Q: What’s the difference between a Retreat, a Workshop, and a Conference?

Retreats, workshops, and conferences are all valuable—and they’re all different from each other.

Before you decide that a less (or more) expensive conference must be better than a week in a cabin in the woods or the meeting room at a local museum, think about what you need as a writer, at this time. If you’re not sure, contact me. I’ll help you sort through your options.

Basic differences are listed below; for details, follow the “read more” links.

Writing Retreats

Writing retreats provide the opportunity to write, reflect, and explore in a safe and supportive space, in the company of other writers, guided by an experienced facilitator and writing coach. Group size for Greenfire Writing Retreats is limited (usually, a maximum of 10–12 participants). Length varies from 1- and 2- day Greenfire Mini-Retreats to 4-day and longer Greenfire Writing Retreats.

During a Greenfire Writing Retreat, we meet in group session for part of each day—for longer retreats, usually from about 10:00 a.m. to noon or over lunch, from 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m. For Greenfire Mini-Retreats, we meet intermittently throughout the day. In the group sessions, we share our writing and discuss challenges, successes, and issues that are part of being a writer. Longer retreats include individual coaching sessions and an open mic night. We may experiment, individually or as a group, with writing techniques and prompts. There’s plenty of time to write, reflect, and explore. We also talk about the steps for effectively and appropriately reviewing work and obtaining feedback, but we spend very little time formally critiquing participants’ work. You don’t have to submit work ahead of time (though you can if you want to).

Greenfire in-person retreats can be as short as a day or two and as long as a week or more.

Longer Greenfire Writing Retreats (5-night/6-day and up) are usually all-inclusive, in-person events (food and lodging are part of the package, and everyone stays at the same place, often a lodge or large guest house).

Greenfire Mini-Retreats may be in-person, online, or a combination, and are usually not all-inclusive (food and lodging are not included in the retreat fee).

back to top

Writing Workshops

Writing workshops provide the opportunity to review and critique each others’ work in addition to writing and exploring in a safe and supportive space, in the company of other writers, guided by an experienced facilitator and writing coach. There may be less time dedicated to writing (because more time is spent on review and critique). Group size for Greenfire Writing Workshops is limited (usually, a maximum of 10 participants). Length varies from single-day to 4-day and longer workshops.

Greenfire Writing Workshops typically meet in group session for about 4 hours each day. Depending on the workshop, there may be additional or optional group sessions devoted to group feedback and critiquing. Longer workshops include a one-on-one session, which is often a combination of coaching and feedback or critiquing.

Greenfire Writing Workshops may focus on a specific type or genre of writing, for example, interpretive writing, creative nonfiction, or fiction. During group sessions, we explore the specific type of writing, experiment with writing techniques and prompts, and share writing exercise results.

We also spend time in group sessions learning how to effectively review our own and others’ work and formally critiquing each others’ work in the safe, supportive environment of the workshop. For most workshops, you can submit work ahead of time, but you don’t have to. Longer workshops (4 days or more) may include feedback of previously submitted work as well as a one-on-one session during the workshop.

Workshops range from single day to 6-night/5 day workshops. Shorter workshops are usually not all-inclusive; longer workshops may or may not be, depending on type, size, and location of the workshop. Shorter Greenfire Writing Workshops may be online, in-person, or a combination.

Longer Greenfire Writing Workshops are usually in-person.

back to top

Writing conferences and conventions

Writing conferences (and conventions) are large gatherings, with keynote speakers, panel discussions, demonstrations, and networking opportunities. They’re often great fun, and there are some excellent ones out there.

Writing conferences and conventions are a good place to meet lots of other writers. You may meet agents and publishers, too. Most are set up the way any conference is: keynote speakers, a plenary session or three, and concurrent breakout sessions with panel discussions, speakers, and demonstrations. They can be fun, exciting, and inspiring. (I’ve presented many of my shorter programs at conferences over the years.)

Thanks to the COVID pandemic, many conferences have successfully shifted to online formats, extending their reach to folks who would otherwise be unable to attend. Some are experimenting with hybrid events, with both online and in-person programming.

There’s a good chance that you’ll learn some interesting things at a conference or convention, but they don’t provide the sustained, intense focus on writing—actual sitting-down-and-writing—that is so valuable at a retreat or workshop. In addition, for most conferences, there’s little to no opportunity for one-on-one feedback.

back to top

back to top

Q. What’s the difference between a Mini-Retreat and a Shorter Program?

Greenfire Mini-Retreats are at least one full day, limited size (usually no more than 12), and include pre-retreat materials. Group sessions are interspersed with writing and exploration time.

Greenfire shorter programs last for an hour to half-day, accommodate larger groups (how large depends on the program and format), do not include pre-program materials, and are focused on a specific topic, skill, and/or genre. Program specifics depend on the program’s purpose (e.g., conference session, professional development, online event), audience, format, and delivery method.

Both have online and in-person options.

back to top

Q. What’s the difference between a Retreat and a Mini-Retreat?

Greenfire Mini-Retreats are 1- or 2-days long, and may be online or in-person. Greenfire Writing Retreats are longer (5-night/6-day and up) and in-person. Custom Greenfire events that are 3–5 days long might be either, depending on the needs, location, and purpose of the event.

back to top

Q. How do I register for a retreat or program?

Select “registration” on the event’s product page or on the Shop page. The registration link works only when that retreat or program is open (if the link doesn’t work, the event isn’t open for registration yet).

back to top

Q. How do I arrange for a retreat or program for my group or organization?

Easy! Contact me, and we’ll set up a time to talk.

back to top