Writing Conferences and Retreats

Click here for an extensive list of writing conferences and retreats around the state and the country.


Memorial Day Writing Retreat with Patti Trimble

May 27-28, at St. Columba’s Retreat Center, Inverness, just above Tomales Bay

Mid-day Sunday through Monday evening: prompts and short workshops, writing and reading new poetry and short prose in community, potluck dinner, West Marin trees. St. Columba’s is a retreat center, so there are also options of staying extra nights to write on your own.

Fee for workshop and one overnight (Sunday) is $160. Additional nights, $50.

contact: Patti Trimble,, for more information or to sign up.


Low Fat Fiction with Guy Biederman

Emandal Art Stay Workshop in Willets, CA
Appropriate for All Skill Levels
June 5-9, 2018

Dive into this invigorating workshop and practice the art of expressing more with less. Strive for sinewy prose and stories that charge the moment. Whether you write fiction, nonfiction, or poetry, this low fat approach will inspire and strengthen your writing. We’ll use writing seeds, exercises, and a supportive environment to get our stories down. We’ll explore the relationship between poetry and very short fiction – close cousins, pursue the art of making a small story large, and practice the three inherent qualities necessary in story telling. Mostly we’ll laugh, delight, and write. More than a “how-to” class, this is a hands-on workshop for writers of all levels who enjoy the pleasure of discovery and the earnest work of craft.

For details and cost:


Napa Valley Writers’ Conference — July 29-Aug. 3, 2018

Applications are now open for the 37th Napa Valley Writers’ Conference. The admissions deadline for all applications, including requests for financial assistance, is April 2.

Poetry workshops focus on the production and critique of new work. The poetry faculty:

  • Camille Dungy is the author the essay collection Guidebook to Relative Strangers: Journeys into Race, Motherhood, and History and four collections of poetry, most recently Trophic Cascade. She edited Black Nature: Four Centuries of African American Nature Poetry.
  • Brenda Hillman is the author of 10 collections of poetry, including Extra Hidden Life, among the Days. Previous titles include Seasonal Works with Letters on Fire, which received the Griffin International Poetry Prize in 2014. She has also co-translated At Your Feet by Ana Cristina Cesar, forthcoming in 2018.
  • Jane Mead is the author of five collections of poetry, most recently World of Made and Unmade, which was nominated for a National Book Award and a finalist for the Griffin Prize. Her poems appear regularly in journals and anthologies. She’s a resident of Napa County, where she manages her family’s ranch.
  • Carl Phillips is the author of 14 books of poetry, most recently Wild Is the Wind and Reconnaissance, winner of the PEN USA Award and the Lambda Literary Award. He is also the author of two books of prose: The Art of Daring: Risk, Restlessness, Imagination and Coin of the Realm: Essays on the Life and Art of Poetry.

Fiction workshops will be led by:

  • Lan Samantha Chang, who is the author of three books: the critically acclaimed novella All Is Forgotten, Nothing Is Lost, the novel Inheritance, and Hunger: A Novella and Stories. Her fiction has appeared in The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and Best American Short Stories. Chang directs the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.
  • Lauren Groff is the author of three novels, including Fates and Furies, which was a finalist for the National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award. Her short fiction has been published in journals including the New Yorker, Atlantic, and American Short Fiction, and in two collections of short stories, the latest of which is Florida.
  • Mat Johnson is the author of the novels Loving Day, Pym, Drop, and Hunting in Harlem, the nonfiction novella The Great Negro Plot, and the comic books Incognegro and Dark Rain. He is a recipient of the United States Artist James Baldwin Fellowship, The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award, and the John Dos Passos Prize for Literature.
  • Howard Norman‘s new novel, In The Hours Still Left to Us, will be published early in 2019, followed by a memoir, Forms of Prayer in Vermont. Previous novels include The Bird Artist, What Is Left the Daughter, Next Life Might Be Kinder, and My Darling Detective. His most recent memoir is I Hate to Leave This Beautiful Place. 

A reading fee of $25 is due upon application. Tuition costs $1,025, and financial assistance is available, including scholarships specifically for Napa County residents. For faculty profiles and application information, visit To join the conference community online, “like” the conference at or follow


Mendocino Coast Writers Conference

August 2-4, 2018

The Mendocino Coast Writers’ Conference is a vibrant gathering that offers morning workshops in a wide range of genres, relevant to differing experience levels—from a dedicated emerging writers’ workshop to a juried-in master class. Afternoons are packed with craft seminars, pitch panels, one-on-one consultations, and open mics; and every evening offers an opportunity to enjoy the camaraderie and connection that make this conference, in the words of a 2016 participant, “life changing.” An add-on or stand-alone publishing bootcamp is offered the day after the conference for all those interested in learning more about the business-end of writing.

MCWC 2018 keynote speaker is bestselling novelist, poet, and essayist Elizabeth Rosner.

For workshop schedules, accommodations and more:


2018 Sonoma County Writers Camp

August 8–12Beg, Borrow, Steal: What We Can Learn from Different Genres
October 10–14Scene Making: The Essence of Storytelling

Ellen Sussman and Elizabeth Stark, both acclaimed authors and writing teachers, have put together three wonderful five-day events. Held in the gorgeous setting–gardens, pond, meadow and woods–of the Occidental Arts and Ecology Center, just 70 miles from both San Francisco and Oakland. These will be intimate, inspiring, enormously creative and productive adventures.

Small generative writing workshops in the morning, panel discussions with agents, authors and editors in the afternoon. Intimate group of 24. Delicious shared meals, evening gatherings, and free time to hike, write and explore.

Ellen Sussman is the New York Times bestselling author of four novels, A Wedding in Provence, The Paradise Guest House, French Lessons, and On a Night Like This. She is the editor of two critically acclaimed anthologies, Bad Girls: 26 Writers Misbehave and Dirty Words: A Literary Encyclopedia of Sex. She teaches through Stanford Continuing Studies and in private classes.

Elizabeth Stark is the host of Story Makers Podcast (, author of the novel Shy Girl (FSG, Seal Press) and co-director and co-writer of several several films, including FtF: Female to Femme, a creative documentary and Little Mutinies, a short (both distributed by Frameline). She earned an M.F.A. from Columbia University in Creative Writing and has taught at the Pratt Institute, UCSC, St. Mary’s, where she was the visiting distinguished writer, and elsewhere.

More information at:


Four-Day Women’s Writing Retreats at St. Dorothy’s Rest in Camp Meeker

FALL: October 12-15, 2018
WINTER: January 18-21, 2019

With author & writing guide Susan Hagen. Retreat to a private, woodsy cabin in West Sonoma County to write, explore, and deepen your craft. We begin each day with meditation and nature-based practices to quiet the mind. Then we write and share our stories, practicing new skills and techniques. Some writers are working on books or collections of stories, while others come for the freedom to explore and expand their writing lives. Come walk among the trees, eat delicious food, sleep deeply, surprise yourself. This is a safe place for women to write, connect, heal and grow; everything supports the inner life and makes way for deep exploration. Beginning, experienced, and exploring writers of all genres – even NON-writers – are welcome. Registration now open; payment plans available.


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