The Seminar and the Writers’ Workshop Program are two separate and distinct programs. The Seminar explores a different literary theme each January through a four-day program of readings, conversations, lectures, panel discussions, and interviews. Approximately twenty writers are featured at the Seminar, with around 400 people in the audience at any given session.
The Workshop Program is composed of 8-10 individual workshops. Each workshop is led by a different instructor, and each has its own focus and eligibility requirements. Class size is limited to twelve participants per workshop; with a total of 100-120 participants in the program.
We offer two types of workshops: “mixed levels” and “advanced.” Advanced workshops require a writing sample as part of the application; mixed levels workshops are open to writers of all levels, and require only a cover letter.
The Workshop Program begins the day after the Seminar ends. It is possible to attend either a workshop or the Seminar on its own; or to attend both the Seminar and a workshop.
The registration fee for the Seminar is $675 per person. The fee for writers’ workshops can vary, but is generally $600 per person.
A $300-per-person deposit is required to register for the Seminar and a $200 deposit is required for the workshops. The balance must be received by September 30. See the bottom of this page for our cancellation/refund policy.
The revenue we generate from registration fees covers approximately 50% of our total operating costs. We are grateful to the members of our Patrons Circle, whose funding support allows us to keep registration fees low and essentially subsidizes the experience for most audience members.
The Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program happen once a year in January.
The 2020 Seminar will take place January 9-12, 2020.
The 2020 Workshop Program will take place January 13-17, 2020.
Confirmed speakers for the upcoming Seminar are listed here. Click through for biographical information, a selected bibliography, and links to online resources.
Writers’ Workshop faculty and course offerings are posted here.
In recent years, the Seminar has sold out quickly during our general registration in February; however, there is still a chance to register by means of our waitlist. Our waiting list is on a lottery basis — if and when a space opens up, we pull a randomly-generated name from the list.
Each workshop is limited to twelve participants. We will continue to accept applications for full workshops; all new applications will be reviewed in the event of a cancellation. Over the course of the year, two or three cancellations per workshop are typical.
The Seminar begins with a keynote presentation on the Thursday evening, around 7:00 pm. If you have registered for the Seminar and paid in full, you may check in and pick up your registration packet during the afternoon that same day, shortly before the keynote, or anytime during the weekend.
Programming begins again on Friday morning around 9:30, and continues all day Friday and Saturday, and into the evening on Saturday. We officially conclude on Sunday, around 1:00 pm. Later that afternoon, we present another program, which is free and open to the general public. You are welcome to attend, but this portion is not included in your registration fee, and seating is first-come, first-served.
All presentations take place in a single location, the San Carlos Institute (516 Duval St.), and run consecutively so that it is possible to see everything. A detailed schedule will be released in November/December.
In addition to the onstage activities, your registration includes an invitation to join us for the opening night reception (catered, open bar) following Thursday night’s keynote; a sit-down dinner Saturday night; and a lunch on Sunday. There will also be a light, simple continental breakfast available in the San Carlos each morning. All of this is included in your fee. You may bring a guest to the evening receptions for an additional fee.
The workshop program officially begins on Monday evening with an orientation dinner. Workshop classes begin Tuesday morning and take place each day through the final class on Friday. Most workshops will be scheduled from 10:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m. Most workshops will require some advance reading and/or a manuscript submission.
For the daily workshop sessions, you will be in a classroom with your instructor and eleven fellow students. Afternoon and evening events offer an opportunity to connect with the larger group of workshop participants (100-120 people). These include: a Craft Talks program featuring lectures and presentations on craft by KWLS faculty members; opportunities to go sailing with fellow workshop participants; and a final reception. The sailing opportunity requires an additional fee; all other events mentioned here are included in your workshop fee.
I want to apply for a scholarship but I see the Seminar is sold out. Am I too late?
We reserve a number of spaces for scholarship recipients to participate in the Seminar and/or the Workshop Program. If you are awarded a scholarship, there will be a place for you.
Can I apply for multiple scholarships? What’s the difference?
Yes. Each of our scholarship opportunities has a different purpose, but you are welcome to apply for any and all opportunities that you qualify for. Our Teacher and Librarian Scholarships provide support for the Seminar only. Workshop Financial Assistance provides support for the Workshop Program only. The Emerging Writer Awards provide support for both the Seminar and the Workshop Program. Complete guidelines and application criteria can be found here.
I really want to take a workshop and I hope to qualify for financial assistance. How should I go about this?
Our typical workshop has twelve participants. Generally, ten participants will pay the full fee and two will receive financial assistance. Workshop applicants who are able to pay the full fee are reviewed on a rolling basis; those seeking financial assistance are reviewed together at a later date. Therefore, applying to a workshop through the financial assistance process is more competitive. If you can afford to attend without financial assistance, we recommend that you do not apply for assistance as this process may reduce your chances of being accepted into the workshop.
We urge you to make lodging reservations as soon as possible. Key West is among the most sought-after winter destinations in the country, and availability is limited. The lodging guide on our website offers a number of good recommendations. Many offer discounts to KWLS participants, and most are located in Old Town, Key West’s walkable/bikeable historic neighborhood. You can also call the good people at Vacation Key West (305-295-9500) for assistance with current rates and availabilities at a number of places.
The easiest route is to fly into Key West (airport code: EYW). Direct flights are available from some major cities, but most flights require a layover. It’s possible to save a bit of money by flying into Fort Lauderdale or Miami and taking the bus (greyhound.com) or airport shuttle to Key West (keysshuttle.com), but keep in mind that the drive will add as much as 4-5 hours to the trip. Key West itself is very small; if you stick to the options on our lodging guide, you’ll likely be able to walk from your hotel to Seminar and/or Workshop locations, and you can rent a bicycle to explore further. You really don’t need a car.
The Seminar and workshop registration fees include a $300 “deposit” component and the remainder, known as a “balance.” Deposits must be made at the time of registration. Deposits are fully refundable until June 30, or 60 days from date of registration, whichever is later, but never later than December 1. This is known as the refund deadline. After this date, deposits ($300/person) are strictly nonrefundable, but balance payments may still be refunded, subject to the following terms and exceptions:
Balance payments must be received in full by September 30, or 60 days from date of registration, but never later than December 1. This is known as the balance due deadline. Registrations that are not paid in full on this date may be cancelled at the discretion of KWLS.
Cancellations after the balance due deadline but before December 1 will incur a $50 cancellation fee (per person) in addition to the forfeited deposit.
No refunds will be granted for cancellations after December 1, except in cases of medical emergency or bereavement, at the discretion of KWLS. No refunds will be granted for any reason within two weeks of the start of the event for which you have registered. If you are not eligible for a refund, payments made will be recorded as a tax-deductible contribution to support our scholarship program. You’ll receive a letter to this effect for IRS purposes by the end of the year.
Registrations may not be transferred without express permission of KWLS and are generally non-transferable after September 30.
General exceptions to the above (September 2021):
If the seminar or workshop for which you have registered is cancelled, you will be entitled to a full refund of all registration fees. Refunds will also be provided to anyone who is unable to attend due to travel restrictions or restrictions on group assembly imposed by the U.S. federal government, the government of your home state, the state of Florida, Monroe County, the City of Key West, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, or the World Health Organization, insofar as these restrictions apply to travel to, and/or assembly in, Key West. You will be entitled to a full refund upon request if, within one week of the event start date, you have a fever, a cough, or think you may have a highly contagious disease such as Covid-19/Coronavirus, Flu, Strep Throat, or Norovirus. Anyone who is experiencing symptoms of Covid-19, who tests positive, or who had close contact with someone who has Covid-19 is eligible for a full refund at any time. Anyone exhibiting symptoms of contagious disease is strongly urged to stay home and request a refund. See also our Covid-19 practices, policies, and guidelines.
Pets are not permitted at events/ workshops due to facility limitations and allergy concerns.