Section 508 Website Accessibility

Skip to site navigation Skip to main content
Skip to main content
Sanibel Island Writers Conference

Sanibel Island Writers Conference

Sanibel Island Writers Conference
Related Links

Tom DeMarchi, Director
Sanibel Island Writers Conference

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







Below is the 2018 schedule. We're leaving it up for now to give you an idea of how the weekend unfolds. Check back soon for the 2019 schedule!

2018 Schedule Grid





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


MAJOR JACKSON                

STEVE ALMOND           





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:

JANUARY O'NEIL             


JOYCE MAYNARD            




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)


JILL BIALOSKY                  

JOHN DUFRESNE                  





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, How to Write a Story to Tell Out Loud

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

Writing a story meant to be told out loud is similar to writing any story, but the storyteller should be aware that the listener only has one chance to catch the story. There’s no flipping back and re-reading.

In this workshop, students will write a first draft. It can be ugly. It can be terrible. But it must be true because the best writing starts with the truth. Then we’ll discuss ten tips for capturing the listener, keeping his or her attention, and landing each sentence, paragraph and the entire story. 

We'll discuss students’ stories in class. And we'll practice telling stories without reading. But don’t be afraid. This workshop is guaranteed to be so much fun or no money back! All levels welcome. 


Julianna Baggott, YA Fiction

BIG ARTS Gallery

There's much to be learned by writing for a very specific audience. Writing for young adults can be demanding as well as liberating. In this course, we'll talk about writing for this specific audience, as well as touching on ways to tackle the novel as a form. I'll provide exercises and tools for your craft. 


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, 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. 


Emily Black, Taking the Me Out of Memoir: Writing Nonfiction That's Universally Relevant

BIG ARTS Gallery

In this workshop we will focus on the element of memoir that sets it apart from other genres: its ability to make a connection with readers, by making a connection with the world, by means of a personal story. Any reader should be able to pick up your book or essay, and regardless of whether or not they have interest in the subject matter, they should be engaged, entertained, and perhaps even educated. Every reader, in turn, should be able to learn something vital about what it means to be human by reading another person's well-crafted and resonant personal story. With that goal in mind, we will engage with our work thoughtfully, engaging in dialogue around craft issues and employing deliberate strategies to make our personal work not just about us, but about the world we live in.


Brock Clark, Lifting Up Your Reader's Heart: A Fiction Workshop

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

The fiction writer Flannery O’Connor once wrote in her essay “Some Aspects of the Grotesque in Southern Fiction”: “I once received a letter from an old lady in California who informed me that when the tired reader comes home at night, he wishes to read something that will lift up his heart. And it seems her heart had not been lifted up by anything of mine she had read. I think that if her heart had been in the right place, it would have been lifted up.’’ This is a most wanted writerly medical procedure: to move someone else’s heart to the place where a writer can then lift it up. In this workshop, attendees will submit work, read, and do exercises with an eye toward perfecting exactly this kind of surgery, with particular attention given to writing openings that will draw the reader into our stories and novels.


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. 


Tod Goldberg, How To Wear The Black Hat: Writing Villains, Anti-Heroes, and Bad Asses...Believably

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

Some of the most iconic characters in the history of literature have been people on the fringe. Delusional liars. Corrupt killers. Brutal narcissists. Gangsters. Thugs. Femme Fatales. And that's just the characters in The Great Gatsby! In this workshop, we'll look at how to write the dark art of deception, how to make characters who do awful things personally empathetic, how to create bad asses who aren't cliches from terrible '80s movies, and how to write about the worst things in the world in a way that makes readers want to continue to turn the page, even when the world outside seems pretty bad already. 


Stephanie Elizondo Griest, Dateline Zanzibar: Travel Writing

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

Got wanderlust? Learn how to quench it in this workshop. We’ll start by sharing tips on how to travel the world on somebody else’s budget, including press trips, grants, scholarships, and work-gigs as a teacher or “grammar gypsy.” Then we’ll explore different ways of weaving sensory detail, lists, and description into our narratives to recreate a sense of place. We’ll debate the ethical considerations inherent in this genre, including the use of translators and publishing sources’ real names. We will conclude with a business overview, including how and where to sell our travel stories.


Major Jackson, Writing to Imagine Ourselves: Poetry

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

So much of writing poetry is a discovery and honoring of the self. When we are attentive and when we courageously listen to the spirit of our moment, we find the language that reveals who we are, how we imaginatively respond to the world around us, and give voice to our personal joys and collective crises. The poem emerges as a testament of our existence. This generative workshop invites participants to write new poems based on exercises and guided discussions meant to explore ways we can open a door into ourselves and celebrate what is found there. All levels of writers are welcomed.


Steve Kistulentz—Poetry with Unflinching Honesty

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

We’ll talk (and write) about  ways to force 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.  Finally, we will discuss the reasons why poets sometimes avoid writing about truly difficult material, and work together to craft strategies that help make our future writing fearless and open. 


Joyce Maynard, Memoir

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.


Tom McAllister, Making Less Sense: A Fiction Workshop

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

One of the biggest hurdles in revising your work is solving the problem of boring scenes. In this workshop, we will discuss ways to expedite your narratives, add energy to your work, and avoid those sagging moments when nothing is happening but you don’t know what to do. How can you free yourself from the need to explain everything? What other traditional constraints are holding your draft back? Don’t show, don’t tell; find a new way to approach your writing and cut straight to the heart of the story you want to tell.


Alastair Moock, The Language of Song

BIG ARTS Gallery

We’ll start by taking apart a few well-loved songs (well-loved at least by me) and maybe a few of my own. We’ll dig in, scattering sounds and phrases around the room, and figure out how lyric-centric songs work. What makes language pop and stick in our heads? Why and how do songwriters use patterns to draw in their listeners? Why do some songs stand the test of time? We’ll do some writing exercises and, who knows, maybe even write something together… Songwriters and non-songwriters of all abilities welcome.


Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Landscape & Origins – An Introduction to Writing Poetry

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

As writers, how is our language and expression shaped by the landscape from which we originally come? In this workshop students will be encouraged to draw upon autobiographical experiences of landscape to explore the art and craft of composing poetry. Using the central theme of "origins," the workshop will create a space in which students can use creative writing to experiment with text, gain confidence in the process of generating ideas and to begin editing poems. Workshop activities will include written exercises, audio/visual presentation and discussion of works by contemporary poets.


January Gill O'Neil, Vision/(Re)vision: Poetry

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

Sometimes the hardest part of writing a poem is getting started. This generative workshop is for poets of all levels who seek to deepen their writing practice through memory, experimentation, visual prompts, and (re)vision. We’ll look at what makes a public and private poem, and discuss ways to broaden our sense of how and where we might find poetry everywhere. We’ll leave time to share your drafts and offer gentle feedback.


Jane Roper, From Memories to Moments: Structure and Scene in Memoir and Personal Essays

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

You’ve got all the raw material you need to write a memoir or personal essay: your memories, experiences and insights. But to shape them into a compelling and engaging work, you need to create a narrative arc, with actual scenes and incidents—while at the same time not straying too far from the truth. In this workshop, you’ll look at excerpts from published memoirs and personal essays to discover and discuss how authors manage to pull off this feat, and find solutions to your own writing challenges. Specific topics will include beginnings and endings, transitioning from exposition to scene, and (re)creating dialogue. You’ll have the chance to try out what you’ve learned with an exercise or two. Come with your  work(s)-in-progress in mind or on paper.


Michael Ruhlman, Food Writing

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

"When I write of hunger," MFK Fisher wrote, "I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it ... and it is all one." MFK Fisher knew that when we write about food, it’s about more than just food. This workshop will explore how we write about food, practically, but also how we use food to get at the bigger picture of what it means to be human. We will analyze the great writers and we will critique our own writing about food, toward the goal of creating meaningful (and publishable) stories with food at their heart.


Mark Evan Schwartz, Big Picture: Writing the Spec Screenplay

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

In the professional world of feature length screenwriting, whether original or adaptation, if the set-up through resolution doesn’t continuously captivate, propelling the story and its protagonist, antagonist, and romantic interest forward in a way that compels the analyst, agent, manager, development exec, director, and/or producer to keep turning the pages, it will be a quick trip to Pasadena. In other words, a pass. Character arc, objective, emotional mission, functional dialogue, plotting, theme, and descriptive action must merge seamlessly with conflict. And while creatively matters, so does topicality, relatability, and that all important thing called craft. In this interactive workshop, attendees will learn how to put those elements together, so the reader, the screenwriter’s first audience, will keep reading. While targeting screenwriting, the concepts examined will be equally beneficial to novelists, short story writers, and playwrights. And yeah, we’ll have fun.     


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

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom

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. 





Steve Almond, Small Group Manuscript Workshop--Creative Nonfiction 

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.


Steve Kistulentz, Small Group Manuscript Workshop--Fiction

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 2

Kistulentz 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.


Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Small Group Manuscript Workshop--Poetry

BIG ARTS Upstairs Classroom 3

Ní Churreáin 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.



Lynne Barrett, Jenny Bent, Jill Bialosky, 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. 


Steve Kistulentz, Tom McAllister, and Jane Roper: Spinning Glue Back into Horses: Harvesting and Repurposing Real-Life Events in Your Writing

BIG ARTS Schein Hall 

Three novelists who have also written in every major genre discuss the ways and means of how real life events are reimagined and corrected in their own work, which spans fiction, poetry, nonfiction, and writing for television. We will discuss how to be faithful to source material and respectful of its often highly personal origins, and how authors use their experience as listeners and observers to inform their creative work.


Mike Kiniry and WGCU present Three Song Stories with Major Jackson, Annemarie Ní Churreáin, and January Gill O'Neil

BIG ARTS Schein Hall

Live Recording of the Podcast Three Song Stories

Get to know three of this year’s presenters through songs that have touched their lives during a recording of Three Song Stories: Biography Through Music. This WGCU podcast is an exploration of the power music has to bind us to times, places, people, and emotions from our lives. It brings out its guests’ personalities, and personal histories, by mining the connections music has made during their lifetimes. Annemarie Ní Churreáin, Major Jackson, and January Gill O'Neil will be joined on stage in the theater by host Mike Kiniry to listen to their songs, hear the stories they bring forth, and find out how music fits into each of their lives. Check out to listen to listen to past episodes.