Coverage of the 2008 Seminar: "New Voices: Where Have We Been? Where Are We Going?"

John Hersey Memorial Address: Mark Doty (First Session) & Lee Smith (Second Session)
Presenters: Gigi Amateau, Ann Beattie, Judy Blume, Tina Chang, Billy Collins, Trevor Corson, Junot Díaz, Annie Dillard, Mark Doty, Nell Freudenberger, James Gleick, Terrance Hayes, Mary Hays, Silas House, Uzodinma Iweala, Tayari Jones, Janna Levin, Carolyn Mackler, Vestal McIntyre, Daniel Menaker, Bich Minh Nguyen, Manuel Muñoz, Maggie Nelson, Meghan O’Rourke, Hannah Pittard, Connie Regan-Blake, Robert D. Richardson, Patrick Ryan, Timothy Seldes, Brenda Shaughnessy, Porter Shreve, Susan Shreve, Jake Silverstein, Lee Smith, Robert Stone, Edmund White, Dara Wier, Hilma Wolitzer, and Kevin Young. Writers’ Workshop Faculty: Billy Collins, Trevor Corson, Bich Minh Nguyen, Connie Regan-Blake,Timothy Seldes, Porter Shreve, Susan Shreve, Lee Smith, Robert Stone, Dara Wier, and Hilma Wolitzer.

"The Voice of the Poet: Becoming an Individual on the Page" with poets Mark Doty, Brenda Shaughnessy, Tina Chang and Terrance Hayes. Photo by Bonni Kogos.

Poet Tina Chang. Photo by Bonni Kogos.

The "Coming to America" panel with Bich Minh Nguyen and Judy Blume. Photo by Bonni Kogos.

Novelists Judy Blume and Bich Minh Nguyen. Photo by Bonni Kogos.

Authors Mary Hays and Judy Blume during their panel, "Tapping the Funny Bone". Photo by Bonni Kogos.

Poet Mark Doty and author Paul Lisicky. Photo by Bonni Kogos.

KWLS Executive Director Miles Frieden. Photo by Bonni Kogos.

A panel with novelist Uzodinma Iweala. Photo by Curt Richter.

The line of attendees waiting to have their books signed at the 26th Annual KWLS.

Pulitzer Prize winning author Annie Dillard during her book signing.

Author Junot Díaz signs a book for a seminar attendee.

Novelists James Gleick and Janna Levin during their panel, "Lying Toward Truth".

A reception for the 26th Annual KWLS. Photo by Curt Richter.

A reception for the 26th Annual KWLS. Photo by Curt Richter.

Author Tayari Jones during a reception. Photo by Curt Richter.

Novelist Ann Beattie with former Poet Laureate Billy Collins during a reception. Photo by Curt Richter.

Ann Beattie with Billy Collins. Photo by Curt Richter.


A question of influences

At almost every literary event I’ve attended, writers are asked about their influences. This might get tiresome to them but it sometimes yields interesting results. At a panel (Friday? I think it was Friday), Billy Collins led a conversation with Kevin Young and Meghan O’Rourke. This was the occasion of …Read More

A little baseball trash talk

Gigi Amateau, a Virginian, loves the Red Sox. This, for some of us, requires no explanation but people ask for one anyway. Gigi wears a Red Sox hat at readings and encourages attendees to offer the tribal call of Red Sox Nation (“Yankees Suck!”). She loves the Sox, she says, …Read More

Random, not particularly germane quotes from KWLS08.2

“I have seen the greatest minds of my generation destroyed by small talk.” Annie Dillard, on why she was introducing Jake Silverstein, then getting the hell off the stage. “You don’t judge a painting by how precisely it portrays the object it depicts.” James Gleick in discussion with Janna Levin …Read More

Blogging about blogging

At an interesting panel of new voices (titled “Where Are We Going?”) today, Lee Smith asked the panelists (Jake Silverstein, Janna Levin, Gigi Amateau and Silas House) a question: What about blogs? Her opinion is that “blogging is to writing like karaoke is to singing.”The panelists offered a range of …Read More

New Faces

In previous years’ Seminars, attendees tended to skew older, with a pretty meager smattering of under-30s. With New Voices as a theme this year and a healthy scholarship program there’s a big influx of younger attendees and tons of fresh energy, both onstage and in the audience. 26 year old …Read More

More Photos on Flickr

We’ve added lots more photos from the Seminar to our Flickr page and there are more on the way.

Kevin Young’s iPhone Reading

At today’s first panel discussion, entitled “Voice in Poetry,” Billy Collins started by asking panelists Meghan O’Rourke and Kevin Young to read a poem. In the spirit of newness, Kevin announced, he would read a poem about the birth of his son. He then produced his iPhone and read the …Read More

Introducing …

One of the cool things about the Seminar, as someone usually explains early on, is that we don’t do introductions. Everyone’s listed in the program and it saves a lot of time. Still, introductory remarks, even by the speakers themselves, often provide great moments. Yesterday there were two: Nell Freudenberger …Read More

A new beginning

Novelist Lee Smith delivered the John Hersey Memorial keynote address to start off the second session of the Seminar Thursday night and it was, in turn, funny and heartrending. Smith described her own journey to becoming a writer: “I think mostly we write because we’re good at it and we’re …Read More

Tangential Required Reading: Meghan O’Rourke on John Ashbery

One of the ancillary pleasures of the Literary Seminar is learning which writers “our” writers are reading. Whether inspired by the topic or our locale, or whether it is simply coincidental, trends inevitably emerge to offer a sort of tangential required reading list. Most pleasing to my mind, last week, …Read More

“Are we not of interest to each other?”

In his John Hersey Memorial Address, Mark Doty referenced an Elizabeth Alexander poem. Here’s a link to the entire poem, “Ars Poetica #100: I Believe.” We also now have a podcast of Doty’s address. 

Elephants, Apes, Chickens

Last Saturday, Sara Gruen (above) read from her novel Water for Elephants and then wrapped up her reading by briefly discussing her upcoming novel, Ape House, which deals with a family of language-capable bonobo apes. Such primates do exist, Sara told us, and they communicate by way of a specialized …Read More

We’ve Been Blogged

Chauncey Mabe of the Sun-Sentinel has been covering the Seminar on the paper’s blog.

Photographer Curt Richter Shooting Authors

The Studios of Key West, a sort of sister organization to the Literary Seminar, is hosting photographer Curt Richter as their artist in residence. He’ll be photographing some of the Lit Sem’s speakers for a show next year–here you see him (right) with Mark Hedden, husband of board member Nancy …Read More


Every year at the seminar, I see a few souls knitting. And I envy them. Though I am a knitter, I am still shy about knitting in public (known on knitting blogs — and yes there are more than a few knitting blogs — as KIP; if you don’t believe …Read More

Saturday day live

Some not-quite-random quotes from Saturday sessions:Vestal McIntyre, in a conversation with Edmund White and Patrick Ryan on gay voice in literature: “Most of us share the experience of growing up, guarding this secret, and you start wondering about everyone else’s secrets.”McIntyre also said in his family of seven children, four …Read More

Another perspective on ‘voice’

When Robert Richardson introduced Maggie Nelson on Saturday afternoon, he mentioned Louis Menand. This reminded me of something Menand wrote about voice in his introduction to the 2004 edition of The Best American Essays. Here’s an excerpt:      “The real basis for the metaphor of voice in writing is not …Read More

KWLS on Flickr

We’ll be posting plenty of photos from the Seminar here on the blog, but if you want even more, check out our Flickr page.

“Not so fast”

On Friday afternoon Susan Shreve’s reading of a passage from her memoir was punctuated, with an almost eerie accuracy, by a brief power outage.

What’s new?

Judy Blume, beloved writer and KWLS board member, took the stage Friday afternoon for a conversation with Mary Hays. It turns out these two are old friends — Mary worked for Judy as an assistant back in 1978 — and Mary published a few stories in magazines back then. But …Read More

New Voices Photos: Day One

Uzodinma Iweala signs books. Lots of books… Jason readies the crowd for Patrick Ryan. Edmund White Mark Doty and others, front and center for Edmund White.

Uzodinma Iweala opens day one

So far, so good, on this first day of New Voices. Uzodinma Iweala slept in, as one ought upon arriving from New York to the subtropics, and, when I tracked him down buying a toothbrush in Fausto’s, wasn’t even aware that he was running late. Uzo (pronounced Ooz-ah), it’s clear, …Read More

Off and talking …

Poet Mark Doty opened the 26th edition of the Seminar last night with the John Hersey Memorial Address, on why poetry matters, and will continue to matter. “Poetry goes on, no matter what, as long as people are breathing and speaking,” he said. He told us that poetry is the …Read More

  • pencil Listen