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This humble blog was started to document our travels around the country during the summer of 2006, We have opted to continue updating it due to the requests from family & friends. Enjoy!

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Key West Literary Seminar

January 17, 2007

Key West Literary Seminar

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Billy Collins & friends

Of the two major literary events that Kathy & I attend annually (the Miami Book Fair being the other); The Key West Literary Seminar is by far the more intimate and thought provoking. In the three and a half days that the seminar visits Key West annually, the sheer volume of literary insights is so overwhelming that it is impossible to adequately address it in a simple blog entry.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Judy Blume & Lyn Kaufelt

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Paul Auster

This year marks the 25th annual seminar and the 14th consecutive that I have attended. Each year, about 400 devotees, pack into the beautiful and historic San Carlos Institute to listen and interact with many of the finest writers alive. This year hosted the normal dazzling collection of writers which included winners of all manner of literary awards including Pulitzer Prizes. The list this year included Margaret Atwood, Paul Auster, Aimee Bender, Rosalind Brackenbury, Michael Cunningham, Tananarive Due, Jeffrey Eugenides, Siri Hustvedt, Wally Lamb, Ian McEwan, Mary Morris, Joyce Carol Oates, Steve Stern, Amy Tan, James Tate, Michael Wood and Mary Kay Zuravleff. In addition to the noted writers onstage, the crowd at the San Carlos is always liberally sprinkled with even more great writers including the likes of Judy Blume, Billy Collins, Annie Dillard, Alison Lurie, Michael Mewshaw and Robert Richardson. The literary tradition is alive and well in Key West.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Joyce Carol Oates

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Michael Wood & Margaret Atwood

The seminar is presented as a series of lectures, readings and panel discussions interspersed with delightful social gatherings, dinners and parties which allow attendees to interact with the authors in any number of settings. It’s amazingly well organized and enjoyable. The writers love it and the audience is treated to some incredible moments. What has always struck me about the seminar is the casual informality that it brings out in the writers. More an intimate discussion among friends and colleagues than a dull dry series of literary presentations, the seminar brings out the best (and sometimes worst) in the writers. This year was relatively calm, but past seminars have featured heated disagreements and bouts of tears from the stage.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Mary Kay,Aimee Bender & friend

It’s near impossible to select highlights from such a consistently strong presentation. Certainly Wally Lamb’s presentation, “Wondrous Strange at the Connecticut Woman’s Prison”, which received a very rare standing ovation during the Sunday afternoon public session was one of the most impressive presentations of the week. My secret joy is not hearing from the myriad of familiar or famous, but in discovering a writer in the crowd that I was previously unfamiliar with. My hidden gems this year were Tananarive Due and Mary Kay Zuravleff. They were each delightful, enthusiastic and held their own among the more celebrated literati present.

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Mary Kay Zuravleff

Photobucket - Video and Image Hosting Tananarive Due

The party Saturday night at the Customs House is always a special event, and this year with the delightful exhibit of sculptures by J. Seward Johnson the 25th anniversary celebration reached new heights. Johnson’s life size sculptures recreate famous paintings allowing patrons to literally put themselves in the painting. It was great fun. Almost as much fun as last year’s afterparty tour of drag shows and strip clubs with Billy Collins and Eddy Harris…but not quite.


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