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FGCU hosts annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference this weekend

By Staff | Nov 4, 2009

Sanibel Island, for all intents and purposes, is one of those special places on earth which inspires poetry and prose, artwork and the artists themselves. It’s no wonder that so many creative types have drawn their inspiration from what the island offers: natural beauty, peaceful serenity and a casual atmosphere unique to this region.

As writers, Randy Wayne White, Christine Lemmon, Charles Sobczak, Annie Vanderbilt and Tom Joseph have not only featured Sanibel as settings within their books, but have used the island itself as their personal muse.

Is it any wonder why other authors would want to experience much of the same?

Florida Gulf Coast University is again hosting the Sanibel Island Writers Conference, being held this Thursday through Sunday – Nov. 5 through 8 – at BIG Arts. Participants are invited to attend a variety of workshops, panels, lectures and readings presented by celebrated and experienced writers and teachers.

And, in their spare time, soak up as much of Sanibel as they can.

“The conference is open to any aspiring writer who wants to create new work or refine a project already in progress,” said event coordinator Tom DeMarchi, an instructor in the FGCU College of Arts and Sciences.

Attendees participate in a variety of morning workshops in fiction, poetry, screenwriting, children’s literature, memoir, songwriting and creative non-fiction. Afternoon panels include workshops in publishing, freelance writing, journalism, obtaining a literary agent and the creative process.

DeMarchi also noted that each evening will feature readings and book signings with two to three authors, as well as musical performances from Willy Vlautin and Dan Bern on Friday night. Participants registered for the entire conference can attend all events. Nighttime events are open to the general public.

Famed Florida author Carl Hiaasen, a master of satirical wit, award-winning social and political commentator and three-time Pulitzer Prize nominee, will deliver the keynote address. He is the bestselling author of several adult and children’s novels, including “Skinny Dip,” “Double Whammy,” “Skin Tight,” “Native Tongue,” “Strip Tease,” “Stormy Weather,” “Lucky You,” “Sick Puppy,” “Basket Case” and “Hoot.”

Hiaasen’s novels have been published in 33 languages. The London Observer has called him “America’s finest satirical novelist” while Janet Maslin of The New York Times has compared him to Preston Sturges, Woody Allen and S. J. Perelman. Hiaasen has written for the Miami Herald since 1976. His Saturday evening keynote address is open to the public.

Other presenters scheduled to appear (in alphabetical order) include writers Erin Almond, Steve Almond, Julianna Baggott, Lynne Barrett, Ishmael Beah, John Brandon, Christine Buckley, Don Bullens, Tom Chiarella, John Dufresne, William Giraldi, William Greenway, Sue Henshon, Jeanne Leiby, Nina Romano, Abby Sher, Lauren Small, Laura Valeri, Willy Vlautin, Sidney Wade, Jay Wexler and Liza Wieland.

In addition, literary agents Molly Lyons and Christopher Schelling will discuss how they recruit clients and manage their careers. Literary editors Kristen Iversen, C.D. Mitchell and Tom Williams will hold panels on choosing which authors to publish, and how much they edit.

Dan Bern will conduct a songwriting workshop and – along with novelist/songwriter Willy Vlautin – will perform a Friday night concert that is open to the public. Bern has focused much of his energy on motion pictures, using his talents and sharp wit to compose over a dozen songs for the Jake Kasdan/Judd Apatow music biopic spoof “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story.” He also wrote the title song for Jonathan Demme’s documentary, “Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains.”

The daily schedule is today from 8:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday from 7:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sunday from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost for participants is $350, which includes all workshops, panels, lectures and readings. Registration is limited to 150 participants on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registration forms are available online at www.fgcu.edu/siwc.

For an additional $50, participants can meet privately with a writer or editor to discuss a maximum of 10 pages of a pre-submitted manuscript. Space is limited for individual manuscript consultations.