Writers Conferences, Colonies, and Workshops

Writers Conferences, Colonies, and Workshops

Posted 2.8.08

  • Introduction
  • The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference or Colony
  • Writing Workshops and Writing Groups
  • Online Writing Workshops
  • Other Resources

Introduction

Writers workshops, conferences, and colonies range in size and scope, from campuses overflowing with writers, agents, publishers, and publicists to retreats with only a few writers in residence. When considering all of the options available to writers, start by identifying your goals. Do you want to network with artists of various disciplines or do you want to be in the company of writers only? Do you want to learn about the business of writing? Do you want critiques in a workshop or a one-to-one setting? Do you want to travel to a particular region in the United States? To another country? Chances are, whatever your desires, there’s a conference or a retreat for you.

Once you know what you would like to accomplish, it’s time to research venues. Our Conferences & Residencies database includes details—such as dates, location, cost, participating authors—for over two hundred writing retreats across the country and beyond. Plus, every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine includes information about upcoming application deadlines for conferences, residencies, workshops, and colonies, and every year the March/April issue features a special section on writers’ conferences. 

The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference or Colony

One of the main benefits of attending a writers conference or colony is the opportunity to meet editors, agents, publishers, and other writers. Widening your circle of connections in the literary world can help you solidify your own presence in that world, learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry, and understand how to get your work published.

In addition, most conferences and colonies give writers a chance to sharpen their skills. At a conference, you might attend sessions that illuminate techniques for different aspects of the craft or have the chance to meet and discuss writing with established authors. At a colony, you’ll have time to hone your practice, probably writing for a concentrated period of time and doing little else; you might also have an opportunity to read your work to other writers, get feedback from them, and learn about what they are working on. At some colonies, you might also have the opportunity to interact with composers and visual artists.

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Writing Workshops and Writing Groups

Writing workshops provide writers with an opportunity to receive critical feedback from peers and from an instructor. They also give writers a chance to learn what other writers are working on. Many universities and community colleges offer writing workshops that do not require enrollment in a degree program. Some well-known workshops operate annually for a concentrated period of time, a week or two, in order to provide intensive instruction and dialogue about work in progress. ShawGuides’ online listing of conferences and workshops is a good resource for finding programs that might suit you.

Writing groups differ from writing workshops in that they tend to be smaller, more intimate, and more casual. They often consist of a handful of friends and acquaintances who meet regularly in someone’s living room or at a café to discuss general issues relating to writing and publishing, to help each other out with contacts and ideas, and to read and critique each other’s work. If you would like to organize a writing group yourself, The Directory of Poets & Writers can help you find other writers in your area.

Online Writing Workshops

Online writing workshops offer professional writing instruction over the Internet. Like real-world workshops, online workshops generally last for a period of time (usually about six to fourteen weeks) and are developed and taught by experienced writers. Some writers might find online workshops convenient because they often do not consist of scheduled class times—participants usually “log on” at times that are convenient for them, often from their own homes.

Writer’s Digest offers online workshops; universities, community colleges, and virtual colleges often offer them as well. Also, some literary journals, such as Zoetrope: All-Story, have online workshops associated with them. Gotham Writers’ Workshop and the Writers Studio also offer online classes.

Other Resources

Writers Conferences and Centers, a division of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs, offers an online listing of its members.

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Comments

Baby Boomer Writer says...

After participating in one online workshop for memoir and personal essay writing I would caution other writers that this genre may be better suited to a physical classroom that allows writers to get a personal sense of one another. To potential instructors I would suggest that teaching memoir writing online is likely to be an intense experience.

Without an experienced workshop moderator online who is fully prepared to manage reactions to unexpected, powerful subject matter the critquing part of the course can go awry.The intimacy of personal writing leaves the author with no bush to hide behind and often ignites comments with high octane emotional content. Online critiquing can easily swerve off subject, be unnecessarily harsh or cause a writer to doubt the value of their work. When workshop participants are talking to a computer screen rather than a live human being they can say things they would never say in person. Too many comments in raw form are discouraging rather than encouraging and defeat the purpose of the workshop. Comments need to be moderated for helpfulness by the instructor who may not have that kind of time.

Mambisa says...
I attended this excellent conference in St. Petersburg, FL on Jan. 16-24. The attendees are capped at about 80 and the conference is selective. There are groups for novels, short stories, nonfiction, narrative nonfiction and poetry with writers that included Dennis Lehane, Stewart O'Nan, Ann Hood, Denise Duhamel, Michael Koryta, Sterling Watson and Anita Shreve. The best part of the conference is the opportunity to study in small groups with the instructors and to receive feedback on your manuscript from the instructor and the group. Priceless stuff!

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