I left my first writers conference feeling not only elated, having spent several days in the company of folks who shared an excitement about writing and an ambition to develop their craft, but also a little disappointed that I hadn't connected with any of them on a substantial level. It felt a bit like attending high tea; not at all like the shirtsleeves-rolled-up feast I had been hoping for. I have since been to conferences and festivals that offered the nourishment (both artistic and emotional) I craved, but not before coming to the realization that community—the kind that makes you realize the solitary acts of composition and revision are only two elements within the whole gamut of literary experience—is not so effortlessly attained. It's a lesson familiar to anyone who's walked into a reading, workshop, panel discussion, or other literary event expecting something...well, different.
There's a lot of talk in the writing world, and, indeed, in the pages of this magazine, about how conferences, festivals, fairs, and retreats can facilitate that crucial feeling of belonging, not to mention a sharing of ideas, healthy disagreement and debate, concentrated writing time, and yes, social as well as professional networking. All of which is true, but writers are wise to choose with care the kinds of events they attend, weighing factors such as demographics and program philosophies as well as event schedules and costs. That's why we publish this, our annual look at writers retreats. In it, you can learn all about the Sozopol Fiction Seminar (page 61), the VONA Voices Workshop (67), Red Cinder Creativity Center (79), and many other conferences and residencies without first forking over your hard-earned dollars, applying, and jetting off to Bulgaria, San Francisco, or Hawaii.
And speaking of community, all of us—the readers, contributors, and editors of this magazine—comprise a fairly large one. This is no more evident than in the dialogue that is generated (in Letters, in our online comments sections, and on Facebook and Twitter) by articles, online features such as Writers Recommend, and regular columns such as Inside Indie Bookstores, Why We Write, and going forward, we hope, Agent's Advice, in which we ask readers to submit questions for a literary agent whose words of counsel we will publish in the next issue. So go ahead, get in touch—you're the most important part of this magazine, and we want to hear from you.