U.S. Writing Conference Guide for 2018

There is no greater feeling than being surrounded by your tribe, especially if you’re a writer or a book lover. Since many of us find each other online and not so much in person (especially if you don’t live in a major city), gathering together to talk about writing or literature is a rare treat. For writers especially, writing conferences present an opportunity to pitch to agents, learn from one another, attend helpful workshops, and snag some pretty swag.

But it’s not always easy to find the time, or the funds, to attend one. Because let’s face it—conferences are expensive. It’s not always feasible to drop $700+ to attend, on top of lodging and transportation.

If you’ve wanted to squeeze in a writing conference this year, I’d like to help. This post is a list of 2018 writing conferences where the registration is still open or will soon open, the cost isn’t a bucket of cold water to the face, and the bang for your buck is pretty decent. There is no conference on this list over $550 (and only one that’s over $500), if you’re able to nab the early bird registration prices. 

After much internal debate, I decided to round these up by region. If you live in California and you know a conference in Tampa is just not in the cards, I’d rather you have an easier time finding conferences a shorter flight or drive from you.

West

RT Booklovers Convention

May 15–20 in Reno, Nevada

I have always, always wanted to attend this conference, because it looks bananas. They party, y’all. This convention is definitely for the romance fans, and features a crazy amount of romance authors, but it’s also for aspiring romance writers. The workshops are broken up into categories for craft, marketing, self publishing, business, and more. Registration is $460 for readers and $515 for authors (ouch, I know, this one’s a bit pricey and probably isn’t making you feel confident to continue, but I promise that 1) this one is worth it at some point if romance is your happy place and 2) the prices get better). 

Willamette Writers Conference

August 3–5 in Portland, Oregon

This conference just looks downright cool, with an impressively wide array of panel and session topics led by authors (one of them is Christopher Moore, nbd), publishers, agents, and editors. New this year is the option for one-on-one critiques with presenters on whatever project you’re working on, and a two-session evening called Willamette After Dark, where the lights dim, the drinks come out, and so does the real talk about the industry. They’re also bringing in web designers and a photographer for headshots to help give your marketing a boost. Early bird nonmember tickets for the entire conference are available on May 1 and will be $499 until June 11, with other price options/packages to choose from in the $279–$399 range. 

Worldcon

August 16–20 in San Jose, California

Science fiction and fantasy writers, get thee to Worldcon 76 this year! The World Science Fiction Convention is the international darling of the sci-fi, fantasy, and speculative fiction world. This is where the Hugo Awards are presented, and this year will also include the premier presentation of the Silicon Valley Science Fiction Short Film Festival. Tickets are $210, and this is also a teenager/kid friendly event; teens are $105 and kids are $75.

Colorado Gold Conference

September 6–9 in Denver, Colorado

The Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers annual conference offers workshops on craft, career management, and continuing education for authors, while giving new authors a chance to pitch to agents and editors in attendance. It also offers add-ons for a fiction writing intensive, a pitch coaching session, a critique roundtable, and more. Registration begins on May 1, and if you register before May 31, you can nab a nonmember price of $389. 

Midwest

An Uncommon Writers Conference

March 10–11 in Chicago, Illinois

The Chicago Writers Association is putting on its first annual writers conference this spring in the Gold Coast neighborhood of downtown. This weekend conference promises to be full of workshops on craft, character creation, the writing community, and much more. Tickets are $300 for non-members, and appear to be available until February 23.

Midwest Writers Workshop

July 19–21 in Muncie, Indiana

I hear this conference referenced quite often among other writers I know here in Illinois and in Indiana. It’s a marvelous opportunity to meet other local writers if you live in the Midwest. The conference itself is also neatly broken up into parts: Part I focuses on genre-specific sessions and Part II focuses on writing and marketing techniques. You can choose to attend one or both of them. The plus side to attending Part II is the opportunity to send in a query letter and/or a 5 page sample of your manuscript for a critique. The whole package is $400, Part I alone is $155, and Part II alone is $300. Registration opens next month.

South

AWP Conference & Bookfair

March 7–10 in Tampa, Florida

This is the big one. The Association of Writers and Writing Programs’ Conference features over 2,000 presenters and 550 panels and lectures, along with a book fair showcasing some 800 exhibitors. There’s a Writer to Writer Mentorship Program that matches up new authors with published authors for a three month series on the writing life, an open mic and poetry slam, and an overwhelming amount of fantastic panels that cover everything under the sun (seriously, check the list out, it is stunning). Will call registration opened on the 5th, and if you’re not an AWP member but register when you purchase, the ticket price drops to $290.

The Tennessee Williams/New Orleans Literary Festival

March 21–25 in New Orleans, Louisiana 

This literary festival is a love letter to Southern writers and, more specifically, homage to playwright Tennessee Williams. It’s designed to celebrate the crossroads of literature, music, theater, and history, as well as nurture new and established writers who want to perfect their craft. The festival includes literary discussions, writer’s craft sessions, music, and more. Right now, a general admission combo pass is just $175.

Agents & Editors Conference

June 29–July 1 in Austin, Texas

This Writers’ League of Texas annual conference lets you practice pitching with other attendees to get comfortable with the process, gives you the opportunity for one-on-one consultations with editors and agents (included in the registration), and presents you with a slew of panels and presentations from authors, booksellers, agents, and editors. Nonmember tickets are $469 until April 2, and then the price rises to $509.

Killer Nashville

August 23–26 in Franklin, Tennessee 

This mystery, thriller, and suspense writers conference is designed to help writers connect with agents, other writers, and representatives of the publishing world. There are pitch sessions, a mock crime scene set up by law enforcement professionals, an awards dinner, and live music performances (because this is Nashville, baby). A full 4-day pass is $379, but day passes are available for $150. 

Women Writers Conference

September 13–16 in Lexington, Kentucky

This one’s for the ladieeez. The University of Kentucky hosts the Kentucky Women Writers Conference, which expands its workshop offerings to include workshops on poetry, playwriting, creative nonfiction research, etc. The conference ends with a poetry slam night, which nicely rounds out the theme and emphasis on poetry as well as fiction. General admission is just $200.

Northeast

The Muse & the Marketplace

April 6–8 in Boston, Massachusetts

This highly rated conference is bursting at the seams with inventive, thoughtful, and helpful workshops on all things writing and marketing yourself. It also has a stunning list of presenters that include Atul Gawande and Celeste Ng. Attend open mics, network, and immerse yourself in the publishing industry at this conference. Tickets are on the pricey side at $535, but day passes can be purchased for $385. 

ASJA Writers Conference

May 18–19 in NYC

The American Society for Journalists and Authors’ writers conference focuses on fiction authors, literary nonfiction authors, and journalists. It includes 46 panel sessions, and has a few different tracks that attendees can follow, such as work/life balance, pro tips, pitching, etc. Enjoy networking roundtable sessions and individual mentoring luncheons. ASJA has more registration options for members; general public tickets are only available for Saturday, for $299. This price should be good until February 15. 

Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

May 24–26 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

If creative nonfiction is your jam, then you owe it to yourself to attend the Creative Nonfiction Foundation’s annual conference. Editors from major North American magazines such as Esquire, The New Yorker, and The Paris Review speak at a panel, and you have the option to sign up for a one-on-one with an agent for a discussion of your book proposal or idea. Registration hasn’t opened up for this year yet, but last year’s prices were $385 to give you a general idea of cost. 

Thrillerfest

July 10–14 in NYC

Thriller lovers, if the title didn’t tip you off, well…I’ve got nothin’. If you’re a mystery/thriller writer or just love the genre a whole lot, this is a fun conference to attend. It features a CraftFest writing workshop, a PitchFest to help you connect with an agent, and a Pre-Conference Workshop presented by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) for some solid research opportunities. Also, George R.R. Martin and Lee Child are dropping by, just throwing that out there. Advance registration is open until February 28, and while there are a variety of packages to choose from, ticket prices are hovering around $415, but day passes are available.

Writer’s Digest Annual Conference

August 10–12 in NYC

If there ever was a perfect opportunity to begin building and establishing your network in publishing, this conference is it. The Writer’s Digest Conference focuses not just on craft, but on the business end of being a writer, which is an invaluable education to receive from the agents and editors that speak at these workshops. This conference also offers Pitch Slam, which lets you pitch your next book to an agent or editor in attendance. Basic conference tickets are currently $369, and this early bird price is good until February 6; after that, they’ll continue to go up.

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