Posts Tagged ‘2013: Writers on Writers’


How Writers Become Ourselves

01/11/2013  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

“I have rights as a writer, but no responsibility. My sole responsibility is to a single reader in a single room reading a book. My only duty is to my next sentence.” —Colm Tóibín

“If Walt Whitman were alive today, we’d give him a couple of literary awards, probably the big ones. And then we’d ignore him completely… Literature lives on the margins and speaks back to the center from some distance.” —Mark Doty

“Of the many kinds of novels I don’t read, the ‘state of the nation’ novel is at the top of the list.” —Geoff Dyer

“Barack Hussein Obama is the greatest living travel writer.” —Pico Iyer

Day Two / Mark Doty: “What is the Grass?”

01/11/2013  by Kate Peters  1 Comment

This morning Mark Doty bodied forth that “poet of the body” and “poet of the soul” Walt Whitman. He described the first handwritten manuscript of Leaves of Grass tucked casually beneath Whitman’s arm, tucked there—so near the armpit (and its “aroma finer than prayer”)—a manuscript “irradiated by visionary fire.” 

Doty suggested that many of his own poems have emerged from Whitman’s work “like bromeliads blooming out of the sides of trees.” This simile alone would have been a significant contribution to the subject we have convened to explore. The epiphytic plants, close at hand in the tropic clime of Key West, are non-parasitic and remarkable for the strong and multitudinous threads that bind them to the physical presence of the other.  While they need their purchase upon the other, they draw sustenance from their own distinct environments, the air and rain and dirt within their own auras. 

Rose Keynote Explores Writers, Bike-Riders

01/11/2013  by Arlo Haskell  1 Comment

Phyllis Rose delivers the John Hersey Memorial Address before a set inspired by the famous Paris bookstore Shakespeare & Co.

Phyllis Rose opened the 31st Key West Literary Seminar last night with a sparkling keynote address that explored the public/private duality of a writer’s life. At the core of Rose’s talk was John Hersey himself, the legendary journalist and longtime Key West resident for whom the keynote is named.

Rose’s talk centered on an image of Hersey riding his bike through the narrow streets of Key West. Was this white-haired bicycle rider the same man whose reportage of the atomic attack at Hiroshima brought Japan’s devastation to American readers with uncompromising moral authority and great insight? Was the man whose love for his classic white Mercedes bordered on the spiritual the same as the great writer? Was the writer the man? Was the poet James Merrill, whose workouts at a Key West gym were punctuated by the recitation “sets and reps, lats and pecs,” the same as the author of “Victor Dog?” Is there a contradiction between the two?

Final Touches for W.o.W. Stage Set

01/10/2013  by Ian Rowan  Comment on this Post

David Momeyer putting the finishing touches on the KWLS Writers on Writers Podium.

The stage is ready for the 31st Annual Key West Literary Seminar – Writers on Writers.

How to Eat Lunch & Not Miss Anything

01/10/2013  by Margit Bisztray  4 Comments

When the annual Key West Literary Seminar breaks for a lunch, a civilized but nonetheless urgent stampede ensues. Four hundred ravenous people spill from the San Carlos at once, and it’s a game of sheer survival to nab a table without wasting precious time. Here are a few winning alternatives.

Just around the corner, The Café (509 Southard St., 305-296-5515) sports a modest exterior, but serves excellent, filling, mostly-vegetarian food prepared completely from scratch. A Middle Eastern platter special (falafel, tabouli, sweet potato fries), or a stirfry will satisfy, as well as a craft beer or fun wine.

Across the street, Kojin Noodle Bar offers Asian bowls (pho, ramen) and daily specials like a divine coconut shrimp. Though small, Kojin serves quickly so a crowd isn’t a problem. The Vietnamese coffee will blast you through the afternoon.

Experienced, healthy walkers (that’s you, New Yorkers) should tap resources six to eight blocks away, including Azur (Fleming @ Grinnell St., 305-292-2987) for charred octopus with lemon zest, a crab BLT, or a fennel-roasted pork sandwich with salsa verde. Feel no shame in ordering a Spanish or Italian white. The merrier vibe to the afternoon sessions depends on it.

Head south on Duval (right as you exit the San Carlos) and three blocks past Truman on the left, find Banana Café (1215 Duval, 305-294-7227) our hometown French bistro. Dine old-world-style on crepes, omelets, or salade Niçoise with a pure Key West view of Duval Street.

Prefer to rest your feet up? Order delivery to your hotel, or call an hour ahead and have lunch delivered to the San Carlos. Smart choices include Bad Boy Burrito (305-292-2697), Help Yourself (305-296-7766) for raw, vegan, and healthy fare, or Cuban Coffee Queen (305-294-7787) for local specialties like roasted Mojo pork on Cuban bread, a tuna burger, or a coconut-water-based smoothie. (or, of course, a husky con leche coffee.

Inventing Biographies in 140 Characters

01/09/2013  by Shayne Benowitz  Comment on this Post

Photographer Curt Richter

As we usher in the 31st annual Key West Literary Seminar with “Writers On Writers” this Thursday evening, we look forward to engaging readers and writers in attendance here in Key West, and also around the world through our multi-media coverage online. We’ll explore the life and works of beloved literary icons as told by some of the most provocative contemporary writers and scholars today.

If you can’t join us physically in Key West during the seminar’s two consecutive weekends, January 10-13 and January 17-20, 2013, we invite you to join us virtually as we live-tweet panel discussions and readings on Twitter and share highlights on Facebook. Make sure you follow along and join the conversation on Twitter at @KeyWestLiterary and #KWLS and on Facebook at

While we immerse ourselves in the works of writers like  James AtlasBlake BaileyBilly CollinsMark DotyGeoff DyerBrad GoochLyndall GordonPaul HendricksonPico IyerD.T. MaxKate MosesAnn NapolitanoJay PariniRobert D. RichardsonPhyllis RoseJulie SalamonAlexandra StyronJudith ThurmanColm TóibínEdmund White, and Brenda Wineapple, we also hope to engage you in a creative project (or two) on Twitter.

International portrait photographer Curt Richter will be joining us once again this year, and we’ve scoured his portfolio for inspiration. They say a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, we hope it will inspire a 140-character invented biography from you, our readers.

Here’s how these imagined micro-biographies will work:

Throughout the seminar, we’ll tweet out one of Richter’s photographs and ask you to tweet back a self-contained, tweet-length biography inspired by the portrait using the hashtag #WoWbio. We’ll retweet your submissions and compile our favorites here on Littoral along with the touchstone photograph. The first portrait will be tweeted at 10am on Friday January 11, and we’ll take it from there as the seminar progresses. Stay tuned for updates and more interactive social media projects.

“Writers on Writers” Almost Here

01/09/2013  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

The opening session of the 31st annual Key West Literary Seminar begins on Thursday night at 7:45 pm at the San Carlos Institute, 516 Duval Street. Phyllis Rose will deliver the keynote address, entitled “Can Writers Ride Bikes: Writing Writers’ Lives.”

The first session concludes this Sunday with a program that is free and open to the public. Internationally acclaimed authors including Pico Iyer, Colm Tóibin, and former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins will explore the lives of literary greats including Emily Dickinson, Graham Greene, Gore Vidal, and Walt Whitman. Authors will be available for a book signing at the conclusion of the program. Seating is first-come, first-served. All locals and visitors are encouraged to attend.

The second session of “Writers on Writers” takes place next weekend, January 17-20. Register online or in person this weekend at the San Carlos. A final free program will take place on January 20.

The cover of this year’s program book features a detail from “The Intellectual,” a 1936 painting by Cuban artist Marcelo Pogolotti. The interior includes a 50-page spread featuring artwork by acclaimed portrait photographer Curt Richter and master woodcut artist and printmaker Barry Moser. The collaborative and multi-media exploration of writers’ lives also includes essays from Pico Iyer, Mark Doty, Alexandra Styron, Robert D. Richardson, and more.

Copies of the program book are available for free to the general public at the Key West Public Library, 700 Fleming St, or at the San Carlos Institute, 516 Duval St.

2013 Awards to Brennan, Harrigan, Phillips

11/27/2012  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

We are delighted to announce the winners of this year’s named awards:

Sharon Harrigan

Sharon Harrigan

Sharon Harrigan has a bachelor’s degree in English from Columbia University and a master’s in Creative Writing from Pacific University. She has been a fellow at the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and has published over thirty short stories, essays, and reviews in publications including Narrative, Mid-American Review, The Rumpus, Pleiades, Fiction Writers Review, Hip Mama, Pearl, Rain Taxi, Apercus Quarterly, Silk Road, and Prime Number. She is also a contributor and book reviewer for The Nervous Breakdown and a contributing editor at Silk Road. She usually lives in Charlottesville, Virginia, but is spending this year in Paris.

Selected by Billy Collins
Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan

Scott Brennan is a poet and visual artist who lives in Miami, Florida, where he teaches high school English and manages the community garden at Miami Country Day School.  He earned a bachelor’s degree in English from Truman State University and a master’s in Creative Writing from the University of Florida.  His poetry has appeared in Gettysburg Review, Sewanee Review, Harvard Review, The Literary Review, Notre Dame Review, The Carolina Quarterly, The Christian Science Monitor, Chicago Review, The Journal, Third Coast, Cimarron Review, and elsewhere.

Brooks Whitney Phillips

Brooks Whitney Phillips

Brooks Whitney Phillips is a Key West resident. Prior to moving to the island, she lived in Chicago where she wrote a syndicated column for the Chicago Tribune along with feature stories on music and the arts. She has published eight children’s books, six for the popular American Girl collection and two with Scholastic. Brooks has received fellowships from Vermont Studio Center and the David and Julia White Artist’s Colony in Costa Rica. She is presently a resident artist at the Studios of Key West and has just completed her first novel.

Brennan, Harrigan, and Phillips will join us for the second session of “Writers on Writers,” our 31st annual seminar, and read from their work on Sunday January 20 at 11:30 a.m.


Each year, the Key West Literary Seminar grants three awards to emerging writers of exceptional merit living in the United States. Each provides full tuition to our January Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program, round-trip airfare, seven nights’ lodging, support for living expenses while in Key West, and the opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar.

We are grateful to Joyce Johnson, Peyton Evans and The Rodel Charitable Foundation-Florida, and The Dogwood Foundation for providing the endowments which will support our scholarship program for years to come.

“Writers on Writers” Schedule of Events

11/10/2012  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post


The complete program is now available for our 31st annual seminar, “Writers on Writers,” which features two independent sessions taking place on consecutive weekends.

Session One kicks off on January 10, 2013, as American biographer and critic Phyllis Rose delivers the annual John Hersey Memorial Address, entitled “Can Writers Ride Bikes? Writing Writers’ Lives.” Session Two begins January 17 with Irish novelist Colm Tóibín, whose keynote, “On Grief and Reason,” will explore the life and work of poets Elizabeth Bishop and Thom Gunn.

The exciting program recalls some of the year’s most talked-about biographies, including D.T. Max’s bestselling life of David Foster Wallace, Every Love Story is a Ghost Story; Julie Salamon’s acclaimed Wendy and the Lost Boys: The Uncommon Life of Wendy Wasserstein; and Paul Hendrickson’s Hemingway’s Boat. Memoir will be another focus of “Writers on Writers” as Alexandra Styron discusses Reading My Father, her tale of the troubled life and celebrated work of her father William Styron. And finally there are works of a stranger sort—Pico Iyer’s Graham Greene-inspired The Man Inside My Head and Geoff Dyer’s D.H. Lawrence-obsessed Out of Sheer Rage among them—books which defy classification and address the core of creative consciousness.

Other highlights of “Writers on Writers” include poetry readings by former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins; and a discussion of the life and legacy of Gore Vidal, led by his biographer and longtime friend Jay Parini.

In conjunction with the seminar, Lucky Street Gallery and Gallery on Greene will explore the visual dimension of “Writers on Writers,” with shows featuring work by internationally acclaimed portrait photographer Curt Richter, renowned book illustrator and printmaker Barry Moser, and a selection of paintings by “Key West Writer Artists” including Tennessee Williams and Annie Dillard. Rounding out the program are a short film; book signings by more than 30 authors; and receptions at a number of historic locations.

Two afternoon sessions—Sunday January 13 and Sunday January 20—will be open to the general public at no charge. All other sessions require advance registration.

Click here to register for Session Two—January 17-20, 2013. (Hurry! Session One is already sold out.)

D.T. Max Joins “Writers on Writers”
David Foster Wallace Biographer @ Session 2

10/09/2012  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

D.T. Max, David Foster Wallace

D.T. Max has joined the roster of speakers for “Writers on Writers”— the 31st annual Key West Literary Seminar. Max will appear at the second session, January 17-20, 2013, where he will discuss the life of David Foster Wallace.

Max’s latest book is Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace. Written with access to hundreds of unpublished letters, manuscripts, and audio tapes, Every Love Story Is A Ghost Story presents a fresh, intimate, and heartbreaking study of the brilliant novelist whose suicide in 2008 shocked the literary community. Max’s book has been a national bestseller and is one of the most widely admired biographies of the year.

In Key West, Max joins a list of acclaimed writers that includes Blake Bailey (Cheever: A Life), Geoff Dyer (Out of Sheer Rage), Colm Tóibín (The Master), and Robert D. Richardson (Emerson: The Mind on Fire), among many others. Max’s participation ensures that one of the most vibrant and tragic literary figures of recent times will figure significantly in the discussion of the lives and works of some of the great writers of all time.

Seats are still available for the second session. Advance registration is required to attend.

—Register for “Writers on Writers”—

Colm Tóibín is Keynote Speaker for Session 2

09/03/2012  by Arlo Haskell  Comment on this Post

Colm Tóibín. Photo by Bruce Weber.

We are delighted to announce Colm Tóibín as keynote speaker for the second session of this year’s Key West Literary Seminar. The opening-night lecture will take place at the San Carlos Institute on Thursday, January 17, 2013. Tóibín’s performance will be the marquee event of “Writers on Writers” and commence a four-day exploration into the literary imagination by some of the keenest and most perceptive writers working today.

Tóibín is an acclaimed novelist, essayist, short story writer, and playwright. His works include The Master, a novel based on the life of Henry James; All a Novelist Needs, a collection of essays about James; and the 2012 collection New Ways to Kill Your Mother, which illuminates the intimate connections between writers and their families through the works of such authors as Tennessee Williams, William Butler Yeats, and Roddy Doyle. The Master won the IMPAC Dublin Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre, and the Los Angeles Times Novel of the Year, and was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize.

Born in Enniscorthy, Ireland, and educated at University College in Dublin, Tóibín is a former editor of Magill, Ireland’s current affairs magazine, and a regular contributor to the Dublin Review, as well as the New York Review of Books and the London Review of Books. His literary criticism covers an extraordinary range of writers, including Samuel Becket, Hart Crane, Alan Hollinghurst, and Edmund White. His other novels include The Blackwater Lightship, made into a film starring Angela Lansbury; and Brooklyn, winner of the Costa Novel of the Year.

Register for “Writers on Writers”

the 31st annual Key West Literary Seminar
January 17-20, 2013
Paul Alexander, Blake Bailey, Billy Collins, Geoff Dyer, Jennie Fields, Brad Gooch, Lyndall Gordon, Claire Harman, Joyce Johnson, Christopher Lydon, Paul Mariani, Kate Moses, Ann Napolitano, Robert D. Richardson, Alexandra Styron, Colm Tóibín, Edmund White, and Brenda Wineapple.

Awards for Emerging Writers: Deadline 9/30

09/01/2012  by Arlo Haskell  2 Comments

Ernest Hemingway, emerging writer, 1899.

The Key West Literary Seminar presents three named awards each year to emerging writers of exceptional merit. Winners of the Joyce Horton Johnson Fiction Award, the Scotti Merrill Memorial Award, and the Marianne Russo Award receive full tuition to our January seminar and workshop program, round-trip airfare, seven nights’ lodging, support for living expenses while in Key West, and the opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar. The application deadline is September 30, 2012.

Past winners of the awards include Nami Mun, whose 2008 novel Miles From Nowhere went on to win the Whiting Award and a Pushcart Prize; Patricia Engel, whose 2010 debut story collection Vida has earned widespread critical acclaim; and Kristen-Paige Madonia, author of the brand-new novel Fingerprints of You, which Judy Blume calls “luminous … original … compelling.”

Information about the awards program is here. Complete guidelines are here (at bottom of page). Our online application form is here.

Winners of the Johnson, Merrill, and Russo awards will be announced by November 15, and are expected to be in Key West January 13-20, 2013, in order to attend the second session of “Writers on Writers” and a workshop. Questions about the application process should be addressed to Miles Frieden:

Also: we are continuing to grant limited financial support to teachers, librarians, writers, and students. Funds are being awarded on a rolling basis; applicants are urged to apply as soon as possible.

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