What Are the BEST Writers’ Conferences To Attend?

PhotobucketGIVEAWAY: I am (again) excited to give away a free copy of either the 2012 Guide to Literary Agents or Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd Ed., to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. Good luck to all! (Update: Becky Povich won.)

“What writers’ conference would you recommend? Which one is the best to attend?”

I get this question all the time. I’m guessing that people decide they’re going to “do it right” and hit up a big event — and they are just trying to make sure that they get some serious bang for their buck.

Now, to answer the question, let’s just acknowledge immediately that there is no definitive answer. It will be different for everyone, so we must examine three things: 1) the different kinds of writers’ events, 2) how money plays into a decision, and 3) what you want to get out of the event.


  1. General writers’ conferences. These are just what you think they are — writers’ conferences that are general in nature and geared toward all categories and levels of writers. There are hundreds of these nationwide every year, and a lot of the biggest fall under this category.
  2. Writers’ conferences with a specialized focus. There are plenty of these, too. These gatherings have a unique focus to them – and that usually means they are all about romance writing, or Christian writing, or children’s/juvenile writing, or screenwriting (& TV), or mystery/thriller writing.
  3. Writing retreats. A writing retreat is unique in that the focus is about craft and actually sitting down to write. There are usually no literary agents present, because that is not the purpose of the whole thing. You find a serene location somewhere and just try to focus and write. Lots of MFA profs, etc., teach these things, and there are even several overseas.


Yes, money can and should play into your decision. Obviously, it’s a lot easier to drive 20 miles to a conference and be able to come home each night to tuck the kids in than it is to fly to Alaska for four nights. And let’s face it: A lot of events are expensive — and not every up-and-coming scribe can manage the required dough.

The first thing I recommend you do is look local. There are tons of events every year, so there’s a good chance a conference may be near you. Try simply using Google and search “writers conference” and “(city)” or “(state)” and see what comes up. Example: Perhaps you live in Virginia? There are sizeable events in Newport News, Hampton Roads, Richmond and Roanoke. Then there’s the regional SCBWI conference that varies locations between Virginia, DC and Maryland. That’s a lot of nearby opportunities!

Check out the regional chapter sites for the SCBWI (kids writers), MWA (mystery writers) and RWA (romance writers). All three large organizations have many regional chapters, plenty of which put on an annual or biannual event.

If money is an issue, consider just attending part of a conference. A lot of conferences have various options that affect your fee — attending dinners, participating in pitch slams, access to special sessions, etc. Pay attention to any and all pricing options.

Lastly — and I don’t know why more people don’t take advantage of this — consider combining a conference and a vacation (or work trip). Two birds with one stone. Got a relative in San Diego or Atlanta? See them and hit a conference on the same trip to save travel costs. Plus, you can write off most of your expenses next April.


This question, obviously, is key.

Perhaps if you want to just sit down and write — maybe finally start that novel — then an intensive writing retreat is just what you need.

If you’re not sure what you need (perhaps you’re creating a lot of different stories and writing projects), then a general conference sounds like a good bet.

If you’re actively looking for writing critique partners and beta readers, then aim local — so you can meet other local writers and form a group that will pay off with valuable peer edits down the road.

If your work is polished and the only thing on your mind is pitching, then you’re looking for an event that has not only a sizeable number of agents and editors attending — but more specifically, a good amount of professionals who seek the genre/category you’re writing. If you attend a large conference and pay $600 to schmooze with 20 agents, it won’t be of much help if only 1-2 will consider that travel memoir you’ve composed.

If you want eyes on your work, look for a conference that offers freelance editing of your novel or work. Some even offer a variety of critiques from pros, so you can different perspectives and opinions on your work.

If you want to visit someplace beautiful, you can certainly do that. I will rarely turn down an invitation to instruct in Jackson Hole, WY (gorgeous! hiking!) or Las Vegas, NV (craps! more craps!). Certainly, a particular locale can be enticing for one reason or another.

If you want to immerse yourself in your category, seek out a specialized conference. The national events for the SCBWI, MWA and RWA are absolutely huge, and are constructed all around the genre(s), so you won’t be short on relevant sessions or agents who will consider your story. Christian writing and screenwriting conferences can also be a good option, as well.

If your whole goal is “The bigger the better,” I can throw out some of the biggest events in the country. Again, I stress that while big conferences grow large for a reason (they are often awesome), that does not mean they’re the absolute best option for you. Money, location, and goals must all be factored in. Plenty of small events are great and have seen attendees have success. That said, off the top of my head, I would save some of the largest general conferences in the country (not genre specific) include the following: Willamette Writers Conference (Portland), San Francisco Writers Conference, our own Writer’s Digest Conferences in New York and Los Angeles, the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers Conference (Denver), Agents and Editors Conference (Austin), South Carolina Writers Workshop (Myrtle Beach), Muse & the Marketplace (Boston), and the Backspace Writers Conference (New York).

(You can also check out my own website for a big list of writers conferences.)

By the way, if you’re looking for a conference, perhaps one of these below is in your neck of the woods. I’ll be presenting at the following events in 2012-2013:


My best guess is that there are approximately 200 writing conferences a year in the United States alone. That’s a lot of options — so take your time, do some research, and see what a conference has to offer. If possible, use Google to find testimonials from writers who have been there and done that — and pay attention to what they liked and disliked about an event.

No matter what conference you choose, I simply urge you to go to conferences. Get out there! I am a huge proponent of events, as they are an incredible opportunity to learn, get critiques, meet professionals, and make writing friends for life. They are, without a doubt, worth the effort to attend. If you had personally had a good experience at an event (and you’re not on the organizing committee for the event), feel free to say so in the comments here and spread some objective praise about a great writers’ conference other people may enjoy, as well.

I hope to see you at a conference this year!

Photo courtesy Flickr’s Harold Abramowitz



About Chuck Sambuchino

Chuck Sambuchino is a freelance editor of query letters, synopses, book proposals, and manuscripts. As an editor for Writer's Digest Books, he edits the GUIDE TO LITERARY AGENTS and the CHILDREN'S WRITER'S & ILLUSTRATOR'S MARKET. His Guide to Literary Agents Blog is one of the largest blogs in publishing. His own books include the bestselling humor book, HOW TO SURVIVE A GARDEN GNOME ATTACK, which was optioned by Sony Pictures, as well as the writing guide, CREATE YOUR WRITER PLATFORM. Connect with Chuck on Twitter or at his website.


  1. says

    I agree about the linking to a holiday (sorry, vacation :) )

    I have a second life in Cincinnati so hope to link in a conference in the next 12 months that can link in with a visit here

    Also, I love SXSW for the music, but it’s also great for the interactive side of things (less for writing, more for the marketing side of my life). Two birds…one stone = happy days

    Matt (Turndog Millionaire)

  2. says

    I have to admit, I haven’t attended any writers’ conferences yet. I haven’t attended any conferences, period. (I don’t count the EAIE conferences my work sent me to, since I didn’t actually attend any sessions)

    I find it both very scary and fascinating prospect… I think attending a smaller conference as my first time would work best. I get intimidated by crowds (I often joke that I became a writer so I don’t have to talk to people)

  3. Jeanmarie Anaya says

    The last conference I attended (WD in NYC) was so rewarding that I can’t wait to save the money to do it again. Aside from the pitching opportunities at the Pitch Slam (and yes, the fear does dissipate, folks, once you’ve finished your first pitch and realized it wasn’t too bad), I met James Scott Bell (!!!) and listened to a fantastic lecture by Donald Maass. Books on writing are great, but actually seeing and listening to the pros–and being able to ask them questions in real time–is an unsurpassed experience.

  4. says

    I am a huge advocate for writers conferences. I’ve been to local ones (SCBWI-MN), regional ones (UW-Madison Writers Institute), and national ones (Grub Street (Boston); SCBWI Winter Conference in (NYC)). Frankly, as far as “education” goes, no matter if I go big or small, I always learn something new and come home inspired.

    For me, spending the money to go far is justified by expanding my network of writing colleagues. (And meeting Henry Winkler.)

  5. Jen Zeman says

    Thanks for the advice Chuck. I haven’t attended any conferences yet, but have made it my goal to attend at least one this coming year.

    • Kim Jorgensen Gane says

      I’m with Jen. I haven’t been to a writers conference yet, although my novel has moved from computer to computer, unfinished, for more than four years. My goal is to move forward and have it ready to pursue real opportunities in Chicago in September of this year.

      Kim Jorgensen Gane’s most recent blog post for August McLaughlin’s Beauty of a Woman Blog Fest… bit.ly/YJ7fIM

  6. says

    I’d add a more unusual source. It’s not a writer’s conference, but it has writing workshops: The science fiction convention. You do have to do research to make sure you’re getting a con that will have workshops (i.e., a literary con). The first one I attended this year had two writing workshops, both of which required the attendees to do actual writing. Another con had many workshops on writers and social media, as well as topics for indies, creating villains, and writing action scenes. The best part? The cons last 3-4 days, and can cost $40-$80, which is cheaper than most writer’s conferences.

    • Brin Jackson says

      I’d like to know more about Science Fiction and Fantasy Conventions. How often are they held etc.?

      • says

        They’re held all over the US, and all the time (other countries may not have them as frequently). I set a goal of going to 4 cons in a year and probably will end up with 5 — but I could do more. Just on the East coast, we have Mysticon, Marscon, Balticon (this weekend), Farpoint, Intervention, Contemporal (coming up), Capclave (coming up), Philcon — just to name a few. Dragoncon is a huge one in Georgia Labor Day weekend, and a prize for panelists to get on.

        You do need to do a little research because there are a lot of different types of conventions. An anime con or a comic con probably isn’t going to have much in the way of writing workshops, but a literary con will. Look at who the guests are. If there are writers, you will probably have panels. If it’s only actors, probably not so much.

        But once you go to one, head for the literature table and grab all the flyers for upcoming conventions so you can plan for another one.

        • says

          Glad somebody mentioned DragonCon! Talk about combining work and vacation! It’s a truly massive event, but the writing track is much more intimate. If you read and write fantasy or science fiction, you may get to meet some of your author-heroes in addition to learning some excellent information about the craft. I can’t afford to go this year, but I can’t wait for DragonCon 2013!

  7. Pauline Micciche says

    I only go to workshops and conferences I can attend and still make it home the same day. The best I’ve gone to here in Dayton Ohio is the intense three-day Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop, held at the University of Dayton every two years. It focuses on humor in writing, but also has speakers on other writing and publishing activities. This year’s keynote speakers included Gina Barreca, a fuuny feminist; Connie Schultz, a nationally syndicated columnist, and Alan Sweibel, an original Satuday Night live writer. In addition to sessions on humor this year’s conference offered sessions on such topics as how to build your brand and building brands to open doors (Anne Lefner and Debba Haupert), how to pitch to an agent (W. Terry Whalin, a former agent), and how to earn money with your writing (various faculty members). See my guest blog at http://rickbylina.blogspot.com/ for a peak at how I used my experience there.

    The Antioch Writer’s Workshop in Yellow Springs, Ohio, is conducted every year. I took the Focus on Form track. Focus on Form provides information on types of writing, ptiching your work, and practice exercise in fiction, nonfictions and poetry a couple of years ago and learned a lot.

  8. says

    There is a great writers’ conference in my area in San Luis Obispo, California called The Central Coast Writers’ Conference that takes place every September. It’s a smaller conference so you really get a lot of interaction with the faculty–and the faculty is very high quality too. I go every year and it helped me get my books published. You can find info at http://www.communityprograms.net.

  9. Andrew says

    I went to my first conference this year– a really great experience. I’m glad it was local, though, for what I got from it. I’m not to the point that forking over a large sum to travel for a conference would be a wise investment. Thanks for the advice– I’m looking forward to future conferences.

  10. says

    I think your best piece of advice, Chuck, is to choose wisely. Unless you’re considering attending a large well-known conference, you can end up paying to attend a small conference led by someone you’ve never heard of that doesn’t really meet your needs. Don’t be misled by raves from prior attendees. Find out exactly how the conference will run and understand it’s purpose. I once attended what was billed as a small craft-focused workshop that was, in fact, a pitch-focused conference, though not presented as such. Three days of hearing each others’ pitches over and over along with receiving dubious advice on how to change our plots and pitches for the mass market. It pays to be careful.

  11. Melissa Lewicki says

    I attended my first conference earlier this month: The Dallas/Ft. Worth Writers’ Conference. It was really worthwhile to me. I learned so much and met a lot of really great people. They had both “the business of writing” sessions as well as “the craft of writing” sessions.

    I plan to attend the New England Crime Bake in November. My husband is coming along and the conference will be part of our vacation.

    • says

      I live in TX and was hoping to attend DFWcon this year. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but I am planning to go next year. I’m even contemplating registering now so I am nailed in (and get a great discount).

  12. Amanda says

    So many conferences in VA! I’m excited to follow up with these. So far my favorite conference has been World Fantasy Convention a few years back, but I’m always looking for new ones. WFC hops around a lot.

  13. Cathy says

    I just attended a local conference for the second time. Last year, I was new to writing so I just observed and took notes. This year, I pitched my book, approached an editor to ask questions, participated in a read & critique session, and spoke to presenters.

    What a difference a year of writing made to my conference experience. Last year the conference was valuable as a starting point to my education about the world of writing. This time I took advantage of all available opportunities to improve my manuscript.

    I live in a small town so there aren’t many workshop opportunities. Conferences are a must for me if I want to continue to improve my craft.

  14. Brin Jackson says

    I took a deep breath and registered at the last minute for a week-long writing intensive in April. With my first draft fantasy novel in hand:

    1) I stepped way out of my comfort zone because I wanted to know where my writing skills fit into the scheme of things.
    2) I wanted to hear someone I believe is knowledgeable speak and get their input.
    3) Get feedback from editors and writers in a smaller, less overwhelming environment, and,
    4) Meet and connect with other authors.

    I am so glad I went because of the amount of information I learned on the craft, the feedback I got back on my skills and work in progress, and, the amazing people that I had the pleasure of meeting and connecting with.

    I chose that event because of the people involved and the proximity of the even to my home. Will I attend other events? I imagine so, but first I want to apply what I’ve learned and finish this novel to the best of my ability!

  15. says

    I’ve been to a few conferences. There’s a local one that I love and have gone to a few times now. Would love to go every year but that’s not always possible.

  16. says

    I had a great experience with LWC}CLMP (literary writers conference organized by the Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) a year ago, much more than I anticipated, and I feel like it keeps giving. It gave me the push I needed to start blogging; and it continues to remind me of a larger community of writers, right along with the influence (and double-edged usefulness) of a behemoth like Amazon and the significance of small presses. Though I’ve been to lengthy workshops, this was my first conference, even my first professional event in quite a while. It was small enough to retain an intimate feel, but big enough to have excellent panels. For me the NYC location was an advantage (tucking those kids in), but even if you’re not local, New York has the advantage of being a publishing hub (allowing panelists to tuck their kids in…or at least get back to their desks). In the end, I think looking over the panels and panelists (including researching names on the web) and seeing if their topics and backgrounds mesh with your interests is the best bet for a satisfying conference.

  17. says

    I LOVE going to writing conferences. The first one I attended ( in 1974!) was such a revelation to me. For the first time I met other people who enjoyed writing and didn’t consider my efforts a time wasting hobby. The pleasure of meeting other writers is still one of the best things about conferences and I have attended many over the years.

    Almost every October I go down to Eureka Springs, Arkansas to the Ozark Creative Writers Conference. It is the friendliest, most encouraging, most fun three days of my year.

    Last year my writing group looked at conferences and tried to choose the best one we could find that was not too far away or too expensive. Three of us attended the MidWest Writers Workshop in Muncie, Indiana. We all felt like we learned a lot there and made many good contacts. The sessions were professional and craft oriented. One of the best parts was a “meet the speakers” session where the speakers sat at tables to visit and answer questions while the rest of us were rotated around in an orderly fashion. It allowed a chance to interact with the experts without ambushing them at lunch or in a hallway.

  18. Brooke says

    I was all set to step out of my comfort zone and attend RWA this July, until life got in the way. I’m still disappointed, especially because next year I’ll have a nursling. That said, living in L.A. means there will be other opportunities, too. I’d forgotten about the Writer’s Digest conference–I will look into that one.

  19. says

    I’ve not been to a conference yet, but have gone to local workshops. They’re good, but some day I know the larger venue will be a must to meet agents. Locally, there’s the Harriett Austin in Athens, GA, but I’m not sure if my genre gets much play.

    Have you ever been to the Surrey International Writers Conference in British Columbia, Canada? I have a lot of online writing buddies who swear by it.

    • says

      I’ve taught at the Harriette Austin Writers Conference in Athens, GA twice (2007 and 2011). I mention this because I believe the event is on hiatus. There is no event planned for 2012, if anyone was looking for it.

      There are several conferences in GA. The two I have attended and enjoyed were the Southeastern Writers Workshop in St. Simon’s Island (small but nice), and the larger Atlanta Writers Conference (2x a year — spring and fall).

  20. says

    Chuck, Great post. Since you mentioned conferences with a focus, and used Christian writing as an example, I’d recommend the Mount Hermon Christian Writers Conference, The Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers Conference, The American Christian Writers Conference…the list goes on and on, and there are a number of worthwhile local meetings as well.
    You’ve given good advice when you suggest looking for a local meeting and trying to decide what you want out of the experience. Bottom line, though, is that a writer’s conference is a worthwhile experience (and expense) for the serious writer.
    Thanks for sharing.

  21. says

    You’re not coming to the Surrey International Writers’ Conference this year, Chuck?

    SiWC is a large conference held in Surrey, British Columbia, Canada, though there are often quite a few Americans there, especially those from Washington and Oregon. Speakers often include Donald Maass, Robert Dugoni, Diana Gabaldon and… I’m pretty sure Chuck’s been there a few years, too. It offers learning opportunities, pitch sessions with agents and editors, one-on-one sessions with well-known authors, and a chance to meet a lot of people who have the same passion for writing that you do.

    I belong to an online critique group, but I’ve met three of our five members at SiWC. http://www.siwc.ca/

    October 19 to 21 this year. This day we write!

    • says

      The Surrey Conference falls on Oct 19-21, which is a CRAZY weekend for conferences. It is also the weekend for the large South Carolina Writers Workshop (which I attended in 2011), and Writer’s Digest WEST in LA, which I will attend this year. So no, I will not be there this year. I only taught in 2010.

      It appears from all these comments that either 1) somebody from Surrey asked fans to come over and spread some love, or 2) It is ridiculously beloved!

      Just so everyone understands, the conference is held in the suburbs of Vancouver, Canada — that’s where Surrey is.

  22. Mike says

    Surrey International Writer’s Conference is my annual conference. It is three days, (four if you like the master’s lectures on Thursday) and is celebrating twenty years of success.
    Some of the industry’s greats like Donald Maass, Jack Whyte, CC humphrey’s, Diana Gabaldon and kcdyer speak there regularly.
    A great time to be had by all

    Check them out at http://www.siwc.ca registration is open for this year on Tuesday, June 6

  23. says

    For a big conference that feels like a small, quaint one, try the Dallas-Fort Worth Writers’ Conference. It’s not too expensive, is in the middle of the country, and has received great reviews from attendees and VIPs alike.

  24. Ronda Roaring says

    I’m in a local (Ithaca, NY) prose and poetry group. We decided to have a retreat day in June at the Saltonstall Foundation near us. If it works out, we will probably expand our range and have a bigger retreat/conference. If you live in central NYS and would like to be kept in the loop on this, feel free to send me your email @ rondaroaring at hotmail.com.

  25. says

    Definitely research the conference you’re thinking of attending! I have been a long time attendee at the Southern California Writer’s Conference in San Diego and Newport Beach. This is a fun, interactive conference with a casual attitude, but serious about the business of writing. They like to call it a teaching conference since most of the workshops are aimed at helping the writer to be a better writer. I’ve met people from all over the world at this conference and have made some life-long friends. Even if someone doesn’t have a finished project, conferences can be great places to just hang out with other writers and learn.

    You need to come to San Diego, Chuck. You’d have a blast, I promise.

  26. says

    I had a great time at Left Coast Crime this spring. I met up with other writer friends from around the country, made new connections, added to my understanding of how the publishing biz works, and enjoyed myself thoroughly.

  27. says

    Know of any retreats or conferences around New York City area this summer that takes last minute applicants? Also looking to form a very small writers group in Brooklyn starting now for anyone else in literary fiction living in NY reading this.

  28. says

    I was in one of your talks at the South Carolina Writers Workshop… it’s the conference I make sure to attend every year. You shared a lot of great information, and I also met and continue to meet helpful writers. Thanks for the post.

    • says

      You’re welcome for the post. Thank YOU for the kind words. I’ve attended the SCWW twice and loved loved loved it. The only reason I can’t come in 2012 (I was invited) is because WD booked a conference across the country on the same weekend.

  29. says

    Great advice. I couldn’t agree more with “start local.” I’m a SCBWI and a PNWA member, and I recommend their conferences.
    An author could also check out some of the itinerant conferences–maybe one of them will make a stop near you. KidLitCon was held here in Seattle last year, and it was a blast.
    Some of them are expensive, especially if they require travelling and lodging. I suggest budgeting for the year.
    Thanks, Chuck.

  30. says

    I’ve recently joined a local writer’s group here in Ottawa Canada, to start getting more involved in being a writer. They do workshops and retreats, and are involved in some local festivals, so hopefully will be a good way to get my feet wet.
    Then I’ll be in a better position to check out conferences available to me, and see which might be the bets.

  31. Karen Dabney says


    Thank you for reminding us of the important role conferences can play in our writing careers. I’ve benefited from both local writers workshops and large conferences. The smaller events are great for networking with local writers, and the larger events often have opportunities to pitch to editors and agents. One conference I hope to attend is the next Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop.

    • says

      You’re the second person to discuss the Erma Bombeck Writers Conference. I taught at it in 2010 and it was good. Unfortunately, it only happens every two years and you just missed it (April 2012). Consider a different one in the two years till EB2014.

  32. says

    For Christian writers, I’d highly recommend Mount Hermon. They usually have a good representation of agents and editors and offer two critiques to attendees as part of the conference fee. If you’re not to the point where you want an agent or editor’s eyes on your work, the classes are diverse and helpful.

  33. says

    Great post, Chuck. Thanks!

    My favorite conference is the annual ASJA (American Society of Journalists and Authors) event in NYC. It skews toward nonfiction, and it’s more about the business of writing than the craft. I go every year and always learn a lot. I also enjoy the networking opportunities.

    Sandra Beckwith

  34. says

    I’m blown away every year by the amazing Surrey International Writers Conference (www.siwc.ca).

    There’s something for the writer at every stage of the their career, and it matters not what you write. Poetry, short fiction, non-fiction literary, commercial — there are lots of workshops and networking opportunities for all.

    I’ve been able to take master classes from WU’s own Donald Maass, Diana Gabaldon, Anne Perry, and Pulitzer-prize winning journalist Jacqui Banaszynski. There are three additional days of workshops with outstanding presenters.

    There are also opportunities to pitch to top agents & editors, and get feedback on your work at blue pencil sessions with best-selling authors, agents and editors.

    Lots of socializing and networking opportunities, too. I always have a blast though I am generally a cave dweller the rest of the year. ;-)

    See all you SiWCers in October!

  35. says

    It’s so great to have a comprehensive list of the different types of conferences. I’ve learned so much from the ones I’ve been to, and yes, my husband and I have combined them with vacations. (He was sweet enough to do this for me!)

  36. says

    Hi Chuck,

    I met you at the PNWA last year, my first ever writers conference. I loved it and immersed myself in the energy of it all. This conference was great for many reasons.

    1. Rub shoulders with other writers who see the world similar to you. This is hugely important when we spend so much time alone with our writing. (I’m not alone!)

    2. Learn that agents and publishers are people, too. I can’t promise I won’t be nervous if I’m pitching but it is so nice to put a face on agents that you’ver heard about or submitted to.

    3. Success stories. They are so inspiring and PNWA definitely has some great stories and they are all willing to share opening about their experiences.

    4. Craft enhancement. Besides the great workshops that are always available at PNWA, there are always editors willing to look at query letters and works in progress.

    5. Courage. This is the biggest thing that I think a timid writer can gain. Putting yourself out there as a professional writer brings a inner growth and confidence. Until you’re willing to put yourself out there and say, I am a writer, there is always the possibility you will quit. That’s harder to do when you begin to call yourself a professional writer.

    Of course, I’m sure other conferences offer the same opportunities. I am looking forward to attending PNWA again this year.

  37. says

    Hi Chuck,

    I met you at the PNWA last year, my first ever writers conference. I loved it and immersed myself in the energy of it all. This conference was great for many reasons.

    1. Rub shoulders with other writers who see the world similar to you. This is hugely important when we spend so much time alone with our writing. (I’m not alone!)

    2. Learn that agents and publishers are people, too. I can’t promise I won’t be nervous if I’m pitching but it is so nice to put a face on agents that you’ve heard about or submitted to.

    3. Success stories. They are so inspiring and PNWA definitely has some great stories and they are all willing to share opening about their experiences.

    4. Craft enhancement. Besides the great workshops that are always available at PNWA, there are always editors willing to look at query letters and works in progress.

    5. Courage. This is the biggest thing I think a timid writer can gain. Putting yourself out there as a professional writer brings an inner growth and confidence. Until you’re willing to put yourself out there and say, I am a writer, there is always the possibility you will quit. That’s harder to do when you begin to call yourself a professional writer.

    Of course, I’m sure other conferences offer the same opportunities. I am looking forward to attending PNWA again this year.

  38. says

    Great topic, Chuck. I’d like to really emphasize two things:

    1. What do you hope to accomplish? That more than anything – even money sometimes – determines where I go. I’ve had different needs for each conference I’ve attended.

    2. Topic-related research. I’m writing about people grieving the death of a friend. When I first started, because I’m not a grief professional or academic, I decided I needed to attend the ADEC conference (Assn. for Death Education and Counseling). I could only afford one day, so I chose the day when the speakers and topics were most closely aligned with my topic. Doing that relieved me of my insecurities, and I decided i wouldn’t go back until I could be a presenter. So, this past March, 2 years after that first conference, I presented a workshop on the development of my blog. Instant credibility.

    I’ll be attending Chicago Writers Conference and WD West this year. Next year I plan to attend ASJA: all to fulfill very different needs.

  39. says

    Even if you don’t intend to attend one in the near future, knowing what ones are local will help keep you from looking like a moron! This week, I asked an author why they would be in my neck of the woods… and found out that my little old city was hosting a popular conference. D’oh!

    • says

      AMEN to this. I once could not attend a WD writing intensive in our hometown of Cincinnati because I was teaching at the Reno Writers Conference in Nevada. When I returned to Cincy, a WD editor told me that one of the attendees was from … Reno. And evidently the guy had no idea there was a conference down the block the same weekend.

  40. says

    If anyone wants a great conference in August check out http://www.killernashville.com. I live in Nashville, so I don’t have the travel expense (great advice–start local).

    Killer Nashville is a top-notch 3-day conference. The tuition is very reasonable at $180. This year’s guests of honor are C.J. Box, Heywood Gould and Peter Straub.

    It has 5 different “tracks” and you can hop back and forth among them: writing track, getting published track, building career, sales, and promotion track, fan track, and forensic track. The TBi sets up an actual crime scene and attendees try to reconstruct the crime. It was so realistic it had to be relocated from a hotel stairwell to an upper (unused) level of a parking garage.

    So, if you don’t have plans August 23-26 come to Nashville and enjoy a little southern hospitality.

    • says

      Thanks for posting about Killer Nashville. I’m a member of Sisters in Crime, and will be going to Bouchercon (being held in Cleveland this year, and I’m in Ohio, so gotta do it) but have relatives in Nashville. Maybe they can put up with me for a night or two. If not this year then another perhaps.

  41. says

    I’m another fan of the Surrey International Writers’ Conference. Others have already shared the many ways it is awesome, so I won’t ramble on too much. (But did anyone mention the incredibly inspiring keynote speakers? They will get you SO fired up to write!)

    Cost has been an issue, so I’ve made attending SiWC an every-other-year tradition rather than going every year as I’d really like to. It has been worth every penny, though, in terms of education, inspiration, and networking, and I’m thrilled that I’ll be going again this October.

    For those who are looking for an excellent general conference, I highly recommend Surrey! :)

  42. Genia says

    I’ve been to the South Carolina Writers Workshop three times and I’m going back this year (last year my work schedule wouldn’t allow it). For me, this one is mostly about the location — Myrtle Beach, with an ocean view. I go early and stay late to make it a real vacation.

    I’ve been to Killer Nashville, a MWA-affiliated conference for writers and readers that features real-world professionals (snipers, search-dog handlers, cops). There’s also a mock crime scene set up by the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation so you can get your CSI on.

    The Antioch Writers Workshop in Yellow Springs, OH, was transforming when I went in 1990. It’s changed somewhat over the years and the last time I was there (in 2000) I found it a little chaotic.

    I’ve done retreats too, which are amazing for giving you the time and space for real butt-in-chair productivity. Wrote a short story during the last one I did.

    Great stuff, Chuck.

  43. says

    Hiya Chuck,

    We met in Vermont. You critiqued my first chapter and asked me, “Why aren’t you going to conferences?” It was the best advice ever. I discovered The Surrey International Writers Conference thanks to your blog. I attended three years in a row and began to learn about craft, honed my pitching skills and got detailed feedback during the Blue Pencil sessions. It was a huge expense, but worth every penny. Times being what they are, I can’t afford Surrey at the moment. No problem. I looked locally and discovered The Backspace Conference in New York City. I just went for the second time and found the inspiration I needed for the next draft of my WIP.

    Hope others take your advice to heart. You’ve never led me astray. Thanks, Chuck.

  44. says

    In New England, one of the best places to learn, meet and grow as a writer is at the Boston “Muse and the Marketplace” writers conference, held in April. Grub Street writers center in Boston sponsors the event and it’s heavily attended by an enthusiastic crowd of writers. And plenty of editors, agent and authors come to interact with attendees — as teachers, guides, critics.

  45. Lydia Denning says

    I have attended the Pacific Northwest Writers Association conference in the past and wanted to attend this year but will be out of town. Cost is an issue for me so I haven’t attended the full four days and usually just make it one of the weekend days.

  46. says

    Thanks for a great overview of the various conferences out there and solid advice on picking a conference that best fits our needs. I also liked the suggestion on combining conference and vacation travel. Great idea!

  47. says

    What a great post! I discovered that even two very similar types of conferences can have a different feel/culture. So, experimentation is good as well. You offer excellent suggestions!

  48. says

    Hi Chuck! Thanks for all the great info and for having such an awesome Give Away. I’ve been to two MWG (Missouri Writers Guild) Conferences, both held in the St. Louis area. I’ve attended smaller conferences/workshops in the past couple of years that were out of town, and I also learned so much at those. I’ve found that I always come away from these, learning something I didn’t already know, whether it concerned the writing itself, or publishing, promoting, etc. I’d love to be the random commenter!!

  49. says

    I’ve just returned from attending the BackSpace Writers Conference in NYC. Out of the many writer’s conferences I’ve attended over the years, I must say that BackSpace had a wonderful balance of active workshops, panels and networking, and half-day writing classes (including the brilliant Donald Maass). BackSpace was excellent, worth every single penny, and is one I will recommend and revisit for years to come.

    A great post, Chuck. Thank you!

  50. Michelle Tibbetts says

    A lot of good information to think about. I haven’t gone to any kind of writing event yet but I plan to. It’s good to know that there are so many different kinds to look for.

  51. says

    What a great list of opportunities, in the post and in all the comments. I think a writer must try to budget some type of conference in every year or two and just like food a variety of of conferences too. I find the SCBWi Northern Ohio, Midwest writers, Write to Publish (Chicago) and the Erma Bombeck Workshop in Dayton to be all good choices. Also think about your niche. I write about spirituality so try to attend retreats and spiritual growth presentations. I also write about health so find those conference a treasure of ideas

    • says

      A lot of these conferences are in my area (near Cincinnati)

      Re: Erma Bombeck — that conference is specifically for humor writers and won’t happen again till 2014. It’s a great event, but very specific — just fyi.

      Re: SCBWI Northern Ohio — I’ve spoken to them twice and they are great! Their official conference is in the fall, I believe.

      Re; Midwest Writers Workshop. I’ve heard great things and will teach there for the first time in July 2012.

  52. says

    I’m a fan of Grub Street’s Muse, right here in Boston (usually early May, I think), but I haven’t been in a few years.

    It’s large, well run, and attracts names big and small. And I can walk there from my apartment. Would highly recommend for those in NE.

    I’m adding “retreat” to my top fantasies. Right below eight consecutive hours of sleep.

    For those who have had success meeting critic partners at conferences: did you have luck at the workshops or doing the sip and chat?

    • says

      For a retreat, there is always the Writers Conference at Ocean Park in Ocean Park, Maine (next to Old Orchard Beach). It calls itself a conference but it’s basically a retreat — i.e., a chance to have 4-5 days on the Maine shore in August! I taught at it in 2007 and 2011, and loved it.

      And then there’s always my retreat in Greece in August ;-)

      • says

        Thanks. Though my chances of getting to Greece this August are roughly equivalent to the odds of being done in by the neighbor’s new garden gnome.

  53. says

    Great post, Chuck, and I agree that before attending a writers’ conference, it’s important to decide what you want to get out of it.

    What’s also important: to have a realistic goal. If you’re hoping that you’re going to come back from the event with a book contract offer, then you’re being unrealistic.

    I was skeptical of writers’ conferences for many years, so didn’t attend. I figured that as long as I worked very hard on my own, then that would be enough. While that may work for some writers, it didn’t work for me. I got close several times, but it always fell through in the end.

    Things only started happening for me when I began to attend SCBWI Conferences. I was soooo nervous at first, not knowing anyone, but it was well worth it. In case anyone else is in the same boat (thinking about attending but nervous), here are some comics that might help: http://bit.ly/scbwicomics

    Thanks again for this post!


  54. shelley p says

    I have been to two conferences, although it’s been several years. OWFI in Oklahoma City was very information and I left with several publishing contacts. They do take money and time, but so do many educational opportunities worth pursuing. It’s an investment and one of the most effective “artist’s dates” (term taken from one of my favorite creativity books, The Artist’s Way” by Julia Cameron) available.

    • says

      I just taught at OWFI in 2012, and one writer there who had been to several conferences specifically remarked that OWFI provided “a lot of bang for your buck.” I believe, for the affordable cost, she got to pitch a bunch of agents.

  55. says

    Local is definitely a great way to go and I LOVE the idea of linking a conference with vacation. Great idea!

    Also, I think an important factor to consider is size of conference relative to size of sessions, which you can sort of gauge by looking at the conference schedule, though I’ve found that the best way to find out is by talking to someone who’s attended the conference before.

    One of my favorite conferences each year is the Writers Digest one in NYC, because even though it’s on the big side, there are enough sessions and they’re small enough that you get a personalized feel despite the number of attendees. I found the same to be true at the Backspace Writer’s Conference in NYC (which I attended some years ago).

    What impressed me at both of these conferences was that they had big-name presenters, lots of excellent agents and publishing professionals, and a sizable attendance. In both cases, though, the conference still felt personal. Despite the size, you could connect with people (both other attendees and presenters) on an individual level. This is invaluable.

    Some big national conferences are structured so that you spend all weekend in one big room with over 1000 people. This is fine, but can feel isolating. Other conferences may be similar in size but offer more flexibility with lots of breakout sessions. At those conferences, despite a large number of attendees, you still feel like you’re at a small conference. The best conferences I’ve found are ones that are able to bring together the resources of a huge event but make it feel personalized like a smaller conference. Best of both worlds!

  56. Candice says

    I have only attended two writer’s conferences. The first was here in my home town several years back. It was very informative and I picked up some good advice.
    My most recent conference was at the Las Vegas Writer’s Conference where I was able to connect with some very engaging people (Chuck being one of them.). It also helped to focus my plans and made me realize I still have plenty to do before I am ready to pitch.
    I certainly plan to attend more conferences in my future!

  57. Kyle S. says

    Thanks again for the info! I hope I win the book, I’m sure my local library is sick of me renewing my check-out of it!

  58. Brittanie R. says

    This article was definitely helpful. Thanks. I was planning on looking up retreats and conferences and you gave me a place to start from.

  59. says

    I’ve not had the privilege of attending a Writer’s Conference yet, but if I had a choice it would be the one in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. I have writer friends who have gone and rave about it. Since I spend the winters in Mexico, I hope to go this year!

  60. says

    Great advice, Chuck. I love attending conferences. I’ve met so many great people and I feel the face time with agents & editors is invaluable. Not to mention, there’s a lot to be learned from the seminars and such. I just attended Backspace in NYC last week and it was terrific. I met a couple of Writer Unboxed folks and several people whose tweets I’ve been enjoying, including Colleen Lyndsey. Much fun!

  61. Jodelle Brohard says

    I think the Romance Writers of America’s National Conference is a great one! It switches location from East Coast to West Coast each year, so try to attend it some time when it comes close to your home.

  62. Diane Watanabe says

    Thank you for your post. I have not attended a conference or retreat yet, but have been researching my options. It’s is a matter of time as my travel schedule for work can be a bit hectic and tying the two together is not always possible. Local events seem to be a better option, but its all about the timing. Great advice!

  63. says

    I’m thinking of attending the Science Fiction WorldCon in Chicago (ChiCon). Not sure if there are writers workshops there, but I do think there will be interesting panels. I would be jumping into rather big waters – the only other con I’ve been to is a tiny (but good) writers convention in Edmonds, WA. WorldCon apparently is huge – I might be in some rooms with 1000 people as mentioned above!

  64. says

    Love Pennwriters Conference. I’m a longtime member. Will be presenting luncheon keynote address at 2013 conference in Pittsburgh. See you there.

  65. says

    Great post, Chuck!

    First of all, I already have both books on my shelf, and appreciate them both enormously, so please don’t consider me in the giveaway, as they should go to people who don’t have them.

    As for conferences, I wholeheartedly agree that anyone who possibly can should get themselves to conferences as often as possible.

    I jumped in at the deep end last year, and went to SCBWI LA for my very first writer’s conference, and it was the best possible thing I could have done. Because of the large numbers, I felt at ease knowing that I could be as anonymous or as gregarious as I wanted to be. There were great keynote speakers, and there were a lot of different break-out sessions to choose from (the beauty of a large conference is that there’s lots of choices!)

    This year, I’m going small, and going for a conference where I can get a more intense look at craft. I’ll be part of the Stony Brook Southampton Children’s Literature Conference, learning about writing chapter books and middle grade novels in a small group setting with author Kate McMullan. There are numerous other conferences going at the same time, and break out sessions are open to all — so I’ll get to experience speakers and educators in genres other than kidlit. It will be an amazing experience. http://www.stonybrook.edu/sb/mfa/summer/children/

  66. says

    I’m hoping this post will be enough to justify my going to a writer’s conference this year, lol.

    It’s difficult, however, balancing the cost of not yet being published (nor considered for publishing) and going to these conferences. Yes, I can schmooze, but I often talk myself out of them because I feel like that’s the majority of what I’d be doing. Along with the rest of the crowd.

  67. says

    I’ve attended a couple of small conferences put on by the community college in Phoenix. That was helpful and the price was certainly right. Then I’ve also traveled across state lines to attend a conference. It cost more, but was much more helpful to my writing career. The problem is it could take a small fortune to attend a couple of good conferences in just the Western U.S. It would be nice to make sure the trip is worth it before I decide to attend.

    • says

      Hi Randy. I once taught at the SSA’s “Wrangling With Writing” Conference in the Southwest. In 2010, it was in Tucson. I think the conference is back on for 2012, though I do not know the location. It’s def worth a look if you can find info online.

  68. Valerie C. says

    I’ve just decided to follow my passion and write. It’s the most exciting and frightening thing I’ve ever decided to do. I barely know where to start. I thank you for this information. I think the retreats would be what’s best for me at this stage.

    This site also has a lot of other useful information. It’s truly appreciated.

  69. says

    Thanks so much, Chuck…your advice and tips come at a great time…I haven’t been to a writer’s conference/workshop yet…but I know that they are empowering…and will check out the ones most local to me first. I’ve done several book events and school visits in the cities where my kids live…so I agree that it makes sense to try to find conferences in places where you’d like to vacation. :)

  70. says

    Good suggestions, Chuck! I’ve been realizing I need to expand my search outside of SW Ohio, once the $$ are available, of course. Your guidelines will help me choose.

    • says

      Not to speak poorly of my area, but SW Ohio does not offer many options. You may want to check out the Books in Progress Conference in Lexington (June 8-9), and the Midwest Writers Workshop in Muncie, IN (July 26-28). I’ll be teaching at both, and both are remarkably within driving distance.

  71. Paula Gean says

    The Mayborn Conference held by UNT’s School of Journalism in Dallas, TX will be my first conference. As a novice, I’m excited to immerse myself in the journalism world to advance my writing technique. Thank you for an informative post!

  72. Kate S. says

    Thanks, Chuck. I’m planning on attending the Willamette Writer’s Conference this summer. It will be my first conference and I’m thinking of it more as a fact-finding mission than anything else. The size of it should allow me to hide in the crowd while I pick up tips on how to navigate the writing world.

  73. Karin says

    One of the best small-ish conferences is put on by West Virginia Writers at Cedar Lakes in Ripley, WV and is held the second weekend in June. VERY affordable, top level instructors, critiquing sessions, fantastic evening entertainment. Everyone is super friendly and helpful. wvwriters.org for more info.

  74. says

    I’ve been attending conventions, sci-fi/fantasy and horror cons, for years, and am looking forward to expanding my horizons to include some writing conferences as well, a decision I recently made. So this post resonated with me specially and I appreciate you taking the time to share your insight.

  75. says

    I’ve just started attending conferences, and it can be difficult finding which ones are worthwhile or “best.” Good post.

  76. says

    I will be attending my very first writer’s conference (Ocean State Summer Writing Conference) this June in Rhode Island! I am thrilled to have finally found a conference which is local enough for me to drive to and which I can afford. I have not been able to find much of anything for writers where I live in Connecticut. I recently self-published my first novel, and now that I’ve begun my second, I am eager to attend some craft sessions, hear advice from a few professionals, and attend workshops to help polish my skills even further. The conference I’m attending would be considered a “general conference” but is somewhat small in size and not a huge event or in a beautiful destination location. I somewhat prefer this as I feel I will get more personal time and more focused groups/classes with the keynote speakers and other professionals. Although, I would love to go to a tropical location and just have time to write! Maybe someday I’ll get there :)
    This was a great article with some really good advice. I especially liked reading about, “what you want to get out of the event.” It was helpful to read this. I’m looking forward to more conferences in my future, maybe I’ll see some of you there!

  77. Pat Kelley says

    Hi, Chuck, what a great column! I’ve attended several conferences over the years and agree that they’re a great experience. For my first (OWFI) several years ago, I had a rough draft of my first novel, but was nowhere near making a pitch. It will definitely be pitched at a different conference this year. Now I have a second novel first-draft finished, and won’t be pitching it, but hoping to meet some hungry agents and get some good feedback.

    Conferences are what you decide to make of them. At my first, an older guy had registered, I think, just to have something to do. He chose to “hit” on me, to the point I eventually was very rude to him to get him to leave me alone. I’ve felt badly about that ever since. In spite of him, though, I more than learned enough to pay for the trip, and won a prize as well.

    At another, I won nothing, but got some really good feedback on what I had submitted for the contests. Now I don’t even think about “winning,” I just concentrate on learning. That’s more than enough for me!

    PS, I don’t have a blog yet.

  78. says

    Good advice, thanks! I haven’t been to a conference yet, but would love to go once it’s more financially feasible. Since I’m primarily writing sf/f, though, I’m thinking like some of the commenters above and looking more at sf/f cons rather than general writers’ conferences.

    • says

      I would not discount conferences. Plenty of agents rep fantasy and some rep sci-fi. If you find the right agents at an event, you catch pitch to a lot of people.

  79. says

    Writers conferences are vital for gaining insight on the world of writing/publishing and for elevating your own writing to a new level. I’ve attended a few, and find that they each have different features. The Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference (Seattle) is a terrific multi-day event that features panels, presentations, networking, a contest, and opportunities to meet with editors and agents. The Pet Writing Conference in NYC also offers editor and agent meetings along with very specialized offerings related to pet writing. The William Patterson University Writers Workshop (Bergen County, NJ, near NYC) offers well-known keynoters and pulls from its own faculty for the break-out sessions. Like the Pet Writing Conference, it’s a one-day event to which I can commute. The Cape May Poetry and Prose Getaway which is now closer to Atlantic City than Cape May, NJ, is completely different. Participants sign up to work with the same professional writer throughout the three days of workshops and there is ample time to write and network. I would recommend any of these events enthusiastically!

  80. Tillie says

    Having just completed my first manuscript, I love columns like this as I want to attend conferences but have wondered which ones to focus on. Thank you for sharing.

  81. says

    Thanks, Chuck! I’m a huge fan of the SCBWI summer conference specifically for children’s book writers. My big advice is, of you attend a conference with “break out session” choices, map out a plan in advance…and make sure that plan includes a balance to include both the business side of being an author with the craft side of being an author. Those who attend just to meet agents and editors may miss out on valuable classes with skilled authors, and those attending just for craft may miss out on networking and business opportunities.

  82. says

    I have been told a writer should choose the agent they want and choose his or her dream publisher. Then the writer should find a conference where they are both present. This will be my plan for next year! I’ve already spent my money on conferences this year.

  83. Joan Andrew says

    Your article on choosing conferences has given me the desire to get out and experience one. The comments from your readers were valuable in providing directions for my search.

  84. Jonathan Shirts says

    I’ve been looking for good conferences to attend, and I’m excited by what I’ve read in the comments.
    I would love to receive either of those books.

  85. says

    Hey Chuck:
    I have song the praises of everyone at the Clarksville conference in June. I had every expectation to being there this year, but my RV has been causing me some problems and I won’t get to make it. Enjoy it for me. Hope your books on Garden Nome’s is doing great.

    Best regards,
    James M. Copeland

  86. says

    Hi there!

    This is a great post, and the information is something that I’ve been looking for.

    Maybe I overlooked something, but what is the general conference in Washington, DC that you referred to?

    Thank you,
    Aleysha Proctor

  87. Pat Kahn says

    Starting with a local conference is always a good idea. The huge national and international conferences can be overwhelming (as well as very expensive).

    If one is looking for a critique group, I know that many (if not all) SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) Chapters have critique group coordinators who can put one in touch with others who want to be in a critique group. Some groups have children’s book writers writing for specific age groups (picture books, middle grade, YA, etc.) while others are genre specific (fantasy, sci-fi, fiction, non-fiction, etc.) Going to conferences has been invaluable to me and being in a critique group with other serious writers has been one of the best decisions of my life.

  88. says

    Chuck, I’ve heard good things about the Antioch Writers’ Workshop for years. Glad to hear about (and hear more about) the Erma Bombeck Workshop. Did not know it was here, now I know it’s every 2 years, and it focuses on humor (which I am trying to bring to my chick lit murder mystery novel. I think AWW is focused on the craft. Could that be why you didn’t mention it? (No agents, no business side of writing.) I have heard good things about Iowa’s Workshop as well.

    For conferences, I’m a newbie, having only attended one so far, Mad Anthony, which had a great murder scene and interviews with detectives along with speakers and classes. Nothing intense, however. Still, the female police officers were really interesting.

    Love to read everyone’s answers to your question.

    • says

      Yes, Erma Bombeck is kinda of medium and specialized, so I didn’t mention it. I always forget about Mad Anthony. Weird to think it’s the closest conference (Hamilton, OH if you were wondering) and I have never been.

  89. says

    I recently attended my first writer’s conference – Let Your Imagination Take Flight put on by the New England Chapter of RWA and it was a great experience. Everyone was very welcoming. And they had great speakers like Kristan Higgins and Michael Hauge.

  90. says

    Would be interested in others’ opinions about NYC writers conferences. If you had to choose between the WD and Backspace conferences, which would you choose?

  91. says

    There is one space left at our very well-priced Writers’ Retreat in the South of France, (Collombrieres, near St. Tropez) June 20-30, 2012. Ten days of gracious private hotel accommodations, all breakfasts, all dinners in the hotel and/or local restaurants, and seven days of evening writing workshops guided by expert instructors, for only $2,995. Fiction and nonfiction writers welcome, limited to 7. It’s going to be a gorgeous retreat, and a great value – the best priced of any we’ve seen.

  92. D G Smeall says

    I had the opportunity to attend a somewhat local writers conference several years ago and found so much great information and help from the instructors, speakers and the agents/editors that attended.

    I totally agree with this writer’s blog about focusing on “What is it you want from a conference?” and “combining a vacation-holiday-or business trip with a conference stop along the way”. I certainly hope to take advantage of a conference workshop this next year.

    Putting it on my budget and being able to write the expenses off would be nice, if I could sell more books…lol.
    I will get there. See you at A conference this next year.

  93. says

    Great value in terms of bang for your buck is what I wanted in my first conference which I attended in April with my completed ms in hand. Less than $300, added $40 for 30 min. one-on-one with editor who had already read my first 40 pages, lots of agents & editors from NYC, and only $112 Amtrak ticket = The Unicorn Writers Conference. On Facebook I wrote up notes from a few sessions including an insightful look at the editors panel which had reps from Bantam, TOR, HarperCollins, WW Norton+.
    Giving this one 5 inexperienced stars.

  94. says

    I hope you pick me to win “Formatting & Submitting Your Manuscript, 3rd Ed.” I follow you on Twitter and learn so much. I live in Charlottesville and have attended events at Virginia Festival of the Book. I’ll check out the writer conferences you recommend.


    pick me!

  95. Sonja says

    I am a young writer just out of college and quite scared by all of prospects out there and my lack of money. I’ll definitely have to try to look local for something, but I was definitely hoping you’d touch on something nearby for me. But I’ll use your searching suggestions and hope for the best!

  96. says

    Sometimes to get what you want you need to travel. There aren’t any SCBWI conferences in my province so every year I pack up my car and head west to attend SCBWI conference. Luckily, my brother lives near by and I can stay with him.

  97. N. J. Hammer says

    I’m a member of the Pennwriters group and was very pleased to see our conference listed as one of the best to attend. We, of course, have always felt that way!

  98. Sharon says

    Great information. I have not attended a conference yet and this will help me sort out my options. Hopefully I will be able to comment on my experience at one of them soon!

  99. says

    Good Advice, Chuck. I attended one of the Writer’s DigestI Intensive events in Cincy several years ago and it opened my eyes. I looked around for a longer workshop and last year I attended the Writer’s Retreat Workshop. An absolutly wonderful workshop that had us all writing our fingers to the nubs for ten days. I can’t make it this year but iI plan to go back in the next couple of years. Well worth the price. It is a total immersion in creativeness. Learned, laughed and didn’t want it to end.

  100. says

    I’ve only been to SF/F conventions so far, in part because writers’ conventions seem to be thin on the ground in Ontario. Here in Toronto, Ad Astra (in April) and SF Contario (in November) both have programming for writers — no agent pitch sessions, but a good variety of seminars on craft, publishing/business, and SF/F-related specifics such as warfare or aliens, as well as book launches and the like. And World Fantasy Convention is going to be here this year (also November). Can’t wait!

  101. says

    in addition to all the great suggestions above, don’t neglect local book festivals. it’s not only fun to b surrounded by people celebrating the written word but occasionally informative. often there are booths with publishers appealing to readers and its good to see what audiences are drawn to, what sort of trends are our out there, and, usually, there are authors in attendance. plenty to learn about the business if not the craft of writing.

  102. M. says

    This post was extremely helpful in my decision-making regarding conference attendance! I’m one of those folks who often fall into the trap of thinking ” the bigger, the better”, and I think you make crucial points about how I may be missing out on a host of quality benefits.

    I’ve never been to a writing conference, mostly for financial reasons, and I’m a young professional (24) with an okay non-profit job…I’m sure if I wanted to go to one, in say, 8 months from now, I could save up and go. But the cost issue does make me wonder how accessible writers’ conferences are to ‘truly’ low-income writers (maybe most full-time writers are low income!). I know that sometimes there are scholarships available, and often volunteering will get folks a reduced or free rate, but on a larger scale, I get the impression that conferences serve a certain population of writers ( people who can afford it and are motivated enough to go). I would be interested in reading a study about income diversity at writers’ conferences one day, and ramifications of the results.

  103. cjennetti says

    I am anxious to get started on attending writer’s conferences, but I will take your advice initially and look for those within driving distance…with an eye to expanding my horizons…

  104. Margaret Greanias says

    Thanks for the timely post. There are so many different events available — I wish I could go to them all! I attended a local conference last year and feel ready for a larger event this year. I have been pondering whether or not to attend the SCBWI summer conference. It is a difficult trade-off — the cost and time commitment have me hesitating, but I know the contacts, exposure to agents/editors/other writers would be invaluable.

  105. says

    Great information, Chuck. Thank you. I attended my first local event last month – the Wisconsin Writing Association for a retreat in the North Woods. I found such a great community of support and also found opportunities to get involved. Turns out these organizations don’t run on their own and are always looking for a variety of talents :) It’s been a great way to submerge myself into a community.
    Looking forward to the MWA in Muncie – see you there!

  106. Dee Phelps says

    And you want to know something interesting I found at writer’s conferences? Many of the participants are published authors looking to network with other authors. I thought most attendees would be newbies and unpublished authors. Not so! Many of published authors have other lives (day jobs) and find it hard to connect with like minds in person vs. connecting through social media. I met several authors at conferences that have given me (a soon to be published author, thanks to River City Publication. Yea!!) advice and encouragement and have become true friends. Go to conferences and don’t be shy! Walk up and say hello to someone who looks interesting. You never know…

  107. says

    I’ve been to several conferences. Most of them were regional SCBWI ones. I’ve also attended the Highlight’s Foundation Summer Workshop at Chautauqua. It was an amazing conference, but you didn’t have much time to write. I’m hoping to go to a retreat of some sort this year.

  108. says

    The article and all the replies have been interesting and informative. Another idea to consider is half-day writing workshops held at some community colleges. I attended two of these at Isothermal Community College in Spindale, N.C. and enjoyed them. Published authors teach the workshops. Some years it applies to my genre and sometimes not. Perhaps other community colleges offer something similar.
    My first conference was at the Christian Writers’ Boot Camp Conference held at The Cove in Asheville, N.C., which is gorgeous with a wonderful facility. Christian Devotions sponsor this one. I liked the smaller, more intimate group.
    I have attended the Write2Ignite! Christian Children’s Writers Conference in Greenville, N.C. which is unique smaller conference with a variety of published authors, presenters and editors.
    Next year I hope to attend larger conferences such as the Blue Ridge Mountain Christian Writers’ Conference as well as my first WD conference at Myrtle Beach, SC.

  109. Rudy says

    I really appreciate your post! I have never attended a conference as wasn’t sure what would fit me, nor what was available. Sounds like, based on your post, a writers retreat/workshop is what I am seeking.

    Could you possibly recommend a worthy retreat, preferably in the western U.S., if there are any on the top of your head that you feel are excellent.

    Thank you again for the post!

  110. says

    The Grub Street “Muse and the Marketplace”, held in Boston the first weekend in May is phenomenal. It provides very useful information on the industry, top notch workshops, and opportunities to meet with both agents and editors.

  111. says

    I have only attended one day-long conference near my home and found it to be most educational. The tools and tips we learned in that one day helped me to organize my thoughts around blog posts and the book I am working on. Thank you for fleshing out the different options for us!

  112. Jeanne Meeks says

    Conferences pertaining to your genre are invaluable. I loved Love is Murder in Chicago for the past 2 years and had the opportunity to pitch my manuscripts. I also just attended a small one-day event put on by MWA at the University of Wisconsin. The classes were small and the cost only $50. It was spot-on for an aspiring mystery writer. Big or small conferences get my creative juices flowing.

  113. says

    I have never been to a conference or even thought of going to one. This was very illuminating and now I am definitely looking up one to attend. Thanks!

  114. says

    I attended the San Francisco Writer’s Conference in February, and yes, it was expensive. It was also the kick in the pants I needed to begin advancing in the right direction. Chuck, your critique of my WIP (along with many others’ input) forced me to accept that it was not ready for publication. I returned to my desk, and a dozen re-writes later (16 in all), the work is nearly ready to begin my search for an agent.

    Would I have accomplished the same thing at a smaller conference? Perhaps, but at a conference with so much to offer, and with so many workshops, I feel the experience worth every penny spent.

    Oh, and thank you for telling me the work was not ready.

    Tim Lewis

  115. Daphne D. says

    Great timing. I’m currently searching for a writing retreat this summer. Thanks for the advice!

  116. Susan S. says

    Timely post for me as I’m just finishing my first novel. Attending a writer’s retreat in Greece (not the one you list) changed my life, but I was lucky. Met one of my closest friends there who is also a well-connected ex-editor, who also lives in my town. Really I went just to write though, not to learn. A conference, as I see it, is mainly to learn – am I wrong? You can schmooze at both types of events, but I will admit, schmoozing at conferences intimidates the hell out of me. I feel so sharky, not my style. I wish more conferences had a better structure for matching agents in attendance with samples from authors looking for representation. Does anyone know of any who do? They must know that’s why many authors go. I’ve paid for one evaluation at a conference from an agent – good experience, but I don’t really feel the need to do that again, and anyway, it’s too pricey.

  117. says

    I am attending my first conf. on 25 Aug. MT Baldy, Ca. It is sponsered by local grp in SAn Bernardino Cty. They hold monthly meetings with critque. You don’t mention time but I think it is important to remeber the more conventions the more time not writing. I have opening Ch Going home on my site jimparrishavitator.com

  118. Nancy S. says

    Thank you so much for this info – it’s hard to determine what kind of conference I should attend, based on my writing needs/wants. But this cleared it up significantly!

  119. says

    Hello Chuck! I have enjoyed reading your article’s and have been making notes. Some of your suggetions I have alreay done on setting up a platform and branding. I’d love for you to visit my website. I have visited at least 4writers conference’s and a excibitot. I’m a member of the American Christian Writer’s,Contributor Write for emagazine (Cofield Report)on facebook(Allen Green). I’m in the middle of publishing my3rd book. My platform is Hudson Publisher’s (Serving Spiritual Cuizine to The Masses. I did a radio interview on a show called,The Reading Cirle w/Marc Medley. Please find me on Linkedin,facebook,Twitter-nthewomb. Stay Strong N’ The Lord!

  120. Pam Long says

    Very helpful information, Chuck. With approximately 200 different conferences every year, it does tend to make a girl’s head spin! I love your input (and your tweets!) Thanks once again for helping us “newbies”.

  121. Stephanie Levijoki says

    I am trying to decide which writers workshop to attend this year. I appreciate your column on this topic. But noticed that you did not make mention of the Algonkian Writers conference held in October at Niagara Falls. I was advised by another writer that this is a good conference. Do you recommend it or have you not heard good things about it.

    Thanks for your help and for your work.

  122. Margo says

    Nice to see you mention the 3D writers’ conf. in Alberta. Do check out the SURREY INTERNATIONAL WRITERS’ CONFERENCE (SiwC) in Surrey BC which is adjacent to Vancouver and not far from Whistler BC.

    This year’s conference is Oct. 25 to 27, 2013 with Master Classes on Oct. 24. Frequent presenters at SiWc are Anne Perry – Diana Gabaldon – Jack Whyte – Robert Dugoni – and of course many many more.

    SiWC also has an annual writing contest. All info on the website as it gets closer: siwc.ca

  123. says

    I loved the San Diego Writers / Editors Guild I attended on How To Write Children’s Books by a seasoned children’s librarian who knew what kids like and how to write for the different genres. There were many writer mentors in the room and a lot of excitement and creative banter in the networking I did. Carolyn Jaynes

  124. says

    One thing that has not been mentioned is the fact that the presenters (successful writers) enjoy hanging out with eachother. Conferences can become social events for them (Why not?) This is only an issue at medium-sized gatherings at which participants may want to interact with writers during a meal or something. The culture of the conference may not lend itself to mixing.

  125. Jez Fleming says

    I love conferences, but after a few they can become repetitive. I now go to make contacts and speak to agents.

    I have a question about your statement that “you can write off most of your expenses next April”. Surely you can only do this if you’ve made enough income from writing. I’d guess that 98% of writers wouldn’t make enough from writing to write-off travel, hotel, and conference costs.