Shanna McNair can’t think of a better place for fiction writers to find inspiration than Maine.

So after six years in New York City and three years online, McNair has decided to bring The Writers Hotel writing conference to Boothbay Harbor on May 24-30.

Shanna McNair, director of The Writers Hotel, is bringing the conference to Maine for the first time. Photo courtesy of Shanna McNair

McNair may be a little biased, since she lives in Maine, and her father, Wesley McNair, was the state’s poet laureate from 2011 to 2016. But she also thinks it’ll be easier for people to work on their writing while relaxing at the Spruce Point Inn in Boothbay Harbor instead of hustling from venue to venue as they did when the conferences were held in New York City. She also has concerns about continuing COVID-19 cases in a place as crowded as Manhattan.

Plus, there are a lot of really good writers here. Some of the Maine writers lined up to lead sessions or read at the conference include Tess Gerritsen, Elizabeth Hand, Cathie Pelletier, Lewis Robinson, Debra Spark and Lily King.

McNair, who lives in the Brunswick area, founded the conference and runs it with her romantic partner, writer Scott Wolven, whose stories have been featured seven years in a row in The Best American Mystery Stories series. The program is described on its website as a “mini MFA.”

McNair says the conference is aimed at getting people’s work published. Over the years, some 800 people have attended the conference or private study programs run by McNair and Wolven, and most have gone on to publish in one form or another, McNair said.


The conference process begins as soon as people get accepted. People send their manuscripts to McNair, to be read by her and Wolven, who then write down lots of comments and also talk with the writers on the phone.

At the conference, each attendee works on a 5,000-word piece in workshops, led by conference instructors. There are also “craft labs” focusing on different parts of the writing craft. Pelletier, for instance, is heading a craft lab titled “When to Show, When to Tell: Demystifying the Golden Rule of Writing.” King is heading a craft lab titled “Two Truths and a Lie,” about the intersection of experience and imagination. Hand is leading one on settings, and Robinson will direct one on point of view.

There will also be faculty readings during the conference. Sherman’s Maine Coast Book Shop of Boothbay Harbor will be selling books for the faculty members to sign.

Attendees will also get a chance to pitch their writing projects to agents for possible publishing, but those pitch sessions will be done virtually after the conference is over, in June.

The cost of the program is $3,500, lodging and food are not included, and there’s a $30 fee to apply. The application deadline is March 27. For more information, go to

The Writers Hotel is run as a subsidiary of The New Guard, an annual literary review that publishes 35 or more emerging writers each year and organizes various contests. McNair and Wolven also recently launched High Frequency Press, based in Maine, to publish “outstanding and overlooked” books and run manuscript contests. For more information, go to

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