by Sangeeta Mehta
Although 2019 is well under way, there’s still time to register for writing conferences and events taking place later this year. Whether the goal is to pitch to agents, work on craft, or meet new people, most writers have plenty of choices, and they will find that they fit right in with the other conference attendees. But for writers belonging to historically marginalized groups, it isn’t quite as easy to feel this way. It’s not that writers’ conferences won’t welcome them—most will with open arms. And it’s not that they don’t offer diversity-focused programming—from AWP to RWA to Muse & the Marketplace, nearly every major writers’ organization makes this a priority.
Still, the majority of writers who attend writers’ conferences tend to be straight, white, cis-gendered, and able-bodied. Those who don’t fall into this dominant group might find themselves having to explain their race or religion to fellow conference attendees, or having to be the voice for all those who share their gender identity. That is, writers’ conferences sometimes inadvertently “other” the very people they genuinely want to include.
Fortunately, there are writers’ conferences specifically geared toward marginalized writers, some of which are open exclusively to them. Here is a list of diversity-focused writers’ conferences, book fairs and festivals, summits and symposiums, retreats and intensives, expos and other events scheduled for 2019. It is by no means a complete list, and it doesn’t cover classes and workshops. If you know of a diversity-focused writers’ event taking place in 2019 that is at least one day long and isn’t mentioned below, please make a note of it in the comments section!
Website description: “Comic book nerds, graphic novel aficionados, fantasy lovers, and all-around fans of the art form are invited to the BAM Black Comix Expo. This fun-filled day—co-presented by BAM and the Black Comics Collective—is back for year two, celebrating comic writers, illustrators, and creators of color.”
Location: Multiple locations at the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM) in Brooklyn, NY
Date: February 10, 2019
Registration information: Admittance is on a first-come, first-served basis until capacity is reached. With the exception of the “VR Experience,” all events are free and open to all ages.
Website description: “The Native American Literature Symposium is organized by an independent group of Indigenous scholars committed to making a place where Native voices can be heard. Since 2001, we have brought together some of the most influential voices in Native America to share our stories—in art, prose, poetry, film, religion, history, politics, music, philosophy, and science—from our worldview.”
Location: Mystic Lake Hotel & Casino in Prior Lake, MN
Date: March 7-9, 2019
Registration information: Registration forms are available both online and in print, and cancellations must be made by February 15, 2019.
Website description: “The 2019 National Black Writers Conference Biennial Symposium, ‘Playwrights and Screenwriters at the Crossroads,’ is a public gathering of writers, scholars, literary professionals, performers, students and the general public.”
Location: Medgar Evers College, CUNY in Brooklyn, NY
Date: March 23, 2019
Registration information: Registration is available online prior to the conference and on-site on a first come, first served basis.
Website description: “The conference is particularly focused on serving under-represented groups such as African Americans, Latinx Americans, Asian Americans, and Native Americans, however it is open to any prospective spiritual writer.”
Location: University of Southern California (USC) campus in Los Angeles, CA
Dates: March 25-26, 2019
Registration information: Early bird tuition runs until February 28, and regular price registration begins March 1, 2019.
Website description: “Kweli’s spring conference is an excellent opportunity for Indigenous and POC writers and illustrators to learn, get inspired and network with others in the industry.” Note: This conference is open exclusively to children’s book writers and illustrators who meet this criteria.
Location: CUNY Graduate Center in New York, NY
Date: April 6, 2019
Registration information: Registration is open until March 31, 2019.
Website description: “The Festival of Literary Diversity includes over 20 authors and presenters and attracts more than 500 people to downtown Brampton to celebrate diverse Canadian authors, poets, and storytellers. We are passionate about celebrating established and emerging writers while creating new and exciting opportunities for aspiring writers and marginalized voices.”
Location: Various spaces in Brampton, Ontario, Canada
Date: May 2, 2019
Registration information: Registration information is not yet available on the FOLD website, but according to the organization’s Twitter handle, it opens on March 7, 2019.
Website description: “With a focus on mentorship and polishing a manuscript for submission, this four-day retreat includes one-on-one critiques, roundtable feedback, and lectures.” Note: This retreat is open to “Native American book creators writing for and about children.”
Location: The Highlights Foundation’s Retreat Center in Boyds Mills, 10 miles from Honesdale, PA
Dates: June 27-30, 2019
Registration information: Registration is open, and a deadline is not indicated.
Website description: “The Bronx Book Festival aims to promote literacy and foster a love of reading among children, teens, and adults./ El Festival de Libros del Bronx tiene como objetivo promover él alfabetismo y fomentar el amor por la lectura entre niños, adolescentes y adultos.”
Location: Fordham Plaza in Bronx, NY
Date: June 7-8, 2019
Notes: Registration information is not yet available on the festival’s website, but this event was free and open to the public in 2018.
Website description: “The Harlem Book Fair is the United States’ largest African-American book fair and the nation’s flagship Black literary event. Held annually in Harlem, NY, the Harlem Book Fair features exhibition booths, panel discussions, book sales, and workshops.”
Location: West 135th Street between Malcolm X Boulevard & Adam Clayton Powell, Jr. Boulevard in Harlem, NY
Date: July 20, 2019
Registration information: Registration information is not yet available on the website, but admission to the exhibitor area has been free and open to the public in past years.
Website description: “The Golden Crown Literary Society’s annual conference is the premier lesbian literary event for both authors and readers. In a different city each year, the event brings together readers, fans, writers, editors and publishers to celebrate the best in lesbian literature.”
Location: Wyndham Grand Pittsburgh Downtown in Pittsburgh, PA
Dates: July 10-14, 2019
Registration information: Online registration is open until June 30, 2019.
Website description: “The Writers Retreat for Emerging LGBTQ Voices offers intensive and sophisticated instruction to selected writers over a carefully designed one-week period. The Retreat provides writers access to industry professionals and the opportunity to advance in their craft and careers.”
Location: Otis College of Art & Design in Los Angeles, CA
Dates: August 4-11, 2019
Registration information: The application period closes on February 1, 2019.
Website description: “Every year, the Festival brings together a diverse mix of the world’s greatest writers, thinkers, humanitarians, politicians, business leaders, sports people and entertainers on one stage to champion the freedom to express and engage in thoughtful debate and dialogue.”
Location: The main Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) takes place every January in Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, but JLF International is held in Boulder, Houston, and New York, among other locations.
Dates: September 20-22, 2019 for the Boulder location
Registration information: Registration information is not yet available on the JLF website, but please check back for updates.
Website description: “The National Black Book Festival (NBBF) is an annual event, sponsored by Cushcity.com, one of the largest online sources for African-American literature. The event attracts a wide array of authors, publishers, book clubs, libraries and individual readers from the Southwest U.S. and nationwide.”
Location: Fallbrook Church Brook Sports Facility in Houston, TX
Dates: October 24-26, 2019
Registration information: Admission to author exhibits and seminars is free and open to the public. Admission to special events is also open to the public, but advance ticket purchase is required. A small number of tickets may be available at the door.
Website description: “As part of the retreat experience, Jack Jones is featuring daily Skype master classes with agents, editors and acclaimed women in publishing to promote networking, learning and engagement.” Note: This two-week retreat is open exclusively to women of color.
Location: Immaculate Heart of Mary Retreat Center in Santa Fe, NM
Dates: October 26-November 8, 2019
Registration information: Registration information is not yet available on the website, but in 2018, Jack Jones offered seventeen fully-funded fellowships and scholarships for which applications were due on April 1, 2018.
Also look out for:
Website description: “The Leimert Park Village Book Fair was inspired by a project…to present a ‘Festival of African American Authors’ at Los Angeles Southwest College. Its success in drawing 10 authors participating for an audience of 40 inspired the idea of creating an annual literary event.”
Notes: There is no information available yet for 2019, but last year’s festival was held on August 25 at the Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza in Los Angeles, CA, and it was free and open to the public.
Website description: “A celebration of Black women readers and writers that seeks to initiate meaningful conversations within the literary arts.”
Notes: An announcement has not yet been made about a 2019 Well Read Black Girl Festival, but last year’s festival was held on November 18 at Pioneer Works in Brooklyn, NY. General admission and premium admission tickets were available online.
And it’s not too early to plan for 2020! Consider these events:
Website description: “This event will be a weekend of lectures, connection and workshop designed for LGBTQIAP+ writers of young adult and middle grade.” Note: This intensive is open to exclusively to children’s book writers who are pre-published, published and/or agented identifying in the LGBTQIAP+ spectrum.
Notes: Rainbow Weekend 2019 is scheduled for April 11-April 14, 2019 in Austin, Texas. It has sold out, but the Writing Barn encourages anyone interested in the Rainbow Weekend 2020 to sign up for their email list to receive updates.
Website description: “Through this Retreat, Kundiman hopes to provide a safe and instructive environment that identifies and addresses the unique challenges faced by emerging Asian American writers.”
Notes: The 2019 retreat is being held June 19-23 at Fordham University’s Rose Hill Campus in Bronx, NY. The application period closed on January 15, and the application period for the 2020 retreat will likely open in December 2019 and close in mid-January 2020.
Website description: “The Disability & Intersectionality Summit (DIS) is a biennial one-day national conference that centers the multiple oppressions that shape the lived experiences of disabled individuals, as told by disabled people, in a setting organized by disabled activists.”
Notes: The 2018 national Disability Intersectionality Summit took place on October 13, 2018 in Cambridge, MA. A sister affiliate event was held on the same day in the Berkeley, CA. No information is available yet for 2020, but according to the DIS website, more information is forthcoming.