Thursday, July 13, 2023

Writing Conferences versus Writing Retreats – What’s Your Favorite Writing Get-Away?

by Julie Lavender @JLavenderWrites

Last month, I penned my June column for The Write Conversation shortly after returning from the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference. This month, I’m still enjoying memories of a recent writing retreat, hosted by the publisher for my children’s picture book, releasing in the fall of next year. The first End Game Press Writing Retreat took place in Destin, Florida, and oh my—what beautiful emerald waters and gorgeous white sand! 

Have you ever attended a writing retreat? Different from writers’ conferences in so many ways, a writing retreat typically offers less (or no) workshops and more quiet time for brainstorming or writing on that WIP— “work in progress.” 

I’ve attended only three writing retreats over the years, the most recent one with End Game Press and two previous smaller ones with my children’s writing group. All three were marvelously productive and beneficial to my writing path. 

Let’s compare the characteristics of conferences and retreats to see if one or both might aid your current writing journey.

The biggest difference between a writing conference and a writing retreat is the amount of free time available to work on a current project. 

Most conferences squeeze in as many classes and workshops as possible, offering sessions for the beginner to the experienced. The classes are optional, of course, for the attendee, but participants won’t want to miss the vast knowledge, expertise, and experience of writing instructors who serve as faculty at conferences. Many conferences offer extra bonuses of VIP breakfasts and lunches with faculty sharing personal stories of their writing journey. Some of those same conferences also offer “after-hour” sessions with additional teaching workshops. 

Like I mentioned—conferees can basically sit under the tutelage of well-versed authors and writers from sunup until way past sundown. The grand lineup of authorities in the industry at a writing conference leaves very little free time that an attendee can devote to writing.

Another huge blessing and opportunity offered at conferences is the act of networking. Meeting editors, agents, published authors, and not-yet-published authors at conferences is often worth the price of admission in and of itself! Those acquaintances who become good friends offer wise advice about writing and publishing. And, sometimes the added bonus is a publishing contract for a book, article, or anthology contribution. 

Writing retreats often boast of ample time to spend writing on a current project. That window of time is worked into the schedule, with no classes or workshops offered at the same time to prevent distractions for the writer. 

Most retreats have a narrower focus than a conference. For example, an upcoming retreat at Ridgecrest taking place in October focus specifically on novel writing. The Mountainside Novelist Retreat, with a stellar lineup of novelist experts, offers instruction time in the craft of writing, book launches, organization, social media, and marketing, but also sets aside a large portion of time for attendees to devote to private writing.

Other writing retreats throughout the year, across the country, sport a similar schedule.

Writing retreats also encompass small, intimate groups of writers with very specific plans in mind for the time together. Typically, these retreats include a huge amount of the day set aside for individual writing, with late afternoon or evening designated as a time to gather to critique, brainstorm, or share writing goals and accomplishments. 

What would help you the most right now with your writing journey, a conference, a retreat, or BOTH! I love conferences and retreats because they serve different, helpful purposes for my writing journey. As for me, I plan to make time for conferences and retreats each year on my calendar. 

What about you? Do you attend conferences and retreats? Maybe you’ve even taken a solitary writing retreat, one in which you traveled to a location away from your home to work on or complete a writing project. Share your conference and retreat experiences and join the conversation. 


Author and journalist Julie Lavender loves writing conferences and writing retreats and believes both have helped her in so many ways along the path to publication. Julie is the author of Children’s Bible Stories for Bedtime (Penguin Random House), 365 Ways to Love Your Child: Turning Little Moments into Lasting Memories (Revell/Baker), a forthcoming mom’s devotional from Penguin Random House, and two picture books from End Game Press and its imprint.

Featured Image: Photo by Trinity Treft on Unsplash

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