Topic for Discussion: Writing Conferences

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about writing conferences, mostly because it’s a popular topic among friends and colleagues. Considering my line of work, I’m ashamed to say I don’t keep up with conferences as much as I should. In my previous career, I attended professional events that bored me within an inch of insanity, so how cool would it be to go to one I might actually enjoy?

When I was in grad school, I went to a few academic writing seminars and a couple of sci-fi and mystery conventions. These days, not so much. My only defense–other than the fact that I’d probably forget to check the mail if I didn’t run into my mailbox at least once a day–is that there are enough conferences out there to make this impossible. Also, I don’t have as much time and–what’s that other thing? Oh, right…money.

2011 is the year that I want this to change, though. I’m planning to make a short list of conferences with hopes of attending at least one.

Here’s what I’d like to know, then. Which writing conferences have you attended? Were they good experiences for you? Traumatic? Soul-shattering? If you feel they helped you professionally, practically, or otherwise, can you share a bit of what made them that way? Which conferences do you dream of attending? I suspect I’m not the only one who could use a bit of advice.

For me, meeting agents is, of course, a priority, but I’d also be interested in attending workshops and networking with other writers and editors. The only genre I’m not personally interested in is romance, but I only say this because I don’t write them.

Online Writing Workshops for Writers at All Levels

That said, feel free to mention any conference for any genre. Who knows? It might be the perfect fit for someone else here.


  1. // Reply

    Great post! My biggest issue is definitely cost. Conferences seem outrageously priced! Should a struggling writer have to save what is often considered half, if not a full month’s pay to attend a conference!? Thank goodness for student discounts. And I suspect students are the majority of attendees? For me, the high is getting to hear from authors who have made it. Hearing the quirky little tidbits and personal habits they feel helped them achieve their writing goals. So I’m drawn to conferences based on who will be there. The low is hearing about not only how hard it is to get where they are, which is generally expected, but how hard it’s going to be to get decent teaching jobs to stay financially afloat in the mean time. And on the flip side of that, how difficult it is to get time to focus on our own work when we’re eyeballs deep in teaching. In short, the conference message (and being in an MFA surrounded in teachers) has greatly enriched my love of writing but really soured me to the pursuit of teaching.

  2. // Reply

    Interesting subject and post. I agree on the comments about cost. Most struggling writers are short on funds and offering a cost-effective fee would certainly bring more would-be and already successful writers to the event.
    I enjoy reading and writing and am in the throes of writing my first book.

  3. // Reply

    Ah, yes, cost. That’s a huge concern for me as well. Some conferences are so far out of reach that it seems silly to even consider them.

    It’d be nice, of course, to be able to hit every conference on the schedule, but from a financial and geographic standpoint, it ain’t gonna happen.

    And Vanessa, you’re right on about teaching having a tendency to, let’s say “eat up” the time and energy needed for our own work. That, and the state of the field is becoming more competitive every day. I know people manage to do it all the time, and they manage to make it look easy, but for me it’s difficult.

    Sharon, big congrats on on being in the throes of writing your book–nice description by the way.

    As far as specific events, I attended the Writing Today conference at Birmingham Southern a few years back, and I enjoyed it thoroughly. I don’t think they’re doing that one anymore–at least they didn’t do it this year.

    I wanted to attend the AWP conference as well but never got around to it.

    We also had a locally run festival for a few years called the Eugene Walter Writer’s Festival that was quite good. My only problem was that, as a student at the time, I had to work through a good portion of it.

    Can anyone out there share any particular conferences that stand out?

  4. // Reply

    I’ve attended only two conferences, one on the MS Gulf Coast and the other in Tallahassee, FL.
    I’m not making money from my writings yet, but I don’t spend much, so as long as a weekend conference is under $200, I can share with another rider the remaining costs. Both conferences I chose had a small number of accepted attendees so the opportunity to move around and chat with most of the speakers and swapping stories with fellow writers made those weekends special. I recognized only one invited speaker at one meeting, but left feeling I had met some special people interested in helping me achieve my best.

  5. // Reply

    I too have not yet earned any money from my writing but I have attended a writers conference here on the Ms Gulf Coast that was outstanding last year so much so that I have already registered for this years sessions. Cost would be one of the major fallbacks to attending many conferences for most anyone even with offered discountsfor students, members,or seniors. The Southern writer conference(GCWA) last year had booked several well known writers in a multitude of genres including screenwriters, fiction and non-fiction, agents were available to speak with personally as well as editors, publishers, “how to self publish” What more could a writer want or need.Not to be out done with wine, cheese, entertainment and networking
    what a glorius week-end. What a writers dream that left me with such enthusiasm I came home ready to write the next great American novel

  6. // Reply

    I love Writers Conferences and recommend them often. They hellp renew our natural feeling about “Story” plus we get to rub elbows with other “writers” reminding us of why we love to be writer in the first place. I was blessed to be in the 96′ Class at Maui Writers Retreat where both the lit and film world emptied out of the NYC and LA to join us. From Ron Howard to Sue Grafton, director to writer, each quieted down and talked to us as fellow story tellers. Bottom line, whether the conf offers very little in talent to give up their “secrets” we can still gain and grow from the other wonderful writers we can learn from and enjoy. MEg

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