How to Choose a Summer Writing Program or Conference

Wednesday, March 30, 2016
It’s that time of year again to start thinking about summer writing programs and conferences!

Invitations to return to old programs and to try out new programs have flooded my inbox. A quick Google search for writing programs will provide you with hundreds of options. With so many writing programs to choose from, how do you narrow down your search?
Courtesy of Strawberry Creek Inn
There are writing programs available in every nook of the world. You could stay local, which will cut down on travel and other expenses and allow you to be available for commitments like child care. Or you could choose a different part of the country or the world and turn your writing program into your dream vacation.

Live in a city but want to get away from the hustle and bustle to concentrate on your writing? Try a program in a remote, rural setting. Or perhaps you live in a quiet suburb and you want to network with others in a major publishing city like New York.

Each option has its own perks and distractions, so you’ll have to decide what’s right for your budget, time availability, and learning and writing preferences.

Writing programs can be anywhere from a few hours to several weeks long. Choosing the length of the program depends on what you hope to get out of it and, usually, what you can afford time-wise and financially.

If you want a day to network with other writers and hear some of the industry news, a 1-day conference would work for you. But if you wanted to get feedback on your writing and have time to work on it, perhaps a multi-day workshop would better fit your needs.

There are multiple types of writing programs that offer different experiences and services.

Conferences tend to be 1 to 3 days long and provide lectures and/or meet-and-greets with industry professionals. These will often provide lunches and discounted hotel accommodations for participants.

Workshops can be 1-day to multi-week affairs and provide you with opportunities to share your writing and get feedback from other aspiring and professional writers. These are often, but not always, residential programs that provide housing and meal plans.

Retreats will be multi-day programs, almost always residential, that provide writers with a lot of solitude to work on their writing with optional meals, networking, and other support services.

Some programs offer a mixture lectures, workshops, and free time to write.

Instructors and Genre
The instructors or speakers at a writing program are an important consideration because you want to make sure the people giving you advice are top-notch professionals in the writing business.

You also want to make sure they work in the area of the writing business that best suits your needs. For example, if you want to write children’s books, a writing program with Romance novelists would not be the best option for you. Likewise you wouldn’t want to attend an event for creative nonfiction writers if you’re an aspiring Sci-Fi novelist.

I recommend looking up the bios of the instructors or speakers to get a sense of their writing resumes, the genres in which they write, and what they could offer you in terms of your particular writing goals.

It would be an oversight not to put cost in this list of considerations! The cost usually depends on all of the above criteria.

If you've found the perfect writing event, but it's a little to costly for you, ask if the program offers need-based scholarships. Some programs also host writing contests in which winners receive a money towards the cost of the program.

Many writing programs and conferences encourage writers of all levels and experiences to attend, but note that some require an application and writing samples, especially in smaller workshop or retreat programs, and the program will only select a few applicants based on quality of writing.

What are other aspects of writing programs you consider before signing up?

More Information
Check out these two databases for excellent compilations of writing programs near and far!

Written by: Anne Greenawalt


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