10 April 2022
Who would have guessed, back in 1995 when Frederick Busch founded the Chenango Writers Conference, that it would be going strong (albeit with a tiny name change) 28 years later? During the nearly three decades of its existence, the conference has attracted over 1,500 people—many of them Colgate alumni—to campus every June for a week-long literary feast of readings, craft talks, shop talks, workshops, and more. The exact number is nearly impossible to pin down, just because there are so many loyal returnees year after year (hello Nancy Keating!).
Here are just a few of the noteworthy events of the last few years:
- The conference underwent a name change and became the Colgate Writers Conference.
- Our longtime and much-loved director, Matt Leone, retired.
- Before retiring, Professor Leone edited a volume of craft talks from the conference: Crafting Poetry, Fiction, and Memoir, featuring essays by some of the conference’s most revered regular faculty. A second volume is in the works and should be available within the year.
- We created four full fellowships to the conference: two in Professor Leone’s name; two in honor of the Merrill House Porch, our favorite hang-out spot in the evenings.
- Applications were up 300% in the spring of 2020, when the coronavirus pandemic forced us to cancel that year’s conference.
- Uncertainty about whether we could safely convene in 2021 led us to replace the week-long, in-person conference with a three-day virtual event, the Porch Symposium. The number of people who attended (170) broke all previous records.
In 2019, I took on the directorship of the conference in an acting capacity; in 2020, I was set to assume the role in a more permanent capacity. It feels a bit as if I’ve been punting ever since. This year, I’m excited finally to be able to commit the resources (time and money) to staging the best conference possible. My hope is to raise the numbers and profile of our little conference without sacrificing any of the qualities that make it feel like one of the writing world’s best-kept secrets: warmth, intimacy, collegiality, and none of the hierarchies that strive to prevent faculty and participants from mingling.
Colgate is in the midst of a campaign to raise its profile in the arts. Part of that commitment comes in the form of increased funding for the writers conference. Some funding will go toward attracting high-profile faculty; much of it will go toward funding scholarships and our four full fellowships. We’ve also had the great good fortune to hire a new assistant director, Dr. Gabrie’l Atchison. I’m honored and thrilled that she agreed to join our tiny staff, and I hope to get the chance to introduce her to you this summer.
In closing, let me say two quick things: 1) Some of our workshops are at or near capacity already, so if you’re waffling about whether to apply, you may want to make up your mind soon in order to have a shot at your first-choice workshop; and 2) The deadline to apply for financial aid is March 18. Shortly after that date passes, we’ll be in touch with all of you who ticked the scholarship and/or fellowship box. Thank you for your patience.
If you’re already committed to coming to this year’s conference (hooray!), check out the newly created tab listing important dates and deadlines. Please consider filling out the form to be listed in our first-ever participant directory. In the next week or two, you should be able to click on the Schedule tab and see detailed day-by-day information about this year’s conference.
If you have any questions at all, don’t hesitate to write to me or Gabrie’l: email@example.com.
Can’t wait to see you in Hamilton on June 19th!
Associate Professor of English
Director, Colgate Writers Conference