Sydney Avey

Dynamic Women — Changing Times

Why a Writers Conference Might Work for You

Jun 19, 2018 | Learning curve, Writing life | 2 comments

Writers Conferences

In 2013 I went to the Mecca of writers conferences

If you have a story to tell, you might want to consider attending a writers’ conference. Not everyone wants to write or publish their stories, but if you dream of seeing your byline on a story in a magazine or holding your hot-off-the-presses book with your name printed across a knockout cover, what should you do? Seek an agent? Self-publish or query a publisher?  

What must I do to inherit eternal life get published?

As I pondered this question, which I get asked a lot, the Biblical story of the rich young ruler (Luke 18:18 – 29) came to mind. An earnest man asks Jesus a big question: 

“Good Teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?”  He’s looking for an easy answer.

 Admittedly your question, What must I do to be published?, is not a life and death matter, but I love the way the Teacher structures his answer to make clear the inadequacy of a checklist. Let’s play with this. 

To the question, the Teacher might begin with a list of musts and must nots: 

  1. You must not murder the language; study wordcraft. 
  2. You must not plagiarize the work of others; be original. 
  3. Honor those who came before you; know the rules before you break them.

“Teacher,” you reply, “I’ve done all that.” 

At this point, the Teacher feels a bittersweet mix of affection and sadness. Why? Because now he has to tell you the hard truth. 

“Give up all your distractions and do the scary stuff. Go to writers’ conferences and learn the ropes. Join a critique circle, get honest feedback on your work, and be prepared to rewrite your entire manuscript. Invest in the services of a good editor. Then, follow your calling.”

Good advice. 

Six Writers’ Conferences I Recommend

I write this because I promised a friend I would send her a list of the writers’ conferences I have attended. 


  • Improve your writing by learning from the pros. 
  • Stay abreast of seismic changes in the publishing industry.
  • Face to face engagement with people who will become your encouragers, your beta readers and book reviewers, your introduction to an agent or a publisher, and your source of inspiration and ideas. Like any friendship, these are give-and-take relationships you need to cultivate and allow to deepen over time. 

How to choose the right conference for you:

I choose conferences based on their locality, affiliation, and program. I try to attend at least one or two a year, but no more than that. It’s good to keep a balance between learning and doing. Here is a sampling of conferences I recommend.

Write on the Sound,  Edmonds, WA, held annually the first full weekend in October. WOTS draws from exceptional Northwest writing talent. Excellent craft classes in a stunning location.

Desert Nights, Rising Stars  Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, held each February. An affordable gem of a conference packed with workshops given by faculty, graduates, and guests speakers. A good place to become exposed to veteran and emerging writing talents. 

Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference, Mount Hermon, CA, held each Spring, a pricey but top-notch conference that regularly features the stars of the Christian Book Association. Seasoned seminar leaders who cycle through all the major Christian writers’ conferences share information tailored to the needs of beginning writers through multi-published authors.

Gold Rush Writers Mokelumne Hill, CA. Don’t ignore what is in your own backyard. This is where you are likely to find your critique group and people in the know about local events you can participate in to gain exposure for your writing.

Festival of Faith and Writing held bi-annually on the Calvin College Campus in Grand Rapids, Michigan. What a thrill to be among thought leaders, young and old, and encounter writers the caliber of Tobias Wolf, George Saunders, and Paul Harding. This is an exciting ecumenical experience that exposes writers to people of many faith traditions and encourages dialogue.

Iowa Summer Writing Festival held each summer on the University of Iowa campus, Iowa City, Iowa. A stellar list of literary greats is a product of the University of Iowa writing programs. They fill the teaching slots in MFA programs across the country and win literary awards and accolades. In 2013 I realized my dream of studying at the festival.

Do you have a conference you’ve attended that you would like to give a shout out? Please share in the comments section.  


  1. susan prindle

    I leave Saturday for Fishtrap way out in the very farthest corner of northeastern Oregon. This is my 4th Outpost. It’s mostly nature and environmental writers and there are many well knowns teaching – Kathleen Dean Moore and Kim Stafford (Oregon’s new poet laureate)are among this summer’s instructors. Past teachers – Robert Michael Pyle, Gary Ferguson, Ursula K Le Guin, Bill Kittredge, David James Duncan are just a few. Tim Egan (NYT) and Cheryl Strayed (Wild) have been keynote speakers. I choose to attend Outpost on the Zumwalt Prairie , about an hour from Wallowa Lake where the other workshops are held because there are just a few of us on Nature Conservancy land. Very quiet out in that wide open prairie country. Great cooks who take good care of us, and Jan is a naturalist who enriches us with her extensive knowledge of all things flowering. Most of us tent out on the prairie – stars, badgers, coyotes and once a fierce thunderstorm.


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