Three factors to remember when considering a conference or writing retreat.
With the accessibility of the internet and the increased ease of event planning, there seems to also be a corresponding increase in the number of writing getaways (retreats, conferences, etc.) available to writers throughout the world.
As you start to see more ads and posts on social media about these getaways, you may come to a point where you want to consider getting away. Although I'm biased because I already enjoy going to retreats and conferences (and I host an annual retreat in the Mid-Atlantic region), I wanted to share some of the pros and cons of signing up for writing getaways like retreats and conferences.
1) Cost is complicated
A picture from a hallway window at Sam's Town in Las Vegas. 20Books Vegas, November 2019.
While it can be (somewhat) simple to tally up our costs to attend a conference or retreat, there are sometimes unexpected things that can't be calculated. When you're budgeting, here are some things that you should consider:
- Travel. Are you driving? Flying? Both? Will there be shuttle, taxi, or ride-share fees?
- Taxes. When planning for your lodging, remember that many places charge not only sales tax, but additional hospitality taxes and fees.
- Holds. Call ahead to the hotel and be sure you're aware of the hold and charging policies. Every venue can have a different policy on holds and security deposits. Some hotels will charge the hold and the final payment separately, which can result in double the cost of your lodging being withheld from your bank account or credit card until the initial hold is released.
- Meals and drinks. As much as you may be tempted to put a "strict" budget on this portion of your trip, it has the potential to put you in a tight spot. When attending writing retreats or conferences, one of the highlights is meeting new (or old) friends and having drinks or dinner (or both) together. As soon as the conversation (and drinks, if you imbibe) start flowing, people tend to become less concerned with their "budget" for meals and more focused on enjoying those special moments networking or with friends. Your best bet is to over-budget for meals. Try to plan ahead with friends or look up the restaurants or bars you would probably go to online and view their menus if available to get an idea of what you might spend (at worst).
- Souvenirs. Whether you're buying location-specific gifts for your family and friends back home or taking home a bundle of books you bought from friends, this is another place where you may want to "over-budget." Consider this: you're going to be meeting so many new writers and, as a writer and hopefully a reader, you're likely going to hear about quite a few books that you want to take home. Worse than anything is the feeling of wanting to support your friends and pay for one of the few paperback copies they brought to the event but having to say, "I want it but I didn't budget for this! I'll look for it on Kindle when I get home." We all know that the likelihood of remembering to pick up that new ebook is low, and then actually reading it is lower (typically) than if we have a physical copy at hand and in our space, constantly begging us to sneak between the covers.
2) Writing Time
Depending on the event, you may or may not get a lot of time for writing. At my Spring Writing Retreats, there is plenty of time to write and we begin each day with writing exercises so you have time and inspiration to write. As a host and organizer, I usually don't have much time to write as I'm making sure that everything is amazing for everyone else, but that's a sacrifice I'm happy to make. Typically, if you're not the organizer, writing retreats should offer ample writing time.
At conferences, the amount of time you have for writing depends on many variables. One of those variables is your daytime activities. Is your schedule jam-packed with classes, meet & greets, networking, and group lunches? Typically, it seems that most people don't get to write much during the day at conferences.
What about writing in the evening? That depends on a few things, like your energy levels after a day spent "extroverting," whether you decide to attend evening events (dinner, karaoke, drinks on the balcony, etc.), or if you commit to foregoing all those opportunities to sit alone in your room. Still, as much as I thought I would write in the off-time and evenings during the 20Books conference, I was so exhausted from the time change (Eastern to Mountain) that I passed out pretty quickly once I was back in my room.
My best writing time during the 2019 20Books Vegas conferences was in the first two days of arrival. I hadn't met my amazing cosplay partner yet (J.R. Frontera) and I was still mostly sitting alone here and there (massive thanks to Rich Kacy for the company after TGIF poisoned me!). Even though I didn't get much writing time, the conference and the experience were mind-blowing and heart-filling and I wouldn't change one piece of it.
Although I got a little writing in and some editing, I know in the future that I will not plan for any writing time should I have the exquisite opportunity to attend another 20Books Vegas conference. I met so many amazing people and, while I do love people, I actually lean toward the introverted side of the spectrum so at the end of the day I need my solitude to recharge. I'm too mentally and emotionally exhausted to write. I'll save my energy for socializing and enjoying time in and out of sessions with my fellow writers!
3) Friendship is Priceless
Group picture, ATA 2019 Spring Writing Retreat. Natural Bridge, VA, May 2019.
Some of the most soul-sparking friendships I have made were during events. Through the Author Transformation Alliance's Spring Writing Retreat, I've been able to meet and connect with amazing people who have brought so much joy, light, and support to my life. These people are now weekly and even daily parts of my life, and I of theirs. They bring light, life, and love to my world and I know my world is so much brighter with them in it.
The friendships alone make the cost of traveling to and attending retreats and conferences so worth it! There isn't an event I've been to yet that I would take back just for the money.
You can always make more money, but you can't make more time. When you can make the calendar side of things work, each experience is unique and irreplaceable.
The memories you make with your new or current friends at a conference or writing retreat are something so special, almost like a delicious, warm secret between friends. Something you keep close to your heart and you guard closely because you never want to let it go.
So, are writing getaways worth it?
For me, with a spring and fall writing retreat and one or two yearly conferences, YES! 100% worth it and I'll do whatever I need to do to make sure they happen. What I get out of them is so much more than the money put into them, and you really can't get it at home, although virtual tickets are a great alternative if the event(s) you want to attend is simply out of your reach.
A final point to share about these getaways is for those who are business-minded and want to sell more books: these events--retreats as well as conferences--are incredible places to learn about the business of writing and the strategic and tactical methods that others (instructors and fellow attendees) are using to reach more readers and share their stories with a larger world. If you've felt stuck with sales, then a retreat or conference that includes the business side of the writing life would be a massive and worthwhile investment in your writing career.
If your calendar allows, consider joining a new bunch of writing friends at our 3rd annual Spring Writing Retreat. Doors are open now and spots are filling fast for this small-group retreat that is focused on renewing your creative spirit, reenergizing your love for your writing and projects, and giving you time and space for learning and self-care.
“If you're on the fence about attending, GO! You cannot beat the price, won't find a kinder, more supportive group of writers, and you will leave feeling refreshed and ready to get down to business!”
— Taryn Noelle KloedenAuthor of the Fenearan Chronicles
“Two days with like-minded writers is a dream weekend. Camaraderie, connection, and creativity beyond measure.”
— P.A. Duncan, author of War of Deception
“The ATA retreat was a wonderful weekend of being immersed in an intimate community of writers. It provided a relaxed learning environment to share ideas and issues with a welcoming tribe of people who "get" the writing life.”
— Adrienne Dunning, author of Seeking Solace
“I am thankful to have had this experience! I feel rested and more centered with my goals as an indie author, and so happy to have this new group of fellow writers to work with in the future.”
— K. McCoy, author of MAGIX
“I was very new to the group and everyone was so welcoming and helpful!”
— Joanna Schilling
“This was such a great way to revitalize my love for writing. Everyone here is so welcoming and ready and willing to help with any questions. The information was priceless and extremely valuable. I had such a blast getting to know everyone and feed off of everyone’s creativeness. Thank you for such a great weekend!”
— N. Terry
Writing - Renewal - Inspiration
➣ WRITE! Yay!
➣ Get clear on our publishing goals
➣ Develop our own unique paths to achieving those goals
➣ Find new ways of looking at the business of authorship
➣ Participate in writing classes that inspired and motivated us
➣ Enjoy mini-challenges that lovingly pushed us beyond our comfort zones and helped us explore greater expanses of creativity and grit within ourselves.
➣ Discover new techniques and methods for sparking our creativity and improving our writing.
We laughed, we wrote, and we even cried together--don't worry, it was the good kind! We moved each other in ways we hadn't expected, engaging both sides of the brain and all of our hearts.
I hope you'll check it out and consider joining us.
I can't wait to see you there!