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Improve Your Writing by Attending a Writers' Conference Now. Here are a Few to Consider.


group of people outside reading
Writing Conferences are Great Ways to Work on and Improve Your Craft with Similar-Minded People.

I’ve been going to a writer’s conference in Taos, New Mexico, for the last 15 years or so. I’ve missed a few (Covid didn’t help, obviously), but I’m heading back in a couple of weeks with a draft of a new novel. What’s different about the one that I attend is that it’s a group that continued on long after the original writers conference was shut down due to budget cuts at the University of New Mexico. It’s also a bit different in that we workshop novels, rather than short stories or shorter works. As I’m primarily a novelist, it’s the only writers conference I attend regularly (though I have been to the AWP, The Association of Writers & Writing Programs, and another one abroad).


Conferences and workshops and residencies are also different, though they’re often lumped into the same category. It’s important to make sure you know what’s being offered at the conferences you’re interested in, what’s not, and whether or not you’re going to get the most out of what you’re paying for. Some conferences have pitch sessions with literary agents; some don’t. Some have editors from publishing houses; some don’t. Some are a few days; some are a couple weeks. Do your due diligence.


Anyway, most of us writers aren’t flush with cash. We teach. We work for companies as copywriters, editors, whatever. Our bank accounts aren’t usually all that impressive. We apply for grants, work more hours than we should. But I’m here to tell you, if you want to feel part of a writing community other than the one you’re on on Facebook or at your local Starbucks’, attending a writing conference is something you’ll probably never regret. You’ll learn new things. You’ll meet lifelong friends. You’ll join a community that didn’t exist to you previously, and it’s those connections that’ll help improve (and possibly expedite) your writing career.


In terms of the sheer number of them, there are a great many writing conferences and residencies around the United States, both in person and online. But don’t limit yourself to the stateside conferences: there are also plenty great writing pow wows abroad, if you can swing it. If you're thinking about attending a writing conference, here are a Few to Consider.


I attended a great one in Vilnius, Lithuania, in 2013. It was founded and run by Mikhail Iossel, and was called the Summer Literary Seminars (I believe it’s the International Literary Seminars now), and it’s a great one to attend. When I went there were New York Times bestselling authors, fantastic local writers, and just a great group of folks and cultural events I look back on fondly even today. Besides the writing, I learned a great deal about a country’s history I had little knowledge of prior to visiting. Nairobi and Lamu are the most recent locations for ILS, and I have no doubt it’s a great program, and one you should look into. In years past, it’s been held in Russia, Canada, and other locations globally. Take note of the conference dates, as some have already past.

Vilnius street
Vilnius, Lithuania. I Attended an SLS (Summer Literary Seminars) Conference Here.

Another one is the Disquiet International Literary Program in Lisbon, Portugal. It was founded and is run by Jeff Parker, and like ILS, has some superstar American as well as international writers (at Disquiet it’s Portuguese writers while at ILS it’s African writers). I know a lot of writers who’ve attended and have nothing but positive things to say about it. I haven’t attended, but hope to one day (I love Portugal, as I’ve spent some time in Lisbon, Cascais, and Sintra). But these are just two of the many that exist out there that you can look into. Both conferences have the opportunity to enter contests as well as fellowship and scholarship opportunities that can help from a financial perspective.


*As a side note, I know both Parker and Iossel from my University of Tampa MFA days, where they taught, and where Parker was the director of the program; I also know Tom DeMarchi, from the Sanibel Island Writers Conference (below).


But there are many other conferences and workshop opportunities and residencies available to you, depending on your financial situation and/or the type of workshop you’re looking for. Below are some of them with links to the conference about pages as well as brief descriptions and resources for you to browse according to your needs.


Key West Literary Seminar’s mission is to promote the understanding and discussion of important literary works and their authors; recognize and support new voices in American literature; and preserve and promote Key West’s literary heritage while providing resources that strengthen literary culture. – Offers a seminar and workshops.


A conference held at Florida Gulf Coast University with agents, editors, workshop leaders and more, normally held in November. The list of famous authors who’ve attended in years past is pretty incredible, including John Dufresne, Benjamin Percy, Richard Russo, Carl Hiaasen, Tim O’Brien, and dozens more. Tom DeMarchi is co-director of the annual Sanibel Island Writers.


The AWP Conference & Bookfair is the annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers of contemporary creative writing. It includes thousands of attendees, hundreds of events and bookfair exhibitors, and four days of essential literary conversation and celebration. The AWP Conference & Bookfair has always been a place of connection, reunion, and joy, and we are excited to see the writing community come together again in Los Angeles, California in 2025.

Lisbon Portugal
Portugal. Home of the Disquiet International Literary Program

Founded in 1985, the Eastern Shore Writers Association is a nonprofit, volunteer organization supporting writers, other writers’ groups, and the literary arts.


Founded in 1970 and held every year since, the UND Writers Conference is a three-day event featuring six to eight authors annually ranging from Gwendolyn Brooks and August Wilson to Tommy Orange and Colson Whitehead. The UND Writers Conference is committed to community outreach, engagement, and finding ways to increase audience access to literature.


The 21st Las Vegas Writers Conference is dedicated to helping writers of all genres improve their craft, sharpen their business skills, and network with publishing professionals. Held each spring, this year’s conference will draw virtual attendees from around the world. Pitch sessions with literary agents and editors are included in the price of registration. Writers will have the opportunity for one-on-one mentoring sessions with faculty members and other published authors.


Since 1971, Write to Publish has been training, inspiring and encouraging writers like you, connecting them with editors to help them improve their craft, with publishers who are looking for good books to publish, and with literary agents who can represent them.


The Port Townsend Writers Conference will feature guided free writes as well as readings and lectures by contemporary writers in the heart of the Pacific Northwest. In 2024, Centrum’s writing programs will offer participants vital support for the creation and revision of new and existing work from PTWC Artistic Curator Gary Copeland Lilley and award-winning faculty (listed alphabetically) Kim Addonizio, Quenton Baker, Elizabeth Colen, Alice Derry, ​Melissa Febos, CMarie Fuhrman, Tess Gallagher, Jennifer Givhan, Derrick Harriell, Arna Bontemps Hemenway, Brandon Hobson, Ravi Howard, Sasha LaPointe, ​Sam Ligon, Rena Priest, Sebastian Matthews, Laura Read, Anastacia Reneé, Shawn Vestal, and Kristen Millares Young.

Key west street sloppy joe's
Key West. Home of The Key West Literary Seminar, Ernest Hemingway's House, and Sloppy Joe's.

The Sun Valley Writers’ Conference (SVWC) began with a conversation among four friends – journalist Reva B. Tooley, Sun Valley Community School leaders Jon and Leslie Maksik, and venture capitalist Gordon Russell, who sat around a kitchen table in 1994 and fantasized about starting a writers’ conference. One year later, SVWC held its first event in a tent at Sun Valley Community School, featuring 12 writers, 108 attendees, and an opening talk by Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, David Halberstam.


For ten days in August, Participants and Fellows will experience the opportunity of working under the guidance of notable writers, including MacArthur Fellows, U.S. Poets Laureate, and recipients of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award.


Workshops are at the core of the conference. Each faculty member conducts a workshop in fiction, poetry, or nonfiction that meets for five two-hour sessions over the course of the 10 days.

  • Groups are limited to ten writers to facilitate discussion.

  • Participants meet individually with their faculty mentors.

  • Faculty offer lectures on literary writing and classes on specific aspects of craft.

  • You can attend daily readings by the faculty, participants, and guests.

  • All participants meet with visiting editors, literary agents, and/or publishers.


These are just a few of the writing conferences out there that you might want to consider attending. Check out other conferences that suit precisely what you’re looking for, be it short story workshops, the chance to pitch to agents, learning how to become an editor, or even just schmoozing with your favorite authors. Trust me, you’ll have a blast.


A great resource for available conference is AWP's Directory of Conferences & Centers



Cully Perlman is an author, blogger, and Substantive Editor (SE). Have a completed novel you want to have edited? Send it my way. I can be reached at Cully@novelmasterclass.com 

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Jul 09
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

I’ll check them out. Thanks!

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