Writers workshops, conferences, and colonies range in size and scope, from campuses overflowing with writers, agents, publishers, and publicists to retreats with only a few writers in residence. When considering all of the options available to writers, start by identifying your goals. Do you want to network with artists of various disciplines or do you want to be in the company of writers only? Do you want to learn about the business of writing? Do you want critiques in a workshop or a one-to-one setting? Do you want to travel to a particular region in the United States? To another country? Chances are, whatever your desires, there’s a conference or a retreat for you.

Once you know what you would like to accomplish, it’s time to research venues. Our Conferences & Residencies database includes details—such as dates, location, cost, participating authors—for over three hundred writing retreats across the country and beyond. Plus, every issue of Poets & Writers Magazine includes information about upcoming application deadlines for conferences, residencies, workshops, and colonies, and every year the March/April issue features a special section on writers retreats. 

The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference or Colony

One of the main benefits of attending a writers conference or colony is the opportunity to meet editors, agents, publishers, and other writers. Widening your circle of connections in the literary world can help you solidify your own presence in that world, learn the ins and outs of the publishing industry, and understand how to get your work published.

In addition, most conferences and colonies give writers a chance to sharpen their skills. At a conference, you might attend sessions that illuminate techniques for different aspects of the craft or have the chance to meet and discuss writing with established authors. At a colony, you’ll have time to hone your practice, probably writing for a concentrated period of time and doing little else; you might also have an opportunity to read your work to other writers, get feedback from them, and learn about what they are working on. At some colonies, you might also have the opportunity to interact with composers and visual artists.

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Writing Workshops and Writing Groups

Writing workshops provide writers with an opportunity to receive critical feedback from peers and from an instructor. They also give writers a chance to learn what other writers are working on. Many universities and community colleges offer writing workshops that do not require enrollment in a degree program. Some well-known workshops operate annually for a concentrated period of time, a week or two, in order to provide intensive instruction and dialogue about work in progress. 

Writing groups differ from writing workshops in that they tend to be smaller, more intimate, and more casual. They often consist of a handful of friends and acquaintances who meet regularly in someone’s living room or at a café to discuss general issues relating to writing and publishing, to help each other out with contacts and ideas, and to read and critique each other’s work. If you would like to organize a writing group yourself, the Directory of Poets & Writers can help you find other writers in your area.

Online Writing Workshops

Online writing workshops offer professional writing instruction over the Internet. Like real-world workshops, online workshops generally last for a period of time (usually about six to fourteen weeks) and are developed and taught by experienced writers. Some writers might find online workshops convenient because they often do not consist of scheduled class times—participants usually “log on” at times that are convenient for them, often from their own homes.

Writer’s Digest offers online workshops; universities, community colleges, and virtual colleges often offer them as well. (UCLA Extension offers several through their Writers’ Program.) Also, some literary magazines, such as Zoetrope: All-Story (through Gotham Writers’ Workshop’s online courses) and Catapult have online workshops associated with them. 24PearlStreet (hosted by the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown), LitReactor, Sackett Street Writers’ Workshop, and the Writers Studio also offer online classes.

Other Resources

Beltway Poetry Quarterly’s Artist Residency Programs lists Artist in Residence programs hosted by an institution such as a college, national park, or museum, and you can search by type, region, or format. Writers’ Conferences & Centers, a division of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs (AWP), offers an online listing of conferences, centers, festivals, residencies, and retreats, which include member programs that participate in their Kurt Brown Prizes.

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  • Introduction
  • The Benefits of Attending a Writers Conference or Colony
  • Writing Workshops and Writing Groups
  • Online Writing Workshops
  • Other Resources