The 13th annual annual Eckerd College Writers in Paradise conference took place January 14 to 24, 2017. This was my third year attending as a workshop participant, and my first time studying with Andre Dubus III, author of House of Sand and Fog (Oprah Book Club pick and National Book Award Finalist). Over the past three years, Andre, Ann Hood, and Les Standiford have become my mentors, and this conference in particular was a huge stepping stone in my career as a writer.
Guests and speakers at the conference (providing both craft lectures and readings) included Richard Blanco (President Obama’s inaugural poet), Peter Meinke (Florida’s poet laureate), Fabienne Josaphat, Lan Samantha Chang, and Denise Duhamel. Les Standiford, Laura Lippman, Ann Hood, Sterling Watson, and Andre Dubus III make up the conference’s regular faculty, who come back each year to teach and inspire.
In every reading and lecture, participants learn a lot about what it takes to become a successful author. The number one takeaway from each conference, every year: Study your craft, read quality writing, and don’t think about publishing … yet. Too many people get carried away and publish prematurely, before their work is ready, according to Andre Dubus III.
Participants also came away with a long list of fantastic recommended reading. I’ll share some of them here.
Recommended by the Writers in Paradise Faculty
Read works by William Stafford
Read essays by Flannery O’Connor
The Hair of Harold Roux by Thomas Williams
“The Fat Girl,” a short story by Andre Dubus (award-winning author of short stories, father of Andre Dubus III)
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
In The Lake of the Woods by Tim O’Brien
The Writing Life by Annie Dillard
All Grown Up by Jami Attenberg
The Last Good Kiss by James Crumley
The Dead by James Joyce
My Favorites by the Faculty
Townie by Andre Dubus III
The Obituary Writer by Ann Hood
Last Train to Paradise by Les Standiford
Suitcase City by Sterling Watson
Wish You Were Here by Stewart O’Nan
Best Quote of the Week
During the week, Andre Dubus III said something which touched me deeply as a writer, and as someone who’s been through a lot in my short life. That being said, I’ll end with Andre’s words: