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University of Colorado Writers' Conference collection

Identifier: COU:1457

Scope and Contents

The University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection is divided into twelve major categories. The collection is organized in chronological order by conference year and then alphabetical order. The collection contains a large amount of correspondence, which is organized by subject and content. I. Conference Records, Committees & Reports contains historical information, conference newsletters, committee papers, and conference reports. It should be noted that the scrapbooks, found later in the collection, should be reviewed when looking for further historical information and newsletters. II. FInancial Records contains financial reports and records, receipts, invoices, and correspondence. III. Housing & Dining consists mainly of housing reservations and correspondence. This section also contains information on special events, banquets, buffets, and receptions. IV. Advertising / Publicity & Publishers is comprised of newspaper clippings and articles, correspondence with publishers concerning advertising and publicity, and information from and about publishers. This section is divided into two subcategories Advertising / Publicity, which shows how the conference was publicized and publications the conference was advertised in, and Publishers, which includes correspondence, complimentary magazines, and information about publishers who scouted for new talent at the Writers' Conference. V. Administration consists of the correspondence and memos of administrative staff for the conference. This section is also organized by director’s names. The folders containing specific information about the directors contain correspondence, photographs, and memos about and from the conference. VI. Workshop Staff includes some general form letters and memos. This section is also divided into two parts Authors / Leaders and Invited& Potential Leaders. Authors/ Leaders is comprised of the authors, leaders, and guest lecturers who attended the conference. This sub-section is organized in alphabetical order by author or leader’s name and consists of correspondence, newspaper clippings, photographs, and information about each author or leader. The second sub-section, Invited & Potential Leaders, is organized in chronological order by conference year and contains the correspondence inviting potential authors and leaders to head workshops or conduct a lecture at the Writers' Conference. VII. Applicants, Conferees & Scholarships consists of three different sub-categories. Applicants & Conferees is comprised of the inquiries, rejection letters, scholarship applications and inquiries, and applications of students who enrolled in and attended the Writers' Conference. This portion of the collection is mostly correspondence, but also contains questionnaires, memos, and form letters. Scholarships contain correspondence, lists of conferees who received scholarships, and information about the different types of scholarships offered to applicants to the Writers' Conference. Rosters contain the lists of rosters from the Writers' Conferences. VIII. Bulletins, Scrapbooks & Photographs contains the bulletins and rough bulletins of the Writers' Conference, the scrapbooks from varying years of the conference, and a collection of photographs from different years of the conference. The scrapbooks contain bulletins, rosters, newspaper clippings, photographs, and newsletters from the conferences. Although photographs exist in other parts of the collection, this section contains group photos and photos of workshops being conducted with the authors and leaders. IX. Workshops & Lectures includes information about public lectures, correspondence, and invitations to public lectures. There is correspondence and information relating to different workshops conducted at the Writers' Conference, including the juvenile conference, film, television, and the novel workshop. X. Conferee's Writings consists of conferee’s manuscripts and poetry. It contains the rough copies and final products of the Writing Conference’s publications Boulder, and Flints and Workshop Writing, which replaced Boulder,and Flints in 1967. XI. Miscellaneous consists of information that is not necessarily about the University of Colorado Writers' Conference, but is about Boulder and the activities in Boulder and also writers' conferences that were conducted by different Universities and venues. XII. Oversize contains newspaper clippings from the scrapbook of the 30th Writers' Conference in 1963 and the scrapbook of the 15th Writers' Conference in 1948.


  • 1930-1977

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open for research.

Copyright Statement

The University Libraries may not own the copyright to all materials in this collection. Researchers are responsible for contacting the copyright holder(s) for this material and obtaining permission to publish or broadcast. The University Libraries will not grant permission to publish or broadcast this material and are not responsible for copyright violations resulting from such use.


The University of Colorado Writers' Conference originated from a Writers' Colony conducted at Indian Hills by a group of Denver writers and publishers. The first annual writers' conference was held at the University of Colorado in 1930. The function of the conference being held at CU was to perpetuate the ideal of the Writers' Colony, utilize the Extension Division of the State University, and educational interests of the state. The first conference began with two main purposes. The first goal was to establish an annual conference where professional writers could vacation and congregate in a pleasurable and profitable way. Second, the conference sought to give inspiration to writers through outdoor settings and local Colorado activities, such as hiking, exploration of mining towns, rodeos, and the view of the mountains. In addition to these two goals, the Writers' Conference was a teaching tool to amateur writers and students. (1) These initial ideals did not change as the conference evolved over the years.

A number of the Denver writers who were a part of the original colony were retained when the group became the University of Colorado Writers' Conference and a part of the Extension School at the University of Colorado. Walter Campbell was the first director of the conference and held this position until 1936. In the early days of the organization, the group was housed in a sorority house during its summer activities and operated on a very limited budget. Nevertheless, the staff included famous writers of the day. One such famous member was Edward Davison, the English poet who was also a professor at the University. Davison became director of the Writers' Conference in 1936, and at that point the Conference became part of the Summer Session as opposed to being considered among the components of the Extension School. The Writers' Conference was considered the first annual conference event at the University of Colorado. (2)

The premise of the Writers' Conference was to provide professional training in creative writing under the guidance of experienced and professional writers, which was to be supplied by a recognized educational institution. The leaders of the organization never presumed that creative writing could be taught, but were under the impression that it could flourish under professional criticism and direction. In order to reach a broader range of students, the conference was open to all ages and the conference provided scholarships and financial aid to qualifying applicants. (3)

Applications and recommendations for scholarships and acceptance to the Writers' Conference were submitted to a reading committee, or the advisory board. The reading committee was comprised of professors, teachers, writing conference administration, and authors teaching at the Writing Conference. In addition to the reading committee, there was a Writers' Conference Committee, which in addition to other business roles, planned and recruited for the conference, approved the budget, and scheduled the conference. (4) The various committees also consisted of administrative staff. Over the years, the Writers' Conference included eleven directors: W.M. Campbell (1930-1935), Edward Davison (1936-1942), Richard Aldington (1942), Harry Shaw (1947-1948), William E. Wilson (1949-1950), Edward H. Schmidt (1951), Don Saunders (1952-1957), Margaret Robb (1958-1966), John Wrenn (1967-1971), Paul Levitt (1968-1974), and Louis B. Hall (1974). (5)

The conference provided a series of workshops and lectures open to conferees and staff. The workshops were headed by authors, writers, and other professionals, such as publishers, to teach, evaluate, and aid aspiring writers. (6) Some notable workshop staff (leaders) included Robert Frost (1931), James A. Michener (1949), Phyllis Whitney (1952), Marguerite Henry (1962), Allen Ginsberg (1975), and (Leroi Jones) Imamu Amiri Baraka (1975). (7) The workshops covered a wide variety of subjects, such as novel, poetry, drama, television, and film. In the 1950s, the lectures began to be offered to the public free of charge. Previous to this, the lectures were attended by conferees and people who paid. The lectures were headed by workshop staff and visiting authors hired for single lectures. (8) The Writers' Conference workshops and classes allowed students to earn college credit for transfer to their respective institutions.

This conference was to become the second oldest writers' conference in the United States at the end of its existence. (9) With exception to the years 1943-1946, due to World War II, and 1972-1973, because of financial difficulties, the Writers' Conference maintained its original goals of providing an annual conference to provide a picturesque vacation to well known writers and to educate aspiring amateur writers. In 1977, the conference had its final year because it could no longer be maintained from a financial perspective.

(1) The Writers' Conference Bulletin July 28 to August 15, 1930, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Box 22 Fd. 10, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(2) Historical Information, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Box 1 Fd. 1, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(3) Ibid.

(4) Ibid.

(5) CU Writers' Conference Administration List compiled by Sarah Johnson, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Guide and Information File, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(6) Historical Information, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Box 1 Fd. 1, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(7) CU Writers' Conference Teaching Staff (Writers and Authors) List compiled by Sarah Johnson, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Guide and Information File, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(8) Historical Information, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Box 1 Fd. 1, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.

(9) The Writer’s Conference Bulletin June 17-28, 1974, University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection, Box 23 Fd. 2, Archives, University of Colorado at Boulder Libraries.


16.25 linear feet

Language of Materials



The University of Colorado Writers' Conference Collection contains the papers of the Writers' Conference from 1930 to 1977. The Writers' Conference was moved to the University of Colorado in 1930. The Writers' Conference was held at CU consecutively between 1930 and 1977, with exception to 1943 to 1946 due to WWII, and 1972 to 1973, due to financial difficulties. The final conference was held in 1977, after which it ended due to lack of funding. The collection includes administrative records, correspondence, financial records, workshop and committee materials, lists of registrants, scholarships, rosters and scrapbooks. .

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of John Wrenn, University of Colorado, March 8, 1972

University of Colorado Writers' Conference collection
Guide Edited by Megan Applegate, Student Assistant, February 19, 2002 Collection Organized by Megan Lillie, Student Assistant, April 2004 Collection Reorganized & Guide Written by Sarah Johnson, Student Assistant, July 2005
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note
Finding aid is in English

Repository Details

Part of the University of Colorado Boulder Libraries, Rare and Distinctive Collections Repository

1720 Pleasant Street
184 UCB
Boulder Colorado 80503 United States