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

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

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

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

featured achievements

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

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

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

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

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

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

novels & collections

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

short stories & articles

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

We love hearing from KWLS alumni! Keep us up to date by sending your latest news to

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 Christine Vines; the Scotti Merrill Award for poetry goes to Gabriel Mundo; and the Marianne Russo Award for a novel-in-progress goes to Melanie Pappadis Faranello.

A jury made up of past award winners, KWLS board members and staff, and trusted readers reviewed hundreds of entries this year over the course of multiple rounds. The overall quality of the manuscripts submitted was extremely high this year.

Congratulations to Christine, Gabriel, and Melanie!

for a short story

Christine Vines is a fiction writer from Wichita, Kansas. Her writing has appeared in or is forthcoming in One StoryWitnessBOMBJoylandElectric Literature, and the Chicago Tribune, where it was a runner-up for the Nelson Algren Literary Award. She was a 2018 W.K. Rose Fellow in Creative Arts at Vassar College, a 2018–19 Steinbeck Fellow at San José State University, the 2020 Marguerite and Lamar Smith Fellow at Carson McCullers Center, and a writer-in-residence at the Hambidge Center and elsewhere.

Vines received an MFA degree from Cornell University and has taught English and creative writing at Cornell, San José State University, and the Telluride Association. For four years she ran the Fiction Addiction reading series in New York City.

Our judge, Cecelia Johnson, said of Christine’s winning story: “The author has a very firm grip and expresses with great narrative skill … the young protagonist’s interior psychological point of view.”

for poetry—selected by Billy Collins

Gabriel Mundo is the son of Mexican immigrants and grew up in the small town of Highwood, Illinois. A first-generation college graduate, he holds a bachelor’s degree in English and writing from Carroll University in Waukesha, Wisconsin. He is currently an MFA degree candidate in poetry at the University of Mississippi.

His work can be found in Tint JournalPlainsongsBarzakhUp the Staircase Quarterly, and elsewhere.

In picking Gabriel as the winner, Billy Collins wrote: “Whether the tone is comforting or terrifying, these poems have a quiet power that derives from their being anchored in the unmistakably real world and spoken in plain language by this charming, clear-eyed poet.”

for a novel-in-progress

Melanie Pappadis Faranello received her MFA degree in creative writing from the New School and has attended Sewanee Writers’ Conference and Middlebury Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. She is the founder of the public art project Poetry on the Streets, LLC.

Her writing has been published in BlackbirdHuffPost PersonalFifth Wednesday JournalLiterary MamaRequited, and Connotation Press, among others. Her work has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, shortlisted for Sarabande Books’ Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, and named a finalist for the Dana Award and for the novel category of the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Creative Writing Competition. She is the recipient of an individual artist fellowship grant from the Connecticut Office of the Arts and is a Creative Community Fellow with National Arts Strategies.

Originally from Chicago, Faranello works as a teaching artist, and lives with her family in West Hartford, Connecticut. She has completed two novels and a collection of short stories.

Carol Balick, one of our judges, said of Melanie’s novel-in-progress: “Beautiful writing, so spare, yet rich with emotion. I hope it is published so I can read on.”

Winners of the Emerging Writer Awards receive full tuition to the Seminar and Writers’ Workshop Program, 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 EWA 2023 in March 2022.

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

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.

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 (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 (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 (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 (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 (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 (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

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