No Direction Home

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!

Friday, January 22, 2016

Silence: The Musical

January 11, 2016

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 photo 059_zpsjdrtlyox.jpg  Cast Party

 photo 220_zpsdc0o1cdo.jpg Pony as Buffalo Bill

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Silence: The Musical

The Key West Literary Seminar was not the only thing going on in town this past week, there was also the closing few shows of one of the funniest plays to grace a Key West stage in ages as, “Silence, the Musical” wrapped up its run at the Key West Theater. The play, a riotous parody of the film, “Silence of the Lambs” played its final few shows during the weekend of the seminar and on Friday night, I joined my buddy Doug and KWLS staff member Lindsay in attending one of the final shows.

 photo 197_zpsgmhkdon6.jpg Carolyn and Pony

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 photo 041_zpsqjtfukbl.jpg Erin, Alex and Carolyn

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Kathy and I had previously seen the show on its opening night and I had been wanting to return since as I found it so hysterically funny that I just had to return. It featured a wonderful cast of Key West local actors including J.B. McClendon, Pony Chavret, Chad Newman, Carolyn Cooper, Erin McKenna and Kelly Jane, as well one professional actor to play the role of Clarice, Alex Zeto. Zeto was taking a break from the traveling Broadway production of “Flashdance” and spent six weeks here playing the main role. The show was fantastic, it kept close enough to the film to be easily recognizable, but then would break into side-splitting musical numbers that were often pushing the boundary of even an R-rating.

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The show played to a packed house of raucous locals and tourists alike and other than a few prudes, all seemed to enjoy it. Miss Zeto was especially good, nailing the West Virginia accent that Jodie Foster used in the film and showcasing her beautiful singing voice on a number of occasions. The local cast was stellar as well, especially Chad as the unfortunate prisoner of the serial killer, Katherine and Pony as the killer Buffalo Bill. It was obvious that the cast was having a wicked good time throughout the show and we had a great time.

 photo 070_zpsc8yhdb6p.jpg Kelly and Laura

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Saturday night, after the KWLS dinner at the Little White House, Doug, myself and our friend Stacey all headed over to Bobby’s Monkey Bar to attend the cast party after the last performance of the show. Few people party like the Key West Theatre crowd and the party was a raucous and wild time featuring food, flowing libations and many of the cast members taking the opportunity to sing Karaoke in increasingly hysterical numbers. Having the Hanibel Lechter actor singing the theme to “Flashdance” while Clarice danced the dance from that play/film was particularly amusing and appropriate since Zeto was going to be back on stage in Flashdance in Los Angeles the very next evening.

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 photo 076_zpsp4stjaum.jpg Arlo and Harry Mathews

 photo 084_zpsgbtj10gf.jpg Brad Watson,Kevin Young, Kelly Link,Molly Antopol,Karen Russell and Billy Collins

Of course the Literary Seminar was still in full swing and was the dominant feature of the weekend, as events at the San Carlos throughout Saturday and Sunday with more amazing presentations by the writers on hand. Billy Collins delivered a terrific speech that looked into the history and craft of writing poetry and while I love his readings each year, this was remarkable and interesting and one of my favorite things of the weekend.

 photo 001_zpsdejg0jpr.jpg Shayne,Margit, Billy and Lindsay

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 Billy and his girlfriend Suzananah return every year for the seminar and have become part of the fabric of the KWLS fabric. They are the only writers who attend the crew party held on stage of the San Carlos at the closing of the seminar and are about as interesting and nice people as you could meet. Billy is a remarkable person to converse with as well and I had the good fortune to join him for dinner on Saturday night at the Truman Little White House Dinner, such a cool experience. I really would love to get a chance to see one of the poetry/music shows he is touring with singer Aimee Mann.

 photo 074_zpsz6q1p4zz.jpg Betsy and Kathy

 photo 071_zps5csr7mhg.jpg Kevin Young with Miss Franke and students

One of the coolest parts of the seminar each year is hearing from the three named scholarship winners, who are selected each year through a highly competitive writing competition. These new voices get to read on Sunday morning and this year three young men were the winners, Jordan Jacks, Rob Stephens and Vincent Scarpa. They were all three pretty amazing readings, but I especially admired the somewhat edgy reading by Scarpa, that no doubt had a few of our audience squirming since the story featured a drug-using porn star. It is pretty cool to see these young writers early in their careers and I expect we will be hearing much more from them in the future.

 photo 001 2_zpslzflskac.jpg Vincent Scarpa

 photo 009_zpsbbcduorx.jpg Vincent Scarpa and family

For the past few years, another really cool event has coincided with the seminar, the Wounded Warrior Bike Ride, which features a large group of combat injured veterans riding bikes from Miami to Key West to raise awareness for wounded veterans, has ridden right down Duval Street on the Sunday morning that is the final day of the seminar. Crowds line the street to cheer on these brave men and women, many riding specialized bikes customized to accommodate missing limbs. It is a moving and exciting thing to see these amazing individuals who have given so much for this country. It is also a truly inspiring sight to see. I feel fortunate to be able to salute these soldiers, even for a brief moment as they pass by.

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The seminar portion of this year’s Key West Literary Seminar concluded with the annual free public session on Sunday afternoon. The workshop portion of the seminar begins next week. The public session is always gratifying as it offers the community a way to be a part of the seminar and it was as usual packed with locals including many students which is always nice to see. It is a bittersweet time when the seminar concludes, I am both relieved and happy that it has been a success but also sad to see it come to an end and to see so many friends depart for another year. As soon as the final guest leaves, Arlo host a small party toast on the stage for the amazing crew and later in the evening is the farewell party that was hosted this year at the beautiful home of Judy Blume and George Cooper.

 photo 062_zpsmswkkuka.jpg Arlo

 photo 007_zpsmw94uj4l.jpg Jolly, Kate, Kathy and Effie

 photo 007_zpsmw94uj4l.jpg Mark, Curt and Kerry

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Usually I am so exhausted at the final party, that I can barely interact with anyone, but due to the smoothness and success of this year’s seminar, I felt pretty refreshed and happy. I almost wished there was a second session. I plan on attending more workshop events than usual next week to keep the enthusiasm going. Judy and George hosted a wonderful party and we were able to say goodbye to the departing panelists and hello to the arriving workshop leaders including two of my favorite writers and people, Kristen-Paige Madonia and Diana Abu-Jaber who were each here with their wonderful families and will each be teaching workshops.

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 photo 013_zps9u3tyxow.jpg Dale, Fran and Rebecca

 photo 088_zpscxpanryw.jpg Doug and Kathy

 photo 092_zpsgzdczgem.jpg Arlo and Aviva

Thursday, January 21, 2016

“A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”- Stephen King

January 10, 2016

 photo 445_zps2uekdlmu.jpg Kevin Young 

 photo 627_zpsyo64qn0s.jpg Dan Menaker

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 photo 595_zpsitra8pzn.jpg Mia,Jamie, Ian, Junot and Arlo

“A short story is like a kiss in the dark from a stranger.”- Stephen King

The thirty-fourth annual Key West Literary Seminar kicked in to high gear on Friday, with a full day of presentations at the historic San Carlos Institute. A collection of twenty of the finest writers in America working in the short format which includes short stories, poems, essays and articles had come to Key West at the invitation of the program committee of the 2015 seminar led this year by Cynthia Crossen and Judith Gaddis. They did a fabulous job in securing a wonderful line-up of writers that included this year Hilton Als, Molly Antopol, Ann Beattie, Billy Collins, Junot Diaz,Gish Gen,Victor LaVelle, Yiyun Li, Kelly Link, Harry Mathews, Thomas McGuane,Daniel Menaker,Antonya Nelson, Claudia Rankine, Ron Rash,Karen Russell, Jim Shepard, Brad Watson, Joy Williams and Kevin Young.

 photo 398_zps1ayazis1.jpg Dan Menaker and Ann Beattie

 photo 554_zpsldam7ue2.jpg Tom McGunae

 photo 532_zps0t8ri3o5.jpg Karen Russell

 photo 520_zpsedweufd3.jpg Cynthia Crossen

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The seminar features a number of different formats as far as what is heard from the stage, with readings, panel discussions, moderated and unmoderated conversations and presentations about the nature of the subject matter by individual writers. This keeps things fresh and interesting for those in attendance and allows the subject of the seminar to expand and grow as the event goes along.

 photo 442_zpsz8fzpokn.jpg Claudia Rankine

 photo 501_zps3yb7lcak.jpg Victor LaVelle

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Hopefully by the time the weekend concludes, attendees have been treated to an immersion in short stories that they would never get from the average literary event. The fact that the writers spend so much time mingling and interacting with the audience is rare as well and we feel that attendees get a special experience that goes somewhat beyond simply writers and their readers.

 photo 602_zpsqxmxrhqh.jpg KWHS student Hannah and Junot Diaz

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This year, for the first time in ages, we also sent one of the writers, Junot Diaz, over to Key West High School to give a presentation directly to AP English students. What an amazing opportunity for those students as Diaz is a great representative who can at once relate to and inspire the young students. In spite of his use of some salty language that made the principal and a few administrators nervous, Diaz really connected with many of the students. Some of whom even came to attend sessions on their own later in the weekend. It was so awesome to be able to connect directly with students in this way. Kudos to Mrs. Ford and everyone at KWHS, Junot Diaz for not just agreeing but suggesting this and the KWLS staff and Kate Peters especially for arranging this event.

 photo 419_zpsuicff2mw.jpg Ann Beattie

 photo 589_zpsxc6b0hew.jpg Junot Diaz and Gish Jen

 photo 575_zpsdhjmmjw3.jpg Junot, Alex and Jenni

 photo 540_zpsheztmepv.jpg Jim Shepard

Back at the seminar, Friday was a full day that began with Antonya Nelson discussing “Write What You Know” and featuring an incredible discussion with Karen Russell, Joy Williams and Tom McGuane and readings from Ron Rash, Jim Shepard and Molly Antopol and discussions with Gish Jen, Ann Beattie, Dan Menaker, Claudia Rankine and Kevin Young. There is something so powerful about hearing writers read their own work and the discussions are always so casual and interesting that it feels like the audience is sitting at a small table over coffee listening in to a private conversation between gifted artists.

 photo 426_zpsq3rn7khb.jpg Claudia Rankine & Kevin Young

 photo 379_zpsmpdizeuc.jpg Karen Russell

 photo 585_zpsfmqusihe.jpg Junot Diaz

During each break, the writers do book signings for the audience, who purchase books from the on-site temporary bookstore set up by Books and Books from Miami. Once again the wonderful founder of Book and Books, Mitchell Kaplan was on hand to see how things were going. I see Mitch each year at my other favorite literary event, The Miami Book Fair that he helped found as well, but here I get to spend a bit more time talking with him as he is slightly less busy. Mitch knows almost all of the writers personally and many are his good friends like Tom McGuane and his family so it makes for some fun reunions to witness.

 photo 617_zpseqqabxr0.jpg Tom McGuane and Mitch Kaplan

 photo 619_zps9jeibehe.jpg Mitch and the McGuane family.

 photo 492_zpsfh3om5ct.jpg Yiyun Li, Billy Collins and Victor LaVelle

 photo 510_zpsvbvgrvwx.jpg Jenni and Betty

For the first time that I can recall, we did not schedule any official function on Friday evening, giving the attendees the opportunity to enjoy an evening in Key West and perhaps a meal that is not catered. For the staff, speakers, board and other special guests, Friday night has been the time for one of the most secret, interesting and eclectic private parties in Key West each year as the iconic Key West figure David Wolkowsky hosts a party in his roof-top apartment overlooking Duval Street. Almost all of the writers attend as do many of Key West’s most interesting people including writers, artists and special guests. It is always to me one of the highlights of the weekend and just a special occasion due to the uniqueness of the host, the location and the guest list. I feel so fortunate that I have been able to attend all these years and want to thank Mr. Wolkowsky for being such a gracious host yet again.

 photo 637_zpslajbmqkm.jpg Dan Menaker

 photo 573_zpsyfayph9n.jpg John and Junot

It was a great start to the seminar and one that I really felt very proud to be a part of. Thanks so much to Arlo, Lindsay, Ian and the amazing team they assembled, my fellow Board Members, the writers in attendance,  Raquel, Mitch, Mia and everyone at Books & Books, the wonderful crew of volunteers that worked for me this year, to Jack Farley, Alex and the San Carlos Institute, Doug Mack and most of all my lovely wife Kathy. The KWLS is truly a team effort and it is no small feat to pull off such a fantastic event.

 photo 552_zpselz2xqnx.jpg Arlo and Tom McGuane

 photo 625_zpsmtzsnc79.jpg Jim Gleick and Dan Menaker

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 photo 616_zpsqxlphx8d.jpg Karen Russell, Doug and Jim Shepard

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