AWP Field Trip & Retreat

Do you want to know more about creative writing as an industry?
Do you also want to feel like you belong within that industry?

There’s more to creative writing than, well, writing. It’s a whole enterprise that’s made up of not only writers and students, but also agents, academics, editors, literary journals, literary organizations, publishers, readers, small presses, writing programs, and more. In addition to studying craft, it’s beneficial for writers of all levels to learn about this enterprise in order to know how their industry works.

That’s why we want to take you with us to the world’s largest literary conference.

Are you ready to learn more about the world of contemporary literature?

We’ve got the ultimate Sarah Selecky Writing School field trip & retreat planned for you.

”Everything I experienced [at AWP 2018], intellectually and emotionally, felt just right. It’s something I can return to whenever I get stuck in my writing (and living!).”

— Diana Radovan



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What is the AWP Field Trip & Retreat?

In true Sarah Selecky Writing School style, we’re planning a field trip for you to the AWP Conference & Bookfair in Portland, Oregon in March 2019. Our signature boutique touch will also make it feel like a retreat.

Not familiar with the AWP Conference & Bookfair?

The AWP Conference & Bookfair is an essential annual destination for writers, teachers, students, editors, and publishers. Each year, since 1973, more than 12,000 attendees join the AWP community for four days of insightful dialogue, networking, and unrivaled access to the organizations and opinion-makers that matter most in contemporary literature. The conference features over 2,000 presenters and 550 readings, panels, and craft lectures. The bookfair hosts over 800 presses, journals, and literary organizations from around the world. AWP is now the largest literary conference in North America.

In other words, it’s a powerful celebration of the best that contemporary literature has to offer. It will stimulate you creatively and intellectually, light you up, and include you in a larger literary conversation.

We know that the stimulation from a field trip like this can be a bit overwhelming (even when it’s exciting), so that’s where the retreat part comes in. We’ll provide accommodations, which will be your hub for downtime, nourishing communal meals, time with me, and time in community with peers. We’ll also make selections from the AWP program and put together curated experiences in different areas of interest that will help you navigate the conference if you so choose.

”I was continually nourished by the supportive environment Sarah, Ryan, and Trish created for all of us [during AWP 2018]. I grew as a writer over vegan pizza, kombucha by the pool, listening to life stories by candlelight at the dining room table that seemed to ever-expand. There was THE conference, and then OUR conference, a community of writers from all over (in terms of both geography and life experience) who formed a mini-community which, by the end of the weekend, none of us wanted to leave.”

— Sidura Ludwig

Who is the AWP Field Trip & Retreat for?

AWP stands for Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Sarah Selecky Writing School approaches writing with the same standards you’d expect from academia and our students are much like the ones you’d find in university-level creative writing programs. Therefore, it only makes sense that we’d participate in a conference of this calibre with our students. That’s one of the things that we do so well: bridge the gap between the creative and the academic. Even if you feel intimidated by academia, be assured that you belong (and remember how many of your favourite writers never got MFAs).

The AWP Field Trip & Retreat is open to all writers of all genres — and especially those of you who’ve already experienced any of Sarah Selecky Writing School’s programs, from the Daily Prompts to The Story Course.

It’s also for anyone who’s interested in deepening the conversation about writing in their world and open to learning about contemporary literature as an industry.

The great thing about AWP is that there’s something for everyone. Whatever stage you’re at with your writing you can find something to support you, from the art of writing, to the business of publishing.


AWP can be overwhelming, especially if it’s your first time. When you go on your own you have to book a hotel room — and when 12,000+ writers descend on a city they fill up fast, plus they’re expensive. Once you’re at the conference, the energy is high and things can feel chaotic if you don’t have a plan. During breaks, there are huge line-ups for food that might not be as nourishing as you’d like. Those are the downsides of AWP and we’ll address them all for you so you don’t have to.

You’ll get:

  • your accommodations taken care of for the duration of the conference
  • a soft landing and a welcome dinner
  • gorgeous and nourishing food prepared by a private chef, including: hot breakfasts, gourmet packed lunches (no line-ups required!), and multi-course dinners back at the house (or saved for you for later if you’ve got evening plans)
  • curated options for you to experience AWP in a way that suits your needs (e.g. according to your genre, or based on a theme such as editing/revision or livelihood)
  • a cohort to attend the conference with/the company of like-minded community
  • safe transportation between the accommodations and the conference venue
  • debriefing sessions in the evenings
  • office hours with me
  • a high-level of care from the Sarah Selecky Writing School team
  • special treats to help you feel completely taken care of — including a small, thoughtful gift to help you tap into your creative superpowers, and a Sarah Selecky Writing School bag filled with things you might need at the conference

You’ll leave:

  • having made new writing friends
  • feeling as though “the well” is full
  • more motivated than when you arrived
  • emboldened by a sense of belonging to a world you care so deeply about

”The [AWP 2018] retreat helped me chip away at my shell and the respect, the love, and the camaraderie led to a ‘sunset moment’ on our last day. The opportunity to stay in touch, to strengthen our friendships, and support each other is something I have missed over the years.”

— Dawn Brown



Wednesday, March 27, 2018, to Sunday, March 31, 2019.

Conference schedule:

Making sense of the massive schedule can be overwhelming for AWP participants. It’s exciting to see all the options (the panels and events are always amazing), but the FOMO can be paralyzing! So we're happy to sort through those decisions for you before you arrive. 

You can take a look at the AWP schedule yourself when it becomes available, just to see the offerings, and get a taste for the conversations that will be happening there. (A major highlight: Colson Whitehead will be the keynote speaker!)

Here's an example of a curated sample day from 2018 (click to open): 


7:00am: Breakfast at the house with everyone.

8:30am: Shuttle ride to the conference.

9:00 - 10:15am: Drafts: Demystifying Revision in the Editorial Process
Hear from writers, an agent, and editors from Vintage/Anchor about how to keep your vision intact through the collaborative process of editing.

10:30 - 11:45am: Personal Writing In an Age of Narcissism
The Sun contributors explore the craft of personal essays.

11:45 - 12:00pm: Meet a friend for a lunch (packed for you by Chef Mary) and sit in the sun before afternoon sessions.

12:00 - 1:15pm: Structuring the Novel: Methods, Approaches, Ideas
Five panelists with different methods offer concrete answers to your structure questions.

1:30 - 2:45pm: Second Blooming: Resources for Older Women Writers
MFA programs, residencies, and publishing options that particularly welcome and support the work of older women writers.

4:30 - 5:45pm: Fiction In the Age of Trump
Why the “lie” of fiction matters now.

6:00pm: Shuttle back home for dinner in the courtyard of our house. Debrief with the other SSM writers and share notes about your day.

8:30pm: Keynote address by George Saunders

10:00pm: Shuttle home for sleep, or…

10pm - midnight: Public AWP reception and dance party, with DJ Connection.
Meet and mingle with all the writers at the conference, and enjoy complimentary beer and wine.

Your registration fee includes your entry into the AWP conference.


Four nights, five days shared accommodations in a beautiful Portland home.

All rooms are double occupancy (two beds per room). If you would like to attend but require a single room, please send us an email before you register ([email protected]). We may be able to accommodate your request for an additional fee.


All meals (hot breakfasts, gourmet packed lunches, multi-course dinners, and snacks) are included. All meals served throughout the retreat will be vegan, with gluten-free options and limited refined sugar. If you have additional dietary restrictions, please let us know and our chef will be able to adjust the menu.


Transportation to and from the conference daily, and to and from the airport, is included.

Travel to Portland is not included. Please book your travel to arrive late afternoon or early evening on Wednesday and depart on Sunday morning.


We love AWP. The resources it provides are unparalleled in North America and it makes you feel steeped in all of the wonderful things contemporary literature has to offer. We hope that you’ll join us to experience the conference in the most unfrazzled and indulgent way possible. All you’ll need to do is show up, relax, open up your brain and let it get turned on.

The total cost for the retreat will be determined closer to the date, but will be around $3,000 USD.

To save your spot in the house, you can put down a $500 deposit now.

Deposits are non-refundable. However, they are transferable, if you would like to find a friend to fill your spot.

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