We Need to Talk about Writers’ Conferences

The 2022 Willamette Writers Conference in Portland is on, guaranteeing post-conference highs but no way out of the rat race.

David Bates
7 min readAug 6, 2022


Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

This month I will buy a new laptop, a device that, as a freelance writer, functions as my office. The Chromebook I’m using to write this “expired” a few weeks ago, meaning it no longer receives automatic updates. Google may be at the cutting edge of A.I., but they’re obviously not above a little old-fashioned planned obsolescence. So: Back-to-School sales means August is the month to buy. Hopefully I’ll find something for around $300, but that could easily run as high as $500–$600.

Also on the financial front, our car insurance is due this month, which — even though it’s something we plan for — is always an uncomfortably large check to write.

Finally, every quarter now, on the advice of my accountant (because I apparently now earn “enough”) I’ve started paying state and federal taxes throughout the year. Every three months, two more checks fly out the door.

All of which is to say: I will not be paying $549 to attend the 2022 Willamette Writers Conference in Portland this weekend.

Which is, admittedly, a bit disingenuous. I’ve never attended it, though one year I tried piecing together a series of workshops and presentations from an absurdly complicated schedule before I threw up my hands, given that I was already wavering because of the cost. And if my financial situation was more than “enough,” I can’t say that I wouldn’t attend myself — albeit with a cargo ship-sized raft of complicated, deeply mixed feelings about it. There are too many people living on Portland’s streets without enough to eat for me to feel good about chilling in a “master class” on “joyful productivity” in a luxurious air conditioned hotel while it’s nearly 100 degrees outside.

But lest you dismiss all this as the unreasonable rantings of a curmudgeon, let me be clear: I am not, as a matter of principle, against writers’ conferences.