KEY WEST, Florida Keys — The wild and wonderful Sunshine State is to take center stage for writers and literature fans Thursday through Sunday, Jan. 11-14, as the Key West Literary Seminar presents “Florida: The State We’re In,” a cultural exploration held in an open-air setting in the subtropical island city.
The seminar is to feature more than 20 celebrated novelists, humorists, poets, historians and others whose work spotlights diverse aspects of Florida, from its environmental uniqueness to its quintessential wackiness. Events are headquartered at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater in Key West’s Truman Waterfront Park.
Among presenters are Pulitzer Prize–winning humorist Dave Barry, whose books include “Best. State. Ever.: A Florida Man Defends His Homeland”; Carl Hiaasen, author of Florida-focused bestsellers “Strip Tease,” “Bad Monkey” and many others; Karen Russell, widely acclaimed for the novel “Swamplandia!” set in the Florida Everglades; historian and author Jack E. Davis, who won a Pulitzer for “The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea”; Les Standiford, whose “Last Train to Paradise” chronicles Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad; and Craig Pittman, author of “Oh, Florida! How America’s Weirdest State Influences the Rest of the Country.”
“Throughout American history, Florida’s dynamic character and culture have produced an incredible body of literature,” said Arlo Haskell, the seminar’s executive director. “This gathering is an opportunity to hear from some our very best — writers who know exactly how we got here and, perhaps, where we are going next.”
The seminar begins Thursday evening, Jan. 11, with a keynote presentation by Jeff VanderMeer, known for his bestselling “Southern Reach Trilogy.” Also a journalist and environmental advocate, VanderMeer found inspiration for his popular sci-fi trilogy while hiking in St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge on Florida’s northern Gulf Coast.
Subsequently, attendees can enjoy solo readings, lectures, panel discussions, question-and-answer sessions, book signings and opportunities to mingle with presenters from 9:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Jan. 12-13, and 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 14. Other events include an opening-night reception following the keynote speech and a Saturday evening sunset program.
While many past seminars quickly sold out, the move from a small indoor theater to the amphitheater means expanded capacity with space still available for 2024 attendees. A full four-day registration package is $825 per person and includes access to all onstage events and signings as well as reserved VIP seating. Single-day registration with lawn seating is also available.
Literature fans also can enjoy seminar–related Key West cultural events scheduled Friday, Jan. 5, through Monday, Jan. 15. Offerings include daily literary walking tours, an open house at the island home of renowned poet Elizabeth Bishop, film screenings and writers’ workshops.
Event information, seminar schedule and registration: kwls.org/seminar/
This year's literary seminar theme promises to be a cultural exploration of Florida and where we, and our state, are going next. Photo: Nick Doll
Events are headquartered at the Coffee Butler Amphitheater in Key West's Truman Waterfront Park. Photo: Nick Doll
Literary seminar attendees gather for the opening night reception before the 2022 event. Photo: Nick Doll