Your Guide to the Literary DMV, Part II

Your Guide to the Literary DMV, Part II

By Tara Campbell

Welcome back to a new year at AU. Before the semester gets too hectic, let’s take a look around at what else is going on in the Literary DMV (see Part I). Now’s the time to plug things into your calendar so you don’t have to spend all spring moaning about what you just missed.


  • Conversations and Connections: organized by local literary mag/publisher Barrelhouse, this conference toggles between Pittsburgh in the fall and DC/Northern Virginia in the spring. It’s got a laid-back, accessible vibe, which is great for writers who are just getting their bearings in the lit world—and great for more established writers who are allergic to snobbery. Even better, AU Lit Department students have an opportunity to win a free registration—I’m a Barrelhouse fiction editor, so get in touch with me if you haven’t heard about this.
  • Washington Writers Conference: Sponsored by the Washington Independent Review of Books, this annual conference in Bethesda, MD, not only builds community, but also gives you the opportunity to pitch to agents. Writers who have completed or are close to finishing a book-length fiction or non-fiction project tend to get the most bang for the buck here, but it’s open to writers at any stage of their careers, as well as readers. (Full disclosure, I also volunteer with this conference.)
  • Capclave: Sci-fi and fantasy peeps unite annually in Rockville, MD, at this conference organized by the Washington Science Fiction Association. How better to find your tribe than by sharing a quest in the game room or filking in the bar?
  • Malice Domestic: Mystery writers lurk at this conference held annually near DC.
  • Escape Velocity: A project of the Museum of Science Fiction, this multi-faceted conference describes itself as “a futuristic world’s fair to promote STEAM education within the context of science fiction using the fun of comic cons and fascination of science and engineering festivals.” Having been last year, I can tell you it’s also a great place to meet dinosaurs.

Writing Classes and Book Clubs for when you need a quick jump out of a rut, or a place to talk about something that isn’t on your reading list for school:

  1. National Gallery Writing Salon: The National Gallery offers a series of single-session workshops that encourage writers of all experience levels to interact with art in a new way. The artwork utilized ranges from neoclassical sculpture, to Washington Color School, to modern and contemporary works in the recently reopened East Wing. (Both I and @WriteinDC alum Karen Keating teach there.)
  2. Split this Rock offers free poetry workshops twice a month in the Dupont Circle area. The sessions are on the first and third Wednesday of every month from 6:30-8:30 p.m., and are led by a rotating roster of talented local poets. Open to all ages, and RSVPs are not required.  
  3. Strike a Prose: The National Portrait Gallery also offers free single-session writing classes inspired by current exhibitions. Follow the National Portrait Gallery on Facebook or sign up for their Education program newsletter for alerts on future classes.
  4. MoonLit: Offers low-cost ($5 – $10) creative programming in DC and Baltimore, with classes ranging from fiction and poetry to yoga and tarot.
  5. Charles Houston Community Writers in Alexandria offers free monthly adult writing classes, as well as free classes for children and teens. They also organize author visits.
  6. DC Public Libraries: The library system offers free book clubs and writing workshops, as well as free meeting space and 20 free prints/copies per day to members (thanks, @JordanBPerez for sharing that tip). To check for future events at your branch, click the link above, choose the “Monthly” tab, then under “Event Type” choose “Adults” and any other specifics you’re interested in.
  7. Monkeys with Typewriters: This Alexandria-based group offers friendly, low-key accountability sessions where writers get together, spend time working on their individual projects, and then report to the group on their progress. While these aren’t structured courses, per se, the facilitators normally spend part of the time working with prompts and writing sprints to get stuck creatives back on track.
  8. Speculative Wordsmiths: A serious, supportive writing group focused on science fiction and fantasy. If you’re prepared to give and receive helpful and thoughtful feedback on speculative stories and excerpts, this is your group.
  9. Shut up and Write (Gaithersburg): Exactly what it sounds like. Y’all ain’t here to chat.
  10. The Writer’s Center: A DC-area institution, it offers a wealth of courses, from one-day to multi-week, online and in person. And don’t forget, they offer open mics too!
  11. Politics and Prose: Not only a purveyor of books, but also classes and book clubs!
  12. Capitol Hill Arts Workshop: Where CHAW doesn’t mean tobacco, but access to classes in all art forms—including creative writing.

Hope to see you on and off campus, enjoying some of the many things the DMV has to offer!

Tara Campbell is a contributing writer at Café MFA and a third-year candidate in American University’s Creative Writing MFA program. 

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