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Sanibel Island Writers Conference

Sanibel Island Writers Conference
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Tom DeMarchi, Director
Sanibel Island Writers Conference

Reed Hall 242
Florida Gulf Coast University
10501 FGCU Blvd S
Fort Myers, FL. 33965-6565



Download a PDF file with the Schedule and Course Descriptions 




Steve Almond—How to Create an Irresistible Narrator

(Thursday & Friday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

Many a short story, novel, and memoir have gone unpublished because the author fails to create a strong narrator, one who can act as a wise and entertaining guide to the reader. In this class, we'll examine the work of Ford, Salinger, Austen and others—and try an in-class exercise—in an effort to make sure your next narrator isn't just strong, but irresistible.


MK Asante—Screenwriting: Remix

(Thursday & Friday 2:30-3:45, BIG ARTS)

We will explore the relationship between screenwriting, poetry, music, and memoir. 


Lynne Barrett—Plot & Structure

(Thursday & Friday 2:30-3:45, BIG ARTS)

Too much plot? None at all? Confused about how to handle the past or strengthen your story? This two-session workshop will look at the elements of plot and structure and how they are related. Topics covered will include conflict, complication, resolution, active characters, movement, change, scenic development, movement, presentation of time, and narrative design. Through examples, discussion, and exercises, participants will learn strategies for assessing drafts and revising productively. Note: This class serves fiction writers and those working on memoirs, narrative nonfiction, or any dramatic form.


Derrick C. Brown—Get Published and Tour By Using The Power of Hyper Mind Control

(Saturday 1:15-2:30, Sunday 10:30-11:45, BIG ARTS)

Write Bloody Publishing President Derrick Brown is a travelling author who will show you the essentials on understanding the mind of the publisher when submitting your manuscript. Beyond the secrets of submitting a great poetry manuscript, he will also reveal the secrets to touring successfully without having to live face down in the shame and weed of a promoter’s couch.


Kevin Clark—I’m the One I’m Not: Writing the Persona

(Thursday & Friday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

Write what you know, they always say… And so, since childhood, most of us have written poems that are about what we know best-i.e., the Wonder of Me. After a while, however, we may have become a bit bored with the ever-present highway of our interior lives. Maybe a tree has fallen across the road and there’s no getting by. Maybe we don’t like writing about our experiences on Uncle Jake and Aunt June’s swan and mule farm, that home in which we grew up while our parents traveled the globe. Maybe we’ve always preferred the sound of someone else’s voice, anyone’s voice not our own?  What then? Writing persona poems about people we make up or people who actually exist (or once existed) can liberate us and juice up our imagination. This class will examine all kinds of methods and styles of engaging the first person voice of the Other. We'll do our best to reserve time so that each of us can either (a) discuss or (b) start drafting a new persona poem.


John Dufresne—Screenwriting

(Saturday 1:15-2:30, Sunday 10:30-11:45, BIG ARTS)

We’ll go over the basics of screenwriting, including storytelling, plot, process, formatting basics, the short film and the feature, adaptation—page to screen, the screenwriting paradigm, the first three minutes of your movie, the first ten, the logline, the pitch, the synopsis—and your marketing tools. We’ll view film clips as examples.


Beth Ann Fennelly—Four Ways Poets Can Use Sound to Make Meaning

(Saturday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

Poor poets—they’ll ever get to use synonyms, because poets understand that two words that sound different can never mean the same things.  To understand the importance and mysteriousness of sound, we’ll look at the way phonetic intensives affect our perceptions, and seek to understand how writers can underscore the meaning of their works though attention to sound techniques.  Along the way, we’ll look at poems by William Wordsworth, Robert Herrick, Carl Sandberg, and Robert Frost, and finish with a small group “quiz” that lets us put our theories into practice. 


Beth Ann Fennelly—The Secrets of Syntax

(Sunday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

So often we focus on word choice in poetry, and we forget that the order in which things are said greatly affects how we perceive what is being said.  In this all-levels, interactive craft class, we’ll narrow our focus to a discussion of syntax, that wily tool that poets ignore at their peril.  We’ll study examples by W.C. Williams, e.e.cummings, Donald Justice, John Berryman, and Louise Glück, and attempt to apply our increased appreciation for syntax to our own work.


Emily Franklin—Pitch Perfect: Finding Your Voice in Young Adult Fiction

(Thursday & Friday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

Can any story be written for a young adult audience? What makes a YA voice believable?  We will explore dialogue, setting, structure and the key elements of trust in young adult fiction.  Is your story for middle grade readers, teens, or adults (or all of the above)?  Is your novel set in this world or an imagined one? Present day, past, or future?  Does it matter?  With a few writing prompts we examine the best way to tell your story, openings that appeal to teen and adult readers alike, and rules (are there rules?) for keeping your adolescent audience captivated.


Tom Franklin—Crippled Orphans at Christmas: Writing Unsentimental Fiction

(Saturday & Sunday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

We'll discuss what sentimentality is and its place in fiction. We'll read short pro and con examples and discuss, then do exercises against sentimentality.


Artis Henderson—How to Write a Book Proposal

(Saturday & Sunday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

Most memoirs and nonfiction books today sell on proposal. This workshop will take the mystery out of the proposal-writing process and give you a clear idea of what you need to submit first to agents and then to major publishing houses. There will be plenty of time for questions.


John Hoppenthaler—Slapping Your Poem Around: Interrogation as Revision

(Thursday & Friday 2:30-3:45, BIG ARTS)

If you want your poem to sing, sometimes you have to get tough, shine the naked bulb in its face, and ask the hard questions.  This workshop offers 12 points of interrogation that will help you get at the truth of a poem's readiness for publication.  Please bring copies of two poems you'd like to workshop for distribution.


Gary Louris—In Pursuit of the Song 

(Friday 9:00-11:45, Sanibel Public Library)

We will discuss how to break old habits, avoid clichés, and sneak around the conscious mind in pursuit of the song.

We will delve into the mystery of inspiration…how we chase it, how it comes and goes, and how we can make those windows of inspiration remain open longer once we find them. 

We will touch on the art of collaboration, songwriting in your sleep, and the parallels between designing a house and composing a song. 


Jen McClung—Sometimes, Words Just Aren’t Enough

(Thursday 9:00-11:45, Sanibel Public Library)

A movie without music? Boring, flat. A road trip without a playlist? Dreadful, long. A kitchen without aroma? Well, that’s just not a kitchen. In our endeavor to create and communicate with the world, sometimes what we need goes beyond words. The world of sound, sight, taste, and smell offers us additional tools for expression—capturing emotion and depth, a sense of movement and time—that words alone sometimes fall short of. What would a poem look like as a painting? A story as food? A novel as a song? A sonnet as dance? This workshop explores how to “speak” with multiple senses in multiple mediums as a way to express more fully what we have to share and also as a way of getting unstuck and past that all-too-familiar writer’s block.


Karen McElmurray—What Gives You the Right: A Memoir Workshop

(Thursday & Friday 2:30-3:45, BIG ARTS)

A recent NYT article called “The Problem With Memoir,” says that “there was a time you had to earn the right to draft a memoir, by accomplishing something noteworthy or having an extremely unusual life…but then came our current age of over-sharing, and all heck broke loose." This workshop will be a discussion of questions raised by this editorial.  What makes a memoir "good” or “noteworthy?”  What is "over-sharing" and what is translation of personal experience via art?  How do metaphor, courage, memory, and truth-telling all come into play in the writing of a well-told story about a life? We will examine selections from memoirs, both traditional and experimental, and we will write scenes, discuss them, and discuss the revision process.   


Kathryn Miles—Heat and Light: The Power of Narrative Nonfiction

(Saturday 1:15-2:30, Sunday 10:30-11:45, BIG ARTS)

Mike Wallace once said that all good literary journalism requires equal amounts of heat and light.  He’s right.  A quick survey of longform nonfiction reveals compelling stories that marry compelling plot and drama with fresh ideas and information.  In this session, we’ll explore how to achieve this union:  we’ll examine some of the most compelling essays and articles published this year; we’ll practice forms like the braided essay; and we’ll discuss how to incorporate research and interviews into your writing. You’ll also have the opportunity to familiarize yourself with the editorial process from initial pitch to printed page and, perhaps most importantly, you’ll learn how to parlay your own personal experience into a successful freelance career.


Dinty W. Moore—The Four Elements of a Compelling Memoir

(Thursday & Friday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

The key to compelling memoir is not simply telling the story of what we remember or what happened to us, but creating an artifact that represents our truth, shaping a story out of the clay of words, sentences, images, and metaphor.  In this two-session workshop, we will read and write to identify the four elements that distinguish the best of contemporary memoir writing. How do we know what to write about?  How do we know which parts to tell?  How do we know in which manner a story should be told?  What makes a story universal rather than private and small? We’ll explore these questions and more.  Writing exercises included.


Jeff Parker—The Big Scene

(Thursday & Friday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

Every great book and most stories have one—at least one big scene. We're not talking the climax, but rather a moment that harnesses the entirety of the writers' skill in honing one particular scene that reverberates backward and forward throughout the book. In this workshop we'll break down big scenes from several contemporary novels, analyzing and measuring them for how they utilize their component parts (action, description, dialogue, internal thought, exposition), and then we'll write some big scenes ourselves.



David James Poissant—Long Stories Short: Writing the Short-Short Story

(Thursday & Friday 2:30-3:45, BIG ARTS)

Is it a poem? Is it a story? Neither. The short-short is its own unique fiction form with its own demands and peculiarities. We'll consider examples of the form, old and new, break them down, then try our hand at short-shorts of our own.


Jennifer Senior—The Art of the Interview

(Saturday & Sunday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

How to draw out your subjects, minimize dull answers, and not come off like a prying jerk.


George Singleton—Kiss Your End Goodbye

(Saturday 1:15-2:30, Sunday 10:30-11:45, BIG ARTS)

It seems to me that writers start a lot of stories that they never finish because--somewhere around word 1000—they think, “Where the heck is this thing going?”  And then they either think, “Okay, that’s it for me” or “Hey, I wonder if I could start up a whole other story” or “Hey, let’s see if there are any new reality TV shows that involve alligators, cursed island treasure, trees that need felling, crabs/lobsters/tuna/eels,” and so on.  In this workshop we will work on sure-fire ways to begin a story, knowing ahead of time where the story will most likely end.  We’ll look at some contemporary openings and endings, and I’ll offer up a prism of prompts.


Christine Sneed—Fiction Workshop—Story Structure

(Saturday & Sunday 9:00-10:15, BIG ARTS)

If you've been in a fiction workshop before now, you're probably familiar with the advice that you stick with a 24-hour framework for your story - anything longer becomes rickety and hard to manage.  In this workshop, however, we'll discuss how to manage longer and shorter time frames for your short- and long-form fiction, with an especial focus on the short story.  We'll discuss compression and the famed fictional binary of scene vs. summary.  


Wesley Stace—Songwriting on Demand

(Saturday 9:00-11:45, Sanibel Public Library)

Can good songs be written on demand? The answer is yes.  Songwriters write on demand all the time, though it’s also true that sometimes they sit down to write a song because that’s the best way of expressing whatever emotion they’re brimming with. Some people can only do it that way. But art may also be commissioned—much of it is—and many professional songwriters needn’t feel an emotion to render it beautifully.  (All those Randy Newman soundtrack songs were written on demand, as were the bulk of the songs written in the Brill Building and on Tin Pan Alley.)  


In this workshop, students will be paired up and asked to compose a song based on an assigned emotion.  Songs (which can be anything they want) are not, or need not be, intellectual.  Emotion is the wellspring of many great songs: Jealousy, Anger, Joy, Defiance, Revenge and others.  


Songwriting is a skill—best practiced, easily improved. If you exercise regularly, keeping fit becomes easier and less unpleasant, until it becomes a habit. 


Megan Stielstra—Everybody Stand Up: Performance Technique in the Writing Process

(Thursday & Friday 2:30-3:45, BIG ARTS)

This hands-on/minds-on workshop explores how performance intersects, informs, and inspires the writing process. Intended for both experienced writers looking to take current drafts to the next level, and beginning writers looking for their most authentic material, we’ll push the pencils aside* to dig into the story, encouraging discovery and examining literary craft in new ways. How does telling a story aloud heighten the writers’ understanding of its movement and structure? How does the presence of an immediate audience affect the rewriting process? And how, above all else, can we have fun while doing so? This workshop is open to both fiction and creative nonfiction writers.

*only momentarily! We’ll pick them back up, I promise!


Darin Strauss—The Art of Fiction

Our class will emphasize shop talk: how to begin a story, say, and how to introduce a character. And we'll take up such questions as, “What is the relationship of plot to sub-plot? How does one hold the reader's attention?” Of course, in Art, rules must be flexible—but I ask my students to think of writing in strategic terms; each story-telling decision needs to make tactical sense. With that in mind, we'll examine—with fantastic esprit de corps and style—the tenets of the Art of Fiction.