How to Find a Creative Writing Workshop

Two Methods:What to Look ForWhere to Look

A creative writing workshop, or writer's workshop, offers you the opportunity to hone your writing skills by sharing your writing with your peers under the leadership of 1 or more professional writers or writing teachers. Some creative writing workshops are part of a college writing curriculum, while other writers' workshops are offered as enrichment courses at community colleges; still others are offered at writers' conferences, conventions, festivals, and retreats. Finding the right creative writing workshop for you requires knowing your skill level and preferences, and then doing research to see which writers' workshop best meets your needs. The following steps offer more specifics in how to find a creative writing workshop.

Method 1
What to Look For

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    Look at the demographic the workshop is designed for. Some creative writing workshops are designed for writers of all ages, while other writers' workshops are intended for only young writers (children and teenagers) or for senior citizens. Some workshops are intended only for women writers, while others are intended for writers of both genders.
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    Look for a writers' workshop that deals in the kind of writing you want to do. Creative writing workshops are available that specialize in screenwriting, poetry, comic books, or in fiction genres such as science fiction, fantasy, horror, and mysteries. Being surrounded by other writers who share your writing interests will be more beneficial than enrolling in a workshop where few of the other writers enjoy the kind of writing you do.
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    Look for a workshop oriented toward where you are in writing your manuscript. Some creative writing workshops are geared toward writers who have only an idea for a story, while others are geared toward helping writers shape the manuscripts they are currently working on.
    • Workshops geared toward helping writers shape their existing manuscripts may require participants to send 1 or more copies of their manuscripts in advance of the program. This is particularly true of writers' workshops lasting a day or less that are connected with an event such as a science fiction convention.
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    Look for a workshop that provides you with sufficient attention. The smaller the workshop, or the smaller the groups the attendees break into at a larger workshop, the more likely you will be to receive personalized attention and specific critiques on your work. For a larger workshop to give you this attention, the workshop leaders should be assisted by a sufficiently large staff of tutors and facilitators.
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    Look at how long the workshop will last. Creative writing workshops may last anywhere from a few hours to a day to several weeks. (Workshops at community colleges may consist of several weekly sessions each lasting 1 to 2 hours.) Shorter workshops may be more intensive and focused, while longer workshops may have a more laid-back feel to them.
    • Be aware that some writers' workshops that bill themselves as week-long sessions actually run only 5 days.
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    Look at the facility holding the writers' workshop. Creative writing workshops held in conjunction with a university or community college are usually held on campus. Writers' workshops associated with conferences, conventions, or festivals are usually held in the same facility holding the main event, which may be a hotel, bed and breakfast, convention or retreat center, church social hall, or other facility.
    • The facility holding the event often determines the availability of on-site meals and beverages and other amenities, such as room service, Internet and library access, phone, television, and air conditioning. For workshops where meals on-site are not available, consider the distance to nearby restaurants for meals or the ability to prepare your own meals.
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    Look at the credentials of the instructors/facilitators. Creative writing workshops may be led by professional writers who may have little to no prior teaching experience or experienced writing teachers (community college instructors or college professors) who may have relatively few professional writing credits. Check the resumes of the workshop leaders both in the workshop brochure and on the authors' own websites or other Internet sources, and, if possible, read some of their works to get an idea of their writing styles.
    • Also look at written testimonials the workshop leader has received. Note the number of testimonials, the credentials of the people giving the testimonials, and also pay attention to the words used to praise the leader. Testimonials that give details about the workshop as well as its leader will give you a better idea of what to expect from the course
    • Assuming credentials are equal, you may prefer to study with writers whom you admire instead of writers you are unfamiliar with, but you may run the risk of only imitating that writer's style and not finding your own.
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    Look at the results achieved by workshop participants. The most obvious measure of how successful a writers' workshop is, is in how many of the participants get their work published. Look for the names of specific past participants and the titles and publishers of their published works, instead of general statements stating that a given percentage of past participants have gone on to be published authors.
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    Look at the overall cost. The total cost of a creative writing workshop depends on its length, the level of the talent leading it, and the place where it's held. You'll also have to figure in the cost of travel to and from the workshop site, as well as for any amenities not included (such as food) and for incidental expenses. If you can't afford a particular writer's workshop, you may want to consider a less-expensive workshop closer to home that offers fewer frills but will provide you needed feedback on your writing.

Method 2
Where to Look

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    Check with your local writers' group. Some writers' groups, particularly statewide writing guilds, sponsor literature festivals that may include writers' workshops. Smaller groups that don't offer workshops can obtain information about workshops from other groups and disseminate this information to their members through their newsletters or email groups. In addition, the other members of your group can give you advice based on what writers' workshops they've attended in the past, including those you're considering.
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    Check with your local library or bookstore. Libraries and bookstores often host writers' groups and sometimes put on literature-related events and consequently are aware of similar events located elsewhere. You can visit the library or bookstore in person, by telephone, or check its website.
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    Check college class schedules. Universities and community colleges normally offer non-credit or continuing adult education classes on a semester, trimester, or quarterly basis and usually send out the next session's schedule prior to its start. You will find listings for any writer's workshops, which include a short description of the class, its schedule, and the instructor's name, whose credentials may also be included in the class description.
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    Search the Internet. In addition to visiting the websites of the sources listed above, you can also type "creative writing workshop" or "writer's workshop" into an Internet search engine, along with a literary genre or prospective location, and receive a list of upcoming workshops. Visit the sites of those workshops that interest you and use the criteria under "What to Look For" to decide on which workshop is best for you.


  • Be wary of any creative writing workshop or other writing program that offers to show you how to become rich or famous through your writing. While a good writer's workshop can help you polish your work to publication quality, there is no guarantee that any well-written manuscript will automatically be published. You can reasonably expect to be rejected a number of times before finally placing a manuscript with a publisher.
  • Even if the writers' workshop does not make promises it can't deliver, don't go with the expectation that your work will somehow get published after attending it. While you may wish to take part in several writing workshops while getting started as a writer, there are a number of would-be writers who attend workshop after workshop or writing program after writing program in the hope of finding some magic formula to writing success instead of applying that effort to their actual writing.

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Categories: Writing