The conference was started in March, 2006 by poet Joan Houlihan.
How often is the conference held?
Year-round except for December, February and (sometimes) April.
The conference has regular venues in Truchas, New Mexico, Greenfield, Massachusetts, Wilmington,Vermont and Whidbey Island, Washington.
Any poet with a book-length or chapbook-length manuscript is welcome to apply to the regular (Classic) Colrain.
For the Intensive, only poets who have also achieved finalist or semi-finalist standing in a competition, or who have a previous book publication, or who have already attended a Classic Colrain are eligible to apply.
The primary difference between these two conferences is that for the Intensive the entire manuscript is read beforehand by Joan Houlihan and she meets individually with each poet to go over her comments on Saturday afternoon. The other difference is that the Intensive has a maximum group number of 8 and the Classic has a maximum of 14 (though divided into two groups). Finally, only alums, or poets with finalist or semi-finalist standing (or equivalent), or poets with a previous book (or chapbook) publication are eligible for the Intensive. All poets with a book-length or chapbook-length manuscript are eligible for the Classic. Note: the application process is selective.
Three 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 his or her manuscript so that by the time they arrive, the manuscript is already in process. The on-site program itself starts at dinner on Friday evening (though people may arrive between 5 and 6 for get-acquainted wine). The conference ends Monday at 11 am after the strategy session.
After dinner on Friday, there is an overview and introductions. On Saturday, after breakfast, 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 the press editors/publishers arrive to have dinner with the participants. After dinner they talk with participants and take questions about their presses. All day Sunday, participants sit with the editors/publishers and receive real-world feedback on each of their manuscripts. The editors/publishers then stay throughout the rest of the weekend, mingling with, reading with, and taking meals with the participants until Monday morning. After breakfast, participants are provided with information on relevant and recommended presses and we talk about submission procedures. The three 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 writing retreat, but rather a total immersion education.
Colrain is the only conference focused entirely on the poetry manuscript. Unless a manuscript has reached a finalist or semi-finalist standing in a competition, there is no way 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.
So far, over 130 manuscripts from Colrain alumni have been published. Alumni publications and awards are listed here.
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 three 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.
Yes. And you may or may not want to work with the editor of that press, but it’s not prohibited.
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 Classic conferences and then come to an Intensive. Some poets have successfully published after coming through one or more Classics and then an Intensive. 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.
Colrain does not currently give scholarships. From time to time, alumni are offered a 20% discount to the Intensive (this offer is made through the newsletter, so sign up to receive our newsletter if interested). For financing, Paypal now 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 check. We don’t currently take credit cards. NOTE: Those working in academia have successfully secured funding from their universities for “professional development.”