale: Westminster, MA -- but changes locations throughout the year
MS Critiques: Yes -- Included in price is 30 min individual crit with Donald Maass and three staff editors
Participated?: Yes -- Very helpful. Each examines your first pages and offers feedback
Agent Sessions: No
Overall: A dedicated workshop limited to 35 people. Very intense. Donald Maass basically walks you through his workbook on Writing the Breakout Novel. It's a week-long and each morning is a solid three-hours of writing exercises based on your WIP. Evenings are spent in crit groups based on genre and special sessions on brainstorming and tension. Afternoons for meetings and homework exercises.
Did I mention intense? This is an amazing workshop to turn your novel into something dynamic -- how to put tension on every page, make every scene count, strengthen the plot, characters -- everything. If you've finished your novel and want to dedicate a week to strengthening both the story and the writing, you will love this workshop.
Highlight: The workshop class on tension - great stuff! And meeting the other writers.
Cons: Location (I hated the retreat hotel) and price. If you can swing it, I recommend it. If not, definitely buy the workbook.
Will I Return?: I'm not sure I would (hopefully I learned everything!), but there were quite a few returnees who only had good things to say.
Okay, here's one I attended. Bear in mind I was a volunteer and I stayed in one room all day. I did not attend the actual conference.
Conference: Washington Independent Writer's Conference (will be American Indepedent Writer's Conference next year)
Attended: Spring, 2008
Locale: Annually in Washington DC
MS Critiques: Has done it in the past; the conference is held at a college, and the instructors there do the critiques.
Participated?: No. I volunteered and did only one thing for the entire conference. I honestly don't know if they had the critique session this year. The next part is where I volunteered.
Agent Sessions: Yes--but limited to members of AIW/WIW. Writers could see up to two agents for ten minutes each. The writers check in with two volunteers in another room, and at fifteen minute intervals, bring them down to the pitch room.
We also had an agent breakfast where you ate breakfast with an agent. This cost extra.
Particpated?: I participated in the breakfast, and ran the pitch sessions. A brag point: We stayed on time with all the pitch sessions.
Overall: The conference is focused on non-fiction and freelancing though they do have fiction workshops. I can't tell you too much about any of them because I never left the pitch room. The agents did participate is several workshops, and there was a book sale of WIW member books.
Highlight: I didn't do anything but work in the pitch room all day, so I can't speak for highlights.
Cons: The big con of this conference is that you won't see an actual date for the conference until six months out. It has to do with the facility they use.
And the conference is also focused primarily on non-fiction. If you want to freelance, it's a great conference for that, and you'll meet a lot of big name writers. If you're writing fiction, you may not get as much out of it.
Will I Return?: I always get invited back to run the pitch session. I've done something like five conferences.
Attended: Spring, 2007
Locale: Annually in New York
MS Critiques: Honestly, I don't remember if this was a part of the conference.
Agent Sessions: Yes.
Overall: The conference had a fantastic lineup of authors you would recognize, and a lot of really good workshops specifically focused on thriller.
Highlight: A tossup between James Rollins and Vince Flynn. Both these writers were great speakers and had good topics.
Cons: Extremely expensive. I think it's the most expensive conference out there. The majority of the good workshop are in a separate session that you pay an additional price for, and every extra costs something. Then there's the hotel fees (it's New York).
Will I Return?: I'd like to, but it's been too expensive to attend recently.
Conference: Southampton Writer's Conference
Attended: Summer, 2008
Locale: Southampton, NY
MS Critiques: Yes, this was a big part of the conference. Classes were limited to 13 and had fantastic teachers such as Frank McCourt for the memoir writers, Meg Wolitzer for novelists, Amy Hempel for short stories, and Billy Collins for poetry.
Agent Sessions: No. This conference is all about craft.
Overall: Amazing classes and panels. Totally worth if if you can swing it.
Highlight: Alan Alda gave an informative lecture. Great location if you like the beach.
Cons: Expensive and it goes on for 12 days. You have to submit a writing sample in the spring, so plan ahead.
Will I Return?: Maybe. It's convenient for me.
A writer with a blog. Oh my, how original.
Follow me. I tweet.
I was there in 2001. I agree with everything said above. Rough for those of us on the east coast financially when you factor in air travel and car rental and add to the cost of accommodations and fee for attending.
Originally Posted by CharlieBabbitt
Last edited by donroc; 11-03-2008 at 04:24 AM.
practical experience, FTW
South Carolina Writers Workshop
Conference: South Carolina Writers Workshop
Attended: Last Friday-Saturday-Sunday in October
Locale: Annually in Myrtle Beach, SC
MS Critiques: Yes, critiques done by publishers, editors, or agents with 20-minute private appointment, fee.
Participated?: Yes, I have attended two years and enjoyed the variety of seminars/speakers. I have also taken the Friday intensive workshops, and had a critique done both years.
Agent Sessions: Not as a separate event, you could get a critique appointment, lots of opportunities to meet them during their workshops, meals, in the hallways, I met three this year.
Overall: Conference has a wide variety of sessions, fiction and non-fiction, lots of genres, panel discussions, slushfests, top agents, publishers, editors, authors - this year's keynote speaker was Michael Connelly.
Cons: No real cons, only wish that some sessions were done more than once, it's hard to choose sometimes.
Will I Return?: Yes, definitely, quality workshops, serious people in the industry. Welcoming environment (I'm from Virginia, but I'm treated like a native).
Conference: Pacific Northwest Writer's Conference
Attended: July 2008
Locale: Yearly in Seattle
MS Crits: Yes - first five pages with agents, but it was a pretty crowded session and not everyone got a turn.
Agents: Lots of participating agents - attendees got one ten-minute pitch session with an agent of their choice.
Participated: Of course! It was my first pitch session, so highly stressful, but the agent put me at ease, liked my idea, and requested materials. It was a great experience.
Editors: Many participating editors (I pitched one from Scholastic)
Participated: Yes - another pitch session, except it was with about six other writers, and we each had two-ish minutes to pitch to the editor. I felt like the other writers at the table were more receptive to my book than the editor, but still, a good experience. Now I know how to pitch!
Overall: PNWC was my first conference, and I was SO nervous. At eighteen, I was one of the youngest there, a newb in every sense of the word. But I immediately felt welcomed by other writers and authors. I learned just as much from talking with them as I did from attending the sessions - which were amazing, by the way. Several NYT Bestselling authors, screenwriter Blake Snyder, Elizabeth Lyon, and many others conducted informative, professional, and extremely helpful seminars on a variety of topics, including series writing, romance writing, monomyth, query writing, YA writing, crafting individual scenes, characterization, and so much more.
I came away from the experience a different person. I feel more equipped to not only survive, but thrive in the publishing world. I can write better novels now, with rounder characters, gripping plots, and finely crafted scenes. And I made contacts that I will value for a long time - not only with agents/editors, but with other writers from all over the Northwest.
Highlight: Blake Snyder was a keynote speaker the last day of the conference - hilarious, upbeat, encouraging guy whose '15 Beat Screenwriting Structure' completely changed the way I write.
Cons: The expense... This time I didn't have to pay (due to very generous and loving grandparents) but coughing up $600 next summer will be difficult.
Will I Return: I would LOVE to - Terry Brooks is speaking in '09 (!) but again, the expense might get in the way.
Check out AW: Exposed, in which I interview AW members to discover who they are in real life and what they have to say about writing. Thursdays this winter! (This Thursday: Sage)
Conference: Novels in Progress Workshop
Attended: March 2007 and March 2008
Locale: Louisville, KY
MS Critiques: Yes if you sign up for the full conference you get a one on one critique by one of the faculty and the opportunity to participate in a group critique session run by a faculty member
Participated?: Yes -- both years.
Agent Sessions: Yes. Friday afternoon is a keynote speech, generally by one of the agents or editors on some topic relevant to publishing. Saturday morning is a panel discussion with the attending agents and editors. You can sign up to take one of the agents/editors to lunch on Saturday, and Saturday afternoon is pitch sessions where you can meet with one or all of the agents/editors that are attending, generally somewhere between five and eight people. Saturday night is a last night reception with the professionals as well for even more networking. NO EXTRA FEE FOR PITCH SESSIONS if you've signed up for the full conference.
Participated?: Yes...both years. Got lots of requests for partials.
Overall: Wonderful conference both with practical writing tips and industry information. Most of the faculty is very approachable and willing to work with you, as well as around to catch dinner and brainstorm ideas. A great writers community for the week!
Lots of read & critique -- Oh Yeah. Lots. And people tend to swap manuscript excerpts even outside of the normal critique sessions.
Highlight: There is no one thing...I've met great people and networked with a lot of writers. Met some new friends and have made huge strides forward in my writing because of the caring and constructive criticism I've received both years. Also the conference is in downtown Louisville, with lots and lots of great dining experiences...made even better by the total immersion in writing and publishing.
Cons: I can't think of any unless you count the fact that it's a dorm and so you've got to share a bathroom.
As for cost...the whole week is no more that I've seen for a lot of three day conferences. Lodging is in the dorms at Spalding University, which aren't luxury, but everyone has their own room with a desk and wireless hookup. Cost for the stay is very very reasonable.
Will I Return?: Absolutely!
Last edited by ajkjd01; 11-03-2008 at 05:28 PM.
practical experience, FTW
Sorry if I'm off here, but has anybody went to a writers conference in NYC, and it was free?
Or really cheap? (under 100 bucks hopefully)
Great idea to start this thread; thanks. It was just what I was searching for, though I'd like to see more in the Pacific Northwest.
I too have gone to the Pacific Northwest Writer's Association conference. I agree that you learn as much or more from other participants. I went in 2007 and keynote was great. On the downside, the meeting with editors were pretty useless. One editor and five writers. The editor said, 'Let me just be honest. You can go ahead and give me a one minute pitch, but until you have an agent, it doesn't matter.' How is one supposed to respond to that. We all pitched anyway. In retrospect, I wish I'd just walked out and spent my time elsewhere. The next morning, I was sitting next to someone who was an organizer of the conference (I didn't know that when I told her the story). She said I was right and that when a conference is organized, those paying editors to speak and be on panels want to get their money's worth, so they have these sessions. I won't waste my time next time.
My agent time was pretty much a waste too. I was given an agent who wasn't really interested in my type of writing (memoir). If I had it to do again, I'd do like the veterans do and go to the table where you can sign up on the spot for anyone who has space. It seemed some people were there for that alone.
Overall it was a good experience. The cost is prohibitive but accomodations are excellent. Robert Dugoni was excellent. Food is amazing. I did feel like I already knew so much of the information. But I'm a researcher by nature.
Before the conference, I really thought all conferences must be very similar. Next time I want to find one that fits my book and skills better. ~Karen
Nebraska Summer Writer's Conference
The Prarie Schooner workshops
At University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Nebraska (UNL)
weekend, June 13th -14th/ Week long 14th - 19th 2009
They don't have the details worked out-- you can get on their e-mail list for updates here. I will be at this one this summer. I hear that the cost is reasonable.
I've heard these writer's conferences are "not bad" and the city of Lincoln is not very expensive if you are near the Midwest. I've never been. I just put this up in case anyone is in the area. (Kansas, Oklahoma, Dakotas or some other place) looking for a conference.
Last edited by Use Her Name; 12-14-2008 at 06:44 AM.
practical experience, FTW
I attended the Muse and the Marketplace Conference that was held in Boston two years ago. It was a great conference sponsored by Grub Street Inc., a nifty organization, located in downtown Boston that does a lot of things to help writers over the course of a year. The conference is a two day event held at the very swank Omni Parker House. The next conference comes up in April of this new year that is just around the corner. The event is jam packed with lectures, panel discussions and interviews with agents and editors that one must sign up for in advance. All in all it is an exciting and informative weekend.
If anyone caught the last issue of Poets and Writers, there is a big interview with four NYC literary agents. They cover the conference scene and mention three in particular. Along with Grub Street, the Bread Loaf Conference in Vermont and the Squaw Valley conference get some free publicity and a great recommendation.
I am only familiar with the Boston venue, because it is right in my backyard, but I can say I enjoyed that conference immensely. I'm sure there are many others around the country. I was very interested in attending the one in Taos in July. Does anyone have any experience with that one.
practical experience, FTW
Here is my official conference report for the Grub Street event,
Conference The Muse and the Marketplace in Boston.
Attended May 2007
Locale Omni Parker House in downtown Boston
MS Crits For a fee you may submit up to 20 typed pages to a professional editor in advance and then be scheduled for a twenty minute face to face meeting during the conference.
Agents Numerous literary agents are available for a critique. The process is almost identical to the sessions that are available with the editors.
Participated Yes, I attended one day of lectures and panel discussions and also met with a Random House editor, which was fantastic.
Overall Overall, it is a very fun conference, even if you don't meet with an agent or editor.
Cons Staying at the Omni Parker House is very expensive, but it is only one of many options.
Will I Return Definitely, maybe this year, if I can swing the expense.
Talks fast when excited
Anyone here know where I can find information on writers conferences held in Canada? I tried Google, but it wasn't very helpful. Thanks.
Conference: Bread Loaf
MS Critiques: Yes. You submit either a short story of a piece of a novel, up to 25 pages. Your group leader will give you a detailed critique.
Agent Sessions: Yes
Particpated?: Yes. I met with at least two, possibly three agents. They all requested the manuscript, but all rejected it.
Overall: This is *the* writers conference. Your 25 pages is your application. The year I went they only took 20% of the applicants.
Highlight: It was great to be with writers for a week. No TV, no distractions, just writing and sharing and eating. The food is fabulous!
Cons: Cost. It's not cheap. Bread Loaf is very literary. Strictly genre writers might not feel like they fit in. I tend to literary crime, and felt like I got a lot out of it.
Will I Return?: If I could afford it, both money and time.
Conference: NYC Pitch and Shop
Attended: 2006 as a participant and 2008 and March 2009 as a workshop leader
Website: http://nycpitchconference.com (On the web site it says: "It started with Susan Breen and it didn't end there.")
MS Critiques: The focus of the conference is on query critiques.
Editors: Yes. There were many in attendance and I pitched to four, including the wonderful one who bought my book.
Agents: There are agents in attendance, but I believe the pitching sessions are only with editors.
Overall: I thought it was great. In fact, I thought it was a dream come true. I had an editor tell me she loved my pitch and wanted my book. It doesn't get any better than that.
Cons: It is really, really intense. You are putting your dreams on the line and the sad fact is that a lot of people go home disappointed.
Will I Return?: Yes. In March.
My debut novel, THE FICTION CLASS
, won the Washington Irving award from the Westchester Library Association!
figuring it all out
Conference: Backspace Writer's Conference
Attended: August 2008
MS Critiques: Kind of -- there's a session called Two Minutes, Two Pages where the first two pages of your MS are read aloud in front of two agents, who tell when they would stop reading, why, or they would keep reading and request more
Participated?: Yes -- so nerve wracking! But really helpful to hear feedback
Agent Sessions: Yep, see above. Free with conference.
Particpated?: Yep, see above
Overall: Panels, sessions, good chance to network with other writers. It was slightly misleading on the website -- it leads you to think the agents will be there the whole time for networking with them too. They aren't. If you want to talk to them after the panels, may I suggest comfy shoes and a quick foot.
Highlight: Got to meet a lot of authors -- AS King, Claudia Gray, Lisa McMann. They were super nice and supportive, and I still talk to some of them.
Cons: Lack of agent one-on-one -- There really isn't much opportunity to talk to agents aside from the Two Minutes Two Pages session
Will I Return?: It'd be nice, but I think I'll try other conferences first
Last edited by sraasch; 10-28-2009 at 08:24 AM.
Conference: The Tennessee Williams Literary Festival
March 24-28 2010
Attended: 1999, 2000, 2001, 2004,2005,2007,2008.
Locale: New Orleans, Louisiana
MS Critiques: No
Agent Sessions: Maybe this year, more so panel discussions.
Participated?: Yes. I have taken master classes and workshops.
Overall: A writer and screenwriter and playwrights sandbox.
Highlight: Small sized workshops or master classes with famed authors ( Mother and son Rice) , Sue Grafton, Lawrence Groebel, Lewis Nordan, Paul Elie...more than you can believe. The Mint Juleps and the old Theatre venues in the French Quarter.
Cons: Sponsoring Hotel Cost.
Will I Return?: Yes.
Your personal literary translator.
Take charge of the world reading your book in their language :
I'm considering signing up for the Donald Maass Writing the Breakout Novel workshop in April in Oregon. If I do, would you recommend that I submit my completed (and revised a zillion times, ready for querying) manuscript -OR- should I submit the 1/2 finished sequel??
Thank You for posting your review of the workshop, it was a great help!
Conference: Ontario Writers' Conference
Attended: May 2010
Locale: Durham Region, Southern Ontario, Canada
MS Critiques: Yes. They have Blue Pencil sessions. A writing mentor spends 15 minutes going over your first page with you.
Participated?: Yes. I had a great mentor!
Agent Sessions: No.
Overall: This is also a full conference but is only during one day. There are workshops, speakers, book signings, networking, lunch and dinner, cocktails, and so on. Casual environment -- dress and behavior. You sign up for the workshops and sessions beforehand and the organizers make sure you know where you need to be and when. After you sign in, you receive a package that gives you your schedule (which was good for me, considering I forgot what I'd signed up for).
Highlight: I loved listening to Wayson Choy's speech but, in a surprise attack, I most enjoyed the session with Susanna Kearsley. I bought her novel Mariana at the conference and enjoyed it very much. She's a gifted speaker and author.
Cons: It's too short! I'd have loved to stay for a second day.
Will I Return?:I'm already registered for the 2011 conference!
Last edited by CaroGirl; 01-12-2011 at 06:38 AM.
Conference: Winchester Writer's Conference
Attended: June 2003, 2007, 2008
Locale: Annually in Winchester, UK
MS Critiques: Yes -- up to three 15-minute one-to-one sessions, to discuss a sample of work with a pro writer, editor or agent (included in price of attendance)
Participated?: Yes -- Very useful. I've had feedback from both authors and agents that really encouraged me to press on!
Agent Sessions: Yes -- as above
Participated?: Not directly useful, since few SF&F agents ever attend (none in the years I went), but good just to meet agents and start feeling like a pro!
Overall: A full conference -- short talks and workshops, longer workshops (including an all-week one), trips to historic places in area (e.g. Jane Austen's house) and a well-known keynote speaker - last year was Sir Terry Pratchett.
Highlight: Workshop and one-to-one with fantasy author Juliet E McKenna, who gave me a very encouraging critique and has become a friend and informal mentor on the convention circuit
Cons: Oriented more towards mainstream and contemporary genres (romance, mystery, etc) - not so much use for writers of SF&F, horror, etc. Also, the accommodation is rather spartan! (Student rooms on Winchester University campus)
Will I Return?: No - but mainly because I think I've learnt everything I could, as it's geared very much towards unpublished writers and relative beginners. At Juliet's suggestion I've switched to attending genre conventions, mainly the more literary ones, where I can network with editors and published writers in the SF&F community.
Last edited by Anne Lyle; 02-10-2011 at 08:40 PM.
The Original Cyn
World Horror Writer's Convention
Conference: World Horror Convention
Attended: March 2012
Locale: Salt Lake City, UT
MS Crits: Yes
Agents: Yes, lots of pitch sessions and agents doing panels.
Participated: I didn't pitch
Editors: The editors involved did take pitches as well but mostly did panels.
Participated: I had a nice sit down with the editor of Dark Horse Comics. This wasn't the usual hit-and-run pitch session that some of the other conventions have. You actually get to spend time.
Overall: This was my first time at WHC and it was a great experience. Overall the best part was meeting the other authors attending. I met some new friends and good contacts.
Highlight: Ok here's where it gets crazy. Some of the highlights involved getting 86'd from the hotel bar; trying to attend 3 parties at the same time on the same night; listening to a friend ask where a liquor store is with vernacular so embellished only a writer would understand him (although it was even funnier when the young hotel clerk actually knew what he was saying in such a roundabout way!); having security knock on not one but two doors telling us that there was a noise complaint.
Now, before you think that it was non-stop parties there was also actual workshops, a dealer's room, and a mass autograph signing. I love the signings, they are usually chaos personified but in a very good way. All in all it was a special few days with some great highlights I will always cherish.
Cons: The only con I had was having my reading re-scheduled last minute so I was going up against Sherrilyn Kenyon's panel.
Will I Return: Absolutely, it was one of my favorite cons so far!
Should be writing!
Swanwick Writers' Summer School
Conference: Swanwick Writers' Summer School
Attended: August 2012
Locale: Swanwick, England
MS Crits: Yes, I think there were a couple of people offering them
Agents: Only one, I think
Editors: At least one, but she was there to speak
Participated: Attended talks. That's the main thing you do.
Overall: Week at country conference centre, filled with talks by seasoned authors, famous screenwriters, an agent, etc. Social events every night (I didn't go). Talks were of a pretty high standard. 3/4 repeat attendees, 1/4 first-timers (including me). Many have been coming for years or even decades. Some are published, some are self-published, and some seem to treat writing as a hobby. Overall, the week seems to be largely about socialising for many regulars. They're extremely friendly, welcoming and chatty (if you sit down to read, someone will come up and start a conversation). All meals are sit-down and social. The average age of attendees is higher than at other writing events I've been to.
Highlight: Talks by, e.g., famous UK TV comedy writer David Nobbs, Mills and Boon veteran Sharon Kendrick, funny kids' novelist Steve Hartley.
Cons: I found the week exhausting rather than relaxing, with very early starts every day, ridiculously heavy meals (flour-and-potatoes lunch followed by cheesecake with cream!!!), and too many things scheduled to leave me anywhere near as much time as I'd hoped to write, relax and read, given that I'd taken the week off work (this might well be a plus for less busy people). Many people I met were several decades older than me and didn't have the same goals for their writing or the week as I do/did.
Will I Return: Maybe.
practical experience, FTW
Conference: Muse and the Marketplace
Attended: May 2012, May 2013
Great conference if you can afford it. Grub Street in Boston does it annually and this is big time, Baby! All New York and Boston agents and/or editors read your first 20 pages, query, and synopsis, then sit down with you for a one-on-one for 20 minutes. I got asked for the full by an agent from Sterling Lord Literistic and Barer Literary, both big New York Agencies. I just got a pass from Barer, but Sterling Lord still has it.