A Guide to Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference

By Eric Eng

By Eric Eng

View of a student writing in an exam sheet.

A Guide to Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference

The world of writing is a vast and exciting one, offering countless opportunities for young and aspiring wordsmiths. One of the most enriching experiences available to budding writers is the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference (SYWC).

In this article, we will delve deeper into the historical significance of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, explore the exceptional features that make it unique, and understand how this experience can profoundly affect not only your writing skills but also your life. Explore the writing program with this comprehensive guide.

Overview of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference

At the heart of the lush and scenic Sewanee, nestled in the Tennessee mountains, lies a literary haven—the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference.

Founded with a vision to nurture and empower young writers, this conference has become a celebrated annual gathering for creative minds. Hosted by the University of the South, this event spans days filled with creativity, collaboration, and learning.

The Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference isn’t just an ordinary gathering; it has a rich history that has shaped its identity and purpose. Understanding its roots and the impact it has had on literary communities is crucial to appreciating its significance.


The Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference owes its existence to a visionary group of educators and writers who recognized the need for a nurturing space for young talent. Established in 1993, this conference emerged as a response to the hunger for creative expression among young writers. Its founding mission was to provide a platform for emerging voices to flourish.

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Many successful writers, poets, and literary figures have attended the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference in their formative years. These alumni have gone on to achieve remarkable success in the world of literature, journalism, and beyond. Their stories serve as inspiration for aspiring writers, demonstrating that the seeds sown at Sewanee can bear remarkable fruit.

These success stories not only highlight the talent nurtured at Sewanee but also underscore its role in shaping literary careers.

Impact on Literary Communities

The ripple effect of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference extends far beyond the conference grounds. It has played a pivotal role in revitalizing and energizing literary communities, both locally and nationally.

Through workshops, readings, and interactions, the conference has fostered a sense of camaraderie among writers, creating a supportive ecosystem where ideas flourish and collaborations thrive.

Writers who have attended the conference often return to their communities as catalysts for change. They initiate literary events, start writing groups, and share their knowledge with peers, further enriching the literary landscape.

The conference’s emphasis on community building is not just about individual growth but also about cultivating a vibrant and connected network of writers who uplift each other and contribute to the larger literary tapestry.

What Sets Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference Apart

Unique Curriculum and Workshops

The Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference stands out due to its innovative curriculum. It offers specialized workshops not just in poetry and fiction, but also in unique genres like songwriting, memoir, literary journalism, and fantasy.

These diverse offerings cater to a wide range of creative interests, providing attendees with a comprehensive writing experience.

Renowned Faculty and Guest Speakers

The conference prides itself on its exceptional faculty and guest speakers. Established poets, fiction writers, nonfiction authors, and playwrights, including names like Daniel Anderson, Richard Bausch, and Claudia Emerson, contribute their expertise.

Female teacher addressing students in a classroom

This exposure to industry professionals allows participants to learn from the best, gaining insights that are invaluable for their writing journeys.

Opportunities for Personalized Feedback and Growth

One of the hallmarks of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference is its emphasis on personalized feedback. Attendees receive tailored guidance from experienced writers and peers during workshops and critique sessions.

This individualized attention nurtures their strengths, identifies areas for improvement, and accelerates their growth as writers, ensuring a transformative experience.

The Sense of Community and Networking

Sewanee fosters a vibrant sense of community and networking. Participants not only learn from professionals but also form lasting connections with fellow writers. The bonds forged during workshops, discussions, and communal activities create a supportive network that extends far beyond the conference.

This network becomes a constant source of inspiration, collaboration, and encouragement, making the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference a truly unique and enriching experience for all attendees.

How the Conference Enhances Writing Skills

Hands-on Writing Workshops and Techniques Taught

The Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference enhances writing skills through immersive, hands-on workshops. Participants engage in practical writing exercises and learn diverse techniques tailored to various genres.

These workshops provide a conducive environment for writers to experiment, refine their style, and explore new creative horizons, fostering substantial skill development.

Importance of Peer Reviews and Collaborative Learning

Peer reviews and collaborative learning are integral components of the conference. Through constructive feedback from peers, participants refine their work, gaining fresh perspectives and identifying areas for improvement. Collaborative learning activities, such as group discussions and shared projects, encourage active engagement.

Group of students talking in a table.

These interactions not only enhance writing proficiency but also cultivate valuable communication and teamwork skills, enriching the overall learning experience.

Real-world Applications of Writing Skills

The conference emphasizes real-world applications of writing skills. Participants explore how their writing can impact the world beyond academia. By delving into topics relevant to contemporary issues, attendees learn to articulate their ideas effectively, preparing them for diverse professional contexts.

This practical approach equips participants with the skills necessary for success in fields that demand strong communication and writing abilities.

The Experience: A Day in the Life at Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference

Morning Sessions: Intensive Workshops and Skill-Building Exercises

The day at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference begins with intensive morning sessions. Participants immerse themselves in hands-on workshops, honing their craft through skill-building exercises.

Under the guidance of experienced mentors, attendees refine their writing techniques, explore creative concepts, and receive valuable feedback, laying the foundation for a day of literary growth.

Afternoon Activities: Author Readings, Literary Discussions, and Q&A Sessions

In the afternoons, the conference comes alive with a vibrant array of activities. Attendees have the privilege of attending author readings, where established writers share their works and insights.

Engaging literary discussions follow, providing a platform for intellectual exchange and the exploration of diverse perspectives. Q&A sessions with authors allow participants to delve deeper into the creative process, gaining valuable insights into the professional world of writing.

Evening Events: Open Mic Nights, Campfires, and Bonding Activities

As the sun sets, the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference transitions into evening events designed for camaraderie and inspiration. Open Mic Nights provide a stage for attendees to showcase their work, fostering a supportive atmosphere where creativity flourishes.

Campfires under the starlit sky create an intimate setting for storytelling and sharing literary aspirations. Bonding activities further strengthen the sense of community, nurturing friendships and connections that often extend beyond the conference, making every evening a memorable and cherished experience for participants.

Testimonials and Success Stories

Personal Experiences from Past Participants

Testimonials from past participants of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference paint a vivid picture of the transformative experiences offered. Many share stories of personal growth, newfound confidence, and a deepened passion for writing.

These firsthand accounts highlight the supportive atmosphere, the impact of workshops, and the lasting friendships forged, offering valuable insights for prospective attendees.

How Conference Participation Contributed to College Applications and Careers

The conference’s influence extends beyond writing skills. Many alumni credit their participation in SYWC as a significant factor in their college applications. Admissions officers recognize the conference’s prestigious reputation and its role in nurturing young talents.

a man reading a letter looking happy

Furthermore, conference participation often opens doors to scholarships and unique academic opportunities, providing attendees with a competitive edge in their educational pursuits.

Additionally, the conference has served as a launchpad for successful careers in writing-related fields, illustrating its instrumental role in shaping professional paths.

Insights from Published Authors Who Once Attended SYWC

Published authors who once attended the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference offer invaluable insights into the conference’s impact on their journeys. These authors often reflect on how the conference served as a catalyst for their writing careers, providing them with essential skills, industry knowledge, and networking opportunities.

Their success stories emphasize how SYWC laid the foundation for their achievements in the literary world, showcasing the conference’s lasting influence on aspiring writers.

Benefits of Creative Writing

Engaging in creative writing offers a range of benefits. Here’s how creative writing can enhance your skills:

  1. Improved Communication Skills: Creative writing hones communication abilities, vital for effective presentations, debates, and class discussions in college.
  2. Critical Thinking and Problem-Solving: Writing creatively enhances critical thinking skills, invaluable for analyzing complex academic texts and solving problems in various subjects.
  3. Enhanced Emotional Intelligence: Creative writing fosters empathy and emotional intelligence, essential for understanding diverse perspectives in college interactions and collaborations.
  4. Stress Reduction: Writing creatively acts as a stress-reliever, helping students cope with academic pressures and maintain mental well-being.
  5. Boosted Confidence: Crafting creative pieces boosts self-confidence, empowering students to articulate ideas clearly, both in writing assignments and class debates.
  6. Cultivation of Creativity: Creative writing nurtures creativity, encouraging innovative thinking essential for problem-solving, research, and projects in college.
  7. Enhanced Storytelling Skills: Knowing how to tell engaging stories is valuable in various fields. Creative writing sharpens storytelling skills, beneficial in academic presentations and future careers.

By incorporating creative writing into their college routine, students not only develop essential life skills but also enrich their overall academic and personal growth, preparing them for a successful future.

Practical Benefits for College-Bound Students

Entering college marks a pivotal moment in a student’s life. It’s a time of self-discovery, academic growth, and forging lifelong connections. For those inclined towards the art of writing, attending a writing conference can be a game-changer.

Improvement in College Application Essays and Creative Portfolios

Participating in the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference offers significant advantages to college-bound students. The skills honed during the conference, including creative writing techniques and storytelling abilities, directly translate into improved college application essays and creative portfolios.

Admissions officers value the depth and creativity that stem from such experiences, giving students a competitive edge in the application process.

Scholarships and Awards for Outstanding Participants

Outstanding participants at the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference have the opportunity to receive scholarships and awards. Recognition for exceptional writing abilities often leads to financial support for higher education.

These scholarships not only alleviate the financial burden on students and their families but also recognize and celebrate their talent, encouraging further pursuit of writing and literary studies.

Enhanced Communication and Presentation Skills

The conference enhances students’ communication and presentation skills significantly. Through workshops, discussions, and open mic sessions, participants learn how to articulate their thoughts effectively and present their ideas with confidence.

These enhanced communication skills are invaluable in college classrooms, job interviews, and various professional settings, empowering students to express themselves eloquently and persuasively.

Attending the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference equips college-bound students not only with writing prowess but also with the confidence and skills necessary to excel in their academic and professional endeavors.

The Application Process: Reminders and Tips

How to Apply and What’s Required

To apply for the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference, applicants need to visit the official conference website.

The application process involves assembling various materials, including a statement of purpose (approximately 250-750 words describing the applicant’s reading and writing life), a writing sample showcasing their skills, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement expressing their interest in the conference.

The application must be submitted simultaneously as it cannot be saved. The applications are reviewed officially beginning on a specified date, typically in February.

Understanding the Financial Aspects

The total cost of attending the 2023 Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference is $2575.00. This fee covers tuition, room, and board. Transportation to and from the Nashville airport is available at an additional fee of $175.00.

Importantly, there is no application fee, and the conference offers financial aid for a few families who cannot afford the full cost.

Accommodation and Campus Facilities

Participants of the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference are accommodated in university dormitories. The campus provides well-equipped classrooms for workshops, libraries for research and reading, and recreational areas for social activities.

For those attendees who wish to receive mail during the conference, specific mailing instructions are provided.

COVID-19 Safety Measures and Online Options

Given the evolving situation with COVID-19, the conference organizers prioritize safety. They implement stringent safety measures following local and national guidelines. Additionally, the conference may offer online options or hybrid formats, allowing participants to attend workshops and sessions remotely if they are unable to travel or prefer virtual participation.

Detailed information about COVID-19 safety measures and online options can be found on the conference’s official website or communicated directly to applicants.

Tips for Maximizing the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference Experience

How to Prepare Before Attending

Before attending the Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference (SYWC), participants can prepare by familiarizing themselves with the conference schedule and the workshops they plan to attend. Preparing a piece of writing or an idea they want to work on during the conference can enhance their experience.

Additionally, participants can read works by the faculty and guest speakers, allowing them to engage more deeply in discussions and workshops.

Active Participation: Engaging with Faculty and Peers

Active participation is key to maximizing the SYWC experience. Participants should actively engage with faculty, asking questions, seeking feedback, and embracing constructive criticism.

A teacher talking to her students

They can also participate in peer review sessions, providing insightful feedback to fellow writers. Networking with peers can lead to valuable connections and collaborations. Being open-minded and receptive to diverse writing styles and perspectives enriches the learning experience for everyone involved.

Post-Conference Strategies: Continuing the Writing Momentum

After the conference, participants can maintain the momentum by continuing to write regularly. Setting writing goals, joining local writing groups, or establishing online writing communities can provide ongoing support and encouragement.

They can also submit their work to literary magazines, contests, or writing competitions to gain exposure and build their writing credentials.

Reflecting on the feedback received during the conference and incorporating it into their writing practices can further enhance their skills. Staying connected with the SYWC community and attending alumni events or online discussions can foster a sense of belonging and provide ongoing opportunities for growth.


The Sewanee Young Writers’ Conference (SYWC) offers a transformative experience for aspiring writers. Through immersive workshops, personalized feedback, and networking opportunities, participants enhance their writing skills, gain confidence, and prepare for college-level writing challenges.

The conference’s unique curriculum, renowned faculty, and supportive community create an environment where creativity thrives, setting the stage for academic success and personal growth.

The SYWC is more than just a conference; it’s a nurturing ground for future writers and leaders. By fostering creativity, critical thinking, and communication skills, SYWC equips participants with the tools they need to excel not only in their academic pursuits but also in their future careers.

The sense of community, the mentorship from established authors, and the exposure to diverse perspectives prepare attendees to become empathetic, articulate, and innovative leaders of tomorrow.

Embrace the challenges, celebrate your successes, and let the SYWC experience shape you into a confident writer and a thoughtful leader ready to make a difference in the world.

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