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Sanibel Island Writers Conference

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










Schedule grid photo



9:00-11:45: WORKSHOPS   

11:45-1:15: LUNCH BREAK (On your own)

1:15-2:30: WORKSHOPS

2:45-3:45: READING 

4:00-5:00: PANEL   

5:00-6:00: COCKTAIL HOUR







9:00-11:45: WORKSHOPS   

11:45-1:15: LUNCH BREAK (On your own)

1:15-2:30: WORKSHOPS

2:45-3:45: READING 

4:00-5:00: PANEL   


5:00-6:00: COCKTAIL HOUR

6:00-7:30: READING:






9:00-11:45: WORKSHOPS  

11:45-1:15: LUNCH BREAK (On your own)

1:15-2:30: PANEL

2:45-3:45: READING


5:00-6:00: COCKTAIL HOUR (BIG ARTS Courtyard)

6:00-7:30: KEYNOTE ADDRESS (BIG ARTS Schein Hall)





9:00-11:45: WORKSHOPS  





Steve Almond, How to Craft Characters Who Snap, Crackle & Pop

BIG ARTS Schein Auditorium

Ever read or write a story where the hero just doesn’t seem to pop. I have. Like a thousand times. This workshop will focus on why some characters leap off the page while others just sit there. We’ll discuss the perils of passivity, the allure of action, and the dozens of ways to characterize that will bring your people alive.


Andrea Askowitz, Writing to the Ear: How to Tell True Stories Out Loud 

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

From the creator of Lip Service, Miami’s award-winning night of true stories, comes Writing to the Ear. Certain techniques apply to all storytelling, but especially to stories told out loud. In this workshop we’ll discuss and put into practice the principles of writing stories meant to be told out loud such as:  staying true to your natural voice, keeping sentences simple, avoiding gerunds, and ending sentences and paragraphs on the strongest note. Students will write and edit and are guaranteed to walk out feeling like rock stars. All levels welcome.


Lynne Barrett, Plot & Structure 

BIG ARTS Schein Auditorium

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.


Sandra Beasley, Food Writing

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

"First we eat, then we do everything else,” wrote M.F.K. Fisher. An essay can be built around a single meal; a memoir can be built around one’s relationship to eating; and many a nonfiction bestseller has shown how a fruit, seasoning, or meat has become an engine for cultural change. In other words: everyone likes to talk about food. Why is that? We will discuss the underlying motivations, the pitfalls, and the opportunities embedded in the genre—including expansive considerations of history, economy, and ethnic identity—while considering masters of the mode such as Fisher, and contemporary voices such as Chang Rae-Lee and Michael Twitty. Our time together will include discussion of key strategies for food writing, close reading of excerpted texts, a generative prompt, and practical tips for placing your work. 


Richard Blanco, Craft Talk: How Not to Write Memoir

BIG ARTS Schein Auditorium

In this dynamic, interactive setting we’ll engage with some of the pitfalls, frustrations, and snags encountered in memoir, consider how to work around them, and discuss what they teach us about the genre.


Nickole Brown, Ostranenie: Poetry as a Practice of Awareness

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

If we are all telling the same stories of love and sex and death, how can we write something new? How can we sidestep the spiritual nausea of cliché? The answer, in my view, doesn’t lie in writing about something completely different (if that’s even possible) or in shocking your readers awake, but rather in writing about those things you know intimately well, so much so that perhaps you don’t even notice them yourself anymore. Ostranenie, a Russian term used in literature to talk about defamiliarization, is defined as “the technique of forcing the audience to see common things in an unfamiliar or strange way, in order to enhance perception of the familiar.” As such, this workshop is an investigation into this, and we’ll exercise a deep practice of awareness, using attention as a form of devotion— a raw, muscular kind of seeking and an unflinching dedication to scrubbing away one’s preconceived notions of a thing in order to see it for what it really is. It’s my hope that our time together will help you find your voice, and to help discover new directions for your own writing.


Jim Daniels, Poetry

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

This workshop will include poetry-generating exercises along with discussion of writing samples, with emphasis on revision techniques for poets at all levels.    


John Dufresne, Creative Caffeine

BIG ARTS Schein Auditorium

Dufresne will lead you through a variety of prompts that'll kickstart your creativity for the day. (Fri, Sat & Sun mornings)


John Dufresne, Flash Fiction 

BIG ARTS Schein Auditorium 

We’ll try to define what flash or very short fiction is, but mostly we’ll be writing like crazy trying to tell stories—from 200-1500 word stories; innovative and fresh stories—based on the provocations of forms and on our own memories and imaginations. 


Stephen Elliott, Screenwriting for Poets

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

This is a screenwriting class for people who are not necessarily screenwriters, or even working on screenplays, and for those that are. Screenwriting offers great instruction on minimalist writing. Screenplays never have an unnecessary word. And yet the best ones, like Taxi Driver, are riveting reads. We're not going to talk about Hollywood; instead we'll talk about creating scenes and action with minimal intrusion. We're going to practice creating scenes using our own experiences. We're going to tell stories using no dialogue and only dialogue.

The focus of these exercises is not to walk away with a finished screenplay, but to add to our writer's toolbox.


Gina Frangello, Someone Else’s Skin: Writing Characters Outside Your Demographic.

BIG ARTS Gallery

Recently, we’ve all heard of controversies such as the Lionel Shriver speech, or, alternately, Lena Dunham being chastised for not depicting characters of color in her hit show Girls. Dunham’s defense was that she, as a white woman, is "writing what she knows”—you know, that thing we’re all advised to do in college writing workshops—and like it or not, most fiction (and TV/film) writers can relate to this impulse to play it safe rather than risk being even more seriously castigated for "getting it wrong." Yet the question of how to get deeply inside the skin of a character who differs greatly from you is at the very heart of literature, from E.M. Forester’s A Passage to India to Nicole Krauss’ The History of Love. Whether you are a white chick like Dunham, who would like your cast of characters to look like something beyond Wonder Bread, or a man writing as a woman, a straight writer writing about a gay character, an American writing about a citizen of another country, or an atheist writing as someone devout, you have to jump hurdles of both self-censorship and the perils of “appropriation.” In this seminar, we will explore some of the works of literature throughout history that have taken bold risks, consult some serious (and tongue-in-cheek) advice for white writers from writers of color, interrogate questions of who has the “right” to speak as whom, and explore our personal experiences of writing beyond the concept of Otherness.


Ben Greenman, Ghost Busting

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

Writing collaborative work while still keeping your literary abilities intact; writing literary work without being distracted by your collaborative work—how ghostwriting and corporeal writing can productively interact in your writing life.


Nathan Hill, X-Ray Writing: Techniques for Getting Closer to Your Characters

BIG ARTS Schein Auditorium

One of the unique joys of reading literature is that it allows us to experience what it might be like to be someone else, what it might be like to live in someone else's brain. Literature can be like an x-ray, peering past the façade and seeing all the secrets hidden underneath. This workshop will focus on ways to achieve this kind of "x-ray writing," from technical approaches like the use of the "free indirect style," to psychological approaches to help you delve into your characters' heads.


Jessica Jacobs, Writing Beyond Yourself: The Art & Craft of Persona Poems

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

“Write what you know”: This most common of writing advice can also be the most confining. So why limit yourself? After first exploring how writers like Natasha Trethewey, Patricia Smith, and Sharon Olds take on the voices of others in order to speak about the issues most dear to them (looking out to look within), a series of generative prompts will invite you to take on others’ lives and voices, to write from perspectives, time periods, and even genders not your own. Led by Jessica Jacobs, whose collection Pelvis with Distance pushes past the legend of the artist Georgia O’Keeffe to find the woman beneath, this workshop will guide you through the process of imagination and research required to write a life outside your own, giving you a set of solid craft techniques to find the voices of everyone from family members to celebrities.


Joyce Maynard, To Tell The Truth: The Art and Craft of Personal Storytelling

BIG ARTS Gallery

Every one of us has a story to tell, and the right to tell it. Join the author of the bestselling memoir At Home in the World for a weekend devoted to helping you tell your story more compellingly than you believed possible.

Beginning by examining the raw material of our experiences, Maynard will look at the difference between simply reporting what happened and creating a story arc for readers and listeners that lets us explore not simply what happened, but what it meant.

The workshop is open to writers of all levels of experience. Maynard will ask each writer to explore issues of craft as well as emotion—with an exploration of structure, descriptive language, point of view, dialogue, voice, and the core question “What is my story really about?” She’ll examine a writer’s personal responsibility when telling stories from his or her own life, and look at how to establish a daily writing practice. 


Rhett Miller, Songwriting

BIG ARTS Gallery

Songs capture moments and tell stories, and the folks who create them are writers. You don't need to be able to sing or play an instrument to write songs. A few simple tips and tricks are enough to help you discover the songs hiding in you.


Tom Piazza,Why Here, Why Now? Or: What I Learned About Writing Fiction By Writing For TV.

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1

In film and television, everything is rendered externally, through dialogue, gesture, and action. Fiction writers, on the other hand, can use exposition, interior monologue, close third person, and a range of other techniques to explore the inner lives of characters. How do we as fiction writers decide when to start the meter running on a scene – when to drop our characters (and our readers) into action in “real time?” What do scenes accomplish that exposition and interior monologue can’t?


Rob Roberge, Using Fiction Techniques in Your Nonfiction

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

In this workshop, we're going to do a very close read of Denis Johnson's story "Dundun" from his classic autobiographic novel in stories, JESUS' SON. We'll look at techniques you can apply in your NF work--from establishing tension, to creating vivid characters, to showing every character trying to impose their will on a scene--and more.


Darin Strauss, The Art of Narrative (Fiction and Nonfiction) 

BIG ARTS Gallery

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. 


Thomas Swick, Travel Writing

BIG ARTS, Upstairs Classroom

Travel writers don’t sit by the pool with umbrella drinks. They start their research long before they leave (reading, studying, gathering contacts) and when they arrive they spend their time exploring, observing, and, ideally, participating in the life of the place. We will discuss preparation and participation strategies and then we’ll get to the writing: how to take all of your varied experiences and impressions and turn them into a cohesive, evocative story that makes use of a narrative arc, a personal voice, a point of view, imagination, people, dialogue, and humor. 


Jeffrey Thomson, Flash Essay/Micro-Memoir

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

Often our experiences beg us to retell them—these crux moments of meaning and necessity.  But our lives are often messy and wild and capturing the whole story is daunting.  The flash essay (short nonfiction of 500-1500 words) takes our stories and distills them to their purest essence.  In this workshop we will work on essays that create and convey the full range of human experience in just a few pages.  We will read a short selection of examples and explore the possibilities of the form and create our own micro-memoirs in response.


Sarah Tomlinson, Live, Feel, Write (Memoir)

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

 What elevates the best memoirs above a mere recounting of the author’s life into the kind of keen art that redeems and informs the reader as well as the writer? The clarity of the lens through which the author has examined those events, whether it be travel (Eat, Pray, Love), dysfunctional family dynamics (The Liar’s Club) or illness (Autobiography of a Face). Our class will discuss how to identify the best lens through which to write a particular story, as well as the ways in which this theme can be used to illuminate distinct moments of personal growth within that story. Also on tap: how to establish narrative authority and find your voice, tips for excavating stubborn memories, and tips for handling stubborn family members.


Robert Wilder, How to Write an Honest YA (or Crossover) Novel

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

According to Publisher’s Weekly, 55% of YA books are purchased by adults. Would classics like Catcher in the Rye or To Kill A Mockingbird be considered Young Adult fiction if published today? Does any of this matter if you are trying to write a novel with a teenage protagonist? In this workshop, we will discuss how to approach writing for and about teens. In addition to writing exercises to further our own work, we will also look at a variety of YA authors whose fiction appeals to a wide range of readers. 




Steve Almond, Creative Nonfiction Small Group Manuscript Workshop 

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1

Almond and a group of six students will meet to give and receive feedback on manuscripts that they read in advance. Requires preregistration, an extra fee, and pre-submitted manuscripts.


Sandra Beasley, Poetry Small Group Manuscript Workshop 

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 2

Beasley and a group of six students will meet to give and receive feedback on manuscripts that they read in advance. Requires preregistration, an extra fee, and pre-submitted manuscripts.


Liza Wieland, Fiction Small Group Manuscript Workshop 

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3

Wieland and a group of six students will meet to give and receive feedback on manuscripts that they read in advance. Requires preregistration, an extra fee, and pre-submitted manuscripts.



Gina Frangello, Lynne Barrett, Nicole Tourtelot, Laura Apperson, JL Stermer & Christopher Schelling, Acceptance and Rejection: What Agents, Editors, & Publishers Want. And Don't Want 

BIG ARTS Schein Hall

So you've revised your manuscript 56 times and feel certain that your story/poem/essay/novel/memoir/collection is finally--finally!--ready for publication. Where do you send your manuscript? How do you approach the agent/editor/publisher? Do you really need a literary agent? How much editing does an editor actually do? Is it better to publish excerpts of a longer manuscript in magazines and journals first, before trying to publish an entire book? How do you know if a publisher is right for you? And why, after all these revisions, do you keep getting rejected? Panelists will offer answers to these and other questions. 


Andrea Askowitz, Dean Davis, Joyce Maynard and Karen Tolchin, True Obsessions: A Storytelling Event

BIG ARTS Schein Hall 

What are you obsessed with right now, and how has your obsession affected your life?  Come and hear how four seasoned story coaches would answer that question.  Lip Service founder Andrea Askowitz, bestselling novelist/memoirist Joyce Maynard, and FGCU faculty past-and-present/DeKa founders Dean Davis and Karen Tolchin perform true stories.  Stay for an informal panel discussion and Q & A on the power of oral storytelling, its resurgent popularity, and ways SIWC-ers can develop their own personal narratives for a live audience.  



Stephen Elliott's After Adderall

BIG ARTS Gallery

After Adderall, the new movie from Rumpus Founder and Editor-in-Chief, Stephen Elliott, explores the question: What’s it like when James Franco makes a movie about your life?

The film’s cast includes Stephen Elliott, Michael C. Hall, Bill Heck, Lilli Taylor, Mickaela Tombrock, James Urbaniak, and Ned Van Zandt. Also, watch for these authors appearing as themselves: Derrick Brown, Michael Cunningham, Nick Flynn, Marie Howe, Susan Orlean, Jerry Stahl, and Evan Wright.

Rated R--For Mature Audiences Only