A Writing Workshop Primer: What, Where, Why? Part Three

In Parts One and Two of this series, we explored choosing a conference based on a writer’s particular stage and needs; conference know-how basics (conference personalities, budgets, and benefits); and the importance of doing your homework.
Now for some practical resources to make your homework easy! 

So Where Do I Go?

A conference perk: Florida in January

A conference perk: Florida in January / Photo: Gerry Wilson

A few basic, online resources provide links to a mind-boggling array of workshops and conferences: Poets & Writers, the Shaw Guides to Conferences and Writing Workshops (search by calendar, genre, and place), and New Pages. There are others, but these sources are free and user-friendly and will kick-start your research.

I can touch on only a few conferences here. A small number are, by consensus, considered the cream of the cream, and admission is quite competitive: Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference (the granddaddy of all conferences and the model for many others) and Sewanee Writers’ Conference are highly revered. Tin House Summer Writer’s Workshop is a younger conference with a growing reputation for attracting fine faculty and participants and for being “edgier” than Bread Loaf and Sewanee. (Tin House is located in Portland—a hip place).
I’ll mention a few more: the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop, Aspen Summer Words (one of several Aspen programs), Taos Summer Writers’ Conference (some of Taos’s Master Classes are already full), Squaw Valley Writers’ WorkshopsWriter’s Digest ConferenceGrub Street’s The Muse and the Marketplace (a weekend conference in Boston that’s packed with great programs) . . . There’s Iowa, of course, that offers everything from graduate writing courses to the Summer Writing Festival with lots of non-degree options.
Application deadlines for these and many other summer workshops are looming, so if you’re interested, check on them right away.
If these conferences seem daunting, check the Shaw Guide, New Pages, or Poets & Writers by state to see what’s available in your own back yard. For example, Florida boasts a number of smaller conferences throughout the year, as do many other areas. Unless you have your heart set on a major conference, don’t rule out a smaller one. Many, many conferences offer excellent faculty and programs. 
This information is by no means comprehensive; it’s meant to give you a taste of what’s “out there”! Conferences and workshops, like writers, come in all shapes and sizes. Do your homework well, and you’ll find one that’s right for you.


Will you attend a conference this year? If so, where? Why did you choose it? Have you attended a conference in the past that you wholeheartedly recommend? Share your experiences (or your questions) here. 

4 comments for “A Writing Workshop Primer: What, Where, Why? Part Three

  1. February 18, 2013 at 3:40 pm

    I am really enjoying your series. Thanks for all the work you are putting into it! I would really like to attend a conference. If I could get over being intimidated, I think it would be a great learning experience. I did look at one in Michigan. It must be good – it was sold out immediately! I will use your tips to find others.

    • February 19, 2013 at 8:36 pm

      Glad it’s helpful, Carol. There’s an awful lot of information out there that, in itself, can be sort of intimidating. Start checking the resources, and also ask around. You’ll find something good for you.

  2. Sopphey
    February 19, 2013 at 7:00 pm

    Gerry, I completely loved this series. I’m interested in attending conferences, even though I’m a lot intimidated. I’m going to follow your advice and research every conference available. Hopefully, I’ll find the right conference for my needs.

    • February 19, 2013 at 8:40 pm

      Intimidation seems to be a common theme here! I’ve felt that way, too. I was more comfortable at Eckerd’s Writers in Paradise (in January) because I’d been there before. My first-ever conference was Sewanee, many years ago. Talk about intimidated! I was accepted into a poetry workshop (I thought I was a poet at that point), but I was allowed to sit in on a fiction workshop in the afternoon, and that’s where I got hooked on fiction. So you never know. I’ve done several other conferences since, and I’ve learned a lot each time. I really love a smaller conference with great teachers but a less intense atmosphere.

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