The annual four-day Key West Literary Seminar begins with our keynote presentation, the John Hersey Memorial Address, on Thursday evening around 5 p.m. Programming begins again on Friday morning around 9 am, and continues all day Friday and Saturday, finishing after sunset each day. The final day of programming concludes on Sunday afternoon. Onstage presentations include solo readings and lectures, one-on-one interviews, and larger conversations among three or more writers. There are question-and-answer sessions, book signings, and various informal opportunities to meet with writers and other participants throughout the the long weekend.
Advance registration is required to attend the Seminar in full; the registration fee is $675 per person. Registration includes access to all onstage events, as well the opening night reception (catered, open bar), open-bark cocktail hours, and a light breakfast and coffee each morning. Selected portions of the Seminar are free-of-charge and open to the general public; these will be announced closer to the event.
Since 2022, the Seminar has taken place outdoors at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater (21 Quay Rd. Key West, FL 33040), within Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park. A former Naval Air Station which has been recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for its innovative reuse of military property into public facilities, the Truman Waterfront also includes athletic fields, playgrounds, fitness trails, and public waterfront. Named for Lofton “Coffee” Butler (1928–2022), a celebrated Key West musician and former Negro League baseball player, Coffee Butler Amphitheater is located about a half-mile from Duval Street and situated between Key West’s historic African-American neighborhood, Bahama Village, and Fort Zachary Taylor State Park.
The main seating area at the Seminar is within a large, open-ended saddlespan tent. Additional seating is provided in an open-air shaded area outside the tent, and there is ample area to set up a blanket or folding chair on the lawn. Additional tented areas on site provide shade and rain cover away from the main seating area.
January is historically the coolest and driest month of the year, with average high/low of 75º / 67º (F). However, the weather can change suddenly. Participants are advised to check the weather each day and to plan accordingly — bring a water bottle and wear sun protection if it will be warm and sunny, bring a jacket or wear extra layers if cold weather is forecast, and prepare for rain if needed. In rare cases, scheduled events may be adjusted at the last minute to accommodate inclement weather.
General registration for the 40th Annual Key West Literary Seminar, “Singing America: A Celebration of Black Literature” (January 12–15, 2023) will open on February 24. Members of our Patrons Circle who have donated $1000 or more during the past year will be invited to register early, from February 16–18.
In addition to the onstage activities, registration includes an invitation to the reception (catered, open bar) immediately following Thursday night’s keynote address. Coffee and light breakfast fare will also be provided in the mornings at the Amphitheater.
We set aside a number of registrations to be awarded later in the year through our Scholarship Program. Teachers and librarians from anywhere in the U.S. are eligible to apply for these scholarships, which provide a full waiver of the registration fee and subsidized lodging.
We also provide scholarships to teachers, librarians, and students in our community through arrangements with Key West High School, Key West Public Library, and College of the Florida Keys. If you are affiliated with one of these institutions, talk with your supervisor about these opportunities.
Select sessions of the 2023 Seminar will be free and open to the public. Details will be announced as the event draws near — subscribe to our newsletter to stay informed, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and/or Instagram.
join the patrons circle
Members of our Patrons Circle who have donated $1,000 or more during the past twelve months are eligible to register early for up to two people by personal arrangement during our “patrons only” registration period, which usually takes place in February. Patrons who donate $5,000 or more are invited to register at anytime, even if the event is sold out.
We have a variety of volunteer activities available, including ushering, helping with registration, event preparation in our office, tech team and stage production work, retail sales during the Seminar, putting up posters, delivering program books, and more. Please complete this form to be added to our volunteer list.
Visit the Seminar main page for the roster of presenters and other information about the upcoming Seminar. Submit your name and email address at the bottom of this page to join our mailing list to receive additional information and reminders about registration and our other programs.