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!

Thursday, January 17, 2019

“…tell the old story for our modern times. Find the Beginning.” -Homer- The Odyssey

January 12, 2019


Geraldine Brooks

“…tell the old story for our modern times. Find the Beginning.”
-Homer- The Odyssey

The 37th annual Key West Literary Seminar got in to full swing as the weekend began, beginning with a full day of readings, discussions and presentations at the historic San Carlos Institute on Friday. The amazing line-up of authors would begin to delve deeply into the topic of archetype and adaptation and how classic old stories and tales can be re-imagined, added to, or simply continued based upon each writer’s take on classic stories.

Rowan Ricardo Phillips 

Meg Cabot and Marli

Freya, Margaret Atwood and Jenni

It is really enjoyable to have been on the committee that helped select the authors. Led by my friend Nan Klingener and assisted by program committee members Arlo Haskell, Hilary Parmentier, Meg Cabot and Michael Nelson, we came up with a selection of writers whose work seemed to fit the theme. Re-imagining of classic tales from Homer to Shakespeare, from the King Arthur legends to “The Wizard of Oz” are all part of a long literary history of being inspired by or perhaps even stealing from the classic archetypes and tales of the past.

Geraldine Brooks


Madeline Miller

Katrin, Freya, Rowan and Jenni

Each reading, panel discussion or conversation would examine the theme a bit more in depth and it
became a wonderful, thoughtful and intelligent investigation in to what it turns out was one of our most focused topics in recent memory. What was coming from the stage this year was truly amazing and inspiring and the lucky audience, myself and Kathy included were treated to one of the better seminars ever.

Summer Program students 


Of course for me the parallel track as to the content of the seminar, is the organization and execution of the logistics of running such a large and diverse event with so many moving pieces. My immediate concern is the crew of volunteers who show up to work each year. I do not know why I worry, every year they astound me with their enthusiasm, friendliness and excellent work ethic. Many have been showing up year after year and they set about their responsibilities with very little input or oversight from me and it is always such a joy. Plus they are about the nicest group of people you could ever hope to encounter.

Kathy and Mags

The staff should also be singled out for the incredibly smooth operation that they run each year. This year was the most organized and efficient seminar that I have ever had the pleasure of being associated with and that is in large measure due to Executive Director, Arlo Haskell and the incredible staff and crew he has assembled. They were truly flawless this year and it allowed me to be able to sit in and watch more of the seminar than I have since the years when I was an attendee.



I must say that one of the best perks about being on the board of the seminar is the opportunity to be able to hang out and mingle with the writers at both the public and private events associated with the seminar. For many years one off the highlights was the annual party that the iconic “Mr. Key West”, David Wolkowsky threw for the seminar at his downtown apartment on the roof of the old Kress building that houses Margaritaville.

Sadly David passed away recently at 99 years of age and the legendary parties that he hosted have come to an end. As much as I will miss the party itself, I will miss David even more. He remained as sharp and interesting a person as I have had the privilege to meet during my time in Key West and I feel fortunate to have had the chance to call him a friend. Recently we attended the estate sale where his incredible collection of art and other treasures were sold. My only purchase was one of the iconic hats that he always wore to remember my friend.

The good news is that the party that David hosted was generously revived by the lovely Cecelia Joyce and Seward Johnson at their incredible home just next to the Southernmost Point. Truly the Southernmost, Southernmost House in Key West, their remarkable waterfront home was the host location for a truly magical Key West evening where Key West’s literary community mingled with this years invited writers under a beautiful starry perfect Key West night.

Cecelia Joyce Johnson, Joyce Carol Oates and Margaret Atwood

Doug and Kathy

Being downtown on Duval Street during the seminar has also meant that for the past few years, the Wounded Warrior Ride has passed directly in front of the seminar each year. This remarkable ride, during which combat wounded soldiers ride their bicycles the length of the Florida Keys over the weekend, passing down Duval Street on their way to the culmination of the ride with ceremonies at Bayview Park.


I know the wounded warrior non-profit has been under some scrutiny for their financial management, but that cannot and should not diminish the celebration of these remarkable and brave veterans, many who are overcoming significant injuries including the loss of limbs, yet still manage to be able to ride over 100 miles on their bicycles. Thankfully the crowds and signs that lined their route were out in full force as the community (including many seminar participants) was there to show their love, support, admiration and appreciation of these amazing soldiers.


It is truly one of the most incredible and inspiring things that I get to witness each year and it inspires me to donate to an organization that helps assist our military veterans and service members. The organization that I support is called Task Force Dagger and specializes in assisting members of the Special Forces, but there are any number of worthy groups and I hope you seek one out to help.


Kathy with her aunt and uncle, Judy and Phil 

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

“It is hateful to me to tell a story over again, when it has been well told.” ― Homer, The Odyssey

January 11, 2019

Margaret Atwood


Meg Cabot

“It is hateful to me to tell a story over again, when it has been well told.”
Homer, The Odyssey

This year marks the 37th annual Key West Literary Seminar. I have been either attending or actively involved for 23 of the years since my first experience back in 1995 when I attended “American Writers and the Natural World”.  From that initial magical experience, I have returned again and again, until the time ten years ago when after been hanging around long enough, I was asked to join the board of directors and become the volunteer coordinator for the event.

The A Team volunteers


Shayne, Ian and Margit


This year’s seminar was sort of special to me in that it marked my tenth year being on the board, currently serving as vice-president and still volunteer coordinator as well as serving on the program committee that helped select the writers who were invited this year. The theme for this year’s seminar was “Under the Influence: Archetype and Adaptation”.


Naomi Novak 

The Seminar is a ton of work, thankfully we have a wonderful staff and some of the best volunteers you could ever ask for. Many of them have been volunteering for years, long before my time as coordinator began. Most have become friends in addition to their volunteer service and it is always great to see them all as they return each year. Some even travel great distances just to be here, including our good friend from Minneapolis, Doug, who stays with us and has been here something like eight of the past ten years. Missing last year only because the birth of his second child happened just a few days before the seminar.

Doug, Chad, Hilary and Diane 

Victor LaValle 

Joyce Carol Oates

The seminar actually kicks off with a special dinner on Wednesday night for the presenters, their families and guests and the board of directors. This year once again the dinner was held at Salute restaurant and it gave Kathy and I a chance to meet and mingle with the authors who were on hand for this year’s seminar. It was a distinguished list that included the likes of Joyce Carol Oates, Margaret Atwood, Naomi Novak, Madeline Miller, Dexter Palmer, Rowan Ricardo Philipps and Geraldine Brooks among others.

Aine and Nellie

Madeline Miller 

Joyce Carol Oates

Emily Wilson

Katie, Kathy and Jenni

Our friends and Key West residents, Michael Mewshaw and Meg Cabot were also both on the list this year, Meg recently joined the board and Michael has been a member of the committee for next year’s seminar (which I happen to have been selected chair), “Reading Between the Lines: Sports and Literature”.  The wonderful line-up of writers is always a testament to the popularity and prestige that the seminar has acquired over the years.


After overseeing registration all afternoon on Thursday, the seminar’s opening keynote address was held that evening at the San Carlos Institute and was delivered by the iconic writer, Margaret Atwood.  The John Hersey Memorial Address, "Alert: Influences At Work” was one of the best keynote speeches that I have seen and the sold-out crowd was enthralled by Atwood during her 40 minute speech.

Margaret Atwood and Doug


Following a book-signing, we all headed over to our annual opening night reception at the Audubon House and Gardens which offered the first opportunity for the seminar attendees to mix with the writers. It was a beautiful night and a perfect cap to the opening day of this year’s seminar.

Nan Kligener, Meg Cabot and Naomi Novak 

Victor LaValle

Emily Wilson

The following morning was the official welcome and start of the weekend of readings, panel discussions and conversations that would be held on the San Carlos stage. Opening remarks by the Executive Director of the san Carlos, Rafael Penalaver, KWLS Director Arlo Haskell and program chair for this year, Nan Klingener kicked the morning off and a full day of seminar followed featuring presentations by writers Emily Wilson, Victor LaValle, Kate Tuttle, Joyce Carol Oates, Dexter Palmer, Eric Shanower, Madeline Miller, Meg Cabot, and Naomi Novak.


  Eric Shanower
Emily and Joyce Carol Oates 

Victor LaValle and Kate Tuttle