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Budget-Friendly Writing Events

Looking to economize without feeling shortchanged? Here are four places to fill up on info without emptying your wallet. by Linda Formichelli

Travel, accommodations, registration fees, materials, meals—these days, not everyone can afford to shell out the hundreds (or sometimes even thousands) of dollars it often costs to attend a writing conference. Still, such opportunities to get connected and stay informed can be smart investments in your career. Why should you miss out just because money is tight?

The answer is: You shouldn’t. And you don’t have to. Try one of these events that are rich in value but light on your bank account.

Red Clay Writing Conference
November 6, 2010
WHERE: Georgia Writers Association at Kennesaw State University, Kennesaw, Ga.
PRICE: $55 for members, $65 for nonmembers and $25 for KSU students

Hosted by the Georgia Writers Association, the Red Clay Writing Conference offers workshops on promotion, the business of writing, mysteries, children’s books, young adult novels, playwriting, poetry, freelance writing and nonfiction.

While the price is small, the personalities are big: Presenters have included Dianna Love, co-author of Phantom in the Night; Haywood Smith, author of The Red Hat Club; poet Ralph Tejeda Wilson, author of A Black Bridge: Poems; J. Steve Miller, author of Enjoy Your Money!; and Neil Schulman, author of the screenplay and book for Doc Hollywood.

Attendance is kept small—about 100–150—to ensure participants have opportunities to make lasting connections. “At Georgia Writers events, writers often meet designers, publishers or fellow authors who become critical to their success,” says Cherie K. Miller, president of the Georgia Writers Association. “Those relationships are often the most life-changing results of our conferences.”

Ozark Creative Writers Conference
October 7–9, 2010
WHERE: Inn of the Ozarks, Eureka Springs, Ark.
PRICE: $99 before August 27; $119 after

“While a good number of the participants are professional writers, the conference is a great opportunity for beginning writers to meet authors, find out about publishing, and talk with editors in a small group setting,” says Clarissa Willis, director of the Ozark Creative Writers Conference.

For just $99 you can listen to keynote speakers and attend breakout sessions in the beautiful Ozark Mountains. The registration fee also includes opportunities to meet agents and other publishing professionals. Feeling competitive? “We offer over $2,000 in contests to help jump-start your love of writing,” Willis says. The 2009 event sponsored 19 contests for everything from short stories to poetry.

The conference has its share of success stories, among them longtime board member Dusty Richards—who, after years of wanting to write a Western, pitched one to a young editor named Doug Grad at the event in the early 1990s. Richards has now published more than 90 novels in the genre.

Meacham Writers’ Workshop March 25–27, 2010
WHERE: Chattanooga, Tenn. (exact location TBA)

The price is right: The Meacham Writers’ Workshop is free and open to the public. Held twice a year (in the spring and the fall), the workshop is funded by an endowment, with additional support from arts commissions and universities. The atmosphere is informal, and new and professional writers alike are welcome.

“Our free workshops with visiting writers are always a highlight,” says Richard Jackson, director of the event. Topics include fiction, nonfiction, poetry, songwriting and publishing, and acclaimed writers Marvin Bell and George Singleton have been among past workshop hosts. All of the conference’s popular author readings also are available for download through the Meacham website.

“We’ve had about 30 participants who have gone on to publish more than 40 books,” Jackson says. Notable past attendees include Paul Guest, author of such poetry collections as My Index of Slightly Horrifying Knowledge; Khaled Mattawa, whose books include Amorisco and Zodiac of Echoes; and Laurel Snyder, author of The Myth of the Simple Machines and Half/Life: Jew-ish Tales From Interfaith Homes.

Fall/Winter 2010, dates TBA
WHERE: Western Massachusetts (exact location TBA)
PRICE: $90 preregistration, $100 at the door; for full-time students and attendees 65 and up: $70 preregistration, $80 at the door

You won’t shell out a lot to attend this one-day conference, but you will get a lot out of it. In its 25th year, WriteAngles has shifted its emphasis from freelance writing to authoring books—mainly fiction, but also memoir, mysteries and children’s stories.

Locally and nationally known presenters who’ve shared their expertise at the event include Augusten Burroughs, Anne Fadiman, Richard Russo, Suzanne Strempek-Shea, Jonathan Harr, Julia Glass and Charles Mann. “Augusten Burroughs had the audience in the palm of his hand,” says Jan Whitaker, a member of the WriteAngles executive and coordinating committees. “It seemed that everyone in the packed room had stopped breathing.”

WriteAngles also offers the opportunity to meet agents and presents panels and workshops on topics such as book tours, revision techniques, blogging, poetry, even writing about sex. “Attendees [tell us they] feel like they get more than their money’s worth,” planning committee member Cindy Littlefield says. “It’s a full agenda, [but it] doesn’t feel rushed or overwhelming.”

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