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Cape Cod Writers Center Conference Celebrates its 60th Anniversary

August 3-6, the Cape Cod Writers Center will welcome published and aspiring authors of all genders, faiths, cultures, and ages to attend the 60th-anniversary conference at The Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis.

Cape Cod Writers conference welcome photo
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On a cold winter day in the early 1960s, a writers group called the Twelve O’ Clock Scholars dreamed about founding a literary conference taught by the famous authors who visited Cape Cod in the summer. In August 1963, that dream became a reality. Sixty years later, the Cape Cod Writers Center Conference has not only survived but thrived as one of the nation’s most beloved literary events. 

By the 21st century, the conference was attracting over 150 aspiring and seasoned authors eager to improve their literary, editorial, and promotional skills. In 2018 and 2019, this magazine consequently named Cape Cod Writers Center Conference the “best” in Massachusetts.

A Hit from the Start

The concept of a conference on scenic Cape Cod was a hit from the start. Author Marion Vuilleumier and fellow members of the Twelve O’ Clock Scholars held the 1963 conference at the Craigville Conference Center, a summer community of gingerbread cottages on a bluff near the beach. The first teacher was Kurt Vonnegut, by then already a prominent author who subsequently wrote the best-selling book, Slaughterhouse-Five.

Vuilleumier’s decision to host the conference in Craigville was fortuitous since her husband, Rev. Pierre DuPont Vuilleumier, was associated with the United Church of Christ, which owned the Craigville site.

Award-winning poet Enzo Silon Suron teaching a workshop at a previous Cape Cod Writers Center Conference.

Those who remember her still speak of her with awe. “She was marvelous, incredibly energetic, well-connected, and a force to be reckoned with,” recalled author Leslie Meier, a former conference participant. “If she was determined to get something accomplished, she soon had it done—either herself or by persuading others to do it.” A phone call to a prominent author like Mary Higgins Clark, for instance, soon resulted in her agreement to speak at one of the conferences.


Gradually, the conference grew as word spread about a seaside conference where prominent authors presented lessons in cottage classrooms around a village green. Out-of-town participants stayed overnight in the lodge but all members dined there, networked at outdoor picnic tables, met with instructors, and sometimes stole away for a few hours to the beach. In the evenings, students gathered at the non-denominational tabernacle to hear author readings or attend master classes.

“The earlier conferences were in a lovely setting near Nantucket Sound with a charming, old-fashioned feeling, kind of like a mini-Chautauqua,” recalled Meier. Traditionally, the conference began on Sunday evening when participants enjoyed cocktails on the village green before moving into the tabernacle for an overview of the week’s activities and an introduction to the faculty.

photo of Brian Jud teaching a workshop.
Book marketing expert Brian Jud.

A list of early presenters reads like a who’s who of literary giants. Among them were Jacques Barzun, Don Ellis, Edward Gorey, Justin Kaplan, Mary Higgins Clark, Marge Piercy, Geraldine Mills, and Dennis Lehane. More recent presenters include Lisa Genova, Andre Dubus III, Meg Wolitzer, Colum McCann, Malachy McCourt, William Martin, and B. A. Shapiro.


By 1977, the newly incorporated non-profit Cape Cod Writers Center Conference, Inc. was hosting monthly meetings for members, holding author readings for the public, and offering weekend workshops and a youth program. Once Vuilleumier even organized a weekend of writing classes on a cruise ship.

Cape Cod Writers & Turning Points in Careers

Recently, former students who have since become established authors described their attendance at the conference as turning points in their careers. “The magic of being surrounded by published writers was a reward I gave myself for the chaotic work week I had outside my writing,” said author Jacqueline Loring, who remembered the conference from the 1980s and subsequently became its first director.

One August morning in the mid-1990s, Vuilleumier unwound the rope in the tabernacle and pulled it twice to announce the start of conference classes. As chimes rang out across the village green calling students to classes, Loring, who had assisted at the conference, watched. “I was mesmerized. As Vuilleumier rewound the rope, she asked if I would like to repeat what she just did. What could I do but nod? In response, she said, ‘Then you will have to become the director of the Cape Cod Writers Center.’”


Sally Gunning, who subsequently published mysteries and historical novels, praised the Craigville campus for its serene but serious atmosphere. Since Gunning was then working full time, she enrolled for a sole consultation with an editor. Through that connection, she found an agent and published her first book. 

Businessman Kevin Symmons, who later became a successful author, described his excitement when attending his first conference. “My head was spinning. It seemed unreal for there I was meeting people who wrote for a living and were famous. Best of all, I met others

like me who had earlier careers but now wanted to write. By attending those conferences, I learned that the desire to write and to become published wasn’t enough. You had to work hard at writing, keep at it, and hone your craft.” 


By 1978, Vuilleumier had established “Books and the World,” the nation’s first cable television show featuring author interviews. Now in its 45th year, the program presents four authors each month who appear on regional cable television stations, the Writers Center’s website, and its YouTube channel. Gradually, the original Twelve O’ Clock Scholars monthly meetings became known as the Writers Night Out craft sessions. Two other innovations still hosted by the Writers Center are the Pathways to Publication seminars offered in the spring and the Young Writers Programs for teenagers.

The Move to Hyannis

Inevitably, the rapid pace of technological innovations mandated changes. By 2013, the board of directors reluctantly voted to move from the Craigville site to the air-conditioned Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis with its easier access to lodging, parking, and the internet. The printed member newsletter has been replaced with a website and emails. Writers Night Out is now offered on Zoom, in person in libraries, and as hybrid monthly meetings. Since colleges and schools now begin in late August, writers now attend a three-day weekend conference earlier in the month.

This summer, after a two-year in-person Covid-related hiatus during which the conference was presented online, the Cape Cod Writers Center will welcome published and aspiring authors of all genders, faiths, cultures, and ages to attend the 60th-anniversary conference at The Resort and Conference Center at Hyannis. There, members and non-members can select from a wide variety of courses and workshops in fiction, nonfiction, memoir, children’s writing, poetry, screenwriting, writing for young adults, manuscript mentoring, publicity, and promotion. Registration is now open at


Nancy Rubin Stuart is Executive Director of the Cape Cod Writers Center and an award-winning author of eight books.