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Monday
Mar132006

The literary country club

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2006 Sewanee Writers' Conference attendees are welcomed to the club.
Conference season is upon us. I see folks blogging about the Backspace Writers’ Conference, Sleuthfest, Bouchercon et al, and I was wondering—what about those other writers’ conferences? The ones where you apply to attend, submitting manuscripts and paying reading fees. Like rushing a frat or sorority, minus the togas and keg-stands.

The ones that come to mind are the Sewanee Writers' Conference, the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference and the Squaw Valley Writers' Conference with Amy Tan. Heck, even Orson Scott Card’s Literary Boot Camp requires approval of work before you get beyond the velvet rope. (The first page of a short story).

The question is, have you applied to one of the aforementioned? Would you? If not, why? The cost is an obvious barrier I’m sure— ranging from $725-$1500. Not including travel expenses, meals, bottles of Courvoisier, ascot dry-cleaning, Botox injections, hookers, bail bonds, etc.

I’ve taken come-as-you-are screenwriting classes and it’s always been a mixed bag. Enthusiasm and wide-eyed wonder abound, but the peeps tend to be a stewpot of twitchy upstarts, bored dreamers, bitter hacks, and the venerated, talented few, of which I aspire to become. So is the bar truly that much higher at Squaw Valley? I hope so. Or is it like that Woody Allen quote? You know the one.

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Reader Comments (9)

Hmm... does it count if the only conference I've attended was because I won their Round Table Critique contest? (Otherwise I wouldn't have gone.)
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterC.Rooney
Wow! That certainly counts. Nice job. How was the conference?
March 14, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie
I don't know about all these writing courses or pay to play conferences. I think you need to do three things to earn your success. Read, write, submit. Read, write, submit. Read, write, submit. All the rest is a waste of time and money. Also, if a bitter writer corners you his words could be poison in your ear in terms of your attitude.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterDZ Allen
I suppose I wouldn't because I'm cheap. Also I tend to view conferences as a way to socialize with other writers (I despise the word "networking") and talk shop, but don't really view them the same way I would a class, which I'd be willing to pay more for. If, say, Madeline L'Engle was doling out manuscript critiques, I'd view that as an educational opportunity and would be willing to shell out more.
March 14, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJen
I guess the advantages I see of the "elite" conferences is the high-caliber of the presenters and those doing the critiquing. (All subjective of course). Combined with the intimate setting, more hands-on, etc.

As far as networking, fellowshipping, socializing etc—at Squaw you stay in condos with 5-6 other writers. Definitely some forced bonding going on there.
March 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterJamie
It was great, Jamie. The three other selected authors and I attended a closed-session critique with Terry Brooks, Matt Hughes and Robert J. Sawyer. The improvement in my writing after I attended was astounding, and it was an incredible boost to my confidence in the long run.
March 15, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterC.Rooney
A hands-on critique vs. A 300-person seminar. That's fantastic. What an opportunity!
March 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie
I have not applied to any such country club conferences. With two small children, my trips are narrowed to, yes, two a year. Family and sanity take first and second place for trips...wish I could go and hope I'd get in...that would be depressing not to be accepted.
March 15, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterkathie
I understand Kathie. Our family social calendar is tightly booked as well. My daughter wants to go to Iowa. Yes, Iowa for vacation to see her best friend that just moved away. Nothing against Iowa, I've been there a few times, but why couldn't her best friend move to NYC or Orlando?

We have a family reunion down in Yellowstone this summer as well. And my 20-year reunion. But that's another story.

The real quandry is this. I have enough frequent flyer miles collecting dust to fly my entire family (wife and four kiddlets) to Disneyland--or fly my wife and I to China.

I know. I know. In this country, if you don't take your kids to see the Big Mouse it's practically child abuse. Just ask my kids. Still, I think my wife and I are heading East in August and the kids are going to grandma's.

March 15, 2006 | Registered CommenterJamie

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