Coverage of the 2013 Seminar: "Writers on Writers"

John Hersey Memorial Address: Phyllis Rose (First Session) & Colm Tóibín (Second Session)
Presenters: Paul Alexander, James Atlas, Blake Bailey, Rosalind Brackenbury, Billy Collins, Mark Doty, Geoff Dyer, Jennie Fields, Brad Gooch, Lyndall Gordon, Claire Harman, Paul Hendrickson, Pico Iyer, Joyce Johnson, Christopher Lydon, Paul Mariani, D.T. Max, Michael Mewshaw, Kate Moses, Ann Napolitano, Jay Parini, Robert D. Richardson, Phyllis Rose, Julie Salamon, Alexandra Styron, Judith Thurman, Colm Tóibín, Edmund White, and Brenda Wineapple. Writers’ Workshop Faculty: Paulette Bates Alden, Billy Collins, Jane Hirshfield, Daniel Menaker, Mary Morris, Jay Parini, Robert D. Richardson, Dara Wier, Brenda Wineapple, and Hilma Wolitzer.

Another Look at “Writers on Writers”

As we leave January for the month ahead, here’s a look at some of the highlights from Session Two of “Writers on Writers.” All photos by Nick Doll unless noted.


Behind the Scenes of “Writers on Writers”

A look backstage at some of the wonderful board members, staff, and volunteers who help make the Key West Literary Seminar happen. Photos by Nick Doll, unless noted. Thank you, all!


Writing About Those Closest To Us

“There is no greater mystery than the people we are closest to,” said Alexandra Styron, daughter of William Styron, Friday at the Key West Literary Seminar 2013’s panel “Writing About Those We Have Loved.” “What do we know about our parents or our own children even?” she asked of her …Read More


The Light and Dark of David Foster Wallace

D.T. Max, New Yorker staff writer and author of Every Love Story Is a Ghost Story: A Life of David Foster Wallace, peppered his talk about the communal grieving of the gifted and troubled writer with plenty of levity. An anecdote about DFW’s mother Sally elicited much laughter from the crowd. She …Read More


Kate Moses on Empathy and Responsibility

On Saturday morning, Kate Moses began her talk, titled I write as if an eye were upon me: On Empathy and Responsibility, by describing a dream in which she found herself consoling a distraught and weeping Sylvia Plath. The two sat together, surrounded, Moses said, by “all the books”—those written by …Read More


Brenda Wineapple: Why Biography Matters

Brenda Wineapple took the stage yesterday with a cup of Throat Coat tea and the beginning of what sounded like a nasty cold. She apologized to the audience and joked that they would not get to hear her normal voice, which is “quite beautiful.” Attendees of the Key West Literary …Read More


Tóibín Keynote Discusses Bishop & Gunn

In Colm Tóibín’s revelatory keynote address to launch Session Two of the thirty-first annual Key West Literary Seminar last night, he shared his experience of reading and identifying with the works of the English poet Thom Gunn and Elizabeth Bishop, who did much of her best work on this subtropical …Read More


Session Two Begins Tonight w/ Colm Tóibín

The final session of the 31st Key West Literary Seminar begins tonight with Colm Tóibín set to deliver the John Hersey Memorial Address. A handful of tickets are still available; register in person at the San Carlos Institute at 516 Duval St. The session concludes this Sunday with a program …Read More


#WoWbio Invented Biographies

During the first session of the 31st Annual Key West Literary Seminar, we had a little fun online with portrait photographer Curt Richter. Each morning, we tweeted out a new picture and asked you to write a 140-character invented biography inspired by the photograph. Here’s two entries we enjoyed. @NSUShark: …Read More


Tweet Us A Story with Geoff Dyer

Here’s Geoff Dyer’s first line based on this photo. Let’s fill in the rest starting at 5:00 p.m. EST! Imagine if you looked in the mirror and saw someone who bore no relation to the person who’d greeted you each time you’d done this  before.


Tweet Us A Story

The first session of the Key West Literary Seminar’s “Writers on Writers” has concluded, and now we’re preparing for the second session, January 17-20, 2013. In the meantime, we’ve partnered with South Florida’s NPR station WLRN for a creative, interactive project on Twitter, and we hope you’ll join us. Following their success with …Read More


Paul Hendrickson on “Hemingway’s Boat”

Paul Hendrickson read Sunday morning from the prologue of his book Hemingway’s Boat. The biography focuses on a 27-year period of the author’s life from April 1934 when he bought Pilar from a Brooklyn shipyard until the end in July 1961 when he took his own life in Ketchum, Idaho. …Read More


Wineapple during lecture, "Hidden in Plain Sight: Emily Dickinson's Not So Secret Friend" Photo by Nick Doll

the Valves of her attention —

Brenda Wineapple reminded us that Emily Dickinson was a woman “eminently capable of saying no”; she considered it a radical act. “No is the wildest word in the language.”  So what about when she didn’t say no? Dickinson chose Thomas Wentworth Higginson “from an ample nation” to be her reader, …Read More


How to Drink Like a Writer

Reading Pico Iyer’s The Man Within My Head is one way to get under the influence of Graham Greene. Another is by sampling the cocktails at this year’s seminar. Sean Hoard (bartender, Teardrop Lounge, Portland Oregon) and Jason Rowan (mixologist, Men’s Journal contributor) read deep into Greene’s work for inspiration, …Read More


Kicking the Tires of Biography: James Atlas

For those thinking that life as a literary biographer is a cakewalk, James Atlas is here to school you. In his delightfully humorous address, “The Shadow in the Garden: A Biographer’s Tale,” at the seminar on Saturday January 12, Atlas recounted the sometimes difficult, often bumbling and always confusing relationship …Read More


Judith Thurman Translates a Life

On Saturday morning, Judith Thurman gave a talk entitled “Translating a Life: Who are you? Who am I?” As Thurman explained, the act of translation is complicated, whether it be the translation of a text from one language to another, or the translation of life events into a biography. To …Read More


Parallel Lives: Colm Tóibín on Henry James

From the moment Colm Tóibín took the stage yesterday to discuss Henry James, the subject of his 2004 historical novel The Master, the crowd that filled the San Carlos Institute auditorium was electrified. In a voice inflected by Enniscorthy in Ireland’s County Wexford, where he was born and raised, with …Read More


The Blood Sport of Biography

"I once wrote about Graham Greene, and he said 'You managed to get everything wrong. This is a horror.'"—Michael Mewshaw, author of Do I Owe You Something?, a memoir of his encounters with writers including Greene, Paul Bowles, Gore Vidal, and William Styron.

We Become What We Read: Three Poets

The first full day of the 31st annual Key West Literary Seminar ended Friday night with The John Malcolm Brinnin Memorial Reading by Jay Parini, Mark Doty, and Billy Collins. True to this year’s theme of “Writers on Writers,” Parini began the evening with several poems inspired by his encounters …Read More


On Those Same Steps: Iyer on Greene

Graham Greene plagues Pico Iyer. He’s felt it for most of his life. Where Iyer goes, Greene has been. What happens to Iyer happened to The End of the Affair author decades earlier. Greene is as much a part of Iyer’s life as his own work and family. The celebrated …Read More


Literary Cocktails by Rowan and Hoard

A delightful series of cocktails have been gracing the seminar this week that were inspired by the travels and writings of Graham Greene. Jason Rowan, of Brooklyn Hemispherical Bitters and Embury Cocktails, as well as Sean Hoard, of Teardrop Lounge in Portland, Oregon, have been life-long fans of Greene and …Read More


How Writers Become Ourselves

"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 ...Read More

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

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 …Read More


Rose Keynote Explores Writers, Bike-Riders

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 …Read More


Final Touches for W.o.W. Stage Set

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

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. …Read More


Inventing Biographies in 140 Characters

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 …Read More


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