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The Conference

January 18 – 25, 2025

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.



Supernatural/Suspense/Horror with Michael Koryta (full week) $950

This workshop is open to writers working on a suspense novel, particularly one with a supernatural or paranormal element — think Shirley Jackson, Ira Levin, Stephen King, Megan Abbott, and Joe Hill. Our focus will be on the handling of core issues such as character, structure, scene building, and how supernatural suspense is built through grounded stories with emotional realism.


Crime Fiction with Laura Lippman (full week)  $950

Looking for the formula for writing great crime fiction?  Alas, it doesn’t exist.  But this workshop can help writers with novels in which a crime is the engine that moves the story forward.  Counter-intuitively, the emphasis will be on character, not plotting.  Crime novels work best when characters are true to themselves. Then again, per Raymond Chandler, it never hurts to send a man through the door with a gun.


Memoir with Andre Dubus III (full week)  $950

If I teach nothing else 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.


Nonfiction with Luis Alberto Urrea (full week)  $950

Paradise Writing Non-Fiction

A teacher I like calls our genre “Verity.” So, welcome to our Verity workshop. We will not only share our work, but we will also explore techniques that can make nonfiction as hypnotic as a juicy novel. Guess what:  the really good stuff is often hidden to readers. It’s a Jedi mind-trick.

In short—your writing is not only what is on the page, but also what lurks beneath the page – that shadow realm that can make your readers dream.

I’m going to show you the big river of story…even if your story is humble, closely observed. It doesn’t have to be a world-war. It can be about a grandmother’s hands. We will learn to love and trust what lies beneath. Expect great handouts, examples, and maybe some gifts.

Bring your best light. Bring your best shadow.

Don’t be shy. Do not fear.  We won’t let you fall.


Short Story with Stewart O’Nan (full week) $950

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


Novel with Ann Hood (full week) $950

“The page is still blank, but there is a miraculous feeling of the words being there, written in invisible ink and clamoring to become visible,” Nabokov said of writing a novel. That’s our goal in this workshop—to bring that miracle of words that tells a story to the page. We will discuss the architecture of novels, the best ways to begin, the muddle of the middle, rising tension, character development, situation versus story, making characters breathe on the page, where to end, and more. Through examples from published novels and close reads of your own work, we will investigate, explore, and celebrate writing your novel.


Graphic Novel with Alex Segura (full week) $950

This workshop will introduce interested writers to the nuts and bolts of the graphic novel medium, from pacing and script format to various genres within the form, an all-purpose tour of a beloved medium that touches on many aspects of the craft.   Artistic capability is not a prerequisite.  The focus will be on the story elements, the crafting of a high concept, and a loose breakdown of plot.  This is primarily a generative workshop, though applicants with experience in the genre will find much to gain.   (Submit either a completed short story; the first chapter of a novel, with a synopsis of the remainder; or a sample of work in the genre—25 pages, maximum.  Exact guidelines can be found on Submittable starting in August with the opening of our application period.)


3-Day Poetry Workshop with Didi Jackson (January 19-21)  $495

In our time together, we will hone down each workshopped poem to its essential strengths. What image, metaphor, simile, etc. … makes a lasting imprint on the mind’s eye? What part of the poem could be let go?  Where is the best place to begin or end? Is the poem missing something crucial?  Does the poem provide a moment of critical vulnerability? We will focus our attention on the avoidance of cliché and how to spy the extraordinary in the everyday. With support, kindness, and respect, we will all commit to help make each poem a better version of itself.


3-Day Poetry Workshop with Major Jackson (January 23-25)  $495

In this revision workshop, we will discuss poems and offer feedback with an eye on aesthetic risk-taking. Please arrive to the conference with three poems, preferably 1-2 pages (exact submission guidelines on Submittable starting in August). We will discuss strategies to push our drafts to next-level thinking and exploration. Students will enter a community of writers whose collective aim is to contemplate growth by way of radical experimentation.


3-Day Generative Short Story with Ana Menéndez (January 19-21)  $495

From Anecdote to Story in Three Days

That image you can’t get out of your mind. That anecdote you’ve been telling for the last 10 years. That thing that happened in 2003 that changed everything – all these can be the beginning of a moving and well-crafted work of fiction. This fully generative workshop will take you from telling a personal anecdote to crafting a working draft for a short story. We’ll discuss the difference between anecdote and short story, learn the most basic of story structures, and discuss motif, binary constructions, and other details that will help you deepen subsequent drafts. You’ll leave the three days with at least a rough draft and some basic tools that will allow you to continue shaping the story long after you return home.


3-Day Mythic Structure with Les Standiford (January 23-25)  $495

This workshop will focus on the structure of book-length projects–novel, memoir, or general interest non-fiction, either completed or in progress. Discussion will be guided by the principles of mythic structure and archetype, and will center on the clarity and substance of a summary of the project and the efficacy of the 25 pages that open the work.  Recommended reading:  Christopher Vogler, THE WRITER’S JOURNEY.  Joseph Campbell, HERO WITH A THOUSAND FACES.


MANUSCRIPT CONSULTATIONS with Sterling Watson ($450)

During our meeting, the participant and I will discuss the manuscript including my thoughts on what I think works and doesn’t work.  I will give the participant a brief report on the manuscript, which will be the basis for my spoken comments.  Additionally, I will provide the participant with a line-edited copy of the manuscript (participants may decline line-edits if they wish to).  Finally, we will address any questions that the participant prepares for the meeting.

  • by application only via Submittable from August 1 – November 1
  • novels in progress, up to 35pp plus synopsis
  • one-hour consult
  • may be combined with a 3-day workshop or stand-alone only
  • may not be combined with a full week workshop due to scheduling conflict
  • accepted manuscript consultees will be considered full participants and thus be eligible to attend all conference events (except workshops)
  • meeting must take place during the conference week (Jan 18-25)
  • participant will work directly with Sterling Watson to arrange meeting time and location


NEW FOR 2025


  • Keynote Speaker, Karen Russell, Pulitzer-prize finalist, Guggenheim and MacArthur Fellow, NYT best-selling author

Karen Russell will open the 2025 conference with a reading on Saturday 1/18 at 8pm, followed by a Q&A with Conference Director, Les Standiford, and ending with book sales and signings.

  • Closing Speaker, three-time National Book Award finalist and NYT best-selling author, Lauren Groff

Rounding out a full week of workshops, lectures and gatherings, we welcome Lauren Groff to close out the week.  Her reading will take place on Saturday 1/25 at 8pm, followed by a Q&A with Conference Director, Les Standiford, and ending with book sales and signings.

  • Food writer, author, and three-time James Beard Award recipient, Michael Ruhlman

For accepted participants interested in learning the ins-and-outs of food writing, chef and author, Michael Ruhlman, will lead a 2-part craft talk describing and discussing how best to bring the savory and sweet to life in writing.  The second part of the talk will include writing and workshopping.

  • Graphic Novel

Writers in Paradise is thrilled to welcome Alex Segura, award-winning graphic novelist, as first-time faculty, to teach our very first workshop in Graphic Novel.  For writers who’ve been curious and are ready to give this exciting genre a try, we’ve heard you!

  • Generative Workshops

For the first time, Writers in Paradise will offer generative workshops! Fully-generative Short Story (with Ana Menéndez) and a partially-generative workshop in Graphic Novel (with Alex Segura) will give aspiring writers the chance to explore, learn, and create drafts while in workshop.  Descriptions of both workshops appear above and exact submission guidelines will be available on Submittable beginning in August with the start of our application period.

  • Supporting Writers in Paradise

We at WIP have learned throughout the years that we are part of the best community of writers!  For those of you who would like to support our conference, we’ve created a donation page to make the process easy.  If you have any questions or prefer supporting in other ways, please contact the conference coordinator.

Applications Deadline

Our applications period runs from August 1 to November 1 (11:59 p.m. Eastern Time). Apply starting August 1 on Submittable.

View more about workshop selection, deadlines and conference costs.

Les Standiford


Dennis Lehane

Co-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.

2025 Faculty & Guests

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

Additional Information

The 21st edition of Writers in Paradise will take place in January 18-25, 2025.  Esteemed faculty and selected participants 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].

Young poet smiles as he stands at a podium that reads "Eckerd College"


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