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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











7:30-9:00: REGISTRATION & ORIENTATION (BIG ARTS Courtyard & Schein Hall)

9:00-11:30: WORKSHOPS                                       

Andrea Askowitz, Writing to the Ear: How to Tell True Stories Out Loud (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1): 

There are certain techniques that 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 to the ear, such as: staying true to your natural voice, keeping sentences simple, avoiding gerunds, and ending sentences and paragraphs on the strongest note. 

John Dufresne, Flash Fiction (BIG ARTS Schein Hall): 

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. Note that this is a two-day workshop that will conclude on Friday. 

Gina Frangello, The Author As God: Third Person Editorial Omniscient Point of View (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 2): 

The varieties of third person point of view are often overlooked, with writers sticking to a limited omniscient point of view that, like in first person point of view, only allows the reader access to what the character knows.  Many writers are not even quite sure what “editorial omniscient” means exactly, and confuse it with a point of view that alternates or roves between characters. This underutilized point of view, however, practiced by writers as diverse as Milan Kundera and Zadie Smith, offers the writer a unique ability to paint with broader strokes, giving the reader access to wider information, telescoping time, pronouncing truths or offering insights into character motivation to which the characters themselves aren’t privy.  Whether the “god” of the story is the author, unveiling her/himself as the master puppeteer and letting the reader inside certain craft decisions, or whether the authorial consciousness is never specifically identified, editorial omniscient is a complex point of view that is easy to “mess up” on early tries, but that offers a writer great freedom and range when fully understood.  Looking closely at Milan Kundera’s “The Hitchhiking Game” and Tobias Wolfe’s “Bullet in the Brain," we will break down the ins and outs to give writers greater confidence to experiment.

Steve Kistulentz, Poetry with Unflinching Honesty (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3): 

We’ll talk about (and write about) different ways of forcing ourselves to create visceral, honest poems. We’ll discuss strategies for fooling our harshest critic and censor (ourselves), as well as look at some poems that tell admirable, difficult truths in ways both stunning and beautiful. 

Darin Strauss, The Art of Narrative (Fiction and Nonfiction) (Sanibel Library Meeting Room 1): 

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. 

11:30-1:00: LUNCH BREAK (On your own)

1:00-3:30: WORKSHOPS                                               

Lynne Barrett, Plot & Structure (BIG ARTS Schein Hall): 

Too much plot? None at all? Confused about how to handle the past or strengthen your story? This 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.

Wayne Falbey, Self-Publishing Your Book (Sanibel Library Meeting Room 4): 

Had enough rejections? Frustrated by literary agents and publishers who show no interest in your work? Convinced it would sell if only you could get it in front of the reading public? Fret no more. Thanks to Amazon and similar outlets for self-publishing you can take charge of your literary career. In this workshop we’ll cover the complete process involved in taking your draft manuscript to published work—the do’s and don’ts and how to’s.

Kimberly Johnson, Love Affairs with Dictionaries: Words, Passion, and Poetry (Sanibel Library Meeting Room 1):

Often as writers we get so excited by the ideas that we have to share that we overlook the building blocks of our art, the raw materials:  words.  Words have heft and history, and they engage our minds and bodies together.  This session will consider words in all their strange particularity, and reflect upon the mechanisms by which the word on the page registers the materiality of the world and makes presence.     

Tom Piazza, Dialogue (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1): 

In fiction, people never say exactly what they mean. There is a crucial angle between what is spoken out loud and what is really going on. Understanding that angle, and learning how to use it, is the key to making characters, and the relationships between them, come alive in a scene. In this class we will read dialogue by masters as different as Alice Munro, James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, Flannery O’Connor, and Grace Paley with an eye not just toward what is being said, but how and why.

Jay Wexler, Humor Outside the Humor Piece (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 2): 

In this very serious workshop we will talk about how to use humor in our longer works of non-fiction and fiction. We’ll read some samples of humor gone right and wrong and talk about why they went right and wrong and how the things that went wrong could have been made better. We will discuss our ideas for new works that will be at least sort of funny and brainstorm how they could be even funnier. Perhaps we shall do an exercise.

3:45-5:00 ON YOUR OWN                             

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

6:00-7:30: CONCERT

John Darnielle/aka The Mountain Goats (BIG ARTS Schein Hall)




John Dufresne, Creative Caffeine (BIG ARTS Schein Hall): 

Dufresne will lead you through a variety of prompts that'll kickstart your creativity for the day. 

9:00-11:30: WORKSHOPS   

Charles Bock, The Spoken Role BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3): 

Dialogue is an important and huge part of the craft of fiction. It’s also one of the most commonly misused. Our workshop will look at the purpose and form of dialogue, including its basic role, how to build a conversation, winning and losing in an argument, what to do about dialect, and that trickiest of tricksters, subtext. A number of excerpts, from writers including David Foster Wallace, Junot Diaz, Jonathan Franzen, and Truman Capote, will be consulted. There are going to be handouts so students can follow along.  Listed are links to a pair of short stories participants should read beforehand, to help prep them for the workshop.  The first link is to a pdf of the whole book Girl with the Curious Hair by David Foster Wallace.  The story I want them to have read is "Lyndon," which they can find easily enough in the pdf:

The second link is to Jonathan Safran Foer’s “A Primer for the Punctuation of Heart Disease”  from the New Yorker:

John Darnielle, Alignment (Sanibel Library Meeting Room 1):

Let's talk about character: in poetry, in prose, in song. What makes a character? How much of ourselves goes into one, and where do we get the stuff that comes from elsewhere? Using tabletop gaming traditions of character creations & classes as a springboard, we'll talk about how internalizing our characters' qualities and tendencies can put flesh on the bones of the people (and monsters! and animals!) we dream up. Each student, and the instructor, will create a character in real time during the workshop. No materials needed beyond a pencil and a notebook, but if you have your own dice, feel free to bring them. 

John Dufresne, Flash Fiction (BIG ARTS Schein Hall)

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.  (Day 2)      

Nick Flynn, Memoir Writing (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1): 

David Mamet claims that “the conscious mind cannot create art.” In our brief time together we will look for those moments we begin to stutter and stumble when talking about our projects, for that is the threshold beyond which is unknown, beyond which is the white space on the map. Please come with a willingness to push a little deeper into this shadow world, and an openness to questioning why you tell the particular stories about your life that you do.

Margo Rabb, How to Write A Young Adult Novel (BIG ARTS Classroom 2):

What is YA exactly, and how do YA novels differ from adult ones? In this workshop we’ll discuss what YA is and isn’t, and how to develop your idea from initial inspiration to finished book. We’ll explore the enormous range of fiction that has been published as YA, from Laure Halse Anderson to Peter Cameron to Jacqueline Wilson. We'll also talk about the YA writing and publishing world and share resources unique to YA writers.

11:30-1:00: LUNCH BREAK (On your own)

1:00-3:30: WORKSHOPS      

Steve Almond, Creative Nonfiction Small Group Workshop (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 2):

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.

Tom Franklin, Crippled Orphans at Christmas: Writing Unsentimental Fiction (BIG ARTS Schein Hall):

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.        

Jay Hopler, Poetry Small Group Manuscript Workshop (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3): 

Hopler 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.

Leslie Jamison, Flash Memoir (Library Meeting Room 1): 

In this class, we’ll be thinking about the possibilities of compression: how to capture our infinite lives in finite frames. We’ll be exploring what can happen in just a few paragraphs: a mother can be raised from the grave or a treehouse burned to the ground, a wound can be re-opened with a few deft slices of syntax, a few crucial details. There’s an exhilaration to concision; we’ll explore this vein of electricity. 

Dito Montiel, Screenwriting: How Do I Make a Script That Becomes a Movie? (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1):

When I first started out, I scribbled tons of ridiculous, half-brained ideas on napkins. Then I’d bring them home and either lose them or try to expand them into something worth keeping. One of those napkins eventually turned into my first book, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints, which initially came out in a tiny printing through a friend from an old job in the cassette department of Tower Records. I wrote and directed the film adaptation of Saints starring Robert Downey Jr. Rosario Dawson, Channing Tatum and Shia Labeouf. We won the directors and special prize at Sundance Film Festival and got nominated for an Indie Spirit for best screenplay. Two books and six movies later, I’m still taking chances on things that I love and putting them out into the world. Mine has been a weird trip, but maybe it will help you believe you can write a book or a script or something—if you love it enough, and are willing to take a ridiculous chance. Nothing is worse than people who say, "If you want to do something, just do it," but that's basically what I did because it meant so much to capture and craft what was in my head for reading and viewing audiences. We’ll talk about taking your experiences and turning them into a book and/or script (that has a shot at being made into an actual movie!).                                                                                

Alan Michael Parker, Fiction Small Group Workshop (Library Meeting Room 4):

Parker 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.

3:45-5:00 PANEL

Shane Hinton, Kimberly Lojewski, Ryan Rivas, Is the Small Press Right for You? (BIG ARTS Schein Hall): 

Hosted by Kimberly Lojewski and Shane Hinton, whose debut story collections were released in 2015, and their publisher, Ryan Rivas of Burrow Press, this panel will focus on the experience of publishing with a small press. The conversation will address why you might choose a small press over a major publishing house, how to choose which press will be the best fit for you, how to evaluate the quality of a press before deciding where to place your work, and submission strategies to keep in mind during the process.

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

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

Dan Bern




John Dufresne, Creative Caffeine (BIG ARTS Schein Hall)

Dufresne will lead you through a variety of prompts that'll kickstart your creativity for the day. 

9:00-11:30: WORKSHOPS  

Dan Bern, Songwriting (Sanibel Library Meeting Room 1):

No need to have ever written a song before--Dan Bern will set free your inner song and have you warbling before you know it. Mind-expanding and a whole lot of fun.

William Giraldi, Tragedy is the New Norm (Sanibel Library Meeting Room 4):

In the wake of the recent American massacres in Aurora, Newtown, and Boston, how do writers incorporate calamitous events into their fiction without resorting to mere reportage, or cliché, or sentimentality, or bloodshed for its own sake? We'll look closely at tragic scenes from world literature (Homer, Sophocles, Shakespeare, Flannery O'Connor) to understand better how the greats marshaled and mastered tragedy. We'll also look at the quieter, personal tragedies of everyday living—the death of a loved one, the destruction of a marriage—in stories by Raymond Carver and Richard Ford.

Jim Gustafson, Four Temperaments in Poetry, Prose and Other Places (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3):

It is no secret that who we are influences what we write. Each of us is a unique blend of four temperaments, but one often is more dominant (most expressed) in our work.  We grow as poets/writers by recognizing and understanding our dominant temperament and nurturing the others. Understanding your temperament provides insight into your own writing and enhances your ability to appreciate art that has its emphasis in a temperament other than your own. The workshop builds on the work of Gregory Orr in his essay “Four Temperaments And The Forms of Poetry.” The American Poetry Review, Vol. 17, No. 5 (September/October, 1988).

Jim Shepard, Techniques in Close Reading (BIG ARTS Schein Hall): 

A workshop in the skill of close reading, since improving as a reader is so crucial to your improvement as a writer. The workshop will include exercises and published work. 

Karen Shepard, Why Do I Care?: Finding the Emotional Stakes in Your Fiction (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1):

Using exercises and published fiction, we’ll help each other figure out how  to develop those aspects of your fiction that have something at stake, that matter, to you and your reader.  


11:30-1:00: LUNCH BREAK (On your own)

1:00-2:10: PANEL  

Erica Dawson, Beth Ann Fennelly, Jim Gustafson, Steve Kistulentz, & Mark Powell, Is a Graduate Program in Creative Writing Right for You? (BIG ARTS Schein Hall):

This panel, which includes creative writing program graduates and directors, will discuss and answer questions about the pros and cons of traditional and low-residency programs, including the M.A., the M.F.A, and the Ph.D. 

2:20-3:30: SPECIAL TOPIC

Christina Baker Kline, The Creative Process and Historical Research (BIG ARTS Schein Hall):

The orphan trains transported more than 250,000 children to the Midwest from the East Coast between 1854 and 1929. It was a labor program; the children were essentially indentured servants. How did this happen? And why didn’t we learn about it in school? Kline will discuss how she stumbled on the story of the orphan trains and what inspired her to write a novel instead of nonfiction about this little-known but culturally significant moment in American history. 

3:45-5:00: PANEL

Gina Frangello, William Giraldi, Ryan Rivas, & 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. 

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

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

Edwidge Danticat




John Dufresne, Creative Caffeine (BIG ARTS Schein Hall): 

Dufresne will lead you through a variety of prompts that'll kickstart your creativity for the day. 

9:00-11:30: WORKSHOPS  

Steve Almond, In the Bedroom: How to Write Erotic Scenes Without Shame (BIG ARTS Schein Hall):

Even though people think about sex all the time, and even have it occasionally, writers tend to shy away from the subject. Which is crazy. Because sex is the one experience that makes us all hopeful and horny and embarrassed and vulnerable (at least if we're doing it right). In this freewheeling workshop, we'll look at the work of Mary Gordon, James Salter, and other literary horndogs in an effort to figure out how to infuse our own sex scenes with genuine emotion and ecstatic sensation, not evasions and porn cliches. Arrive ready to lay your characters bare. 

Beth Ann Fennelly, Dissecting the Frog: Strategies for Using Humor in Your Writing (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 1):

E. B. White said “Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog.  Few people are interested and the frog dies of it.”  This all-levels, multi-genre, interactive craft class is for the proud few who are up for a little dissection with their donuts and coffee.  We won’t seek to turn ourselves into comedy writers so much as we will learn some strategies to infuse humor into our more serious stories, essays, and poems.  We’ll study examples from a range of contemporary writers, including Lorrie Moore, Meghan Daum, Sloan Crosley, John Waters, Denise Duhamel, Harrison Scott Key, and David Sedaris.  Participants should bring with them a small writing sample (a scene from a story, a few paragraphs from an essay, or a poem) as after studying others’ use of humor we’ll attempt to create some of our own.  

 Lyn Millner, Turning Facts into Story (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 2):
If you enjoy true narratives from history—think Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken, Erik Larson’s Dead Wake—this workshop is for you. We’ll deconstruct some of the most compelling examples in the genre; we’ll do exercises with scene reconstruction; and we’ll discuss how you can transform research into stories.

Alan Michael Parker—Wild Poems (BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3):

In this class, we will focus upon wild poems, and the use of the imagination to process experience. Yes, digging into who we are requires linguistic urgency, psychological ambition, and conceptual panache—so let’s work on all of that together. Be prepared to play.