The Conference

The Conference

January 19-26, 2019

Located on the beautiful waterfront campus of Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida, this writers’ conference features professional writers at the top of their form spending quality time with motivated and talented participants seeking an intimate, unhurried climate for learning…in paradise.

New: Deadline for Applications to Workshop:

For workshops, our submission period will open August 1 and close November 1 (11:59 p.m. Eastern Time).   Apply starting August 1.

New: General Schedule Available on our Website:

In an effort to better serve potential applicants, we are sharing a general schedule of our 2019 conference.  See our general schedule for 2019.  A detailed schedule will be distributed to accepted participants closer to the start of the conference.

New: Announcing Our 2019 Workshops

Full manuscript guidelines for submissions will be available on our applications page via Submittable starting August 1.

Mystery & Suspense Novel with Laura Lippman

Are there really “rules” for crime-writing? Only one: Keep the reader turning pages. Students interested in crime fiction will learn about the specialized challenges of pacing their stories, playing fair with readers and why less is often more when it comes to mysteries.

Memoir with Ann Hood

In this workshop we will read and discuss published essays every day to examine what makes a good piece of memoir writing. We will then critique pages from your own memoirs and essays with an eye toward revision.

Narrative Nonfiction with Madeleine Blais 

Whether you are working on a personal story, an historical account, a biography, or some combination, your prose is going to need a narrative arc, which can be especially challenging in nonfiction. Our group will work on ways to create an engine for your prose—-on how to turn a situation into a story. Keep in mind that every piece of writing is a journey, and if the journey motif was good enough for Homer….

Your 25 pages can be the opening chapter of a longer work (plus a 1-pg synopsis of the rest of the book) or a self-contained article-sized piece of 25 pages or less.

Novel with Stewart O’Nan

The class will be primarily a workshop.  Students will read one another’s novel excerpts, interrogating character, action, language, ideas and setting with an eye toward revision.

Novel with Andre Dubus III

If I teach nothing in my writing classes, I teach this: do not outline your novel or novella or short story or essay. Do not think out the plot, the narrative arc, the protagonist’s journey, whatever you want to call it. Instead, try to find the story through an honest excavation of the characters’ total experience of the situation in which they find themselves. Do that, and I promise the story will begin to write itself, with little need for the controlling hand of the godly, intelligent, well-read, and ambitious author. But how, precisely, does one go about this “excavation”?  And how, technically speaking, can we ignite a story into“writing itself”?  Come to this workshop, and I will seek to demystify those writerly tools and skills that time and time again, if they are sharp enough, and if the writer can summon enough daily faith and nerve, can penetrate the mystery of story itself.

Historical Fiction with Debra Dean

Set aside narrow definitions of historical fiction: your story needn’t be a “bodiceripper” or set in ancient times. It needn’t feature real historical characters or events. For our purposes, historical fiction includes any fictional story set in a past that is recognizably and significantly not the same as our present. So, for instance, a story set in San Francisco in 1975—before Harvey Milk and before AIDS—could be historical fiction, as could a story set in the Miami of the 1980s, the era of the drug wars. You may submit either a chapter of a novel or a short story.

Our time will be divided between reading and discussing excerpts of published fiction, doing some in-class writing, and workshopping student manuscripts, with the bulk devoted to the last.

Some of the topics we’ll address include:
Making stories set in the past feel as vivid as our “now.”
How to research and then how to keep that research from taking over the story.
Finding voices that sound authentic to the period but also appeal to modern readers.

Short Story with Ana Menendez

Writing Backwards: Starting at the Ending.
Writing seems like one of the most linear of art forms. It certainly feels that way for most readers, who begin with the first word and proceed, in orderly fashion, to the last. But for the writer, a short story may first take shape with an idea of an ending: an image, a sound, a moment towards which the narrative will eventually drive (even if, as E.L. Doctorow famously suggested, for most of that journey the writer will only see as far as the headlights). In addition to manuscript critique, we’ll take a light historical trip of our own through various fad-endings, including epiphanies, twists and resolutions. And we’ll study some of the most compelling examples of the form before diving into a short-story workshop that will concentrate on what reporters call “the kicker”: writing an ending that will resonate long after the story’s close.

Poetry with Major Jackson

In addition to manuscript discussion and critique, in this generative workshop, composed of in-class writing exercises and close readings of poems that model risk-taking, we will write exploratory drafts that push us towards next-level thinking and emotional breakthroughs. Students will enter a community of writers whose collective aim is to forward our growth as writers by crafting both our feelings and our language.

Special 3-Day Workshop (Jan 24-26; $495):
Structure in Novel, Memoir & Narrative Nonfiction with Les Standiford

This workshop will focus on the overall conception and structure of book-length projects, whether completed or in progress.  Applicants should include a 250-word synopsis of the whole, along with the opening chapter or chapters (limitof 25 pages).  Discussion will center on the clarity and substance of the project and the efficacy of the opening, given the stated intention.

New: Pitch Idol

In addition to Writer Idol and by popular demand, this year, we introduce Pitch Idol.

This session is a much-requested spin-off from Writer Idol.  One of the most amusing and effective uses of montage in cinema comes at the opening of The Player (1992), where a film producer played by Tim Robbins listens as a series of would-be scriptwriters “pitch” their ideas for films, most of which are obvious bombs-to-be.  But prose writers are also confronted by the need to answer the question,“What is your book about?”, not only during cocktail parties but in entreaties to agents and editors who first want a short and effective summary of a manuscript before they invest the time to read it.  Thus comes “Pitch Idol,” an opportunity for prose writers to “pitch” their books to a panel of WIP faculty experts.  

Participants will prepare a ONE-PAGE, 250-WORD SUMMARY of the story, one that is intended to convince listeners that the whole manuscript is worthy of a closer look.  Summaries will be read aloud to the panel, anonymously, and individual panel members will raise a hand when a false note is detected.  At the point where two hands have risen, the reading ends, and the panel will elaborate on what seems to have gone wrong.  If a pitch is read through to the end, it has“won,” and panel members will talk about what has intrigued them.  

  • Les Standiford


  • Dennis Lehane

    Founder & Co-Director

Co-founded by Dennis Lehane and Sterling Watson, and co-directed by Les Standiford, Writers in Paradise offers an intensive eight-day experience of workshop classes, roundtables, panel discussions, Q&As, readings, book signings, and receptions with our award winning-faculty and guest speakers.

The tranquil seaside landscape sets the tone for this informal gathering of writers, teachers, editors, and literary agents. The size and secluded location of the Eckerd College Writers’ Conference allows you the time and opportunity to share your manuscripts, critique one another’s work, and discuss the craft of writing with experts and peers who can help guide you to the next level.

Why You Should Attend?

After eight days of workshopping and engagement with peers and professionals in your field, you will leave with a refreshed understanding of your craft and solid ideas about how to find an agent and get published.  At the heart of the conference are six days of workshops led by master faculty in various genres where techniques are discussed and participant manuscripts are closely examined.

Announcing 2019 Faculty & Guests.

Writers in Paradise offers a wide array of Fellowships and Scholarships.

Additional Information

The 15th edition of Writers in Paradise will take place from January 19 through January 26, 2019.  Esteemed faculty and selected participants (limited to 12 each [except 3-day workshops – limited to 6]) workshop for three hours in the morning, attend panels and craft talks in the afternoon, and attend evening readings and events. Participants are actively engaged with our faculty and guests from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.

For more information about Writers in Paradise, please visit our FAQ or contact Conference Coordinator, Marina Pruna, at [email protected].

  • Marina Pruna

    Conference Coordinator