life of letters

Key West’s life of letters is preserved in manuscripts, letters, journals, photographs, maps, and other documents, from collections in Key West and around the world. It comes alive in these posts through interviews, essays, image collections, and commentary featuring writers who work under the influence of the island city and its literary heritage.

Early Key West Account Found in Charleston

One of the earliest known travelogues of the Florida Keys and Key West has been uncovered in South Carolina at the College of Charleston. It establishes, among other things, that Key West’s reputation for drunkenness and questionable behavior has done nothing to dissuade talented writers from visiting the place for 165 years.

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Revolutionary Letters on Love Lane

Key West’s Love Lane begins in the shadow of the public library on Fleming Street and runs south for a single block

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Concord Is Where You Are Right Now
a conversation with Robert D. Richardson

“the past can be understood only if we imagine each moment of it as present, with ourselves as the actors in it.”

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David A. Kaufelt, 1939-2014

David A. Kaufelt, a novelist who founded the Key West Literary Seminar and did more to establish the island city as a fixture in the national literary consciousness than anyone since Ernest Hemingway, died this weekend at his Flagler Street home. He was 74. He arrived in Key West from …Read More


When Faced with Impossible Options:
a conversation with Lyndsay Faye

Lyndsay Faye is the author of three inventive, intriguing, and carefully researched novels that interweave fiction, the historical record, and popular culture. Her debut novel Dust and Shadow: an Account of the Ripper Killings by Dr. John H Watson is a tribute to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s archetypal detective hero, …Read More


Major Archive Donated to Key West Library

The Monroe County Public Library in Key West is the new owner of a major historical collection following a ceremony this morning in the Florida Keys History Room. Local dignitaries including City of Key West Mayor Craig Cates and Monroe County Mayor Pro-Tem Heather Carruthers attended along with representatives of …Read More


Print under the Palms: of days & presses gone

Players are going to play, and writers are going to write, but once upon a time writers depended upon an arsenal of heavy machinery and skilled technicians to bring their words to readers’ eyes. Herewith, a tribute to the backstage heroes that brought prose to the island city back when …Read More


Archive adds rare Tennessee Williams Audio

A rare audio recording of the great playwright Tennessee Williams is the latest addition to the KWLS Audio Archives. After decades in the vault of the Key West branch of the Monroe County Public Library, the original reel-to-reel recording was recently discovered by library staff and digitized with funding support …Read More


Of the Days and “Days” of Hemingway

We’d like to welcome the stocky white-bearded men resembling Ernest Hemingway who are beginning to pour into town for the annual celebration that is Hemingway Days. May your drinking be done not only in emulation of the great writer’s worst habit, but in empathy with his suffering spirit. Surely his …Read More