Literary Conferences, Workshops, and Retreats for Writers

Conferences, Workshops, and Writing Retreats for Published and Unpublished Writers

In December, I posted about contests for unpublished writers (those deadlines are now approaching!). This month, I'll introduce you to some conferences, workshops, and retreats in the United States that are open to the public and suitable for a variety of writing levels (beginner, published, simply curious, and so on). Events like these can be a great place to meet published authors, hear them lecture about the craft and process of writing, improve your own work, and interact with your peers. If you attend one of these programs, or have attended in the past, I'd love to hear your feedback on how it went!

WhoSCBWI Winter Conference
What: SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) is a well-regarded professional organization and the conferences are known for their excellent speakers and in-depth panels.
When: February 12-14, 2016. Registration is still open. 
Where: Grand Hyatt Hotel, New York City.
Why: Not only are there breakout sessions about writing and querying, but many of the panels take a more big-picture approach to writing, looking at the state of publishing as a whole, how acquisitions work, and how to sustain a creative life.
How (much): $560 for non-members and $460 for SCBWI members.

WhoThe International Women's Writing Guild: California Dreaming
What: A weekend conference with sessions led by screenwriters, short story writers, poets, journalists, essayists, young adult novelists, and more.
When: February 27-28, 2016. Registration is still open. 
Where: Antioch University, Los Angeles. 
Why: Since it's held on the weekend, it's perfect for writers who have to work during the week. There is also a book fair, catered dinner, and readings at the end of day one.
How (much): For non-IWWG members, it's $295 for the whole weekend, $210 for Saturday, or $185 for Sunday.

WhoNew York Writers Workshop: Non-Fiction Pitch Conference
What: For three days, writers work on their book pitches with the help of New York Writers Workshop faculty and then present their final pitches to three different editors from various publishing houses.
When: March 11-13, 2016. (There is also a Fiction Pitch Conference in April.)
Where: Manhattan, New York City.
Why: If an editor is interested enough, they may request your proposal and manuscript. The conference also includes a panel discussion of literary agents.
How (much): $450.

WhoCambridge Writers' Workshop: Writing and Yoga Retreat
What: Nonfiction, fiction, and poetry faculty will work with you on expanding your writing skills, whether for new or existing projects, through creative writing workshops and seminars.
When: April 22-24, 2016. The deadline to apply is March 15.
Where: Portsmouth, Rhode Island.
Why: Fresh air, delicious seafood, and yoga will surely inspire you to push your writing to the next level.
How (much): $750 (including tuition, lodging, some meals, and yoga classes).

WhoHighlights Foundation: Writing Jewish-Themed Children's Books
What: The Highlights Foundation aims to improve the quality of children's literature by helping authors and illustrators polish their prose and pictures. This particular workshop is a hands-on program for those with significant or subtle Jewish content in their stories.
When: May 15-18, 2016.
Where: Honesdale, Pennsylvania (in the Poconos).
Why: Not only are there group critiques, but you'll also receive one-on-one manuscript critiques from an agent or editor with time to revise.
How (much): $1,080 (including transportation from the airport, lodging, and meals).

Who: The Writer's Hotel
What: A workshop and conference in one, TWH provides craft workshops led by experts in your specific field (fiction, nonfiction, or poetry) and holds a conference in New York. Participants must fill out an application to receive a spot. 
When: June 1-7, 2016. The deadline to apply is April 15, 2016, but they appear to fill up the spots on a rolling basis.
Where: While some of the feedback takes place remotely, 4 craft workshops and the conference take place in New York City. 
Why: You'll receive personalized attention from writers and poets, workshops are capped at 13 people each, and the conference includes readings and tours in NYC.
How (much): $2,500 (not including travel, lodging, and so on).

Who: Chautauqua Writers' Festival
What: Based on last year's schedule (the current one has yet to be released), this will be a four-day weekend filled with workshops, participant and faculty readings, and panels.
When: June 2-5, 2016. 
Where: Chautauqua, New York State.
Why: Faculty include published authors, short fiction writers, and memoirists. 
How (much): $475. There are options to purchase accommodation and meals at additional cost. 

WhoSkidmore College Summer Writers Institute
What: For two or four weeks, students and non-students alike come together for workshops, readings, and discussions led by incredible faculty members such as Mary Gaitskill, Ricky Moody, Phillip Lopate, and many more.
When: July 4-29, 2016.
Where: Skidmore College, Saratoga Springs, New York.
Why: You'll feel like you're back in college, but without the hassle of homework and hangovers (though, who knows, I wouldn't mind having a drink with Gaitskill). 
How (much): $3,040 for all four weeks (not including room and board). If you're currently an enrolled student, you may receive course credit.

Who: Southampton Children's Literature Conference
What: I recently spoke on a panel for the Southampton Children's Lit Fellows, a year-long course of instruction for serious writers. This conference is organized by the same people, but is open to those not enrolled in the graduate-level program. It's a five-day affair where you study and discuss your work and the craft of writing for children with award-winning authors. Acceptance to the program depends upon the writing sample you submit (the categories are picture book, middle grade, and YA).
When: July 13-17, 2016. The deadline to apply is April 1.
Where: Southampton, New York (on Long Island). 
Why: With daily workshops and limited enrollment, you will get personalized attention to work on your writing.
How (much): Fees have yet to be announced, but last year the cost was $1,300 (not including housing).