Writer Habitats, Abridged

Source: Wikimedia Commons – Antonio Litterio (der. 2011) / Inverse Hypercube (orig.)

Getting together with other writers shakes the dust off. Also, writers know where to find the good coffee.

Here are some commonly used terms for writer habitats, their street definitions, and, when relevant, a few tips for attending one for the first time:

  • Workshops: Led by professional writers, with support for good critiquing methods, craft techniques, and detailed reviews of submitted stories. Long-running residency SF/F workshops include Clarion, Clarion West, Viable Paradise, Taos Toolbox, Odyssey, and many more. For younger writers, the Alpha Workshop is a great resource. Cascade Writers have posted great tips for how to critique in a workshop setting. Pro-tip: Don’t grandstand, or game. Submit your best work. Remember that everyone is there to learn.
  • Online Writing Workshops: What it says on the tin – writing workshops! online! Check out the sff/OWW for a good example.
  • Critique Groups: Like-minded writers who gather regularly to discuss one or more stories submitted by members of the group.  Often self-organizing, sometimes found via Retreats, Readings, Workshops, and Coffeehouses.
  • Retreats: Residency-based write-ins. Some are famous (Yaddo, MacDowell). Many fill up within hours (or minutes) of opening their registration pages. (Rainforest Writers’ Retreat, in the PNW, I’m looking at you.)
  • Readings: Watch the websites, Facebook pages and twitter streams of your favorite writers to learn where they’ll be reading next. In the PA/DE area, Lucas Mangum’s Awesome Reading Fest is a fine place to start.
  • Coffeehouses – regular gatherings of neo and pro writers to discuss topics of mutual interest. If you’re local, The Liars’ Club of Philadelphia holds several each month. Not to be mistaken for either a reading or a workshop – don’t plan to have your latest creation discussed here, although you will find information on local writing workshops and upcoming readings.
  • Cons – Multi-day events with panels, readings, and more. Some, like Readercon, are very literary. Others, like Worldcons and the Comic-cons, have numerous tracks.  Author Chuck Wendig has a great, mostly safe for work, rundown of what writers need to know about conventions.

(This is absolutely a YMMV post.  Where do you find yourself hanging out and connecting with other writers? What did I miss?)


  1. It can be a bit hit-or-miss depending on your location, but some of the local NaNoWriMo forums have some good info, or at least write-ins schedule for November.

  2. Yes, I was going to suggest write-ins as well, and not just limited to NaNo (though that would be a good way to get one started, I bet). This is perhaps a subcategory of Coffeehouses but the emphasis is on making words not socializing. These events are very good gateways for shy folks or beginners because (1) you don’t have to talk to people if you don’t want to, and (2) unlike critique groups you’re not necessarily sharing work so writers of vastly different experience can participate. It’s less elitist, and it’s how I first became involved in the Seattle writing community.

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