San Carlos
The San Carlos Theater has a full house during a previous literary seminar. CONTRIBUTED

What could be more timely than welcoming fellow writers and novelists from the Caribbean to Key West this year? Prize-winning novelists will be speaking at the 36th annual Key West Literary seminar and there will be more to talk about than just books. A region defines an author and even more so, an island. This year the seminar’s free Sunday session taking place at The San Carlos Institute from 2 to 5 p.m. will offer a chance not only to hear award-winning writers but also to share the experience of island life.

“Collectively, we wanted to explore literature that is a part of our region,” said the seminar’s director Arlo Haskell. “But we picked the topic two years ago and who could have predicted the relevance today?”

Open to the public, the Sunday session has proven to be a highlight of the seminar, with intimate access to some brilliant authors. This year is no exception. Teenager Mirta Ojito came to America during the 1980 Mariel boat lift exodus from Cuba and went on to become a New York Times, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist. The boat lift has always been a part of Keys history and Ojito’s success from the day she set foot on Key West has been extraordinary. Also speaking will be Haitian-American writer Edwidge Danticat, another immigrant who has won numerous awards. Her first novel “Breath, Eyes, Memory” was chosen for Oprah’s book club and she is an active advocate for Haiti and immigration. Writers Esmeralda Santiago from Puerto Rico and Tiphanie Yanique from St. Thomas identify with the devastating impacts of this past hurricane season, from the hardest hit islands.

“Esmeralda Santiago and Tiphanie Yanique will be talking about the reality of the impact,” said Haskell, “and how is it to be an America writer living in places not considered American.”

Lastly, young Jamaican poet Ishion Hutchinson, winner of this year’s National Book Critics Circle Award and a rising poetry star, will speak.

“It’s an opportunity to really learn about our neighbors and how diverse they are because we are in the Caribbean as well,” said Lynn Kaufelt, who helped found the seminar with husband David Kaufelt. “And we do have a lot to learn.”

The seminar will also welcome world renowned author Jamaica Kincaid for its workshops. A native of the island of Antigua, Kincaid’s themes of family and anti colonialism have put her at the forefront of Caribbean writers for the past three decades with her short stories, novels and essays.

More information is online at


The Key West Literary Seminar

Free Sunday Seminar

The San Carlos Institute

2 to 5 p.m.



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