Literary Fun in Key West

Key West Literary Seminar

 

This year’s theme was SHORTS, focusing on short stories. So naturally, the speakers were standouts in that genre: Antonia Nelson, Ron Rash, and Ann Beattie, for instance. But there were also poets–Billy Collins, Claudia Rankine–and essayists–Hilton Als.

Karen Russell, Jim Shepard, Gish Jen, Junot Diaz, Joy Williams, were also among the luminaries.

In addition to readings and “conversations” (informal panel discussions or two-somes, (see Karen and Jim)), there were craft lectures. One of my favorites was Antonia talking about revision. A version of this can be found at the Narrative website. Proceedings from this seminar and past ones (think George Saunders, James Merrill, Wendy Wasserstein, Sharon Olds) are recorded and accessible on the KWLS website, KWLS.org/podcasts.

One of the most memorable moments was watching Ron Rash read his story and hearing the audience collectively gasp. Twice.

I enjoyed being a listener as opposed to having a ms. workshopped, but if I had chosen (and had the coins) I could have stayed another week in Paradise and worked with Ann or Toni.

Next year’s topic is “Revealing Power: The Literature of Politics.” If you go, I recommend staying at Eden House. And while you’re in Key West, visit Hemingway’s house and the Tennessee Williams exhibit. And pick up a tee-shirt: “I’m going to Hell in every religion,” “Come to Key West so you can dress trashy and drink before noon,” and “I’ve been to Duluth.” Also, Parrotthead stuff.

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