Crossing Borders, The Immigrant Voice in American Literature
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2004 Writers' Workshops

Workshop Leaders
Click on the name to read a description of the workshop.
Susan Shreve and Timothy Seldes
Judith Kazantzis
Bich Minh Nguyen
Porter Shreve
E.J. Miller Laino

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The Writer, the Editor, the Agent, and the Teacher
   with Tim Seldes and Susan Shreve

Susan Shreve
Susan Shreve

Timothy Seldes
Timothy Seldes
Susan Shreve and Tim Seldes have each given very successful workshops at the Seminar. This year they have agreed to teach a workshop together. Tim was Susan's agent; Tim is now Susan's husband. They know the business inside out. And even more amazing, they like working together.

We will focus on workshop submissions and discuss with writers the various ways of looking at manuscripts from the point of view of a teacher, an agent, and an editor. In the process we will also explore the ways in which writers, editors and agents interact and provide practical suggestions for manuscript improvement and placement. We do not anticipate doing in class exercises. This workshop is intended for advanced writers only, though previous publication is not a prerequisite. Applicants MUST submit 10 pages of a work in progress.

Timothy Seldes has spent most of his professional life in book publishing; beginning with 17 years at Doubleday where he was the Managing Editor of the Trade Department. He also worked at Harcourt Brace, the New American Library and Macmillan. Outside of book publishing, he was Assistant Publisher of The New York Post and the Public Information Officer of The Welfare Island Development Corp. He was Chairman of the Board of Poets & Writers for many years. Since 1972, he has been the President of Russell & Volkening, Inc., a literary agent which represents such authors as Annie Dillard, Marian Wright Edelman, Nadine Gordimer, Jim Lehrer, George Plimpton, Howell Raines, Dan Schorr, Ntozake Shange, Anne Tyler and Eudora Welty.

He is married to the author Susan R. Shreve (who was with the Seminar in 1999 for the American Novel, as a moderator and workshop leader) and divides his time between Washington, D.C. and New York City.

Susan Shreve was the founder of the Master of Fine Arts Program in Creative Writing at George Mason University and served as its director for three years. She has been a Professor of English Literature at George Mason for twenty-two years.She has been a Visiting Professor of Creative Writing at Princeton, Columbia, Bennington and George Washington University, as well as a Bread Loaf Writing Fellow and Staff. In addition to her works of fiction, Susan has written twenty-three books for children published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. and William Morrow, among others. From 1985-1995 she wrote and delivered short documentary essays for the MacNeil Lehrer News Hour. Her novel "Daughters of the New World" was seen as a four part mini-series produced by Warner Brothers in the Fall of 1998. "A Country of Strangers" has been optioned for film and "The Visiting Physician" is in development as a new series for NBC.

  • A Fortunate Madness, Houghton Mifflin, 1974
  • A Woman Like That, Atheneum, 1977
  • Children of Power, Macmillan, 1979
  • Miracle Play, William Morrow and Co., 1981
  • Dreaming of Heroes, William Morrow and Co., 1984
  • Queen of Hearts, Simon and Schuster, 1987
  • A Country of Strangers, Simon and Schuster, 1989
  • Daughters of the New World, Doubleday, 1992
  • The Train Home, Doubleday, 1993
  • Editor with Marita Golden of an anthology of essays and stories, Skin Deep: Women and Race, Doubleday, 1995
  • The Visiting Physician, Doubleday, 1996
  • Editor with Porter Shreve of an anthology of original essays on justice, Outside the Law: Narratives on Justice, Beacon Press, 1997
  • The first of a series of books, including How We Want to Live: Narratives on Progress, 1998.

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Passion and Craft
   with Judith Kazantzis
Judith Kazantzis
Judith Kazantzis

This is an advanced workshop; entry is limited and based on submissions. Please send no more than five poems to Key West Literary Seminar. We will then let you know if we can accommodate you as soon as possible. In the event you are not admitted to the workshop, your deposit will be returned.

Judith Kazantzis will lead a small group of experienced poets in a workshop giving close scrutiny to the poems of each. In a mutually supportive setting, the workshop will emphasize an exploration of the poem's intentions and the strengths each writer brings to their realization. Special attention will be given to stimulating the language of personal imagination at the emotional center of the poetry. This workshop is intended for advanced poets only. Work MUST be submitted in advance prior to admission.

Judith Kazantzis is a distinguished British poet who has published eight volumes of poetry, including her Selected Poems 1977-1992 (Sinclair-Stevenson/Chatto: Random House UK). Of her last collection, The Odysseus Poems: Fictions on the Odyssey of Homer, Marina Warner wrote: "[her] sequence of interwoven voices casts the many struggles with monsters, the seductions and loneliness of love, and the long wanderings of heroes into a vivid meditation for our time." Richard Wilbur wrote of her collection The Rabbit Magician Plate, "Although there are many things one might praise about Judith Kazantzis' poems, what strikes me everywhere is the unexpectedness of her word choices... re-encountered, her words surprise again through their unusual accuracy and their nice governance of tone - not derailing the reader (as tawdry surprises do) but putting him precisely on the track." And of her political sequence A Poem for Guatemala , Harold Pinter wrote: "A rare event. A major political poem. A Poem for Guatemala is beautifully wrought, concrete, passionate. It's a most impressive achievement." And Carol Ann Duffy added, "Someone should send this to Colonel North." Judith Kazantzis has led workshops at major British and American venues, including the Arvon Foundation and the Key West Literary Seminar. Forthcoming poetry: In Cyclop's Cave , a translation from Book 9 of Homer's Odyssey (Greville Press Pamphlets); and a just-completed collection, Sunshine. Her first novel, Of Love and Terror, will be published in the autumn of 2002 (Saqi Books, UK). Judith Kazantzis is also a painter and print maker, Her work has featured in Lucky Street Gallery shows, as well as in UK galleries.

Sunshine (just completed)
In Cyclops' Cave - translation from Homer (2002)
The Odysseus Poems: Fictions on the Odyssey of Homer (1999)
Swimming Through the Grand Hotel (1997)
Selected Poems 1977-1992 (1995)
The Rabbit Magician Plate (1992)
The Florida Swamps - pamphlet (1990)
A Poem for Guatemala - poem cycle pamphlet (1988)
Flame Tree (1988)
Let's Pretend (1984)
Touch Papers (With Michele Roberts and Michelene Wandor, 1982)
The Wicked Queen (1980)
Minefield (1977)

Selected Anthologies
Poems on the Underground
An Idea of Bosnia
The Faber Book of Blue Verse
The Virago Book of Love Poetry
The Key West Reader

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Outsider Fiction
   with Bich Minh Nguyen
Bich Minh Nguyen
Bich Minh Nguyen

At some point in our lives we have all felt like outsiders—among social groups, communities, families, friends. To be on the outside is to question identity and place. Who are we when we step outside our familiar boundaries? What can we discover about ourselves and our perceptions about the world when we are “outside”? Whether one’s “outsider” status is due to immigration, race, ethnicity, or other factors, a shift in perspective is required. We will take a look at some of these perspectives through samples of work by this year’s Key West panelists as well as Sherman Alexie, Alice Walker, Dorothy Allison, and Bernard Malamud. These writers explore, through various contexts and styles, the “outsider” experience and what it means to live in America and be an American. In workshops we will discuss craft, including elements of narrative and lyricism, as well as ideas, including how self-identity and self-discovery are shaped in “outsider” fiction.
Requirements: Participants are encouraged to submit no more than 10 pages.

Bich Minh Nguyen (first name pronounced like “Bit”) was born in Saigon. She left Vietnam with her family in 1975 and grew up in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She received an MFA from the University of Michigan, where she also taught, and currently teaches at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. With her husband (and fellow writers’ workshop leader) Porter Shreve she is coeditor of The Contemporary American Short Story: A Longman Anthology (2003) and the forthcoming I & Eye: Contemporary Creative Nonfiction (July 2004). Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Gourmet magazine; Dream Me Home Safely: Writers on Growing up in America; Tales Out of School: Contemporary Writers on Their Student Years; Scribner’s Best of the Fiction Workshops; and Watermark: Vietnamese American Poetry and Prose.

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Narrative Journeys: Writing the Road
   with Porter Shreve
Porter Shreve
Porter Shreve

In this workshop we will focus on narrative journeys of all sorts, keeping in mind that much of the world’s great literature — the Odyssey, the Canterbury Tales, the Divine Comedy, Don Quixote — has taken place on the road. Besides discussing the formal attributes of quests, road trips, pilgrimages, inward journeys, and stories of leaving or returning home, we will read examples of some of the most moving and significant literature of the past forty years. Much of this work has been written by immigrants from Eastern Europe, Latin America, Asia, the Caribbean, and elsewhere. As with any workshop we will focus on craft and narrative technique, including character, plot, style, structure, and point of view. But of equal importance will be the ideas central to each piece, some of which might include the emotional strains of exile, the shock of arrival, the boundary between cultures and values, and inevitably, transformations in thought, form and outlook.
Requirements: This workshop is open to writers of all levels of ability. Participants are encouraged to submit no more than 10 pages, ideally on a subject in some way related to narrative journeys.

Porter Shreve grew up in Washington, DC, worked for several years on the night city desk at the Washington Post, and graduated from the MFA program at the University of Michigan, where he studied the novel and short story with Nicholas Delbanco, Charles Baxter, and Lorrie Moore. He has taught at the University of Michigan, the University of Oregon in Eugene and is currently on the faculty of the MFA Program in Creative Writing at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro. Shreve's first novel, “The Obituary Writer,” was published by Houghton Mifflin in 2000 and named a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, among other honors. In June 2004, Houghton Mifflin will publish his new novel, “Who’s Going to Drive You Home.” For Beacon Press, Shreve has coedited the essay anthologies “Outside the Law: Narratives on Justice” (1997), “How We Want to Live: Narratives on Progress” (1998), and “Tales Out of School: Contemporary Writers on Their Student Years” (2000). With his wife (and fellow workshop leader) Bich Minh Nguyen he is coeditor of The Contemporary American Short Story: A Longman Anthology (2003) and the forthcoming Contemporary Creative Nonfiction: A Longman Anthology (July 2004). Shreve’s book reviews, nonfiction, and short stories have appeared in Witness, Northwest Review, Salon, the New York Times, the San Francisco Chronicle, the Boston Globe and the Chicago Tribune. He is currently working on a collection of linked short stories titled A Brief History of the Fool.

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New Poems Workshop
   with E.J. Miller Laino

E.J. Miller Laino
E.J. Miller Laino

If you’re tired of dragging the same poems from workshop to workshop, in the hope of revising and revising them again, why not try something new.

In this workshop, based to some degree on the Sharon Olds new poems model, we will all write brand new first drafts of poems. The class will work entirely by ear – no photo copies. These new poems will be presented to the group for feedback. The emphasis is on all of us, together, writing brand new drafts of poems. Poets comment on what is working in the poem. Remember the adage: “anyone can criticize; it takes an expert to praise.“ Poets find the energy in the poem and comment on what is successful in the first draft of a poem. This is good place for poets of all levels to explore and expand their poetic voices. Workshop participants will write three or four new poems during the time of the workshop. We will also incorporate some free writing activities. Participants will have a chance to discuss craft and whatever else is “in our mind and heart about poetry.” Poet William Stafford once commented that he would give up all of the poems he ever wrote for the next one. The creative spirit of this workshop exists in writing the next poem. Let’s write some new poems!

E.J. MILLER LAINO’s first book of poetry, Girl Hurt, won the 1996 American Book Award for “an exceptional contribution to American Literature.” “The poems show the speaker exploring anger, disappointment and loss on a difficult journey to maturity…yet there are no victims here; instead the determined voice of a teenager using sex as an escape route…the shorter, lyrical love poems with which the volume ends maintain all the vitality of their predecessors , proving that Laino is no one-theme, one-book poet. (Publishers Weekly) Liinda McCarriston called Girl Hurt, “a vibrant compelling book, less a “collection” than a spiritual memoir in which the stature of poetry restore to the word recovery its full complexity, depth and human resonance.” Martin Espada wrote, “Her poems are startling, from their frank treatment of sex, to the abundance of hard true metaphors.” Laino’s second collection, Turning, was published by in partnership with Barnes and and is the first ebook collection of poetry. Thomas Lux writes about Turning: “E.J. Miller Laino’s book Turning is a vivid and powerful book. The poems are direct enough that you will recognize the humans who live in them and courageous enough that you will want to take these humans, these poems, these poems so full of the human, into your lives.” E.J Miller Laino has published poems in a number of journals and magazines including The American Poetry Review, The Boston Phoenix, The Massachusetts Review, Exquisite Corpse and The Southern Review. Her poems won a Prairie Schooner Readers’ Choice Award. E.J. won a fellowship to The Vermont Studio Center, and was the keynote speaker at the center for Teaching and Learning in Chatham, Massachusetts. She has been a faculty member at the Frost Place in Franconia New Hampshire and has read her poetry across the United States and in England. Her new manuscript, Divine Discontent, is almost completed. E.J. Miller Laino lives and in Key West with her 2 daughters and teaches Creative Writing and Poetry workshops at Florida Keys Community College.

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