Alumni Newsletter, Summer 2017 (vol. 1)

You’ve been busy. We have too. Over here at Key West Literary Seminar, we’re up to our necks in scholarship and award applications, writers-in-residence are coming and going, and we’re developing the Young Writers Studio for local high-school students, which will begin in 2018. (Those are our official excuses for the delay in getting this newsletter out. Unofficial excuses include various types of summer fun.) Read on for news from KWLS workshop alumni, award winners, and writers-in-residence. And one writer’s journey from KWLS attendee to published author.

Support local & independent booksellers! Purchase any book highlighted here from Books & Books @ The Studios of Key West and get a 10% discount. Use code “KWLS18” at checkout.

Doug Mack looks back

The only photographic evidence I have from my first Key West Literary Seminar is a fading print in which I’m standing in Mallory Square, wearing a white cable-knit sweater and baggy khakis and a grin that stretches halfway to Miami. I look at it now and I think, “Man, what an unfashionable goofball!” and “Was I truly that happy?” and, finally, “Yes. I really was.”

It was 2006; the seminar topic was “The Literature of Adventure, Travel, and Discovery.” I was twenty-four and an avid reader of travel writing. I spent the four days of sessions and socializing in an elated daze: there was Tony Horwitz, there was Mary Morris, here was Eddy L. Harris talking to me, offering tips on pâtisseries in Paris. So many writers I’d long admired, whose stories and voice and attention to detail I was forever trying to reverse-engineer as I dreamed of my own career in travel writing. I had exactly one published story to my name, a short piece for an obscure website… Read More

new books

Ted Wheeler

2014 KWLS Marianne Russo Award winner

Kings of Broken Things is now available.

“Wheeler paints a vivid and dynamic portrait of Omaha during this strained and sad era… For its descriptions of the violent outcomes of prejudice and political misconduct, this novel at once illuminates a savage moment in history and offers a timely comment on nationalism and racism. An unsettling and insightful piece of historical fiction.”


Sharon Harrigan

2013 KWLS Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award winner

Playing with Dynamite is due out in October.

“Sharon Harrigan embarks on a search for the father she lost when she was seven—a man who blew off his hand with dynamite before she was born and later died in a bizarre and mysterious accident. The story she has been told about his death never made sense, but she always knew asking questions was dangerous…”


Will Dowd 2010

KWLS Scotti Merrill Memorial Award winner

Areas of Fog is due out in November.

“Will Dowd takes us on a whimsical journey through one year of New England weather in this engaging collection of essays. As unpredictable as its subject, Areas of Fog combines wit and poetry with humor and erudition. A fun, breezy, and discursive read, it is an intellectual game that exposes the artificiality of genres.”


forthcoming publications

Joshua Bodwell (2015 KWLS Marianne Russo Award winner) is currently working as the series editor for a three-volume edition of the collected short stories of Andre Dubus. The volumes will include new introductions by longtime KWLS collaborator Ann Beattie, as well as Richard Russo and Tobias Wolff.

Ben Bush’s short story “Introverts” (discussed in Antonya Nelson’s 2016 KWLS workshop) will appear in the fall issue of The Iowa Review. Ben is the managing editor for McSweeney’s podcast, The Organist, from KCRW (NPR – LA).

Donna Gordon’s story “Blood Moon” (workshopped with Dani Shapiro at KWLS in 2017) is forthcoming from Post Road.

Beverly Tan Murray’s short story “Wynwood” (workshopped with Marie Myung-Ok Lee at KWLS in 2017) has been selected for publication in the Summer/Fall 2017 issue of The Southampton Review.

Diana Khoi Nguyen (2012 KWLS Scotti Merrill Award winner) won the 2016 Omnidawn Open Poetry Book Prize, and her collection of poems, Ghost Of, is forthcoming from Omnidawn in April 2018.

recent publications

Elizabeth DeWolfe recently published an article that she pitched and outlined while in residence at KWLS: “More than a Congressman’s Mistress: Ambition and Scandal in the Life of Madeleine Pollard ( ,” The Register of the Kentucky Historical Society, 115 no. 3 (Summer 2017): 313-348.

Elizabeth Engelman’s personal essay about her son Micah (workshopped with Dani Shapiro in 2017) was in the New York Times in May. Engelman was the 2017 KWLS Marianne Russo Award winner.

Marie Myung-Ok Lee‘s (former KWLS writer-in-resident and 2017 workshop faculty) essay “J. Stands Up” was in the Paris Review in April.

N. West Moss’s (2017 KWLS workshop program) first book of short stories, The Subway Stops at Bryant Park, launched in NYC in May. All of the stories are connected to Bryant Park in midtown Manhattan.

Kristine Simelda‘s (2015 KWLS workshop program) second novel, River of Fire, was published in 2016. Her third novel Nobody Owns the Rainbow, was workshopped at KWLS with Lee Smith, and is forthcoming.

Amie Whittemore’s (2015 KWLS workshop program) first book of poetry, Glass Harvest, was published by Autumn House Press last summer.

Paula Whyman’s (2013 and 2016 KWLS workshop program) first book, the linked story collection You May See a Stranger, was published in May 2016. It won the 2017 Towson Prize for Literature.

awards and nominations

Chelsea Catherine (2016 KWLS workshop program) won a 2016 Raymond Carver fiction award and was featured in Carve magazine. She was also nominated for a PEN Short Story prize.

Debra Daniel (2015 KWLS workshop program) won first prize at the Los Angeles Review for her flash fiction piece, “And the Dish Ran Away with the Spoon.”

Cindy Simmons (2017 KWLS Workshop Financial Aid awardee) made the long list for the Leapfrog Press fiction contest for her novel Wrong Kind of Paper.

Kristen Tracey’s (2015 KWLS workshop program) manuscript, Half-Hazard, was selected by the Poetry Foundation for the Emily Dickinson First Book Award. It will be published by Graywolf Press in October 2018.

Jacqueline Trimble‘s (2017 KWLS Teacher and Librarian Scholarship winner) book American Happiness was recently awarded the Balcones Poetry Prize.


Diana Khoi Nguyen (2012 KWLS Scotti Merrill Award winner) was awarded a residency at The Helene Wurlitzer Foundation of New Mexico, Taos, NM, for June – August 2017.

Joshunda Sanders (2016 KWLS workshop program) was a writer in residence at Hedgebrook in February 2017.

Suzanne Schoenfelt (2017 KWLS workshop program) was awarded a Cuttyhunk Island Writers’ Residency for September 2017.

Paula Whyman (2013 and 2016 KWLS workshop program) recently completed a residency at Yaddo, and has been awarded a 2017 fellowship at Hawthornden Castle in Scotland.

other news

Flower Conroy (2015 and 2016 KWLS workshop program) was recently named Key West’s poet laureate for 2017.

Sarah Cypher (2016 KWLS workshop program) entered Warren Wilson College’s MFA program as one of two Rona Jaffe Graduate Creative Writing Fellows.

Laura Dohner (2017 KWLS Micol Ostow workshop) completed a Ph.D. program in Literary Translation at Binghamton University this past May.

Beatriz Fernandez‘s (2016 KWLS Campbell McGrath workshop) poem, “Calle del Cristo, Old San Juan,” was chosen for display in the Arte Latino Now 2017 exhibit, at Queens University, Charlotte, NC this year.

Kristine Mietzner (2017 KWLS Teacher and Librarian Scholarship winner) is facilitating writing workshops for women veterans through a collaboration between Veterans Connect and the Sacramento Public Libraries.

Serena Richardson (2017 KWLS Billy Collins workshop) has a forthcoming music album, Some Imaginings, that consists of unfinished poems transitioned into songs. She also has forthcoming publications in The Cape Rock, Juked, and Third Wednesday.

Please email updates to freya [at] for inclusion in the next newsletter. Or, join the KWLS Workshop Alumni Facebook group and share your news there.

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