19 Writing Conferences For Emerging and Established Writers
Build connections, generate new work, and learn from the leading writers of today
Writing conferences serve many purposes. They’re places to meet other writers and build community. They’re places to help polish up existing writing or generate new work. They’re places to reset and get inspired. They’re places to meet agent, editors, and other members of the publishing literati. They’re even places to party. Still, they can feel difficult to get into, mind-boggling to research, and like an insular club that only established writers seem to know about. Grown out of this short Twitter thread, here is a list of 19 writing conferences to consider applying to.
1) Things are in flux because of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means many of these conferences could switch to an online format or choose to temporarily pause applications to because of a backlog of accepted attendees from 2020/21. Keep an eye on the application deadlines and updates.
2) Because many of these conferences, especially the older ones, come from a long tradition of upholding the supremacy of white, and often male writers, many writers from marginalized backgrounds, including myself, have faced discrimination and microaggressions at them over the years. However, like most institutions confronted with the ways they have failed people on the margins, these conferences are working to make changes.
These conferences have been nurturing writers for many years, and typically attract a significant number of applicants.
Held on the campus of the University of the South, 90 minutes from Nashville, the Sewanee Writers Conference is a twelve-day conference that provides workshops across fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and playwriting. The conference fee for “contributors” is $1,800, which covers food and lodging for twelve days. Financial aid is available for “Scholars” ($700 tuition, applicants should have a number of genre-specific publications) and “Fellows” (full scholarship, applicants should have a book published by an academic or commercial publisher). Past notable agents and editors who have attended and taken meetings with writers at Sewanee include Michelle Brower, Renee Zuckerbrot, Margaret Riley King, Sally Kim.
Held on the campus of Middlebury College in Vermont, Bread Loaf is an eleven-day conference with workshops for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. The conference fee for “contributors” is $3,810 and includes tuition, room, and board. Substantial scholarships are available at three different levels—the contributor (earlier stage writers), scholar (has publications in journals, prizes, or other wards), and fellow (must have published their first or second book within the last four years) level. Bread Loaf in 2019 eliminated a controversial program called the “Wait Scholar” program where recipients of financial aid were expected to provide service at the conference as waiters to other attendees. Writer Alexander Chee is a known friend of Bread Loaf, as are the literary agents PJ Mark and Miriam Altshuler, among others.
Held twice a year, the Tin House workshops include both summer and winter sessions, for short fiction, novel, nonfiction, and poetry. The larger summer conference is normally held over a week on the Reed College campus, while the smaller winter conference is held over four days at the Sylvia Beach Hotel on the Oregon coast. Anecdotally, the Tin House conferences are known for prioritizing diversity—both among attendees and among faculty and guests. Attendees meet one agent and one editor during the conference and are usually required to write a query letter and/or synopsis ahead of these meetings, which can be a helpful way to codify one’s writing project. The cost for the summer conference is about $1,600 which includes tuition, accommodation, and all meals; the cost for the winter conference is approximately $1,300 for tuition, accommodation, and some meals. Full scholarships are available, though an additional essay of up to 1,500 words is required in order to apply.
Held on the campus of Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, about 90 minutes from Columbus, the Kenyon conference distinguishes itself by being focused entirely on generating new work. For seven days, writers are expected to produce new work (fiction, nonfiction, poetry) daily to be shared in workshop. The environment is warm and welcoming, which makes the prospect of sharing new, raw work much less daunting. Scholarships are only available up to 50%, total fees are $2,295 for tuition, lodging, and food.
Held for a week at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Juniper offers fiction, poetry, and nonfiction workshops designed for sharing works-in-progress for feedback and for generating new work. Tuition is $2,000 and includes some meals. Accommodation on the campus is a separate cost. Five full scholarships are available and include tuition and accommodation.
Writers of speculative fiction, sci-fi, and fantasy should consider applying to workshops built to support genre fiction.
Held on the University of San Diego California’s campus, Clarion is a six-week intensive focused on fundamentals particular to the writing of science fiction and fantasy short stories. Tuition is typically $5,150 for the six weeks, including accommodation and meals. Partial scholarships are available and range between $150 and $4,000. Typically, 18 writers are accepted.
Held on the campus of Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, Odyssey is a six-week intensive curriculum designed for both workshopping existing work and generating new work in the genres of science fiction, fantasy, and horror. Tuition is $2,450 and includes a textbook and dinner; housing on campus apartments is an additional cost, as is additional meals. A handful of scholarships are available.
Founded in response to the challenges of white supremacy and cisheteropatriarchy in literature and publishing, these prestigious writers’ conferences help marginalized writers build community.
For LGBTQ writers across genres (fiction, nonfiction, poetry, young adult fiction, playwriting, screenwriting, and speculative fiction), the week-long conference is typically held at Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles, though the 2022 session will be held virtually. Tuition for the 2022 session is $950 and both full and partial scholarships are available.
For Asian American poets and fiction writers, the highly selective retreat is held at Fordham University’s campus in the Bronx, NYC. The conference fee, which is $375, covers tuition, room, and board for five days. Additional scholarships are sometimes provided to applicants after acceptance.
For Black poets, the week-long Cave Canem retreat is held at the University of Pittsburgh’s Greenburg, Pennsylvania campus.
For Black fiction writers, the week-long retreat is held at Southern Methodist University in Taos, New Mexico. Tuition is covered by Kimbilio, but room and board fees vary depending on the accommodation chosen.
For Latinx poets, the retreat accepts 25-30 poets a year and is currently held at University of Arizona Poetry Center in Tucson, Arizona (venue changes based on ongoing partnerships). Workshops are designed to be generative.
Founded in 1995 by Sandra Cisneros, the weeklong Macondo workshops, held in San Antonio, Texas, are open to Latinx writers across poetry, fiction, and nonfiction. Participants pick between reading/response workshops and generative workshops held for three hours daily. Partial scholarships are available.
At higher price points with limited financial aid, these conferences are more expensive than the others, but make up for it by providing beautiful surroundings or new cities to accompany your week of writing.
Held in Lisbon, Portugal over two weeks, the conference brings writers from North America into conversation with Portuguese writers and features workshops in fiction, memoir, nonfiction, poetry, and writing the Luso experience. Tuition is $1,950 and does not include accommodation, food, or airfare. Disquiet holds an annual writing contest which provides conference scholarships to the winners of the contest.
Held at the luxury Le Sireneuse Hotel in Positano, Italy, the conference is six days, typically in April. Fees are $5,000 and cover accommodation and food. Workshops are mixed genre across fiction and memoir, and are taught by authors Jennifer Finney Boylan, Hannah Tinti, Dani Shapiro, and Jim Shepard.
Held at Olympic Valley at the foot of the ski slopes at Lake Tahoe, California over six days, the conference is open to fiction, nonfiction, and poetry writers. Several scholarships are available across the genres.
Located in California’s Mendocino Coast, the conference is three days long and features workshops across fiction (novel and short fiction), nonfiction, poetry, and more, as well as agent pitching events. Financial aid is available to emerging writers in various categories.
Held in Aspen, Colorado, workshops are available for fiction, memoir, narrative nonfiction, middle grade, and book editing. Partial scholarships are offered on need and merit basis. The conference also provides a cohort of “Emerging Writer Fellows” with full scholarships to attend the conference. Fellows are nominated by writers, agents, editors, and other members of the Aspen Words community.
Held at Napa Valley College over six days in the heart of California’s wine country, this conference holds fiction, poetry, and translation workshops. Tuition is approximately $1,000 and does not include accommodations, food, or travel. A small number of full and partial scholarships are available.