For book lovers, it’s Paradise regained.
The Writers in Paradise conference comes back this month as an in-person event at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, after a couple of years as a virtual event. Co-founded in 2005 by author and Eckerd alumnus Dennis Lehane (”Mystic River”) and former Eckerd creative writing director Sterling Watson (”Night Letter”), the conference draws writers from across the country.
“What a treat to have Writers in Paradise be live and in person after the damnable COVID-enforced hiatus,” conference co-director Les Standiford wrote in an email. “Online instruction in writing is better than nothing, I guess, but the difference is to me like streaming music versus being in the front row at a concert. Or maybe having the midwife phone in instructions during the birth process.”
The conference’s return to in-person status is certainly a boon for all of the writers enrolled in its workshops and lectures. And the rest of us get a treat — the Writers in Paradise evening reading series will be back, with seven nights of readings and talks by conference faculty and guest writers. They’re all free and open to the public.
This year’s readings kick off on Jan. 14 with a keynote appearance by bestselling, award-winning novelist Elizabeth Strout. Her latest book, “Lucy by the Sea,” is the story of a divorced couple stuck living together during the pandemic lockdown. It’s the fourth book in Strout’s Amgash series, following “My Name Is Lucy Barton,” “Anything Is Possible” and “Oh William!” She’s also the author of “Olive Kitteridge,” which won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.
After her reading, Strout will be in conversation with Standiford.
The closing keynote speaker, on Jan. 21, will be novelist and nonfiction writer Luis Alberto Urrea. He was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for “The Devil’s Highway,” his nonfiction book about Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert. His novels include “Into the Beautiful North,” “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” and “The House of Broken Angels.” His upcoming novel, “Good Night, Irene,” about two women serving in the Red Cross during World War II, will be published in May.
During the week between those keynotes, the readings will feature the members of the conference’s distinguished faculty, followed by book signings.
Writers in Paradise readings
All readings will take place in Miller Auditorium at Eckerd College, 4200 54th Ave. S, St. Petersburg. The opening keynote by Elizabeth Strout begins at 8 p.m.; all other readings begin at 7 p.m. Book sales and wine receptions begin a half-hour before each reading, with signings after. Readings are free and open to the public. For more information, visit writersinparadise.com.
Jan. 14: Novelist Elizabeth Strout, in conversation with novelist and nonfiction writer Les Standiford
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Jan. 15: Memoirist Ann Hood, poet Didi Jackson and novelist Michael Koryta
Jan. 16: Novelists Anjanette Delgado and Andre Dubus III
Jan. 17: Novelist Preston L. Allen and nonfiction writer Madeleine Blais
Jan. 19: Poet Major Jackson and novelist Sterling Watson
Jan. 20: Novelist and nonfiction writer Laura Lippman, novelist and nonfiction writer Les Standiford and poet Helen Pruitt Wallace
Jan. 21: Novelist and nonfiction writer Luis Alberto Urrea