Skip to main content


The Conference

January 13 – 20, 2024

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.


  • 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.


  • Nonfiction with Madeleine Blais
    Whether you are working on a personal story, an historical account, a biography, or some combination, your work is going to need a narrative arc, which can be 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 (especially tricky in memoir). We will spend time devising strategies to create lively prose. A special emphasis will be placed on publication options and on generating future subject matter so that you leave the conference armed with new ideas and enthusiasm. Your 25 sample pages can be the opening chapter of a longer work or a self-contained article-sized piece of 25 pages or less (plus a 1-p synopsis).


  • Novel with Andre Dubus III
    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.


  • Novel with Luis Alberto Urrea
    In this workshop, we will not only share our work, we will explore what remains elusive and even hidden to many writers. Your story is not only what is on the page — or on the screen — your story is in the shadows you cast and in the sky you have lit above it. I’m going to show you the Big River of Story and we’re gonna find what’s underneath your page. Expect handouts and even a couple of gifts. Bring your best. You will share.


  • Short Story with Stewart O’Nan
    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. Participants admitted to this workshop are asked to read The Art of Revision by Peter Ho Davies as part of preparation for workshop (a limited number of copies will be available for purchase at the conference during the evening readings).


  • Crime Fiction with Laura Lippman
    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.


  • Suspense in Storytelling with Lori Roy (for Michael Koryta)
    The workshop is open to fiction and nonfiction writers who are interested in improving their storytelling and broadening their range of techniques. Focus will be on how the handling of core issues such as character, plot, tension, and emotion are imperative regardless of the form, and demonstrating that fiction writers can benefit from seeing how journalistic techniques can add depth and realism to their own work, while nonfiction writers can benefit from learning how to build scenes, create suspense, and use dialogue. (A properly formatted screenplay opening of up to 25 pp will also be considered.)


  • Poetry with Denise Duhamel
    This workshop will focus on the poetry of its participants–with great care and attention to form (freeverse or fixed or invented), sound, and imagery. In addition to revision suggestions, we will try our hand at prompts and generative writing in order to create new poems and seedlings for poems. Please bring one or two family photographs (family of origin or family made of friends) for one such writing exercise.


  • Special 3-Day Short Story with Ana Menéndez (Jan. 14-16, $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. In the three days we’ll be together, we’ll spend half the time workshopping your stories and the other half starting a new work of fiction based on an anecdote from your own life. 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. 


  • Special 3-Day Structure in Fiction, Nonfiction & Memoir with Les Standiford (Jan. 18-20, $495)
    This workshop will focus on the overall conception and structure of book-length projects–novel, memoir, or general interest non-fiction, either completed or in progress. Discussion will center on the clarity and substance of a summary of the project and the efficacy of the opening 25 pp, given the stated intention.


Full submission guidelines are available on our Submittable page starting August 1.

Manuscript Consultation

Manuscript Consultation 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 (January 13-20)
  • participant will work directly with Sterling Watson to arrange meeting time and location

New for 2024

  • Luis Alberto Urrea, Pulitzer-prize finalist and “literary badass” (NPR), joins the Workshop Faculty at Writers in Paradise for the first time.
  • Newly minted St. Petersburg Poet Laureate and winner of the Poetry Gold Medal Florida Book Awards, Gloria Muñoz, returns to Eckerd College as this year’s Emerging Artist in Poetry.
  •  NYT Editor’s Choice and “Best Books to Read in 2023” by Today, author of the short story collection, When Trying to Return Home, Jennifer Maritza McCauley, will read and lecture at Writers in Paradise as this year’s Emerging Artist in Fiction.
  • Writers in Paradise welcomes back Poet, Collaborator, Professor and National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist (Blowout), Denise Duhamel, as Faculty to lead the Poetry Workshop.
  • Mitchell Kaplan, Founder and Owner of Books & Books, co-founder of the Miami Book Fair, Podcast host of The Literary Life with Mitchell Kaplan, and Producer (The Mazur Kaplan Company), joins the publishing panel at Writers in Paradise.
  • International best-selling debut sensation whose short story collection, If I Survive You, who has garnered countless accolades including the PEN/Faulkner Award and National Book Award short lists, Jonathan Escoffery, will close our 2024 conference.

Applications Deadline

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

For more information on workshop selection, deadlines and conference costs, click on Application & Cost.

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.

2024 Faculty & Guests

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

Additional Information

The 20th edition of Writers in Paradise will take place from January 13 – 20, 2024.  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].

Writers in Paradise helped me find my footing and develop a successful plan for revising my memoir. Conversations with faculty and fellow workshop participants refueled me, helped me untangle some of the issues I was working through in my manuscript, and fostered a sense of community.

Angela La Voie

Writers in Paradise is well organized and enormously supportive of everyone. Where else can you find a group of this caliber willing to focus on your work with such intensity and good intent? Truly a gift.

Wikki Krawczyk

Writers in Paradise is an extremely well put together week of inspiring readings, critique, people, and ideas. There is kindness and support amidst the hard work and a nice sense of camaraderie. I particularly appreciated the emphasis on craft. Worth the effort to clear a week for!

Hana Maris

At Writers in Paradise, passionate instructors help you succeed at an event organized to provide you with a seamless experience. I've made lasting friendships with other writers while honing my craft. If you want constructive honesty, check your ego at the door and listen.

Jenn Mondello

I found WIP to be life-changing. In a week, my drive to write went from 'moderate' to 'fever pitch'. Andre Dubus III is as gifted an orator as he is a writer, very helpful.

Jim Mentink

It’s hard to imagine any writer who wouldn’t come away from WIP without a bag full of skills, ideas and renewed energy... and stuff to read for months afterward. As if that isn’t enough, we come away engaged more deeply in the community of those who share love of craft and respect for those who practice it.

Mary Fox

Since the conference, two of my novels written under a pen name- a YA and a Thriller - are under contract for publication [in 2020]. And last week I received a request from a lit agent for the full manuscript of the novel I workshopped. Obviously, I learned a lot.

Tim Vargo

If it was only inspiration from the drop-dead talented readers and workshop leaders, Eckerd Writer’s Conference wouldn’t be as useful. Daily, we retrain our focus on what it means to be a writer, explicating the craft and its toolbox. WIP is that balance of soaring spirits and nuts n’ bolts.

Diane Dewey

I've tried many different ways to write about this conference and my experience working with eleven other poets, Major Jackson charting our journey from strangers into a community of poets who learned the ways of eachother's rhythms. Extraordinary experience is not an overstatement. Writers In Paradise is a perfect writing environment with an engaged faculty and it is one of the most well-run conferences because its staff clearly wants to deliver the best experience for every participant.

Sara Schlossman

Attending Writers in Paradise has been an essential ingredient to my development as a writer. I’ve attended several years and have always come away with new tools and skills. The readings, faculty, panels, lectures and fellow students make it a great week and a conference not to be missed.

Gale; The Girl From Blind River (2018 Florida Book Award)

Les Standiford fosters a friendly and respectful environment and is especially masterful in teaching the art of creating story blueprints. I left the conference with a filled notebook, several new friends and ideas on how to structure my next project. No doubt I hope to return.

Sara GoudarziThe Almond in the Apricot [novel, "Exquisite and magical debut," Publisher's Weekly]

Attending WIP has been one a pivotal points in my writing journey. Every aspect, from my memoir workshop with Ann Hood, to the craft talks and nightly readings, went beyond expectation. I came home with a notebook full of inspiration and much work to do. Thank you!

Diane Forman

I was intimidated by the manuscripts of the other participants in Ann Hood's memoir workshop. How I dreaded having my work critiqued by these more accomplished writers. We came together as strangers and left entrusted with intimate details of each others lives. Our workshop revealed flaws, plot holes, confusing prose, and inconsistencies. My manuscript is now so much better for the gentle, thoughtful, consideration of the group. Thank you!

Eileen Vorbach Collins

For decades, even while working as a journalist, I had an outsized faith in talent and effort. I didn’t even know about the myriad techniques to improve a piece of work I learned here. This conference hit me at exactly the right time.

Andrew Meacham

WIP feels like a community led by inspiring and amazing mentors and staff. The readings and craft talks are sometimes sacred experiences, other times hilarious and fascinating. I'm addicted.

Lita Kurth

Studying with Laura Lippman catalyzed a new way for me to approach manuscript revision, and the additional instructional lectures throughout the week were brilliant. The Writers in Paradise deep dive into narrative structure and craft has improved my work-in-progress and will inform all of my work going forward.

Dev Rogers

A writer friend said WIP was an outstanding conference. She was right! Novel Writing with Stewart O'Nan was beyond the pale. My fellow writers were professional and concise in their feedback. The lectures were inspiring. Readings and parties. Beautifully orchestrated and organized with 24/7 help available. What's not to love?

Pamela Cederquist

Writers in Paradise encouraged a wonderful balance of rigor and community on one of the most beautiful college campuses I have ever been to. My instructor, Andre Dubus III, was one of the most knowledgeable, down to earth, and passionate writers I have ever met. He guided our short story cohort not only on how to write better but how to be better as people. This was, in all honesty, a pivot point for my writing career and I will always look back at this time fondly.

Noel Quiñones

WIP helped elevate my writing more than any other workshop I've ever attended. I gained literary authority and found the bravery to write my hard, yet crucial, truths— all in the company of other craft-obsessed writers. It's called Paradise for a reason and it has nothing to do with the beach.

Danielle Monroe

If you'd like to be added to our email list to receive news about the conference including deadline reminders, please sign up here.

Fill out my online form.

Our Mission

Our mission at Writers in Paradise is to provide talented and hardworking writers of all levels and genres the opportunity to learn from and work with other writers under the guidance of masterful and successful authors.  For an entire week, we strive to provide an open, inclusive, and nurturing environment where creativity, critical awareness and writing techniques can be exercised, fostered and encouraged.   Every year we try to grow our conference to include new voices and ways of looking at writing and what it means to write in today’s market while maintaining a core faculty of proven authors who are both successful in their genres as well as gifted in the classroom. Our central premise has always been to help talented writers reach their intended audiences.  We understand the complexities of putting together effective stories, and this understanding and sensitivity makes our workshops popular and coveted.  One of our goals is to create community among our participants which is why our workshops are closed to all but those participants who submit manuscripts and are accepted into workshop—one long time faculty member calls it “having skin in the game.”
We believe that keeping workshops small allows for focus, productive criticism and honesty.

Our commitment to providing a week filled with writing education and sanctuary includes poetry. Nearly every year we rotate a nationally-acclaimed, award-winning poet who teaches as part of our core faculty. In addition to the poetry workshop and craft talk(s), we are honored to have as part of our lineup the poet laureates of St. Petersburg and of Florida, Helen Pruitt Wallace and Peter Meinke.

With the help of our St. Petersburg community and Eckerd alumni, we work with an endowment that affords us the opportunity to help many participants financially.  We never want money to be the reason that you can’t come be with us for a week.  If you’ve got a story that’s burning to be told, we want to help you add to your set of craft-box tools, so you can effectively tell it. While we are competitive and accept writers based on the strength and potential of their writing, we abide by the notion that good writing is good writing and we all stand to learn from one another no matter where we come from, how old we are, or what we may or may not have studied formally.  After a week at WIP, we hope you leave with a new and inspired sense of direction, some good friends who you can share writing with throughout the year, and with confidence you can navigate new writing challenges on your own.

Les Standiford, Conference Director
Marina Pruna, Conference Coordinator