The Conference
January 18-25, 2020

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.

New in 2020

  • Billy Collins, former US Poet Laureate, as Closing Speaker
  • Dani Shapiro, NYT best-selling memoirist, as Opening Keynote Speaker
  • Gregory Pardlo, 2015 Pulitzer Prize Winner, will lead the Poetry Workshop
  • Michael Koryta, NYT best-selling crime thriller author and WiP favorite, returns to lead a Narrative Suspense Workshop
  • WiP welcomes Stephanie Elizondo Griest, award-winning nonfiction & travel journalist, to lead a Creative Nonfiction Workshop
  • By popular demand, Conference Director Les Standiford, will teach a 3-day Screenwriting Workshop (Jan. 23-25)
  • For novel-tacklers, Conference Founder Sterling Watson, will lead a 3-day Planning & Opening the Novel Workshop (Jan. 19-21)
  • Flash Fiction makes its way to WiP 2020 with award-winning fiction guru, John Dufresne
  • Ashley M. Jones, Rona Jaffe Award and Lucille Clifton Poetry Prize winning poet, will join WiP as 2020’s Emerging Artist
  • WiP 2020 welcomes back beloved core faculty Ann Hood, Andre Dubus III, Laura Lippman and Stewart O’Nan
  • Poets Laureate Helen Pruitt Wallace and Peter Meinke will round out 2020’s poetry collective
  • Agent Ann Rittenberg (Ann Rittenberg Lit Agency) and Executive Editor George Gibson (Grove/Atlantic) will anchor agent/editor/publishing panels

2020 Workshops

Full manuscript guidelines for submissions will be available on our applications page via Submittable starting August 1.

  • Narrative Suspense (fiction & nonfiction) with Michael Koryta

    The workshop is open to both 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.


  • Crime & Suspense (fiction/novel only) with Laura Lippman

    Are there really “rules” for crime-writing? Only one: Keep the reader turning pages. Students interested in crime fiction will learn about the specialized challenges of pacing their stories, playing fair with readers and why less is often more when it comes to mysteries.


  • Novel with Stewart O’Nan

    The class will be primarily a workshop.  Students will read one another’s novel excerpts, interrogating character, action, language, ideas and setting with an eye toward revision.


  • Flash Fiction with John Dufresne

    We’ll demystify the writing process, which may once have seemed intimidating. Writing is work; it’s a physical, if sedentary, activity. Writers write even when the writing’s not going well—especially when the writing’s not going well. We’ll discuss the craft of storytelling, explore the elements and techniques of short fiction, and examine the qualities that make for vivid and compelling flash fiction. You’ll read exemplary short-short stories that will inspire, provoke, and serve as models for your own stories. You’ll write up a storm following the prompts and exercises. You’ll play with found forms and invent your own. You’ll get writing and you’ll keep writing. You’ll learn that your characters, your settings, and your themes are out there in the world. You’ll learn to look, to listen, to pay attention, and to notice, the fiction writer’s first job. The act of writing itself, you’ll realize, the act of making up people you come to care about, the fun of playing with words and with worlds, is its own reward. And the more you write the more you’ll want to write.


  • Short Story with Andre Dubus III

    If I teach nothing 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.


  • 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.


  • Creative Nonfiction with Stephanie Elizondo Griest

    Elevating Life into Art — Memoirs. Travelogues. Lyric Essays. Literary Journalism. No matter whether you are pursuing internal excavations or external investigations, this workshop will empower you to take risks both in content and in form. Questions we’ll be asking: Where is the essay’s pulse? How can it beat louder—or deeper? Should the story follow a classic rise-fall arc or be a fractured narrative with a scrambled chronology? In addition to critiquing each other’s manuscripts, we will strategize on sustainable ways of fueling our practice as we strive toward our literary goals. So join us. Together, we will be pilgrims wandering the wilderness of memory. Arbiters of the dynamic Fourth Genre. We will write words that matter.


  • Poetry with Gregory Pardlo

    In this craft-based workshop, we will begin with a high-altitude view to help analyze the poet’s overall writing practice. Using both generative homework exercises and representative samples of previous poems, we will look for trends, tendencies and idiosyncrasies to identify distinctive characteristics of the poet’s voice. This is not necessarily a workshop for “fixing” individual poems or acquiring tricks of the trade. We will use our grasp of the poet’s unique style to devise a path toward building on her strengths and expanding her practice of constructing poems in general.


  • Special 3-Day Structure Workshop with Sterling Watson
    (Jan. 19-21 | limited to 6 participants)

    Planning & Opening the Novel
    We will cover as many matters of craft and art (character, theme, point-of-view, language, structure, and setting) as we can fit into the time allotted with especial attention to problems and possibilities that arise from our reading of the students’ manuscripts.  Using the manuscripts as prompts, I will suspend discussion occasionally for mini-lectures and demonstrations of key ideas.  This class will help participants fashion a better synopsis and sample chapter to send out to agents.


  • Special 3-Day Screenwriting Workshop with Les Standiford
    (Jan. 23-25 | limited to 6 participants)

    The workshop will focus on the refinement of a feature film synopsis and its first act (or a complete dramatic short of up to 25 pp), with attention to the particular nature of screenwriting language and form, dramatic structure, scene, character and dialogue.  Applicants will submit a synopsis of no more than 500 words along with a first act of no more than 25 pp.  Each day’s session will consist of an hour’s discussion of principles, followed by an hour’s discussion of each of two submissions, including the cogency of the synopsis and the efficacy of the opening act.

Deadline for Applications to Workshop

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.

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.

2020 Faculty & Guests

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

Additional Information

The 16th edition of Writers in Paradise will take place from January 18 through January 25, 2020.  Esteemed faculty and selected participants (workshops limited to 12 each; except 3-day workshops – limited to 6) 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 prunami@eckerd.edu.


“When I attended Writers in Paradise seven years ago, I was ready to give up on publishing my novel. I’d already published quite a few nonfiction books, but my heart belonged to fiction. Laura Lippman told me not to give up, and why. Her support lifted my spirits, enabling me to continue to work on my novel. Eventually it found a home with a literary press in the UK. In the WIP workshops, I learned what I was doing wrong. This helped me with subsequent novellas and novels, many of which were published by small presses. Writers in Paradise is a great investment in your future as a writer.”

Virginia Aronson, aka Mickey J. CorriganAuthor of Project XX (SaltPublishing, 2017)

“I’ve been to two consecutive Writers in Paradise and plan to return for a third next year! I’ve studied with Denise Duhamel and Major Jackson, who are both phenomenal teachers and lead interactive, quick-paced workshops. I learned more than I expected both times and made friends I’m in touch with often. I’m a much better poet for having attended these.”

David ColodneyAlum 2016 & 2017

“The conference offered a great roster of authors, events, and panels–from the daily short story workshop with Andre Dubus III, to the nightly craft talks with Ana Menendez, Major Jackson, Les Standiford, and Russell Banks. The approach to the work was rigorous, and the tenor was friendly and fun. I left feeling reinspired about fiction, and eager to get back to writing. PS: I was torn between“but the tenor” and“and the tenor”–I’m still torn ? AND I SAY THIS because I’ve been to other writing workshops where the approach was rigorous, BUT the tenor was neither friendly nor fun, and this is a big reason I liked WIP so much…that combination of rigor and fun…”

Leah GriesmannCarlson Fellow 2017

“I’m a retired attorney and an Eckerd College graduate. Fifty years ago I learned English literature from an extraordinary faculty that included luminaries like Robert Detweiler, Peter Meinke, and Jim Carlson. Recently, when I started writing fiction, I returned to Eckerd for the 2017 and 2018 conferences. I was challenged an equally extraordinary faculty that included Laura Lippman, Les Standiford and Andre Dubus. But I also got the chance to wear my collection of Hawaiian shirts. So, as the former Governor of California once said,“I’ll be back.””

John Francis CallahanBig Sur Nation, alum 2016 & 2017

“Attending Writer’s 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 MasseyAlum 2016 & 2017- GaleMasseyBooks.com The Girl From Blind River – July 10,2018

“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 GoudarziStandiford Fellow 2017

“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 Voie2019 Conference Participant

“Writer’s 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 Krawczyk2019 Conference Participant

“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 Maris2019 Conference Participant

“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 MondelloConference Participant 2018 & 2019

“Shortly after returning from WIP 2019, I received not one, but two offers of publication for my short-story collection, The Lightness of Water and Other Stories. The first story in this collection 'Bondservant,' which is also the first chapter in my novel-in-progress, was workshopped with Les Standiford at WIP 2016. Following that conference, I applied everything I learned from the amazing speakers and mentors--as well as my co-horts--to my short-story collection. The wisdom shared with me helped land a story publication in Qu Literary Magazine, as well receive the 2019 Press 53 Award for Short Fiction, which includes publication of my collection. ”

Rhonda White2016 & 2019 Conference Participant

“I found WIP to be life-changing. In a week, my drive to write went from 'moderate' to 'fever pitch'. Andre [Dubus III] the 3rd is as gifted an orator as he is a writer, very helpful. ”

Jim Mentink2019 Conference Participant

“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 Fox2019 Conference Participant

“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 Vargo2019 Conference Participant

“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 Dewey2019 Conference Participant

“In Debra Dean's historical fiction class, I was blessed to witness her devotion to the art of writing, to learn from her practical experience as a writer in the publishing world, and to be encouraged by a wealth of information and good sense that she packed into a relatively short time period!”

Mary Shaffer2019 Conference Participant

“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 Schlossman2019 Conference Participant

Mission Statement

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