Alumni Newsletter, Fall 2021 (vol. 8)

Photo courtesy Florida Keys Public Libraries: Betty Suarez's third grade class, Reynolds Elementary School, 1965-66. Gift Lisa Suarez.
Photo courtesy Florida Keys Public Libraries: Betty Suarez's third grade class, Reynolds Elementary School, 1965-66. Gift Lisa Suarez.

As we settle into fall, we’re busy getting ready for the Seminar and Workshops this January. After the unexpected hiatus, we’re thrilled to be to reconnecting with our community in person to celebrate literature once more.

Meanwhile, our alumni community has been busy, too. It’s always inspiring to see what everyone has achieved–huge congratulations to all!

Support local & independent booksellers! Purchase any book highlighted here from Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West and get a 20% discount. Use code “KWLS21” at checkout.

featured achievements

Sheela Chari‘s middle grade novel, The Interplanetary Expedition of Mars Patel, was published in October by Candlewick/Walker Books US, the second book in the mystery series based on the Peabody award-winning podcast. Sheela is a faculty member of Vermont College of Fine Arts MFA program in writing for children and young adults. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2020)

Antonio de Jesús López’s debut book of poetry, Gentefication, has recently been published through Four Way Books.

“The[se poems] call for the kind of mental and spiritual absorption that can make prayer feel productive,” said Pulitzer Prize winner Gregory Pardlo. (Kevin Young 2019)

Anne Brooker James‘s debut novel, The Marsh Bird, was published by Koehler Books this summer on her 90th birthday. It’s the story of a young, orphaned, multi-racial girl from Louisiana and a white teen abandoned as an infant and raised by the residents of a rural Gullah Geechee sea island community. Set among descendants of those once-enslaved in the marshes of the Lowcountry coast of South Carolina and Georgia, it’s a love story and a tale of survival that proves the bonds of love and care are what create a family.

“Anne Brooker James has offered us a gift—a gorgeous, powerful, moving story that is also a page-turner… I savored every word,” said bestselling author Mary Morris. (Mary Morris 2015)

Aaron Hamburger sold his novel Hotel Cuba to HarperPerennial, to be released in 2023. A major part of the story takes place in Key West in the 1920s, and the research he did while in residence at KWLS was invaluable, as was the “generous assistance of Arlo Haskell.” It’s the story of two sheltered Russian Jewish refugee sisters, one sensible and one impractical, who find themselves trapped in hedonistic Prohibition-era 1920s Havana while trying to emigrate to America. (Writer in Residence 2018))

novels & collections

David Beckwith‘s regional bestseller, A New Day In The Delta (2009) will be re-released as a quality paperback by the University of Alabama Press. The book chronicles his 1969 experiences of being the token white teacher in an all-black Mississippi Delta school. Amazing e-Books will release A Treasure Conspiracy, book eight of his Will and Betsy Black adventure series, this fall. (Writer’s Toolkit 2019)

Carolyn Kay Brancato‘s novel The Night Belongs to the Maquis will be published by Station Square Media in November 2021. It is set during World War II in the Pyrénées on the border of France and Spain and tells the true story of how the French Resistance (the Maquis) got hundreds of downed allied pilots as well as French and allied agents out of Nazi-occupied France. Although fiction, it’s based on personal interviews with three former members of the Resistance, as well as extensive research. (Christopher Castellani 2020)

Elizabeth Engelman‘s debut short story collection, The Way of the Saints, was awarded the Nilsen Literary Prize and was recently published by Southeast Missouri State University Press. The linked stories examine Puerto Rico’s history of colonization, revolution, and migration, charting how religious and superstitious narratives have shaped the Puerto Rican experience. The Seattle Times called the book “memorable and unexpected” and Foreword Reviews described the work as “unflinching.” Compulsive Reader called it a “stunning book.” (Marianne Russo Award Winner 2017)

Angel Khoury’s debut novel, Between Tides, was recently published by Dzanc Books and is in its third hardcover printing. It was released as an audiobook by Tantor Media. With accolades from Lee Smith, Ron Rash, and Howard Norman, Publishers Weekly named Between Tides a “Big Indie Book for Fall 2021.” Khoury’s first writing class was advanced fiction with Hilma Wolitzer in Key West in 2009, when she workshopped what would become her novel set on Cape Cod and the Outer Banks. She credits the support and encouragement she has received at KWLS for making it all possible. (Lee Smith 2015/ Jay Parini 2013/ Dara Weir 2012/ Hilma Wolitzer 2009)

Julian Randall‘s debut novel, Pilar Ramirez and the Escape from Zafa, released its cover recently in conjunction with We Need Diverse Books!, and will be published in March 2022 by Henry Holt. (Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017)


Chris Bullard‘s poetry chapbook Continued was published in 2020 by Grey Book Press. His chapbook of environmentally themed poetry, Going Peaceably to the Obsidian Knife, was recently published by Moonstone Press; Florida Man will be published by Main Street Rag in early 2022. (Billy Collins 2015)

Flower Conroy was awarded a MacDowell fellowship. Her chapbook And Haunt the World, authored with Donna Spruijt-Metz, was published by Ghost City Press. Her second full-length collection, A Sentimental Hairpin, is forthcoming from Tolsun Books and is available for pre-order. She has new poetry appearing or forthcoming in Big Whoopie Deal, the Fiddlehead, Guesthouse, the Boiler, and Whiskey Tit. (Gregory Pardlo 2019/ Kevin Young 2016/ Billy Collins 2015)

Anthony DiPietro is publishing his first chapbook, a series of poems about isolation, And Walk Through. It was composed on a typewriter in the early days of the pandemic and is out this fall from Seven Kitchens Press. (Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017)

Alice Duggan‘s poem “How I Tried to Get Ahead of It” will be published in Red Rock Literary Review, Winter 2021. Her poem “Bright as a Peach,” is forthcoming in Poetry East. “Chemotherapy” and “To Jan” were both published by Dash, in their 14th edition. (Billy Collins 2019)

Christine Shan Shan Hou’s newest collection of poems, The Joy and Terror Are Both in the Swallowing, offers a new mythology for our “smooth and violent era.” Together these poems map a constellation of desire, addressing “the female pleasure gap,” the exhilaration of submission, and all the mundanity and peculiarities of planetary life. (Scotti Merrill Award 2013)

Elizabeth Oxley‘s first chapbook, After April Rain, was just published by Longship Press. (Greg Pardlo 2019)

John E. Simonds has published his third book of poetry, In a Roundabout Way: Quick Words, Curious Years, Long Miles (Dorrance 2021). It encompasses poems relating to the pandemic and overdue needs for social change, as well as other narratives–historical and personal–that reflect on life evolving from one century to the next. Past colleagues can reach John at (Gregory Pardlo 2019/ Lisa Zeidner 2018/ Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017/ Mark Doty 2015/ Daniel Menaker 2014/ Billy Collins 2013/ Dara Wier 2012)

Jacqueline Allen Trimble was a featured writer and had four poems published in Poetry Magazine, July/August 2021. Her poem “The Language of Joy” was chosen as the poem of the week by Duke University’s Hart Leadership Program and as the poem of the day by Poetry Daily. Four poems are forthcoming in November in South Florida Poetry Journal, and her new book How to Survive the Apocalypse will be published by New South Books in April 2022. She is also currently writing for a South African streaming show, Die Testament 2. (Kevin Young 2020/ Teacher & Librarian Scholarship & Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017/ Billy Collins 2015)

short stories & articles

Amy D.Clark‘s article “The Cyclone of Rye Cove” was recently published in Oxford American Magazine. This fall she was appointed to the editorial board of the University of Virginia Press. Amy is the co-host and producer for Southern Salon: A Podcast about Culture and Communication. She is currently Professor of Communication Studies and Director of Center for Appalachian Studies at University of Virginia’s College at Wise. More info here. (Finalist for Russo Award 2020/ Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2018)

Debra A. Daniel‘s novella-in-flash “A Family of Great Falls” was short listed for the Bath Novella-in-Flash Award and was published by Ad Hoc Fiction (UK). She also had two pieces short listed for the Smokelong Quarterly Mikey Award, was short listed for the Bath Flash Fiction Award, and was long listed for the Reflex Fiction Award. (Daniel Menaker 2016, Billy Collins 2015)

Jen Logan Meyer‘s short story “An Enchanted Evening” was published in the Summer 2021 issue of the Sewanee Review. (Joy Williams 2018)

Joey Porcelli’s short story “Parachute Drop” appears in the 2021 Summer issue of Sixfold, a writer-voted literary journal. The story, selected for both online and print publication, ranked number 15 in the summer contest. Inspired by a childhood visit to Coney Island with her father, who in no way resembled the character in her story, it revisits a bygone era. Joey is currently working on her second novel. (Christopher Castellani 2020)

Rachel Purdy is working on a memoir about family and identity through the lens of coffee and cafés based on an essay, “Domestic Coffee,” published in Tin House. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Maija Makinen‘s literary translations of three poems by the Finnish poet Helvi Juvonen (1919-1959) were featured in the Offing. Her short story “1993” is in the current issue of the Iowa Review. The story was selected as last year’s Iowa Review Award winner in Fiction. (Emily Raboteau 2019)


Pamela Gay‘s memoir, I’m So Glad You’re Here, was named a “distinguished favorite” in the memoir category of the 2021 Independent Press Awards. (Dani Shapiro 2017/ Antonya Nelson 2016/ Madeleine Blais 2014)

Melanie Hubbard has published a scholarly book, Emily Dickinson: Poetics in Context, with Cambridge University Press. The book is geared toward anyone who has ever wondered about Dickenson’s theory of poetry and what it might have to do with her manuscript variants and writing on scraps. (Dara Wier 2015)

Judy L. Mandel‘s memoir White Flag will be published by Legacy Book Press in October 2022. White Flag is a personal story of the nature of addiction that builds on the work of experts to understand transgenerational trauma and epigenetics. Mandel seeks to understand why her niece became addicted and why some people recover, and others cannot. (Richard Russo 2018)

Bonnie Morrissey‘s book, Intimacy in Emptiness: An Evolution of Embodied Consciousness published by Inner Traditions, is due out in 2022. Co-authored with Janet Adler and Paula Sager, this collection of essays illuminates the 50-year arc of a contemporary contemplative practice, the Discipline of Authentic Movement. Sign up for notification of release here: (Jane Hirshfield 2015)

Steve Paul is the author of a new literary biography, Literary Alchemist: The Writing Life of Evan S. Connell, to be published December 2021 by the University of Missouri Press. He also has begun research for a biography of the esteemed American poet William Stafford (1914-1993), a onetime U.S. poet laureate. (Gregory Pardlo 2020)

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