What could be better than summer camp for writers? While each summer conference varies greatly from the next, they all allow writers a chance to escape from their daily routines, work on their fiction, and be with a community of writers. You do need to apply for most, and scholarships are few, but the opportunities provided by these conferences live on long after the summer is over.
There are many opportunities across the country for summer conferences. Here are some of our favorites, listed in alphabetical order.
Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference
Location: Middlebury, VT
Application Deadline/Dates: 10/15-2/15
Conference Dates: 8/15-8/25
Tuition: $3,395 (includes room and board)
Bread Loaf features workshops in fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Workshops meet for five two-hour sessions over the 10-day conference; participants meet individually with their faculty for one-on-one meetings. Faculty offer lectures and classes on craft. Participants have a chance to meet with editors, literary agents, and publishers. Readings by faculty, participants, and guests round out the program.
There are a variety of scholarship and fellowship opportunities, depending on your publication history. There is also an opportunity to participate as an auditor. On the program’s website, you can listen to recordings of readings and lectures from past conferences.
Community of Writers at Squaw Valley
Location: Squaw Valley, CA
Application Deadline/Dates: 3/28
Conference Dates: 7/8-7/15
Tuition: $1200 (includes six dinners; housing is extra)
Workshops are held here in the mornings, with writers, agents and editors serving as workshop leaders. One of the things that makes this conference different is that every day each workshop group gets a different leader. Craft talks, panel discussions, readings and one-on-one conferences round out the week. The days here are busy and filled with activities. This is a relatively large conference, with 120 writers in fiction, non-fiction and memoir workshops. (Poetry workshops are held in a separate week.)
Financial aid is available in the form of tuition waivers. Housing can be arranged through the conference or on your own. Squaw Valley is a beautiful spot with lots of opportunities to enjoy the landscape; the conference even offers a nature walk.
Fine Arts Work Center
Location: Provincetown, MA
Application Deadline/Dates: Rolling admission
Conference Dates: Summer 2018
Unlike the other conferences we’ve highlighted here, the Work Center provides workshops every week of the summer, with a different group of writers and visual artists leading workshops each week. Workshops fill on a first-come, first-serve basis so if you see someone you want to work with, get your application in early! Most workshops do not require a writing sample. Some scholarships available.
There’s time to write here, as workshops are scheduled either in the morning or the afternoon, with readings in the evenings. No craft talks or panel discussions but plenty of time to work on your writing and explore Provincetown. Some housing available onsite for an additional cost—although it goes quickly—and FAWC also maintains a list of local rooms for rent.
Kenyon Review Writers Workshop
Location: Kenyon, OH
Conference Dates: June 16-23 or July 7-14 for Fiction
Tuition: $2,295 (includes room and board)
The workshops at Kenyon meet daily, are capped at 10 participants, and focus on the act and craft of writing. Participants discuss shared readings and how a story works rather than what it means. Daily prompts, exercises, and discussions mean that the week is one of generation and creativity. Participants meet one-on-one with their instructors, with fellows, and with other participants.
This is one of those workshop experiences that participants rave about, particularly the generative nature of the week.
Lighthouse Writers Master Workshops
Location: Denver, CO
Application Deadline/Dates: 3/15
Conference Dates: 6/1-6/15 (can attend one week or both weeks)
Held in conjunction with Lit Fest, a two-week celebration of books and writing held by Lighthouse Writers each June, this conference offers Master Workshops during each of the two weeks, along with a few weekend workshops. The Master Workshops are designed for people who have been writing for a long time and have prior experience with workshops. Fellowships are available for participants who would not otherwise be financially able to attend the workshops.
Lit Fest consists of one-time seminars, meetings with agents and editors, readings and parties. Different levels of passes are available for Lit Fest, depending on your level of interest.
Napa Valley Writers’ Conference
Location: St. Helena, CA
Application Deadline/Dates: 4/2
Conference Dates: 7/29-8/3
Tuition: $1,025 (includes breakfast, lunch and two dinners)
Four fiction workshops and four poetry workshops constitute this conference, held at the Napa Valley College. The focus here is on the craft of writing so while there may be a panel discussion with agents and editors, most of the conversation is about writing, not publishing. Workshops meet each morning, and include a one-on-one meeting with the workshop leader; craft talks are presented by the faculty. Afternoons are mostly free. Faculty readings are held each night at various wineries in the Napa Valley.
Even with eight workshops, the conference feels small and intimate. Many writers return on a regular basis to lead workshops so there’s a collegial feel to the conference. Some financial assistance is available, including community housing options.
One Story Summer Writers Conference
Location: Brooklyn, NY
Application Deadline/Dates: 4/3
Conference Dates: 7/22-27
At this small conference, held at the offices of One Story in Brooklyn, workshops meet each morning for three hours. Workshops this year are led by Will Allison and Anna Solomon. Afternoons are reserved for exercises and craft talks; evenings are filled with panel discussions. The staff of One Story is on-hand to talk to participants about writing and to welcome them into the One Story family.
Because of its small size, community is at the heart of this conference, and many participants stay in touch with their workshop after the conference has concluded.
Sewanee Writers’ Conference
Location: Sewanee, TN
Application Deadline/Dates: 1/5-3/20
Conference Dates: 7/17-7/29
Tuition: $1800 (includes room/board)
Because this conference is a little longer than others, workshops meet every other day. Workshops are led by two faculty members. On the days that your workshop does not meet, you can audit other workshops. Hour-long one-on-one meetings are scheduled with your workshop leader. The focus here is on the work you’ve brought to be workshopped, not on generating new work.
Readings by participants, faculty, and visiting writers are scheduled throughout the day. A deep list of editors, agents, and publishing professionals attend the conference as well. Scholarships and fellowships are available.
Tin House Summer Writers’ Workshop
Location: Portland, OR
Application Deadline/Dates: 1/8-5/6 (scholarship deadline is 3/18)
Conference Dates: 7/8-7/15
Tuition: $1200 plus $600 for room/board
One of the larger conferences, Tin House offers workshops in the novel, the short story, non-fiction, and poetry. Workshops are held each morning, with craft talks and panel discussions before workshop and in the afternoon. Faculty readings are held each evening, and student readings take place every afternoon. One-on-one meetings with editors and agents are available. Evening activities include trivia night, a dance party, and, most importantly, karaoke.
There’s little hierarchy at Tin House and though large, it’s easy to meet people and develop a community here. Scholarships are available, although competitive. There is also the opportunity to participate as an auditor; auditors don’t attend workshop but are part of all the other activities. You can also work one-on-one with a faculty member through a mentorship program.