Acclaimed writer Paul Lisicky to teach in Key West

Paul Lisicky and one of his workshops

We’re pleased to be welcoming writer Paul Lisicky to teach our memoir workshop, “On Urgency,” from January 7 – 11, 2024. Paul’s work has been called “brutally honest,” “…emits tenderness and sweet sorrow” (Kirkus Reviews) and “heartbreaking and breathtaking” (Publishers Weekly).

What, in your opinion, constitutes a great workshop?

Paul: A sustaining workshop is one in which everyone feels seen, respected enough to take risks in their work. No one is afraid to contribute, no one hangs back, and the class operates with people working at various levels, from published writers to people just starting out, and it is more productive for that range. I think I’ve been lucky enough to teach many short-term workshops like that.

How do students and teachers from vastly different backgrounds find “success” in memoir workshops?

Paul:  I think a lot that might take care of itself once a tone of care and respect and curiosity is established around the table, but I don’t mean to suggest that that’s anything but a hard question. I do believe the most dynamic workshops are composed of people who come from multiple backgrounds, whether that’s race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation.

In what way do you do things differently than other memoirists might?

Paul: Maybe it’s simply that I think rigor and kindness can sit side by side. And should. On top of that we talk a lot about craft. I’m especially interested in the sonic components of the sentence, how sound enhances the experience of a piece. Honestly, we laugh a lot. laugh a lot. That doesn’t mean we’re not doing serious work.

In your opinion, what’s the most important thing newer writers don’t understand about writing/ publishing memoir? 

Some confuse memoir with autobiography. The latter attempts to capture a whole life, while the former is interested in a piece of a life. A memoir thrives on constraints when it comes to voice, timeline, thematic concerns. Otherwise, it’s all over the place, chaos. The best ones are as attentive to the elements of craft as poetry and fiction.

Can you give an example of a breakthrough moment in one of your memoir workshops?

Paul: Oh they happen all the time. Nothing better than someone reading an exercise aloud and we all go, hell yeah!

APPLY NOW: A few spaces are still available and we’d love to welcome you to Key West from January 7- 11, 2024. More information here: 

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