program overview

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 extended weekend.

Each year, the Key West Literary Seminar explores a particular literary theme. In 2023, we will celebrate our 40th anniversary with “Singing America: A Celebration of Black Literature” (January 12–15, 2023).


registration

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), cocktail hours, and a light breakfast and coffee each morning.


site & setting

Since 2022, the Seminar has been held outdoors at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater (21 Quay Rd., Key West, FL 33040). The Amphitheater is part of Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park, located outside the historic city center, 0.6 miles from Duval Street and approximately 700 feet from the entrance to Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. Recommended access to the site is via bicycle, Lyft/Uber, or the City of Key West’s Loop Bus. Parking is available for $5/hour at two lots within the Park; the closest lot is approximately 800 feet from the Amphitheater.

The main seating area at the Amphitheater is within a large, open-ended SaddleSpan tent. Additional tented areas on site provide shade and rain cover away from the main seating area, and there is ample space to set up a blanket or folding chair on the lawn. Food and drink are available for purchase on site from participating mobile vendors and food trucks.

January is historically the coolest and driest month of the year, with an average high/low of 75º / 67º (F); however, the weather can change suddenly. Participants are advised to check the weather daily 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.

Truman Waterfront Park is 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. In addition to the Amphitheater, the Truman Waterfront includes athletic fields, children’s playgrounds and water features, fitness trails, and public waterfront. Walking trails and a swimming beach are nearby at Fort Zachary Taylor State Park. The Amphitheater is named for Lofton “Coffee” Butler (1928–2022), a celebrated Key West musician.


scholarships

We set aside a number of registrations to be awarded each year through our Scholarship Program. Teachers and librarians from anywhere in the United States 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.


free programs

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, and have access to reserved seating (seating is otherwise unassigned, on a general admission model).


volunteer

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.


other opportunities

If you are in Key West but unable to attend the Seminar, we recommend the author events presented by Books & Books @ the Studios of Key West and Friends of the Key West Library.

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.

The Seminar is held at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater, an open-air venue within Key West's award-winning Truman Waterfront Park.
A large, open-ended SaddleSpan tent covers the main seating area and offers protection from the elements.
Additional tented areas feature Books & Books' popular popup bookstore and a small open-air café where food and drink are available for purchase.
Judy Blume and Jami Attenberg onstage at the 2022 Seminar.