2022 Teacher & Librarian Scholarship Winners

We are thrilled to once again recognize a group of individuals who are making positive impacts on readers in their communities. We are pleased to offer these talented educators and librarians full scholarships to our annual Seminar. We hope and believe that participation in our vibrant literary community inspires fresh engagement with literature in schools and libraries around the country.

Thank you to all who applied, and congratulations to this year’s outstanding teacher & librarian scholarship recipients!

Kristie Camp

Kristie Camp is a National Board Certified instructor in her twenty-fifth year of teaching English language arts at Gaffney High School in South Carolina. She is pursuing a doctorate degree in language and literacy, and she hopes to continue investigating the intersectionality between outdoor experiences and literacy in her classroom. Her professional mission centers on helping students craft their unique voices for self-expression and social advocacy.

Christopher Cussat, photo by Megan Gardner

Christopher Cussat is an adjunct professor of English and literature at American Public University/American Military University, an online higher degree program accommodating adult learners, full-time military personnel, veterans, and others. Cussat’s goal is to instill a love of reading, grow an appreciation of literature, develop critical and analytical skills, and increase confidence in writing and communication in his students.

Gina Elia

Gina Elia teaches Mandarin Chinese and English as a second language at North Broward Preparatory School in Coconut Creek, Florida. She integrates her love for literature-based inquiry into her teaching, so language learning becomes not simply an exercise in grammar drills and vocab memorization, but rather a rich locus of discussion. This gets her students talking and using the language right away, while connecting it to ideas that are relevant to their lives.

Karen Hillgrove

Karen Hillgrove teaches eighth grade language arts at Horace O’Bryant School in Key West, Florida. She builds learning environments where students are encouraged to think, collaborate, and create. She fosters effective, differentiated learning for all students. Originally from Pittsburgh, Hillgrove loves the richly diverse school and island community she now calls home.

Crystal Hurd, photo by Aaron Hurd

Crystal Hurd is a teacher, academic collaborator, and artful conspirator from Bristol, Virginia. She teaches at her alma mater, Virginia High School, where she instructs English, dual-enrollment British literature, and creative writing courses, as well as serving as a teacher consultant for the Appalachian Writing Project. Her goal is to help students find significance in art and use that creative energy to enrich and uplift their communities.

Alissa Landram

Alissa Landram is a senior library manager in Savannah, Georgia. Her professional passions include musical storytelling, community partnership opportunities, and emphasis on the importance of public libraries as community fixtures. She holds an undergraduate degree from Armstrong State University and a master’s degree in library and information science from the University of South Carolina.

Kaitlin Malixi

Kaitlin Malixi worked in public libraries for more than ten years before she began teaching high school English. She holds master’s degrees in education and library and information science. Literacy and spreading the joy of reading to others is her biggest passion.

Sarah McCartt-Jackson

Sarah McCartt-Jackson is an elementary school teacher and poet. She works primarily with emergent readers, connecting urban students to the world through community-based poetry experiences. She credits her poetry career to supportive teachers, and she aims to enrich student learning and lives through the power of words to inspire the next generation of writers.

Candace McDuffie, photo by Daniel Irvin

Candace McDuffie is an educator and cultural critic whose first book, 50 Rappers Who Changed the World: A Celebration of Rap Legends, was published in 2020. Her classes—primarily nonfiction and memoir—focus on the power of vulnerability and elevating the voices and experiences of marginalized groups. McDuffie’s work has been featured in Rolling StoneNewsweek, and Glamour, and on MTV.

Jamie Odeneal, photo by Quinn Odeneal

Jamie Odeneal is a reader, writer, and National Board Certified teacher who works with adult English learners at Arlington Community High School in Virginia. Her students come from diverse linguistic and cultural backgrounds, and she is always looking for fresh, inspiring literature that will connect them as a learning community. She is passionate about helping her students find their voices in English so they can shape and share their own stories, as well.

Jacqueline Patterson, photo by Linda Shonning

Jacqueline Patterson is proudly serving her twenty-second year at Plantation Key School in Tavernier, Florida. She has taught middle school and special education for most of her career and is currently serving as a literacy coach. She especially enjoys cultivating students’ interests in reading and writing, advocating for vulnerable students, and going above curriculum to make connections with students and staff. She enjoys photography and writing poetry in her free time.

Reisa Plyer, photo by David Vance

Reisa Plyler is a thirty-three-year veteran English teacher from Miami. She was the founding advisor for the Dave Barry Chapter of the National English Honor Society at Coral Reef High School, through which she fostered school-wide interest in reading, literary trivia, poetry, and writing. She recently retired from the public school system and currently teaches Advanced Placement English literature and composition at Westminster Christian School.

Emily Andrea Sendin

Emily Andrea Sendin is a professor of English, literature, and creative writing in her twenty-second year at Miami Dade College. She is an Endowed Teaching Chair and a Fulbright Scholar. She teaches global sustainability and earth literacy studies, service learning, and honors college courses. She is the founding advisor of the award-winning Urbana Literary & Arts magazine. Her life’s passions are traveling, teaching, books, and service.

Jennifer Tianen

Jennifer Tianen is a veteran English teacher and founder of the award-winning West Bloomfield High School Literary Garden, which showcases plants from American authors’ homes and provides a multisensory setting for student learning. She is secretary of the Michigan Hemingway Society and has made presentations around the country on the environment, education, and literature. She is currently working on a book about literary gardens.

Betsy Fogelman Tighe, photo by Rikki Midnight

Betsy Fogelman Tighe taught English language arts (eighth grade through college) for many years before becoming a high school librarian. She is now entering her twelfth and final year in that position, where she has hosted many author events that made progress in arousing student interest in poetry. Her greatest honor was achieving immortality as “the American girl” in one of James Wright’s last published poems, “Leaving the Temple in Nimes.”

Kristin Veiga, photo by HJ Miami

Kristin Veiga has taught middle school language arts at a small private school for the past six years. Her teaching style differs from traditional methods as she tends to break into dance mid-lesson, rap throughout the school day, and create fun and engaging projects to make lessons come to life. Her greatest goal as a teacher is to raise lifelong learners, so her classroom is set up to recreate a living room feel to help students feel loved, comfortable, and encouraged to learn.

Raysa Villalona, photo by Gina Verga

Raysa Villalona is an ESL teacher at an elementary school in Sunset Park, Brooklyn. She has done extensive work with dual language and has conducted parent workshops for families of second language learners. She’s an avid reader and has been journaling since before she knew how to write. She currently writes creative nonfiction, often about her girlhood in Washington Heights, and is working on a collection of essays.

Evan Morgan Williams, photo by Iris Arnold

Evan Morgan Williams teaches language arts at a middle school in an area of Portland, Oregon, known locally as “The Numbers.” He has published three short story collections and more than fifty short stories. His first collection, Thorn, won the 2013 G. S. Sharat Chandra Prize for Short Fiction from BkMk Press. Williams earned an MFA degree in 1991. His students look at the fine vellum certificate on the classroom wall and say, “Huh?” Sometimes he does, too.

Martha Williams

Martha Williams oversees programs and adult education at her library in Ketchum, Idaho. She is passionate about creating inclusive spaces where stories are shared and connections across experiences and generations are made. Her greatest enjoyment is in connecting young or aspiring writers with one another and with those who guide them on their journeys.

Catherine Wright, photo by Brock Burwell

Catherine Wright teaches in the English department at the University of Charleston in West Virginia, which is one of the most diverse schools in the state, composed of students from more than forty countries. Her work there revolves around understanding a sense of community, living through service, and challenging the struggles so many of her students experience finding their place in the world.

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.

Spring is here: mangoes are ripening on the trees, the temperature is rising, and our streets are a little calmer. Happily, we are back at work putting together the 2022 workshop & scholarship programs and look forward to seeing many of you in person again in the future.

Our alumni community has been busy; see below for some astonishing recent achievements. Many 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

Amazingly, two of our alumni have recently been awarded poetry fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts. Competition for these fellowships is extremely rigorous. The NEA typically receives more than 1,600 applications each year in the poetry/prose category and awards fellowships to fewer than 3 percent of applicants. Congratulations to Jacqueline Allen Trimble and Flower Conroy!

Jacqueline Allen Trimble

Jacqueline Allen Trimble
“My work, in no small measure, has been helped and encouraged by KWLS, and this organization has provided me time, space, and connection with amazing teachers and wonderful fellow writers.”

Jackie lives in Montgomery, Alabama, where she is a professor of English and chairs the Department of Languages and Literatures at Alabama State University. Her work has appeared in various publications, including the Griot, the Offing, the Louisville Review, and Blue Lake ReviewAmerican Happiness (2016), published by NewSouth Books, won the Balcones Poetry Prize. (Gregory Pardlo 2020/ Kevin Young 2019/ Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2017/ Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017)

Flower Conroy, former Key West Poet Laureate, is the author of three chapbooks: Facts About Snakes & Hearts (winner of Heavy Feather Press’ Chapbook Contest); The Awful Suicidal Swans; and Escape to Nowhere.

Her first full-length manuscript, Snake Breaking Medusa Disorder, was chosen by Chen Chen as the National Federation of State Poetry Societies’ Stevens Manuscript Competition winner. (Gregory Pardlo 2020)

Flower Conroy


Mandy Miller‘s debut novel, States of Gracea legal thriller, has just been published by Literary Wanderlust. Writer John Dufresne wrote, “States of Grace is an unnerving and irresistible novel of judicial intrigue and betrayal set in the volatile South Florida netherworld of opioid addiction. As in the best of plots, nothing here is as it seems. States of Grace is engrossing, unpredictable, and fast-paced.” (John Dufresne 2019)

Priscilla Paton’s second Twin Cities Mystery, Should Grace Failhas been praised as “an ambitious mystery that tackles heavy themes” (Kirkus Reviews) and is a finalist for the 2020 Foreword INDIES Best Mystery Award. The mystery addresses addiction, police brutality, racism, and the difficulty of redemption. The series is published by Coffeetown Press. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Cindy Simmons was on the team that took first place in the Pennsylvania Mid-state Literacy Council Spelling Bee. Her novel Wrong Kind of Paper is due out this summer from the Sunbury Press Brown Posey imprint. (Workshop Financial Aid 2017/ Myung-Ok Lee 2017)


George Guida recently published two collections of poems: Zen of Pop, published by Long Sky Media, and New York and Other Lovers from Encircle Publications. (Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2018)

JD Scott‘s debut poetry collection, Mask for Mask, has recently been published by New Rivers Press out of Minnesota State University Moorhead. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Manuel Gonzales 2018)

Laura Villareal‘s debut poetry book was accepted for publication by University of Wisconsin Press and is forthcoming in Spring 2022. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2018)

short stories & articles

Leone Ciporin‘s short story “The Skin of Young Goats” was published in the Saturday Evening Post and was featured on the “front page” of the online version. (John Dufresne 2019)

Janice Gary was nominated for a Pushcart Prize for her narrative nonfiction essay “Into the Fire,” included in the anthology Fearless: Women’s Journeys to Self-Empowerment published by Mountain State Press, 2020. (Emily Raboteau 2019/ Paulette Alden 2013, 2011)

Robin Luce Martin‘s short prose appeared in Once We Were Pioneers TEXT Telephone Writings, published by Crosstown Press. This work is also featured in TELEPHONE, an international arts gallery that launched in April. A podcast of the short story “Through the Hole” will go live this month. (Joy Williams 2018/ Robert Stone 2011)

plays & film

Laura Albritton is the writer and producer of a documentary short called Adventures in History about her collaborator on the book Hidden History of the Florida Keys, published by The History Press (2018). The short narrates the remarkable adventures of local Florida Keys legend and historian Jerry Wilkinson with first-person interviews, archival images, sweeping aerials, and music. Filmed in Tavernier, Islamorada, Marathon, and Key West, it is being directed by J. Brian King of Sun King Studio and produced by Magic Kumquat Productions. (Writer in Residence 2019)

Drew Larimore‘s play Smithtown enjoyed a recent digital release produced by the Studios of Key West and was featured in the New Yorker.  Additionally, Drew was just commissioned by Denizen Theatre for a new play set to be workshopped later this summer. Broadway World announced it here. (Writer in Residence 2019)


Abby Caplin’s poem “Regret” won second place in the 2020 Soul-Making Keats Literary Competition’s poetry category, judged by Indigo Moor. Two of her poems have been included in the just-released Blue Light Press anthology Fog and Light: San Francisco through the Eyes of the Poets Who Live Here, selected by Diane Frank. Abby’s poems have been published this past year in numerous literary journals, including AGNIBelle OmbreRising Phoenix ReviewLouisiana Literature, and Spoon River Poetry Review. (Billy Collins 2020/ Gregory Pardlo 2019/ Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2018/ Kevin Young 2016)

Debra Daniel’s novella-in-flash, A Family of Great Falls, was shortlisted for the Bath Flash Fiction Novella Award (UK) and will be published by Ad Hoc Fiction. Her flash fiction also appears in Chautauqua and the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. (Daniel Menaker 2016/ Billy Collins 2015)

Meghan Dunn‘s first collection of poetry, Curriculum, was awarded the 2020 Barry Spacks Poetry Prize, selected by Jessica Jacobs. Curriculum was recently published by Gunpowder Press. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2016)

Theodore Wheeler was awarded a Nebraska Arts Council literature fellowship in February based on the opening chapters of his novel In Our Other Lives (Little A, 2020). In March, he and his wife opened a bookshop in the Dundee neighborhood of Omaha. “Located on the main floor of a historic house, the shop has as close to a Key West vibe as you can get in Nebraska,” he writes. “We even have some framed photographs of Hemingway’s six-toed cats on the wall that we took on past trips to the seminar.” (Emerging Writer Award 2014)


Emily Vizzo is the new social media editor for Air/Light Magazine, the new literary journal from the University of Southern California, where she supports social media and publicity. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2019/ Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017)

We love hearing from KWLS alumni! Keep us up to date by sending your latest news to [email protected].

We are honored and excited to announce this year’s recipients of the Emerging Writer Awards, which recognize emerging writers who possess exceptional talent and demonstrate potential for lasting literary careers. The winners will join us in Key West for the 2022 Seminar:

The Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award for a short story goes to Nishanth Injam; the Scotti Merrill Award for poetry goes to Lisa Beech Hartz; and the Marianne Russo Award for a novel-in-progress goes to Aimee LaBrie.

A jury made up of past award winners, KWLS board members, and staff reviewed hundreds of entries this year over the course of multiple rounds. The overall quality of the manuscripts submitted was extremely high, a testament to the fact that artists are survivors — and that we need your voices.

Program coordinator Katrin Schumann sat down via Zoom last week for a brief video interview (below) to introduce our winners and offer a peek into their lives and work. Congratulations to Nishanth, Lisa, and Aimee!

for a short story

Nishanth Injam is a fiction writer from Telangana, India. He has received an MFA from the University of Michigan’s Helen Zell Writers’ Program where he is currently a Zell fellow. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in VQR and The Georgia Review.

Our judge, Cecelia Johnson, said of Nishanth’s winning story: “The tenuous way they [the protagonists] relate to each other, their individual character and the portrayal of their relationship, becomes intensely and painfully real.”

for poetry—selected by Billy Collins

Lisa Beech Hartz directs and teaches through Seven Cities Writers Project which brings cost-free writing workshops to underserved communities. Her ekphrastic collection, The Goldfish Window (Grayson Books, 2018) explores the lives and work of visual artists. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Crazyhorse, Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, The Gettysburg Review, The Massachusetts Review, and elsewhere.

In picking Lisa as the winner, Billy Collins wrote that he was moved by the almost “devotional” nature of her writing.

for a novel-in-progress

Aimee LaBrie’s short stories have appeared in Minnesota Review, Iron Horse Literary Journal, StoryQuarterly, The Cimarron Review, Pleiades, Beloit Fiction, Permafrost, and others. In 2020, her short story “Rage,” won first place in the Solstice Literary Magazine’s annual fiction contest. In 2007, her short story collection, Wonderful Girl, was awarded the Katherine Anne Porter Prize in Fiction and published in a small print run by the University of North Texas Press. Her short fiction has been nominated for three Pushcart Prizes. In 2012, she won first place in Zoetrope’s All-Story contest. Aimee works as a senior program administrator and lecturer of creative writing at Rutgers University’s Writers House.

Carol Balick, one of our judges, said of Aimee’s novel-in-progress: “Deceptively funny, the [excerpt] routes us through grievances of social inequalities with language that is uncluttered and powerful.”

Winners of the Emerging Writer Awards receive full tuition to the 2022 Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program (January 6 – 14), round-trip airfare, full lodging support, a $500 honorarium, and the opportunity to appear on stage during the Seminar. We will begin accepting submissions for 2022 next spring.

Robert D. Richardson, 1934–2020. Photo by Curt Richter, 2009.

The Key West literary community lost one of its most brilliant and beloved members with the death of Robert D. Richardson last week. He was 86.

Richardson was a celebrated historian whose books included biographies of Ralph Waldo Emerson (The Mind on Fire), Henry David Thoreau (The Life of the Mind) and William James (In the Maelstrom of American Modernism). His honors included the Francis Parkman Prize and the Bancroft Prize, perhaps the two most prestigious awards in the field of American history.

Bob was a steady and reliable friend of the Seminar, full of good advice and goodness of heart. He served on our board of directors from 2001-2009, and our honorary board since that time. He had a special interest in supporting young and emerging writers and was a strong advocate for our scholarship program and our 2008 “New Voices” seminar.

In Emerson, Thoreau, and James, Richardson took on subjects viewed by many as the founding fathers of American intellectual life, and ones who have been extensively studied by historians for over 100 years. But Richardson’s approach was utterly new. In addition to their own writings, Richardson endeavored to read every single thing that Emerson, James, and Thoreau read — every book, every pamphlet, every article and essay. Richardson’s aim was what he called the “intellectual biography,” a work that would chart the development of the writer’s mind.

The results are thrilling. Washington Post book critic Michael Dirda called Richardson’s Emerson biography “one of those exciting books that flash bolts of lightning across an entire intellectual era and up and down modern history.” Irish novelist and Booker Prize winner John Banville said Richardson’s works belong “among the glories of contemporary literature.”

While Richardson’s scholarly mastery of his subjects is impressive, it was his ability to provide the reader with a visceral experience of their lives that astonishes his readers. Richardson, who was married to novelist Annie Dillard, with whom he lived in Key West on Margaret Street, had a novelist’s sense of pacing, structure, and humor. “The past can be understood only if we imagine each moment of it as present, with ourselves as the actors in it,” he wrote.

He credited Dillard with helping to activate his writing process. “I learned from her that you have to go all out, every day, every piece. Hold nothing back. The well will refill.”

In an interview in 2013, I asked Bob what it was about Emerson, Thoreau, and James that sustained his attention over decades of research and writing. His answers point to a belief in the essential value of the American experiment, and the ever-more-urgent imperative to balance personal interests with the collective good:

“Emerson is for me the best describer of real individualism, the best explainer of why we can and must trust our best selves,” Bob remarked. But instead of the so-called rugged individualism adopted by some as a political philosophy, Bob emphasized something infinitely more humane and well-suited to our times. “In their pluralism, in their respect for mind, those three are voices for democratic individualism. Each voice counts. Every voice counts.”

Bob’s voice will continue to comfort, guide, and enlighten us through his books. But we will miss his presence and his friendship a great deal.


(—Arlo Haskell, June 23, 2020)


Related resources:

read:Concord Is Where You Are Right Now“: a conversation with Robert D. Richardson (2012)

listen: “The Work of a Biographer”; Robert D. Richardson in conversation with Brenda Wineapple, James Atlas, and Judith Thurman (2013).

watch:Biography and Fiction”; Robert D. Richardson (2013)



By Dena Rebozo

The final day of Key West Literary Seminar winds down in uplifting triumph. With most of his crew mates gone and the last couple months of his own life remaining, Joe Rantz meets Daniel James Brown. Unbeknownst to Brown, Rantz rowed in front of Adolf Hitler in the 1936 Berlin Olympics. He and eight other boys of the American Olympic Rowing Team in that 2,000-meter race faced staggering, irrefutable adversity and obstacles leading up to the most spectacular almost six-and-a-half-minute race ever rowed, a race of imperishable triumph of a team pulling together, a perfect living thing. If you are out of breath reading this, I was out of breath just watching the video clip Brown showed of the actual race from Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia. Maybe you feel like the rowers now – post-race hunched over, gasping. Just one second separated the top three finishing boats.

Back to Brown and Rantz.
“Can I write about your life?” Brown pole vaults.
“No,” croaks Rantz. Silence.
“You can write a book about the boat,” he says, joy and pride shining in tears.
The boat refers to all the guys who rowed, all nine of them.

Four years later, Brown finishes the book, indeed, about the boat. What makes this book about rowing the kind of book audience members stood up to proclaim and urge others to read during the Q&A session? After all, what might be more boring than a book about rowing? How did this book win the most votes from independent booksellers nationwide within a year of being published?

Boys in the Boat does not simply keep alive a previously untold story as compelling and important as Jesse Owens’s in the 1936 Olympics. It keeps alive the flame of a great generation, one gouged by mighty suffering, deprivation, and hardship. This is the story of the forging of a great team and their achievement “pulling together” that at once belongs to them and to a generation with the Herculean task of triumphing come Word War II.

Brown distills six remarkable “comeback” qualities embodied by every boy in the boat. First, through a brutal self-selection “whittling” process just to earn a seat, each boy personifies perseverance and resilience. Second, they epitomize adaptability rowing in different length races, different bodies of water with different currents, winds, waves, different air temperatures, employing different strategies against various opponents. Third, every man pulls his heart out, pulls for the others. An extraordinary level of mutual respect and trust is present. Fourth, these are Zen rowers focusing with single-pointed attention on their secret mantra “mind in boat, mind in boat.” Fifth, in one word, is earnestness. Summed up best by George Yeoman Pocock, not only their shell-builder, but inarguably their rowing guru. “I leave a piece of my heart with every boat,” he said. “Leave a piece of your heart with every race.” Least obvious yet most important, a measure of humility hallmarks their approach to rowing, each needing the other to surpass adversity.

Pocock once said, “In a sport like this – hard work, not much glory, but still popular in every century – well, there must be some beauty which ordinary men can’t see, but extraordinary men do.” Dan Brown, you are Pocock’s extraordinary man. Thank you for seeing the beauty and opening our eyes. May this story kindle the hearts of our generation so that together we can find our “swing.”

Dena Rebozo, a public librarian turned special educator, is a 2020 Teacher & Librarian Scholarship Recipient. Her sports are swimming in the Salish Sea and hula hooping.

By Shannon Korta

Saturday afternoon’s literary panel tackled the topic of parents’ increasing over-involvement in their children’s sports lives for the discussion “The Case for Banning Parents.” Author Buzz Bissinger, best known for his New York Times bestseller Friday Night Lights, was joined by Ben McGrath, a staff writer for the New Yorker, and award-winning novelist Megan Abbott. The panelists discussed the perils of overzealous, misguided, emotionally stunted sports parents who have created a toxic culture that Bissinger acerbically summarizes “has completely removed all fun from sports.”

The panelists touched on various situations they’d experienced or read about exemplifying poor parent behavior ranging from verbal attacks on other parents to physical fights on the field with officials. McGrath noted that many officials have opted to quit in the face of increasingly confrontational situations. The intense pressure from parents on their children to win at all costs has given rise to year-round travel sports and specialized camps promising to give your child a competitive edge over the rest. Abbott conveyed that, although she was not involved in sports growing up, her brothers’ little league games and commitments took up an exhaustive amount of time, stating matter-of-factly, “I never had a summer.”

Abbott segued from embarrassing spectacle parents and addressed a subtler, yet insidious, element of youth. In the case of Olympic gymnastics, countless female athletes were abused repeatedly by Larry Nassar over several years. Abbott questioned the claim from many of the girls’ parents who “didn’t know anything was going on.” She said that while watching the Nassar trial on television, some of the girls looked at their parents as if to say, “Why didn’t you help me?” Lack of action from parents can be more harmful than the overreactions, according to Abbott. It is difficult to imagine a parent would knowingly turn a blind eye to such atrocious acts in the quest for their daughters to win gold – difficult, but sadly, not impossible, she noted.

Despite his best-selling book focusing on small town football, Bissinger was the most vocal about how detrimental sports can be for a child’s mental health. He attributed much of parental pressure in sports to the disillusioned aspiration of getting a D1 scholarship, which he pointedly told the audience “isn’t happening.” Reiterating his earlier assessment, he said sports should be about fun – acknowledging his son was lost on the soccer field, but still enjoyed it. He admitted he did have moments where his son’s lack of athleticism bothered him, ruefully asking the crowd “Why do I care though?” “Am I that insecure in myself?” The question hung uncomfortably in the auditorium air along with the dust particles in the spotlights. It wasn’t hard to imagine many in the crowd had asked themselves this same thing.

Bissinger said earlier in the discussion that every athlete is haunted by four words: “What could have been?” I think it’s fair to say parents are equally haunted by these words. What could have been if I read to them more? What could have been if I listened a little more? Parents are athletes in a different sense. We compete against other parents, we compete against time, and we compete against this perfect version of ourselves – this version of ourselves that always gets it right with our kids. The version of ourselves that is completely confident with parenting. That version of ourselves that can conjure up honest, transparent, bonding discussions from the most sullen teenager. That version, though, is like the D1 scholarship:largely unattainable for most. Maybe we make it harder than it needs to be. Parenting and sports could both benefit from Bissinger’s advice, “Let’s just have fun with it.”

Shannon Korta teaches at Landmark Christian School in Fairburn, Georgia. She is the recipient of a 2020 Teacher and Librarian Scholarship.

By Yesenia Flores Diaz

To kick off day three of the 38th Annual KWLS Reading Between the Lines: Sports and Literature, Kevin Young and Arnold Rampersad discussed the history of black sportsmanship in a thought-provoking session entitled: “In Conversation: Biography and the Black Athlete.”

According to Young, childhood hero Arthur Ashe was “the first athlete who existed as a person.” Despite a privileged life and the irony of his nationally-ranked status and exclusion from a local tourney, Rampersad affirmed Ashe had a “desire to be taken seriously, [he] prized the intellectual side of life, [was] a noble person who believed in spirit.”

Attendees were offered poignant glimpses of the experiences, triumphs and villification, notwithstanding, of 20th century greats such as: Jackie Robinson, Wilma Rudolph, Jack Johnson, Muhammad Ali, Althea Gibson, and sisters Venus and Serena Williams.

One cannot ignore how these black athletes in particular have dealt with “the jagged edge of circumstances,” to rise above controversy and go beyond the call of duty with audaciousness, dignity, grace, and humor.

Young questioned whether it was possible to “play sports and protest at the same time,” like free-agent QB Colin Kaepernick. This garnered an immediate response from Rampersad who said that for black athletes, their “presence is a signal of protest.”

This session challenged us to think critically about black athletes and their personas as well as unrealistic expectations and pressures to “educate and uplift a nation”–a nation that has often rejected their humanity and proclaimed “game over” when they’ve deliberately crossed a line and strayed out of bounds.

Yesenia Flores Díaz is a 2020 Teacher and Librarian Scholar who credits her parents and elementary school librarian for cultivating an early love for reading. She is an English Composition Assistant with Montgomery County Public Schools and a firm believer that sports, like books, should be accessible to all. 

David Wolkowsky at Ballast Key in 1994. Photo by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders for L’Uomo Vogue.

Key West lost one of its defining figures with the death of David Wolkowsky on Sunday, September 23, 2018. He was 99.

Wolkowsky was a member of the Key West Literary Seminar board of directors from 1988-1991 and a member of its honorary board since 1992. But his impact on Key West and its literary and cultural scene was far greater than these official contributions. Among other things, Wolkowsky was a legendary host and matchmaker without peer, who brought an astonishing assortment of writers, artists, and “interesting people” together in the subtropical island city where his grandfather had arrived as a penniless immigrant following Key West’s great fire of 1886.

Wolkowsky’s annual writers’ party, held during the seminar each January, was a glittering affair at the penthouse apartment Wolkowsky built atop his father’s former Duval Street department store. A guest list of renowned writers mixed with celebrated artists, filmmakers, politicians, and A-listers from around the world, along with the local bartenders, tradespeople, fishermen, and friends for whom it was the most coveted social occasion of the year. Even more coveted was an invitation to Ballast Key, Wolkowsky’s private island, where he hosted friends in the heart of the 200,000-acre marine wilderness known as the Key West National Wildlife Refuge, far from the bustle and noise of the downtown district whose once-dusty streets he had known since childhood in the 1920s.

I was lucky to know Wolkowsky and count him as a friend throughout my adult life. From the moment I met him, in the winter of 2001-02, I was charmed by his unique combination of refined elegance and deep informality. I had returned to the Florida Keys that December after graduating from college and was drifting about, with vague ambitions of being a writer and an even vaguer idea of how to earn a living. My mom, who had known Wolkowsky from her time as director of the Seminar, suggested I call him and ask if he was looking for any help. I looked him up in the phone book and placed a call.

“Hello, Mr. Wolkowsky?,” I said, nervously.

“Call me David,” he said, deeply familiar and kind before even knowing who I was. “Who is this?” he asked, brusquely now.

“Hi, David, this is Arlo Haskell, I’m Monica Haskell’s son.”

“Arlo,” I was struck again by his familiar tone, and his distinctive, almost Mid-American accent, whose type I’d only heard in movies. “Yes, I was hoping you might call. How are you?”

I offered a brief recent history: graduated college, home again, looking for work. I told him my mom had said he might be looking for someone.

“She did?” David asked, seeming surprised. “Well, yes, I might. How would you like to come over for lunch on Friday?”

“Um, sure,” I said, “that’d be great.”

“Let’s say one o’clock, then, at my house. O.K.? Ten-fourteen Flagler.”

“O.K., great. One o’clock—” the phone clicked as David hung up—“on Friday. Thanks, David.”

I called him David ever after.

David's father and grandather, Isaac and Abraham Wolkowsky, ran a men's clothing store around the turn of the century. It appears at right in Mario Sanchez's "Old Island Days No. 23, 'Golden Era,'" shown here at David's home. Photo by Michael Adno.

Arriving for lunch that Friday, I entered the property through an ornate set of teak doors, removed from a Thai temple during the early 1980s, when David had been a partner in Kavanaugh’s furniture store, whose dusty storerooms full of strange, large, and wonderful eastern relics, I used to love to wander. Directly through these doors, which were set in the concrete block wall that hid his grounds from the passing public, was a swimming pool the size of which I’d only seen in hotels. On the left of the pool was a grand-seeming house, whose interior could partly be seen through the wall of sliding glass doors that fronted the pool.

No one answered when I knocked and called out, but the front door was standing open so I walked in. A single large room, with two sides of sliding glass and a high, vaulted ceiling, from which slowly whirring fans descended. The fans hanging through such volumes of space drew your eyes up, as in a cathedral, to the little windowed cupola that formed the apex of the room, where every surface seemed to overflow with fascinating items. On top of the grand piano were black-and-white photographs of Tennessee Williams, drinking and laughing in a Key West garden along with some glamorous-looking women and other men. Upon the table, a mound of reading material: the New York Times lay open, rifled through and obviously well-read, and dozens of books ranging from large-format coffee-table art books to biographies of historical figures. A striking wooden sculpture by the local artist Duke Rood—the vertical figure of a man descending headfirst—was situated among flowering orchids on a table at the center of the room, giving the impression that he he was diving, or had fallen, from a perch in that airy cupola. A drawing, signed “Picasso,” was on the back wall, near the porch, obviously neglected. There were a few Russian-constructivist-ish collages, and, scattered about, several of the colorful painted wood reliefs created by Mario Sanchez, a folk artist of rare talent and humor who had chronicled the Key West of David’s boyhood.

I found David in the middle of all this, sitting and talking on a white couch with his friend Tom Schmidt, who owned one of David’s favorite restaurants, the Rooftop Café. The three of us exchanged pleasantries and I noticed another man standing in the entryway to the kitchen, who seemed to be a little older than I was. He was dressed in white tennis shorts and a polo shirt, with white tennis shoes, white gardening gloves, and sunglasses, and he stood quietly in place, with his head and its artfully disheveled afro pitched slightly down.

“Arlo, this is Zach,” Zach raised his head and smiled beatifically, showing a mouthful of crooked teeth, two plated in gold. “He helps out here,” David said.

“Hi Zach.”

“Hello,” Zach said, and he seemed to float away on the word, smiling at some memory, of what I didn’t know.

“Perhaps you could give Zach a hand in the kitchen,” David suggested.

“Sure,” I said.

“Let me show you.”

I followed David into the kitchen and watched as he opened the refrigerator. Zach remained in his original position.

“We’re just going to have a little salad,” said David, “I buy this salmon salad from Publix, and here’s Boston lettuce. I like just a scoop of the salmon on a bed of lettuce, with a little olive oil. There will be three of us.”

“Sure, David. No problem.” As David left the kitchen, I saw my lunch invitation transform into an audition for a job I wasn’t sure I wanted.

“Zach, where are the plates?” I asked. “In the cabinet,” he said, indicating the corner, and smiled again, without moving from the spot where I’d first seen him.

I prepared, quickly and artfully, in the fashion of the restaurant line cook I had been off-and-on through college, three simple salad plates, drizzled with olive oil, topped with ground pepper, and garnished with a lemon slice. David stepped back into the kitchen at this moment.

“Arlo? Join us in the other room, won’t you?”

It was a test, I suppose, and everything seemed like a test for a while, but eventually I guess I passed, as that shift in the kitchen marked the beginning of my employment as David’s roaming man Friday and caretaker of his various properties.

Ballast Key, roughly nine miles west of Key West in the Key West Wildlife Refuge.

During the year I worked for David, my duties tracked his interests and eccentricities, mapping a social tableau that spanned from high to low. At night, I was his driver, delivering dinner guests that included U.S. Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan and John Hersey’s widow Barbara Hersey, to whom David was deeply devoted, to and from dinner at the Rooftop Café. In the early morning, I accompanied him to Simonton Beach, where a group of homeless men slept in the shadows of the Pier House, the fashionable resort David had developed in the 1960s. At that first lunch with David, I had told him about my experience as a stonemason in upstate New York, and without exactly telling me, David had decided that I would build a stone retaining wall at Ballast Key, where storms and shifting tides had eaten away at the beach where his dear departed friend John Malcolm Brinnin had once sat and read the New York Times while the Gulf of Mexico lapped at his feet. There was plenty of limestone surrounding the island, David pointed out to me on my first visit there, and indeed there was. The fact that it was underwater at all but the lowest tide, and would require a great deal of hard labor to extract, went unmentioned.

David’s methods were inscrutable, but somehow, among the tall grasses of the sea oats and empty vodka bottles at Simonton Beach, offering $5 an hour plus room and board on his private island, he always found one or two men who said they were willing to put in a few good days’ work. In the afternoon, I ferried men whose names were Miles and Popeye, and whose weathered skin and full beards made them look older than they were, aboard the smaller of David’s two boats, which pitched and rolled uncomfortably in the current-driven chop of Northwest Channel, out to Ballast Key, where we established a work camp. Against the incoming tide and in the blazing sun, they worked with heavy iron bars to break jagged slabs of limestone from the shallow waters that surrounded the island and carry them in overloaded wheelbarrows to the beach where I was building the wall, piece by piece. Lunch was hot dogs and potato chips, the same again for dinner. Who knows what the men thought after the sun went down and they found themselves alone on this otherwise deserted island—a millionaire’s paradise and private retreat, or something wild and forbidding? Ballast Key always seemed a bit of both, and while Miles and Popeye returned for multiple engagements, it wasn’t for everyone. One morning, I found Rudy, a gentle, bearded man who lived as a hermit in the Maine woods in the summer, and in the Key West cemetery in the winter, desperate to “escape,” as he put it, holding a cardboard sign that read “Key West, Please!” as he waved frantically at passing boats. “I can’t take it anymore,” he told me, obviously shaken. I told him that everything would be ok, he was under no obligation to stay, and I took him back to Key West. I would see Rudy around town occasionally in the years that followed. Although the island’s black and glittering night had terrified him, he apparently remained charmed by the man who had brought him there. “How’s David?” he would ask me, and you could tell that part of him wished he could return to the island.

On the weekends, as my retaining wall slowly came together, I began ferrying more illustrious guests to Ballast Key, a Vanderbilt here, a Rockefeller there, and the ever-growing cast of dazzling writers among whom David always seemed most at home. Driving the 27’ Boston Whaler that David reserved for guests, I delivered Robert Stone to the island one evening as darkness fell, leaving him there, alone, to work on completing the manuscript that became the novel Bay of Souls. While navigating the shallow expanse of water known as “the lakes” that separates Northwest Channel from Ballast Key, I was introduced to Laurent de Brunhoff, co-creator of the Babar series of storybooks I had known as a child, and his brilliant wife, the writer Phyllis Rose, who would later help edit my first book. I met famed writer Judy Blume and her husband George Cooper, another couple David recruited to Key West and who in turn created its only independent cinema and its leading bookstore. I talked with Renata Adler, whose thick braid of white hair swayed in the heavy wind generated by the boat’s forward motion. I met Bill Wright, a writer whose charm at times rivaled David’s and whose friendship with him then spanned nearly forty years. So many people whose names and backgrounds dazzled me, either immediately or only when I eventually realized who they were, years later—guests from London, New York, South Africa, Paris, Rome. An endless, rotating cast of fascinating writers, shouting literary references and friendly gossip over the roar of the twin outboard motors, with David occupying the co-captain’s chair and smiling on at the scene he had designed and casted. At the island, David served them hot dogs and potato chips for lunch too.

David with his friend Sarah Benson, during a 2012 party at his penthouse above Duval Street. Photo by Nick Doll.

David loved people and conversation and he had a gift for making his friends feel wanted. When David phoned to invite you over for lunch, there was often no need to check your schedule. He meant lunch today, and that you should arrive within the next fifteen minutes if possible. When I could, I dropped everything to join him. When I had something that seemed more pressing, I declined and regretted missing the opportunity. I regret those missed opportunities still.

Once, in September of 2008, David phoned to invite me over as Key West was being lashed by the winds and rain of Hurricane Ike, which was churning along the southern coast of Cuba. A mandatory evacuation order was in effect, but when I arrived I found the house on Flagler un-boarded, and David the picture of ease, chatting leisurely on the phone with Bill Wright, who, since our first meeting at Ballast Key years earlier, had also taken me under his wing, surely with David’s encouragement. I followed David into the kitchen, where he removed two salads from the refrigerator that had been prepared earlier—Boston lettuce and Florida avocados, seasoned with olive oil, salt, and pepper. After we ate the salads, David prepared lamb chops on a George Foreman grill—they charred and filled the air with rich aroma as succulent juices sizzled on the electric heating element. David cooked them to perfection on the unlikely surface, utterly delicious. For dessert, David warmed two slices of pumpkin pie in the oven and served them with vanilla ice cream.

After lunch, David said he wanted to see the island—not “the island,” as he always called Ballast Key, but the one whose ascendant place in the national consciousness had led to his popular nickname in the press, “Mr. Key West.” We climbed into the car as the rain drove down and David, who had just turned 90, got behind the wheel. He drove to a house he was renovating on Von Phister Street, where we took advantage of a brief break in the rain to have a look inside. The new roof and windows were holding up nicely in the storm; there were no leaks and it was utterly quiet inside, without even the hum of electricity. Ike was his father’s name and I think the hurricane had made David nostalgic—for the man whose death had brought him back to Key West over a half-century ago (a 1962 obituary said Ike had “a strong sense for the absurd or ridiculous”), and for a Key West that he felt, at times, was changing from authentic to commodity.

“You used to meet them all the time,” David said, “newcomers, writers, interesting people. But no one comes anymore.”

After surveying the rising waters on Eaton Street, David drove me back to my house on Love Lane. I’d been fascinated by the twists and turns of our conversation, and all the bits of Key West history he had revealed, and I asked if I could do a formal interview with him at some point.

“I’ll be happy to help,” he said, “but I’m rather overexposed already. At first you know it’s fun, and everybody likes a little acclaim, but after a while it starts to upset the neighbors.”

As the years went by, David’s oldest friends seemed to pass away one by one. Some time after Bill Wright died in 2016, David told me that he had never expected to live so long. It was lonely, at times. I could see that. Arriving at a friend’s party, filled with people, he joined me on a couch at the edge of the crowd and surveyed the room. “Who are these people?” he asked. But of course everyone knew who he was, and soon his many admirers were crowding around, patiently waiting their turn to share time—that ineffably precious resource—with David.

Photo by Michael Adno.

David introduced me to and made me welcome in the fascinating world that was his. He opened doors that have helped define my life and career. Through it all, he kept me laughing with his inimitable sense of humor, by turns cryptic, campy, wry, self-effacing, and bold. Over the past two years, with David occasionally having difficulty talking, a flurry of handwritten notes came in place of the usual phone calls. On my 38th birthday, a postcard from Ballast Key, showing a small boat at rest on a pile of jagged limestone—“I still remember the Ballast Key stone wall of Arlo”—a teasing joke, since Hurricane Ike had largely destroyed the wall I built and shifted John Malcolm’s beach yet again. Another postcard arrived soon after I took over the directorship of the Seminar, one that showed David at the beginning of the construction of the Pier House, standing in shorts and a t-shirt with the old Tony’s Fish Market hoisted high on blocks—“Arlo, it’s so great to have you where you belong. So hello, Dolly.” David even started emailing, surely one of the very few times someone opened a Gmail account at the age of 96. A stream of jokes and references followed from his iPad. There was a YouTube clip of Marlene Dietrich in concert, a selfie of David with someone’s dog in the driver’s seat of his vintage Excalibur (this to congratulate me for a talk I had given, saying “you don’t need a pup to charm an audience”), a simple photo of flowers on a table in that cathedral-like living room of his, and another selfie with his old friend, Mickey Wolfson, whose illustrious family history in Key West tracked David’s to the 1880s. “Wolf wolf,” he typed, and I could almost hear him laughing.

When I published a book last year that explores the roots of Key West’s Jewish community and the role played by David’s grandfather in its founding, David took on a new role as my biggest fan. “You have recreated Key West — a pioneer feast,” he wrote. “Even Tennessee Williams would be proud.” He bought dozens, maybe more than a hundred copies, throwing them over fences into the yards of his friends like a newspaper delivery boy. “Meanwhile I have raided Books & Books of Arlo,” he wrote me last winter, “not because I’m in it, but because I am not in it enough.”

David and I at a yard sale in 2013 — he ended up with the hat. Photo by Ashley Kamen.

Key West will go on, and David’s vision for it will continue to inspire me to work toward a more interesting island. But there will never be enough David here again. I will miss him a great deal.

One more memory. When Ashley and I were planning for our wedding in the spring of 2012, we knew exactly where we wanted to throw the party. There are a lot of beautiful old homes and gardens and venues in Key West, but there was only one place that, when you were there, you reliably felt that you didn’t want to be anywhere else, and you didn’t want the night to ever end.

“David’s penthouse,” Ashley said.

“But it’s David’s penthouse,” I said. I couldn’t imagine that our party could happen in a place that was so thoroughly David. And I couldn’t imagine asking him for something so personal. During the year I worked for David, there was an expression, a single word, actually, that he would deploy if you asked a question that was too personal, or if you said something within the hearing of someone who shouldn’t hear what you were saying.

“Seven,” David would say. And, only the very first time he said it, by way of explanation, “that’s a seven. Seven means don’t.”

I was sure that asking David if we could throw a party at the penthouse was a seven. But Ashley convinced me, and I picked up the phone.

“Hello,” David said.

“Hi David, it’s Arlo. Ashley and I are planning our wedding for the spring. We’re going to get married at the end of White Street Pier, and we’re looking for a place to hold the reception.”

“O.K.” he said, and paused.

“We thought of the penthouse. And we were wondering, I don’t know if you ever, if you would ever consider renting it to—”

“I wouldn’t,” David replied sharply. I knew it. It was too personal, too private a thing to ask. I felt my cheeks flush as I struggled to think of how to continue the conversation.

“O.K.,” I said. “I thought so. I just thought I’d ask—”

“I wouldn’t rent it,” he said now. “But I’d like for you and Ashley to have your wedding and spend the night there. As my guests. Of course.”

A toast to David on our wedding night, 2012. Photo by Nick Doll.

Friends and relatives from around the country flew in to join us and dozens of local friends “on the roof” at David’s penthouse. It rained all day, but the clouds broke before the ceremony to reveal a dazzling sunset. As we arrived at the party, stars were visible above the glow of Duval Street. David stayed home at Flagler Avenue that night, but his gift was all around us. Out-of-town guests were in awe—this is Key West? Where are we? Key West friends felt the same. They’d only ever heard of this place, and now they knew why. The handful of mutual friends of David’s and ours that attended, including a number of the writers I’d first met on the boat rides to Ballast Key, seemed impressed and proud. They had known me when. Now here I was with Ashley on our wedding night, a night that only David could have made possible, filled with the glamour that only David possessed.

I phoned David the next day to say thank you. “Don’t mention it,” he interrupted, as I tried to find the words to tell him how much it had all meant to us. “Let’s have lunch sometime soon.”



Arlo Haskell is executive director of the Key West Literary Seminar and author of The Jews of Key West: Smugglers, Cigar Makers, and Revolutionaries (1823-1969).


More about David Wolkowsky:

In 1986, the Fourth Annual Key West Literary Seminar was devoted entirely to the playwright Tennessee Williams. “Tennessee Williams in Key West” brought a number of Williams’s friends and associates to Key West, including publisher James Laughlin and playwright James Leo Herlihy. In preparation for his panel, “The Playwright as Poet,” John Malcolm Brinnin drafted a five-page manuscript on Williams. In the text, Brinnin recalls the first time he met Williams in Greenwich Village and likens the young playwright to a “shy child.” He then delves into what made Williams a “man who spoke from, and to, a broad seam of modern consciousness,” which Brinnin finds established Williams as a poet as much as he was a playwright.

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.

We’re delighted to share here the many accomplishments of our community of writers. The French painter Paul Cezanne once said, “We live in a rainbow of chaos.” Artists and writers—like you—take those colors and that chaos and turn them into something from which others can learn and grow. We thank you for that important and challenging work.

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

kYmberly Keeton‘s second book of poetry Emerging From The Wind: Love In The Time of Corona (written under the pseudonym Atlas Brown) is available through Indie Texas on the BiblioBoard Library mobile and web platform. Keeton is a native Texan, a nationally published writer, an art librarian and archivist, and a genealogy curator.

By day, the ALA Emerging Leader and Library Journal 2020 Mover & Shaker is the African American Community Archivist and Librarian at the Austin History Center, Austin Public Library. Independently, Keeton is the Chief Artistic Officer of NOVELLA MEDIA, a creative multimedia production company and the founder of ART | library deco. Currently, she is pursuing a doctorate in data science at the University of North Texas. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Manuel Gonzales 2018)

kYmberly Keeton
Chase Burke

Chase Burke‘s chapbook of very short stories, Lecturewas released in July by Paper Nautilus as a winner of their 2019 Debut Series contest. He contributed a story, “The Mask, the Ride, the Bag,” to the Tiny Nightmares anthology, recently released by Catapult.

His fiction chapbook, Men You Don’t Know You Know, won the Cupboard Pamphlet’s 2020 contest, chosen by Kim Chinquee, and will be published Spring 2021. A very short story, “Favoring the Nightcap,” was published this summer in the Cincinnati Review as part of their miCRo series. (Emerging Writer Award 2020/ Claire Messud 2020)

Arida Wright‘s new book Then Sings My Soul, released by Powerlines Publishing, offers 365 days of inspirational reflections. It is the story of the life-changing journey during which she learned to listen to God’s voice, a still, small voice she describes as “soul singing.”

As a Shinnecock Indian/Afro-American woman, Arida teaches the power of spirituality through the use of traditional ceremonies. Currently she is a member of the Key West Poetry Guild and the Key West Writers Guild and resides in Key West. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Manuel Gonzales 2018)

Arida Wright
Maija Rhee Devine

Maija Rhee Devine recently had three poems published in an anthology, When the Virus Came Calling: COVID-19 Strikes America (Golden Foothills Press), in which 11 of the 45 writers are poets laureate, including Richard Blanco, the US presidential poet laureate at Obama’s second inauguration. Maija’s poem, “Comfort Women of WWII,” was a featured poem of the week in Pleiades this summer. Her poem “Death By Sex, Death By Corona” and her essay “The Korean War and Chocolate Candies” were both published in DoveTales, a Writing for Peace Literary Journal of the Arts.

Maija celebrated the Centennial of Women’s Suffrage with four First Ladies and created 100 one-minute videos that were posted by the Washington Post in August. Maija’s video can be seen here. (Greg Pardlo 2020/ Kevin Young 2019/ Billy Collins 2018/ Dana Weir 2014/ Sharon Olds 2013/ Susan Shreve 2012/ Porter Shreve 2011)


Michael Adno is reporting for the New York Times as well as the Guardian this year and writing features for the Bitter Southerner and Surfer’s Journal. Over the summer, he and Kathryn Harrison raised over $45,000 for social justice organizations through a benefit called Photographs for Purpose. In October, Adno and his co-author Matt Titone released a collection of interviews called “On Surfing,” and he has launched a Kickstarter campaign to turn it into a book. (Writer in Residence 2018, 2019, 2020)

Pam Braswell‘s debut Rising from Rape, A Memoir of Justice and Survival will be released by McFarland/Exposito late this year. It is a firsthand true crime narrative that gives a victim’s perspective on the harrowing investigation of the crime, the revelations in the press, and the grand jury indictment and capital murder trial. (Susan Shreve 2015)

Chaney Kwak will publish his first book of nonfiction, The Passenger: How a Travel Writer Learned to Love Cruises & Other Lies from a Sinking Ship, with Godine, Publisher in 2021. In a bit of KWLS synergy, the book’s editor is Joshua Bodwell, who also won an Emerging Writer Award in 2015. (Emerging Writer Award 2015

Priscilla Mainardi‘s essay “To Melinda,” about the death of a friend from cancer during the pandemic, was published in the November issue of the narrative medicine journal the Intima. (Nicole Dennis-Benn 2020)

Judy Seldin-Cohen published two essays this year: “Farmer Daughter/Uptown Mother,” in the May issue of Hadassah Magazine and “Beyond Casseroles” in the anthology Impact: Personal Portraits of Activismpublished by Musewrite Press. (Writer’s Toolkit 2019)

Jay Sennett‘s essay “A Wide Landscape of Blanks,” which he workshopped in his KWLS class, has been published in phoebe – A Journal of Literature and Art based at George Mason University. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Celia Viggo Wexler was honored for her commentary in the San Francisco Chronicle and the Baltimore Sun by the Religion Newswriters Association. Judges called her work, which is largely focused on Catholic feminism, “sharp, original analysis.” Essays by Celia and her daughter, Valerie, will be published in the upcoming book, Unruly Catholic Women (SUNY Press). She has also been writing op-eds for NBC News’ website, THINK. (Kate Moses 2017/ Madeline Blaise 2014)


Rebecca Bruff‘s children’s Christmas adventure, Stars of Wonder, illustrated by artist Jill Dubin, will be released this month by Koehler Books. It’s the story of four curious kids who follow a star, encounter challenges and obstacles, and find their own strength along with joy, love, and great wonder. (Kate Moses 2017)

Chelsea Catherine‘s second novel, Summer of the Cicadas, was published by Red Hen Press in August. It follows the narrator, Jessica, as she investigates a strange brood of seventeen-year-old magicicadas that have infected her rural West Virginian town. Chelsea recently signed with literary agent Mary C. Moore of Kimberley Cameron & Associates to work on her third book, Blessed Be, about a coven of queer witches in the south. (Workshop Financial Aid 2016/ Kevin Young 2016)

Summer of the Cicadas by Chelsea Catherine
Should Grace Fail by Priscilla Paton

The second novel in Priscilla Paton‘s Twin Cities Mystery series, Should Grace Failis coming out this December with Coffeetown Press.

When a disgraced policeman who rescues trafficking victims is murdered, Detectives Erik Jansson and Deb Metzger have their skills put to the test as killers target a biracial pianist and a man generous to a fault. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Cindy Simmons’s debut novel, Wrong Kind of Paper, is due out next year from Sunbury Press. It tells the story of a young reporter confronting systemic racism in a small-town police department. (Marie Myung-Ok Lee 2017)


Chloe Firetto-Toomey‘s poem “Empty House” will appear in the 3Elements Review. It’s the first poem she’s written since completing her MFA program. Chloe says, “In many ways, it’s the ‘bravest’ poem I’ve written to date in that it tells a family secret; inspects generational trauma, emotional inheritance. The poem attempts to fathom the stories we inherit.” (Emerging Writer Award 2020/ Billy Collins 2020)

D. E. (Doug) Greens book of poems, Jumping the Median, which has it’s seeds in his KWLS workshop, was recently published by Encircle Publications. (Billy Collins 2012)

Emily Vizzo was awarded an art residency with the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, during which time she wrote two poems that were published by the literary and arts site Empty Mirror. The focus of the residency is how open data and data synthesis can help address the climate crisis. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2019/ Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2017)

short stories & articles

Adela M. Brito has had two short stories published: “Adrift” in Moko, Caribbean Arts and Letters and “Category-5 Effects” in the Acentos Review. She recently earned her MFA from the University of Memphis. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Naomi Jackson 2018)

Joe Dornich‘s debut short story collection, The Ways We Get Bywill be released by Black Lawrence Press in January 2021. The collection contains the story that won the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award. (Emerging Writer Award 2019/ Joy Williams 2019)

I have the Answer by Kelly Fordon

Kelly Fordon‘s short story collection I Have the Answer was recently published by Wayne State University Press. In addition, her poetry collection Goodbye Toothless House was released by Kattywompus Press. (Valerie Martin 2010/ Joy Williams 2018)

Mary Garber, writing under the byline M. E. Garber, has had two flash fiction stories published: “What You Do for a Friend,” in the scientific journal Nature in the “Futures” section and “Jancy8146 and the RealHouse” at Daily Science Fiction. (Writer in Residence 2018)

Amy Lantinga‘s essay “No Room on the Boat? Pets vs People in Disaster Relief Efforts” was published in Animals and Ourselves: Essays on Connections and Blurred Boundaries, edited by Kathy Merlock Jackson, Kathy Shepherd Stolley and Lisa Lyon Payne. This book chapter chronicles the blurred lines between humans and their animals through the lens of rescue and relief efforts during natural disasters like Hurricanes Katrina, Irene, Irma, and Harvey. (Krystal Sital 2020/ John Dufresne 2019)

Maija Makinen‘s short story “1993” was selected as fiction winner of the 2020 Iowa Review Awards and will appear in the Winter Issue; Lan Samantha Chang judged. Her essay on the pandemic was published in the Bare Life Review. Maija’s short fiction “The Ghosts of Other Immigrants” is forthcoming in “Short, Vigorous Roots: An Anthology of Immigrant Fiction in the Age of Dissent” edited by Susan O’Neill and Mark Budman and published by Ooligan Press. She is currently in residence at Art Omi: Writers in Ghent, NY. (Emily Raboteau 2019)

Gale Massey‘s collection of 13 short stories, Rising and Other Stories, is coming out with Bronzeville Books in April 2021. Gale is a Florida native and lives in St. Petersburg, Florida. More information at galemassey.com. (Claire Messud 2020)

Kristine Mietzner‘s short story “Crossing Over” was published by the literary journal166 Palms in July. (Dan Menaker 2018 / Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2017)

Vicki Riley‘s multi-genre book Cayo Hueso: Literary Writings and Artwork From Key West has been published in a linen-bound volume with book jacket as a cherished keepsake and conversation piece. It contains poems and stories that capture Key West and includes paintings by Linda Cabrera. (Paulette Alden 2015/ Lee Smith 2012)

Andrea Rinard was nominated for Best of the Net for her flash fiction, “Lovebugs,” which was published in Cease, Cows. (Emerging Writer Award 2020/ Lauren Groff 2020)

Cayo Hueso: Literary Writings and Artwork From Key West by Vicki Riley

April Sopkin received a dual-genre MFA in Fiction and Nonfiction from Virginia Commonwealth University. She is finishing a short story collection and teaches writing at both VCU and the Visual Arts Center of Richmond. Her writing has won the Raymond Carver Short Story Contest and the Patricia Aakhus Award. Her prose appears/is forthcoming in Black Telephone Magazine, Carve Magazine, Southern Indiana Review, Parhelion Literary Magazine, and elsewhere. More information at aprilsopkin.com. (Francine Prose 2020)


John Baum was awarded a fellowship at the Hambidge Center for the Creative Arts, and his short story “The Day Mark Nolan Gets Shot” is forthcoming in the Carolina Quarterly online edition. (Mary Kay Zuravleff 2016)

Debra Daniel won the Kakalak 2020 First Prize for her poem, “Things Lost,” and her poem “How We Make It Through” won the John Robert Doyle Prize from the Poetry Society of South Carolina. Her flash piece, “If My Mother Really Loved Me, She Would’ve Had Sex With Gene Kelly,” was selected for the UK’s National Flash Fiction Day Anthology. (Dan Menaker 2016/ Billy Collins 2015)

Aurora Dominguez won a third place award from the Society of Professional Journalists for a blogpost in Worthy Magazine. In October, she was designated “Teacher of the Month” at Boca High School. Aurora contributes young adult book reviews and content for Frolic Media and was recently hired by Book Riot to contribute journalistic pieces. She will be teaching communication courses at Nova Southeastern and Florida Atlantic University in 2021. More at AuroraDominguez.com. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2020)

Maria Lisa Eastman‘s poem “Violets, History” won first place in the Wyoming Writer’s contest. A poem that was written during the KWLS workshop as a homework assignment, “Suite No. 1 in G Major for Solo Cello, or JS Bach’s Dog,” received an honorable mention in the same contest. Participants from that workshop have formed a monthly group, called “The Cigar Factory Poets” to continue reviewing one another’s work and to support each other in poetry. (Billy Collins 2020)

Aaron Hamburger‘s novel Nirvana Is Here was awarded a Bronze Medal in the 2019 Foreword Reviews Indies Awards. Aaron received a fellowship from the DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities. More at www.aaronhamburger.com. (Writer in Residence 2018)

Elizabeth Jacobson was awarded a 2020 Poets Laureate Fellowship from the Academy of American Poets for her current civic project in which she will support a poetry and visual arts venture for high school teenagers encompassing the study and crafting of poems, graphic design, silk screening, poetry tee-shirts, photography, portraiture, readings, group shows, and the publication of an anthology. (Writer in Residence 2020)

Audrey Wick was named a 2019 Teaching Excellence Award Winner at Blinn College. She was recognized for her innovative approaches to student success. She has been on faculty since 2003. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2018)


Nancy Freund Fraser received her Masters in Creative Writing from Cambridge University. She’s pleased to report that her 2019 KWLS workshop group has remained in contact since working together in Key West. More at nancyfreund.com. (Richard Russo 2019/ Billy Collins 2017)

Elizabeth Oxley was recently accepted to the M. Phil. in Creative Writing program at Trinity College Dublin in Ireland. Her focus during the program will be poetry. Some of her poems can be found on her website ElizabethOxley.com. (Gregory Pardlo 2019)

Janet Zinn has been writing a weekly blog since social distancing during the pandemic. It’s from a personal viewpoint and has a mental health perspective since she is a psychotherapist. Thus far there are 31 posts, some of which include photos she took in NYC and self-care tips. Each post is about a four minute read. (Emily Raboteau 2019)

in memoriam

It is with great sadness that we share news of the passing of two of our friends and colleagues.

Daniel Menaker taught in our workshop program each year from 2013–2019. He was an influential editor as well as a critically acclaimed author. Learn more about his life in the New York Times obituary.

Robert Richardson served on our board of directors from 2001-2009, and on the honorary board since then. As a board member, he was one of the strongest advocates for our scholarship program. Bob was best known for his biographies of Thoreau, Emerson and William James. You can read more about him in the New York Times obituary.

We love hearing from KWLS alumni! Keep us up to date by sending your latest news to [email protected].

2018 Emerging Writer Award Winners: Sara Allen (short story), Dantiel Moniz (novel) and Michael Lee (poetry)

Greetings to all,

Each year, we present three awards to unpublished writers with exceptional talent who demonstrate the potential for lasting literary careers.

This year will be no different–at least in this respect. Even as many of our other programs are suspended due to the pandemic, we’re pleased to once again have the opportunity to support new voices in American literature through the 2021 Emerging Writer Awards.

Applications are open now and the deadline has been extended to September 15, 2020. Winners will be announced in early 2021.

Each award is tailored to a particular literary form. The Scotti Merrill Award recognizes a poet, while fiction writers may apply for either the Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award (for a short story) or the Marianne Russo Award (for a novel-in-progress).

Winners will receive a prize package including full tuition support for our January 2022 Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program (January 6–14, 2022); round-trip airfare and lodging in Key West; and a $500 honorarium. Each winner will also have the opportunity to read their work on stage during the 2022 Seminar, and will be invited to private events with presenters and faculty throughout their time in Key West.

Please help us spread the word about this unique opportunity by sharing this news with talented writers in your circle.

Looking forward to seeing you in Key West!

Arlo Haskell | Executive Director
Katrin Schumann | Program Coordinator

Testimonials from past award winners:

Dantiel W. Moniz, 2018 Cecelia Joyce Johnson Award
“Winning was a life changing experience for me as it was my first literary award. It was amazing to be able to read my material in front of writers I admire.  Moments that were not scheduled were also important—like riding around Key West on bikes, learning about its literary history, becoming friends with other winners… It was a completely immersive experience.”

Theodore Wheeler, 2014 Marianne Russo Award
“The mentorship aspect of this award is key because you have access to the ‘authors in the room.’ The sense of belonging is special and you really feel celebrated.”

Diana Khoi Nguyen, 2012 Scotti Merrill Award
“The highlight of the experience was being able to go on stage to read my work, then sitting next to George Saunders, who said, “Good job!” when I was finished. It was nerve-wracking and so affirming.”


Key West Literary Seminar’s board of directors has made the unanimous, sensible, and very sad decision to postpone “A Seminar Named Desire” for one year. It will now take place January 6–9, 2022. We are in the process of reconfirming the roster of presenters, and it appears that all will be able to join us for the new dates, along with others to be named later.

This will be the first January in nearly 40 years without the seminar. For many of us, it is the center around which the rest of the year turns. But it has become increasingly clear that it is not possible to hold the seminar during a pandemic, which, by all likelihood, will still be with us in January. It will be strange for the seminar not to be there — as so much about our lives is strange now.

As of now, the workshop program is still scheduled to take place in January. The smaller numbers of people involved leave us some room for optimism that it could be held safely come January, and we will continue to evaluate this over the next several weeks.

Read on for a personal letter from our president, Nancy Klingener.

Thank you for your support of the Seminar during this time, and always,

Arlo Haskell | Executive Director

A letter from our president, Nancy Klingener

I became president of the Key West Literary Seminar on January 19, after the end of this year’s program. The next day, the first case of COVID-19 was confirmed in the United States.

We’ve all learned a lot since then and many have suffered — and continue to suffer. Postponing our annual gathering is a relatively small sacrifice. It’s still painful.

The pandemic has forced me to consider what is essential in my life, and brought new appreciation for those who provide it. For us — the extended Key West Literary Seminar community — books are essential. They’re helping us get through, bringing us solace and escape, information and enlightenment. Long before air travel or the Internet, books took us almost anywhere in time and space. I would add bookstore and library staff to the essential workers on the front lines. We need to support them now, and also take care not to place them — or anyone — at any unnecessary risk.

That’s what a gathering of hundreds of people in a pandemic would be. A risk we cannot take with the community of writers and readers who create the Seminar every year. All of you, and your safety, are essential to us.

In January, every year until now, we connect — in person — with writers we have admired for decades and writers we are introduced to for the first time on our stage. With old friends and new arrivals. We can’t do that now. But we will be working hard to stay connected with you, through technology as new as the digital realm and as old as words on paper.

Please take care of yourself and the essential people around you. We’ll see you in person when it’s safe. Until then, we’ll keep reading, keep writing, keep working on our mission of fostering literary culture, connecting with the universe of letters from a tiny island at the end of the road.

Thank you for your essential part in that mission.


Nancy Klingener | President of the Board of Directors

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.

It’s a joy to share with you the many recent achievements of our alumni, especially now. We hope you have found ways to keep your own creative growth and literary conversations going, despite the unprecedented events of the past few months. Read on for more …

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

Alexandra Lopez-Nadal

Alexandra Lopez-Nadal’s undergraduate honors thesis, “Greatest National Treasure: Elizabeth Bishop’s Influence on James Merrill” (May 2019) is now available through the Florida Atlantic University Digital Library. “The KWLS audio archives—specifically Merrill’s contributions to the 1993 seminar dedicated to Bishop—inspired and shaped my work,” Lopez-Nadal says. Her essay on the same topic was recently published in the FAU Undergraduate Research Journal. (KWLS Intern 2017/ Manuel Gonzales 2018)

Sandra Jackson-Opoku received the inaugural Esteemed Artist Award in Literary Arts from the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events for her novel-in-progress, Black Rice. These special new $10,000 grants are awarded to highly-qualified artists for expenses associated with an artist’s practice.

Jackson-Opoku’s first work of crime fiction, “She Loved Trouble,” appears in Both Sides: Stories from the Border, an anthology of original and riveting stories that tackle controversial border issues. (Workshop Financial Aid 2020/ Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Sandra Jackson-Opoku
James Brennan

James Brennan is a 2020 recipient of an Excellence Award and a Suanne Davis Roueche Faculty Conference Scholarship from the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development (NISOD), a consortium of community and technical colleges committed to promoting and celebrating excellence in teaching, learning, and leadership. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2018)

From her experience at the 2020 Key West Literary Seminar, “Reading Between the Lines: Sports & Literature,” Clarissa West-White created a reader’s advisory “LibGuide” on the confluence of sports and literature to assist faculty in selecting works to pique the interest of students. “The beauty of such guides is that they do not require much upkeep and additions can be inserted at any time,” she says about the variety of LibGuides she has created as a reference librarian and instructor at Bethune-Cookman University in Daytona Beach, Florida. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2020)

Clarissa West-White


Glenn Frankel’s non-fiction book about New York at the dawn of gay liberation in the 1960s and the making of Midnight Cowboy has been accepted by Farrar, Straus and Giroux for publication in 2021 (working title: Shooting Midnight Cowboy: Art, Sex, Loneliness, Liberation, and the Making of a Dark Classic). Frankel researched the life of James Leo Herlihy, author of the novel Midnight Cowboy upon which the Academy Award-winning film was based, while he was a KWLS writer in residence in 2019.


Jeannette Brown’s novel The Illusion of Leaving was published in May by Texas Review Press. Set in West Texas, the book is a “coming of old-age” tale complete with betrayal, decades-old grudges, and inclement weather. (Fernanda Eberstadt 2020)

Daniel Fitzpatrick’s first novel, Only the Lover Sings, was released in March. It tells the story of a New Orleans family displaced by a hurricane and of the physical and spiritual harrowing they undergo in the storm’s wake. (Gregory Pardlo 2020)

Sharon Harrigan‘s novel Half (published this month by University of Wisconsin Press) grew out of the story by the same name that won the Cecilia Joyce Johnson Award in 2013. Publishers Weekly calls it “riveting and inventive, a cut above the average coming of age novel.” (Emerging Writer Award 2013/ Hilma Wolitzer 2013)

Diana Abu-Jaber‘s YA fantasy novel Silverworld was published in March by Crown/Random House. It’s the fantasy-adventure story of a Lebanese-American girl who finds the courage to save her grandmother. (Writer in Residence 2017 & 2018/ Faculty 2016/ Presenter 2011)

Dan Ornstein‘s new book, Cain v. Abel: A Jewish Courtroom Drama (Jewish Publication Society), invites readers of all backgrounds to enter the courtroom and take their seats as jurors at the trial for the world’s first murder. (Billy Collins 2015/ Madeline Blais 2014/ Mary Morris 2013)

Theodore Wheeler‘s second novel, In Our Other Lives, was published March 3. It’s a provocative story about abandoned faith, heartbreaking loss, and inescapable government surveillance in the heartland of a post-9/11 nation. Kirkus Reviews calls it “a compelling portrait.” (Emerging Writer Award 2014/ Mary Morris 2014/ Robert Stone 2012)


Beth Aviv‘s poem “Summer Light” was published in the Fall 2019 issue of the Bellevue Literary Review (Madison Smartt Bell 2018)

Ross Belot‘s book, Moving to Climate Change Hours, forthcoming from Wolsak & Wynn, is “… a beautiful, intimate, ambitious, moving book written by a poet of great skill and deep feeling.” –Matthew Zapruder. From industrial accidents to frozen highways, Belot charts what faces a working man in stripped-down lyric poetry. The first poem in the collection was written at KWLS. (Jane Hirshfield 2015)

Lorraine Cregar‘s poem “O Winter! My Winter!” was published in issue 11 of the Writers Circle journal. It’s a play on Walt Whitman’s “O Captain! My Captain!” and an elegy to the promise of winter’s relief from menopausal hot flashes. (Luis Alberto Urrea 2020)

Allison Hutchcraft‘s first poetry collection, Swale, was named 2019 Editor’s Choice by New Issues Poetry & Prose and is forthcoming in October. Poems from Swale have appeared in Boulevard, the Gettysburg ReviewKenyon Review, the Missouri Review, and the Southern Review, among others. (Jane Hirshfield 2015)

Catherine West Johnson was selected as a finalist for the 48th New Millennium Writing Award for poetry for her poem “Even the Sparrow,” which will be published in issue 29 of New Millennium Writings later this year. (Rowan Ricardo Phillips 2018)

Leatha Kendrick’s fifth collection of poems, And Luckier (Accents Publishing 2020), is “an unflinching and holistic look at our world,” says poet Kathleen Driskell. “[Her] work is complex and masterfully figurative, always allowing for two things to be said at once, two things to be true at once.” (Campbell McGrath 2016)

Ellen Birkett Morris‘s poem “Abide” was featured on the radio show and podcast A Way with WordsListen here. (Billy Collins 2010)

Andrew Shaffer has published his first poetry chapbook, Let’s See Them Poems. His poems are playful, hilarious, and accessible—three adjectives he didn’t associate with poetry until reading Billy Collins. Several of the poems were written during his KWLS residency last fall. (Writer in Residence 2019/ Daniel Menaker 2019)

Scott Brennan‘s first book of poems, Raft Made of Seagull feathers, was published in January (Main Street Rag Publishing). “Brennan combines a straightforward tone with an agile knack for associative hopping,” says Billy Collins. “The result is a debut collection bursting with smart, genial poems laced with surprises.” (Emerging Writer Award 2013/ Billy Collins 2013)


Drew Larimore’s short play Text Angel appeared as part of Planet Connections Theatre Company’s Dark Planet: Not Your Mother’s Valentine’s Day at the 14th Street Y in New York City in February. (Writer in Residence 2018 & 2019)

Kristine Mietzner’s play Reservations–the Cat and Dog Comedy premiered at Winters Theatre Company’s 10-Minute Play Festival in January. The play received an honorable mention in the category of “Best Comedic 1 Act” by the Avalonia 7 Theater Festival. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2017/ Daniel Menaker 2018)


Pamela Gay’s memoir I’m So Glad You’re Here was published on May 26 by She Writes Press. Kirkus Reviews calls Gay “a perceptive and compassionate narrator who manages to explore the gaps in everyone’s stories, including her own.” (Dani Shapiro 2017/ Antonya Nelson 2016/ Madeleine Blais 2014)

Fraser Smith self-published his memoir, The Daily Miracle: A Memoir of Newspapering, a social and political history of the country and of the newspaper, in 2019. Smith credits Workshop Faculty Dan Menaker for suggesting the opening scene: in the Jersey Journal newsroom on the day of JFK’s assassination just weeks after Smith’s first day on the job. (Marie Myung-Ok Lee 2017/ Menaker 2016/ Paulette Alden 2015)

short stories & articles

Melissa Coleman’s article “The Book That Birthed the Back-to-the-Land Movement” in DownEast magazine was partially researched during her KWLS residency. Her book on the same topic is forthcoming. (Writer in Residence 2016 & 2018)

Faran Fagen has written several articles for the Palm Beach Post pertaining to COVID-19: a Delray Beach mom who makes masks for autism awarenessa YA author who’s promoting her fourth book online about a teen’s triumph over cerebral palsyteachers using plants to promote science online, and a local bookstore manager winning a literary award(Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2020)

Leah Griesmann’s short story “Klondike” was published in issue 40 of the Worcester Review. Her essay “Helicopter Parenting, the College Admissions Scandal, and James M. Cain’s ‘Mildred Pierce’” was published in the Los Angeles Review of Books in January. (Jennine Capó Crucet 2017)

James Victor Jordan’s short story “Victims of Love” was published in the September 2019 issue of The Society of Misfit Stories(Madison Smartt Bell 2018)

Michael Adno’s work has appeared in the New York Timesthe Bitter SouthernerSurfer’s Journal, and Southern Living recently. (Writer in Residence 2018, 2019, & 2020)


Rebecca Dwight Bruff‘s historical novel, Trouble the Water (2019), was awarded first place in Adult Fiction and first place in Debut Author from the Feathered Quill Book Awards and was named winner in African American Fiction of the 2019 American Fiction Awards sponsored by American BookFest. (Workshop Financial Aid 2017/ Kate Moses 2017)

Esperanza Cintrón’s collection of short stories, Shades: Detroit Love Stories (Wayne State University Press), was chosen as a 2020 Michigan Notable Book and was a finalist in the short story category for the 2020 Midwest Book Awards. (Teacher & Librarian Scholarship 2018)

Kristine Simelda was voted “Dominican Literary Artist of the Year” in 2019. She was longlisted for the Commonwealth Short Story Prize in 2020. Her third YA novel Back to the River was published in 2019. She has work forthcoming in the Caribbean Writer and WomanSpeak. She is currently working on a memoir. (Workshop Financial Aid 2018/ Naomi Jackson 2018/ Lee Smith 2015)


In March, Program Coordinator Katrin Schumann released her second novel, This Terrible Beauty, which explores the collision of art, love, and power in post war East Germany. Schumann managed to sneak in a Key West launch and an event at the Key West Public Library just days before everything shut down.

Executive Director Arlo Haskell edited Harry Mathews’s Collected Poems: 1946-2016, which was published by Sand Paper Press in February. Mathews (1930-2017) was an editor of the Paris Review and former board member of KWLS. Haskell continues to research Key West’s history of Black political activism and white violence; he recently presented a lecture, “Invisible Island: Key West and the K.K.K., 1921-1926,” at the College of the Florida Keys.


Scott Brennan‘s photo essay “Framed Sculptures” was published in the Winter 2020 issue of Contexts, a publication of the American Sociological Association; an interview and selections from his photo essay “Drive” were the Art Feature in issue 43.2 of the Journal; and his “The Sacred and the Profane” photo essay was published in Columbia Journal in May. (Emerging Writer Award 2013/ Billy Collins 2013)

Daniel Fitzpatrick‘s new translation of Dante’s Divine Comedy will be released in three parts leading up to Italy’s Dantedì celebration in March 2021, which marks 700 years since Dante’s death. Each canto will be illustrated by sculptor Timothy Schmalz. Subscribers may donate to receive two cantos in their inboxes weekly, with proceeds going to Italian hospitals beset by Covid19. (Gregory Pardlo 2020)

in memoriam

We are sad to report the death of Kimarlee Nguyen, 2017 Teacher & Librarian Scholarship winner. She died of the novel coronavirus on April 5 at age 33. Read about her accomplishments in the New York Times obituary.

We love hearing from KWLS alumni! Keep us up to date by sending your latest news to [email protected].