When did the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference start and who started it?

How often is the conference held?

Where is the conference held?

What is the application process?

When does the conference begin and end?

What happens at the conference?

How is Colrain different from other poetry conferences?

Have alumni of this program gone on to publish their manuscripts?

Are poets allowed to submit their manuscripts to editors they work with at Colrain?

What if I’ve already submitted to one of the presses represented at the conference? May I still apply?

May I attend more than one conference? Or should I wait until I have another manuscript before signing up again?

Does Colrain give scholarships or otherwise help with financing?

When did the Colrain Poetry Manuscript Conference start and who started it?

The conference was started in March, 2006 by poet Joan Houlihan.

How often is the conference held?

Four times a year: Winter, Spring, Summer and Fall.

Where is the conference held?

The conference is held online via Zoom.

What is the application process?

Any poet with a book-length or chapbook-length manuscript is welcome to apply to Colrain.

Poets need only send an email to: conferences@colrainpoetry.com
Include a brief bio and 4-5 sample poems from the manuscript.
The application process is selective.

When does the conference begin and end?

Two weeks prior to the conference, we begin our work together. Pre-conference “homework” is sent to each participant.  This work is designed to engage, or re-engage, the poet with their manuscript so that by the time they arrive, the manuscript is already in process. The program itself starts with introductions on Friday evening. The conference ends Monday at 11 am EST after the strategy session.

What happens at the conference?

On Friday evening, there is an overview and introductions. On Saturday, the group facilitators, seasoned poets and teachers who also have an editing background, lead the group in analyzing and discussing the pre-conference work and its relationship to the manuscripts. On Saturday evening the press editors/publishers arrive to talk with the participants about their press work and conduct an informal Q & A. All day Sunday, participants sit with the editors/publishers and receive real-time feedback on each of their manuscripts. Sunday evening, the faculty join the participants in a reading. Monday morning participants are provided with information on relevant and recommended presses and we talk about submission procedures. The four days time is used to impart a lot of new information, so there’s no “writing time” or down time generally. It is not a retreat, but rather a total immersion education.

How is Colrain different from other poetry conferences?

Colrain is focused entirely on the poetry manuscript. Unless a manuscript has reached a finalist or semi-finalist standing in a competition, there is no way for poets to know how it fared (and even then, the judge, and the competition, will change year to year). Having little to no feedback about which poems to include or how the manuscript is structured, most poets swap poems out, or re-sequence the entire manuscript (or parts thereof), or re-title it, or revise some poems, seek advice from mentors, or all of the above, then send it out again, still in total ignorance of how it might be received. The proverbial shot in the dark. This has become the primary way to pursue poetry book publication in America and it is something of a guessing game. Despite all the MFA programs, conferences, workshops, and retreats in existence, there is no other program or conference dedicated to delivering knowledge on the poetry manuscript editorial process. There are many conferences where participants meet and work with “big name” poets for a few days and sometimes a few publishers are invited to deliver generic advice as part of a panel, but Colrain is the only program focused entirely on the process of manuscript preparation, submission, and evaluation; that is, the kind of program poets serious about publishing need.

In addition, unlike most conferences, Colrain is not run by a press, university, or literary magazine. In other words, to avoid any conflict of interest, or unrealistic expectations about publication, Colrain is not under the auspices of a particular press or publisher. Instead, a variety of press editors and publishers are invited to participate and the organization itself is separate from, and not indebted to, any one of them. See complete visiting faculty list here.

Have alumni of this program gone on to publish their manuscripts?

So far, over 300 manuscripts from Colrain alumni have been published.  Alumni publications and awards are listed here.

Are poets allowed to submit their manuscripts to editors they work with at Colrain?

Yes, but only post-conference and through the usual channels. Colrain editors are prohibited from considering a manuscript as a submission while at the conference. Note: the editor of a press, or judge of a competition, is ethically bound by CLMP (Council of Literary Magazines and Presses) guidelines not to favor submissions by someone they know personally, but since the conference lasts only four days, any contact between attendee and publisher is limited and not considered a “personal relationship.” Also, Colrain hires faculty, editors and publishers from around the country to come as unbiased mentors and educators to help demystify the process of manuscript preparation and submission, and employs only those editors and publishers with known integrity. Our goal is to educate participants in the editorial process so that they can submit with confidence to many presses.

What if I’ve already submitted to one of the presses represented at the conference? May I still apply?

Yes. And you may or may not want to work with the editor of that press, but it’s not prohibited.

May I attend more than one conference? Or should I wait until I have another manuscript before signing up again?

Poets return multiple times. You may sign up with the same manuscript after you’ve revised it, and come work with different faculty. Or, you may want to show the revised version to the same editors you worked with. Many Colrain alums choose to attend one or more conferences. Some poets have successfully published after coming through one or more Colrains. There’s no limit to how many times you return. People return 2, 3, 4, 5 times. There’s something new to learn each time.

Does Colrain give scholarships or otherwise help with financing?

Colrain does not currently give scholarships. For financing, Paypal offers the option of paying upfront and then taking 6 months, interest free, to pay them back. To take advantage of that, you need to register through our site then choose “Paypal Credit” at the payment screen. They do a quick credit check, then pay Colrain in full. Also, we are happy to work out a personalized installment plan (3 or 4 payments) by Paypal or Venmo. NOTE: Those working in academia have successfully secured funding from their universities for “professional development.”