To be blunt, both conferences and retreats tend to be very expensive. They are an investment, and your goals as a writer should dictate whether attending one will be worthwhile.
True writing conferences are intended for writers to network with other writers and publishing industry professions (literary agents, publishing house representatives, editors, etc.) while also having the opportunity to attend lectures and workshops. There will be very little time to do any writing while attending a conference as the two or three days of that conference will probably be fully scheduled with various events from sun-up to sun-down. Some conferences will include time for writers to meet with fans. If the conference is hosted by a professional association or educational organization, you might be able to write off the costs of the conference as business expenditures or get some kind of scholarship or grant to cover the costs.
Writing retreats can last a few days or for extended periods of time. They are intended to help writers detach from normal life and focus solely on the craft and process of writing. Some degree of seclusion will be orchestrated for the duration of the retreat. There may be a few opportunities for the writers at the retreat to meet up for critique groups or other classes and workshops, but the schedule is usually very open and flexible so that writers can dedicate most of their time to writing. Retreats are a good option for writers struggling to find time for their craft in-between typical daily commitments such as work, school, and family. Keep in mind that retreats are not viewed as a necessity–they are considered a sort of vacation or holiday–and often cannot be considered a business expense.
There are several thousand writers’ conferences and retreats that happen around the globe, with anywhere from a few dozen to several hundred conferences being featured in any given country. Most of these events are genre-specific. This could mean that they are for non-fiction or fiction authors only, or that it’s broken down into more exclusive definitions: science fiction, fantasy, horror, mystery, historical, romance, etc. Because of the sheer number of conferences and retreats out there, and the difficulty in vetting each one personally, I cannot compile a solid list of ones you “should” attend. However, I have put links with information about some conferences recommended by others at the bottom of this page.
Instead, I encourage you to look up writer’s conferences in your local area, and then to look at national conferences if you want to broaden your exposure. Try to find out about merit scholarships or grants that can help cover your attendance fees. Go in a group with other writers from your area to help make travel and hotel charges more manageable.
As for writing retreats, I discourage most writers from paying for something they could organize on their own for much cheaper. Take a holiday and dedicate your time off from normal life to writing. A so-called “stay-cation” may even work well for this. Do what suits your needs and budget. Check in with online writing forums and groups in order to keep yourself accountable and to get feedback if needed.
WRITERS’ CONFERENCES & RELATED INFORMATION