Introducing a Limited-Seat Opportunity: The Writer Unboxed Un-Conference

smaller jpg Unconference
WU Logo by Kristy Condon

We’ve talked about putting together a live event for a few years, but the holler-cry of the community has grown deafening, in the very best of ways. It’s time. And it’s going to be a blast…

The Writer Unboxed Un-Conference is unique. 

Part symposium. Part networking affair. Part workshop. Part retreat.

Unlike other conferences, our hybrid event will not focus on the business of writing; there will be zero (zip, nada) sessions on finding agents or writing query letters or building platform. Instead, our focus will be exclusively on the things WU’ers crave most:

  • drilled-down, interactive conversations on craft topics led by trusted WU contributors, including craft gurus Donald Maass and Lisa Cron, and bestselling authors Brunonia Barry and Meg Rosoff, and mind-stretching sessions to help you understand yourself better as a writer
  • time to interact with peers and group leaders in and outside of sessions, because everyone knows that the best part of a conference happens when the conversation begins
  • time to write

In other words, we’re going to lean on our strengths, the qualities that have made Writer Unboxed such a strong site and community. We’re going to empower you. But this time, we’re going to empower you in person—or as Porter Anderson would say, “IRL.”

Tell me more.

Our sessions will be centered around the theme “Rock, Paper, Scissors.”PSR-1

  • SCISSORS sessions are all about the craft, with topics that go a level deeper than the norm. For example, you might join a session entitled “developing the roots of your story by tapping into your personal history.”
  • ROCK sessions are focused on developing a writer’s inner strength. For example, you may join a session on “wringing the most out of critique while preserving your self-esteem.” Or join a “book therapy” session, where you and other writers will discuss trouble spots in your stories—or even your process—and offer one another suggestions and support.
  • PAPER sessions provide you with time to write. Some of these sessions may involve quiet group writing in the mornings (“morning coffee”), while others provide writing prompts and group sharing. Evenings may find you in the WU green room for story telling (“bedtime stories”)—a great experience for those who want practice with public speaking or simply to gauge the ability of their work-in-progress to keep an audience awake.

When and where?

The Writer Unboxed Un-Conference will kick off on Monday, November 3rd in Salem, Massachusetts, and span the week, culminating in a full-day workshop by Donald Maass on Friday, November 7th, and a cocktail party hosted by the Salem Literary Festival. Sessions will take place in The House of the Seven Gables Visitors Center, the Hawthorne Hotel’s Library and Ballroom, and–for those who want to write–space in one of the oldest membership libraries in the country, The Salem Athenaeum.

What follows is a rough look at the schedule.

  • Monday: check-in between noon and 5 p.m. (EST), followed by an orientation dinner in the ballroom at the Hawthorne Hotel at ~6 p.m. Don’t worry about showing up early and having nothing to do. We’ll plan some ice-breaker activities for the afternoon, or if you’d rather you can always plug in and start writing.
  • Tuesday-Thursday:
    • “Rock, Paper, Scissors” sessions; just like the game, you can choose what you’d like to focus on throughout your day
    • one-on-one meet-ups and small-group lunches between mentors and attendees
  • Friday: Donald Maass’s all-day “21st Century Fiction” workshop, followed by a cocktail party hosted by the Salem Literary Festival

We highly encourage attendees to stay through Saturday and register for the Salem Literary Festival’s fiction event, filled with panels on both the craft and business of fiction, and intended for both writers and readers. Though tickets are not yet available for the Salem Literary Festival, discounts will be offered to WU event attendees.

Photo by James Walsh
Photo by James Walsh

Any extra perks?

Registration will include a tour through The House of the Seven Gables, built in 1667 and inspiration for Nathaniel Hawthorne’s novel of the same name. The tour will also include a look at Hawthorne’s birth home.

How many will be there, and how much will it cost?

As this is our first time out of this particular gate, and because we want to preserve a certain intimacy with this event, we’re capping attendance at ~100. If this event is a success, we’ll consider doing it again and possibly doing it bigger. Early support, though, will mean a lot. That’s why we’re attaching an early-bird price tag we think is pretty sweet: $499.

Early registration ends on June 30th, after which costs will increase to $599/registrant for any remaining spots.

Registration will close once we’ve reached 100 registered attendees.

I’m in. Where can I sign up?

Please visit our registration page at Eventbrite HERE to sign up, and for even more information–and a list of FAQs. (Please check that page before asking questions here. Thank you!)

We hope to see you in Salem, where we will all be together. Writing on.



Writer Unboxed began as a collaboration between aspiring novelists Therese Walsh and Kathleen Bolton in January, 2006. Since then the site has grown to include ~40 regular contributors--including bestselling authors and industry leaders--and frequent guests. You can follow Writer Unboxed on Twitter, or join our thriving Facebook community.


  1. says

    I’ve long said that WU has tended to attract a special sort of creativity and a unique blend of inspiration and encouragement. I can’t wait to see how that manifests itself when 100 of these unique individuals are in one room together!

      • says

        There are. I’ve counted them (at least in photos). :) If I could come I’d happily count them in person though! Have a wonderful time, guys. I also have a little one I can’t leave and a schedule that just won’t budge that much right now, but I will be with you in spirit. Speaking of which, would you live stream some stuff for us homebodies? :)

  2. says

    Dang. I had planned on going to this event – but, under my new circumstances, well . . . dang it all!

    I will be extremely jealous, envious, near-murderous in my thoughts for those who are able to go.

    One bright light is that I did already get to meet the handsome and marvelous Vaughn. *kiss*

  3. says

    I don’t know if I will be able to attend, but I love the idea of a conference that focuses on craft, building core strength, and having to time to actually write. It’s a brilliant architecture for your conference.

  4. says

    Oh, I’m just down the road…o.k., up the road, across the border in New Brunswick! Now….just need some time off. Haven’t been to Salem in 15 years!

  5. Deb says

    Really wish I could attend. This sounds fabulous!

    Would you consider recording some of the presentations for later purchase by those of us who CAN’T attend??

    Thanks, as always!


  6. Densie says

    I agree with Kathryn. I’m “near murderous” in my thoughts, since I can’t attend!! GRRRR. I’m sure it will be brilliant!

  7. says

    Wow, brilliant idea! Love the focus on actual writing. I wish I could be there… Visited Salem three years ago and loved all the writing history.
    If I could take time off in November (can’t, I’m a teacher) I’d be tempted to fly over from Spain for the event. But if you ever decide to do an online version or if there’ll be one in July or August in the future… count me in!

  8. says

    Alas, alack the day! There would have to be a sea change (or more accurately, a shekels change) for me to make it out to the Right Coast then. (My treasure chest is one of those ones in an aquarium, and all the pearls are porcelain.)

    But circumstances could change, and I hope they will. Sounds like a great conference!

  9. Poeticus says

    Almost a small enough census-wise venue to suit my sensibilities and sentiments, almost close enough to afford, almost topically targeted enough to address my focal interests, though — tel est la vie d’escritur — not for me at this time.

    Though a suggestion offered for consideration and discussion: Much of literary culture’s venues have day-to-day platforms, have social-professional interaction platforms, have singular, prestigous flagships that put a venue’s best foot forward. Writer Unboxed has the former two. Might Writer Unboxed develop a flagship?

    Such a flagship should be unique, of interest to the membership, and in keeping with the encouraging and supporting purposes and social bonding of Writer Unboxed; that is, fostering the writing community. Publication culture is harshly competitive enough as it is without the writing community adding another writing competition to the fray.

    Such an award flagship might recognize exceptional contributions to the writing community. Per se altruistic in the sense of Pay It Forward, sharing knowledge, giving back to the community in gracious gratitude for the opus of support, encouragement, and writer development knowledge and contributions any given writer received from whatever sources, though not necessarily excluding candidates because they personally gained from their contributions.

    For example, for books, a book or book series about a writing style, craft, voice, or appeal topic or topics that substantially advance ambitious writers’ writing knowledge; websites that do the same; and any standout individual or group recognized by writers as performing appreciable services on the behalf of the writing community.

    This award might, could, should foster the writing community and foster and encourage the advancement of writing knowledge, perhaps develop as yet undiscovered knowledge, create new knowledge, advance all ambitious writers’ potentials.

  10. says

    Fingers crossed that babysitters and wallets align with the stars and the moon. Been looking forward to this conference for a while now.

  11. says

    What a fabulous idea! Great choice of venue at that spooky time of year and great folks to share it with. Alas, the coffers in my own Creepy Hollow are bare, but someday …
    I’ll share the news on Twitter and be green with envy.
    (Oh, sweet oogeldy-boogeldy, I’ll bet there’ll be cake! Well, at least I’ve got the whine…)

  12. says

    What an enticing opportunity! I’m stamping my feet in frustration that I can’t get there, because I just know it’s going to be great. Maybe you’ll throw out a few crumbs for those of us mired in the mundane at home. :)

  13. says

    I’m in (finally!)

    I’ve been putting off registering because currently I am unemployed and trying to be frugal until I get a regular job. However, I have been spending 6-12 hours per day writing. If that’s not regularity, I don’t know what is!

    I can’t wait to meet the very special group of folks who are coming together for this conference.

  14. says

    I am so very happy to be attending this conference. I know it will be just great! Now back to writing that book I need to write! Best,