Literary Conferences, Workshops, and Retreats for Writers


This past month, I took myself off to a cabin in the middle of the woods for four days—no wi-fi, no TV, no indoor plumbing...just me, some books, and a bear for company (black, not toy). It was the perfect environment for doing nothing but reading. Some people need tranquility and birdsong to feel inspired or meet a writing deadline. Rachel Cohn is not one of them. She recently told me she left a writing getaway halfway through because it was too quiet. Whatever your creative needs, the following conferences, workshops, and retreats are held in a range of settings across the country to help you hone your craft, hear from the experts, and, hopefully, come away ready to send that book out into the world! 

If you attend one of these programs, or have attended in the past, I'd love to hear your feedback on how it went! And if you're inspired to enter a writing competition afterwards, here are some ideas to get you started. 


WhoIWWG Summer Conference
What: The International Women's Writing Guild (IWWG) hosts their second conference of the year with on-site accommodation options and multiple workshops and readings each day.
When: July 15-22, 2016. 
Where: Muhlenberg College, Allentown, Wilkes-Barre, PA.
Why: Workshops cover a variety of genres including fiction, memoir, social action, and the business of publishing. The Lehigh Valley is a beautiful place to spend a weekend!
How (much): Price ranges from $100 per day for a member commuter with no meals to $1,450 for a non-member for the entire weekend.

The stunning Catskills

WhoWoodstock Mayapple Writers' Retreat
What: A retreat for professional-level writers with peer-led workshops and time to write.
When: July 26-August 1, 2016.
Where: Woodstock, NY.
Why: This is a retreat and workshop rolled into one for a small group set in the beautiful Catskills. You can present on a topic of your choice, attend readings, and sell your books during the week.
How (much): $600 including housing or $350 for commuters.

los angeles public library

Who: SCBWI Summer Conference
What: SCBWI (Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators) hosts two conferences a year, one in the winter and one in the summer, as well as a number of regional events.
When: July 29-August 1, 2016.
Where: Los Angeles, California
Why: Access to editors, agents, and authors, all with a great deal of experience and insight to share throughout a jam-packed schedule. 
How (much): $575 for SCWBI members and $675 for non-members. Additional fees for individual consultations. 

WhoPennsylvania Writers Conference
What: A two-day conference that covers poetry, fiction, and screenwriting.
When: August 5-6, 2016.
Where: Wilkes University, PA.
Why: The event includes an open mic and poetry slam, writing workshops, and a session hosted by Wilkes faculty. 
How (much): $130.

WhoHollihock Writers Conference
What: This three-day conference looks at all aspects of the writing life, from building an author website to pitching your manuscript. 
When: August 26-28, 2016.
Where: New Bedford, MA.
Why: There are a number of intriguing sessions for those starting out, such as the pros and cons of pursuing an MFA, crafting the narrative voice, and authenticity when writing for YA. There is also an editors panel, interactive writing workshop, and a poetry workshop. 
How (much): $29 for one day admission or $69 for general admission.

WhoMillay Colony Workshop Retreat
What: The Story of a Journey, Tale of a Stranger retreat focuses on travel writing and nonfiction with a strong element of place.
When: August 30-September 3, 2016.
Where: Austerlitz, NY.
Why: You will learn the details of travel writing and techniques to make your writing even stronger. Participants will workshop one another's writing and there will be time during the day for swimming, hiking, and working.
How (much): $500 for tuition and meals or $750 for tuition, meals, and accommodation. A private consultation with the instructor can be purchased for an additional fee.

WhoTutka Bay Writers' Retreat
What: 49 Writers is an organization in Alaska that offers writing workshops, classes, events, and this annual retreat for fiction writers of all levels.
When: September 9-11, 2016.
Where: Tutka Bay Lodge, Homer, Alaska.
Why: The retreat offers stunning scenery, time to explore and write, and instruction courses throughout the weekend led by writing faculty.
How (much): $600 for members and $650 for non-members (early registration fees). This includes accommodation and meals.

statue of liberty new york

Who: New York Writers Workshop—Non-Fiction Pitch Conference
What: This workshop is designed solely for participants to revise and improve their pitches for non-fiction manuscripts.
When: October 7-9, 2016.
Where: Manhattan, NYC.
Why: It's three days of workshopping your pitches, panels, and pitching to editors and agents both in a group and 1-1.
How (much): $450.

WhoUnicorn Writers' Conference
What: A one-day conference held in a castle aimed at connecting writers with the experts who can help them navigate the world of publishing. 
When: March 25, 2017.
Where: Purchase, NY.
Why: Editors and agents from the top houses and agencies will be speaking, and you can schedule 1-1 sessions with them throughout the day. Also, the first 50 self-published authors to register will have their books sold at the conference.
How (much): $325 (including meals). 1-1 sessions are additional.