January 13, 2016
The Ford family
In most of the recent past, once the seminar portion of the Key West Literary seminar was finished, my role was completed, even though there has always been an entire week of amazing workshops where students work closely with authors on specific aspects of the craft of writing. While I have attended the opening dinner for workshop participants, I had never paid a lot of attention to them in general.
This year was different, in part because there were some exciting new twists and in part because I strongly believe that as a board member, I should support all aspects of the KWLS. I felt much more involved and came away impressed by both the quality of teachers but by the dedication and interest of the students.
I began by serving as a greeter for the opening night dinner for the workshop attendees. It was a beautiful catered affair on the lawn of the Ernest Hemingway home and was attended by all of the workshop participants. It was here where the students would meet each other as well as the workshop leader whose workshop they would be attending. Even a light sprinkle of rain did not diminish what was a really lovely evening and a great way to kick off the week of workshops.
The workshops are a week-long intensive experience with the students in limited sized groups work directly with our amazing group of workshop leaders. This year’s workshop leaders included Billy Collins, Kristen-Paige Madonia, Diana Abu Jaber, Kevin Young, Mary Kay Zuraloff, Ann Beattie, Campbell McGrath, Daniel Menaker and Antonya Nelson. This year, for the first time ever, we also had a seminar style presentation on Tuesday evening at the San Carlos. The presentations were much more craft-based and open to the public in addition to the workshop attendees and were a big hit and great new addition to the line-up.
Diana Abu Jaber
The craft talks featured a dazzling presentation on editing by Daniel Menaker who was the fiction editor for 20 years at the ”New Yorker”, a wonderful discussion on poetry featuring Billy Collins, Cambel McGrath and Kevin Young, a conversation on voice with Kristen-Paige Madonia and Diana Abu Jaber and a presentation by Antonya Nelson. I attended as well and found it to be a great event. It was very different than the typical seminar presentation and I assume more like what attending a workshop would be like.
This week also saw the 93rd birthday celebration of the matriarch of one of my most favorite families in Key West. Fran Ford, who I have known since I first moved here back in the early nineties and who has been a friend and role model to me since turned 93. Not only has Fran volunteered for the Literary Seminar every year since it started 34 years ago, she has been a community leader along with her late husband Bill and a tireless activist for conservation of the Florida Keys through her work with the Audubon Society.
Mimi, Greta and Caitlin
In addition to Fran, we have become close friends with her son Tom and his family. Tom’s wife Greta is one of the water aerobics teachers at FKCC and has led many a class that I have taken, though it is not readily obvious in looking at me. Their daughters Effie and Caitlin are friends as well. Effie served as an intern at RPM Nautical and attended our scientific dive class and field school in Albania a couple of years ago. Three generations of Fords that we have had the good fortune to call friends and it was an honor to be included in Fran’s birthday celebration.
Caitlin and Effie
The party was held on her son David’s amazing 1935 yacht that was in beautiful mint condition and featured all her family and friends and was a wonderful evening honoring Fran and getting a chance to meet and spend time with the rest of her family. They are all about as nice as you could imagine and it was just a wonderful evening. Happy Birthday Fran and thanks so much for all you have done for our community.
Fran and Effie
I must admit that I am relieved that the Key West Literary Seminar is over, though it was a smashing success by all accounts and it got 2016 off to a pretty spectacular start. It is never too early to start thinking of next year, which is sure to sell out quickly once tickets go on sale on-line on February 1st. The topic is “Revealing Power, the Literature of Politics”, which should be yet another in a long line of interesting topics. If you are interested please go to the KWLS website and check it out.