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Kevin Martinez

Published on December 3, 2014

Among this year’s slated faculty are Andre Dubus III ( The House of Sand and Fog, Townie ), Ann Hood ( Somewhere off the Coast of Maine, The Knitting Circle ), Laura Lippman ( The Girl in the Green Raincoat, After I’m Gone ), Lori Roy ( Bent Road, Until She Comes Home ), Les Standiford ( Havana Run, Bringing Adam Home ), John Searles ( Help for the Haunted, Boy Still Missing ), David Yoo ( Girls for Breakfast, Stop Me if You’ve Heard This One Before ) and Sterling Watson ( Weep No More My Brother, Fighting in the Shade ). Watson will also have copies of his latest work, Suitcase City available for purchase at the conference even though the official release date has not been finalized. The roster of faculty and lecturers reads like a Who’s Who of The New York Times Best Seller List but the next generation of writers can be found in the conference workshops. A large percentage of attendees come from the Southeastern United States but all fifty states have been represented over the years. Many international visitors are drawn to the conference as well. One author, Karina Berg Johansson traveled from Sweden for a number of years and developed her young adult novel Synvilla there. “I came because of Dennis Lehane, Steven King —and the Florida sunshine.” She recalls. “Then I came because of the conference itself, the teachers, the friends I’ve made...and the Florida sunshine. The manuscript that came to be my debut novel Synvilla (Delusion) was the third piece I work shopped at WIP.” Many of the events, lectures and book signings are free and open to the public; attracting a large local crowd from the Tampa Bay Area. But for the serious writer however, it is participation in the paid workshop offerings that can mean the difference between having an unpolished manuscript upon entering a class and having a work that is closer to publication when leaving it. There are workshops for Nonfiction, Novels, Short Stories, and Poetry. The classes are limited in size to only twelve authors and admissions are based on writing samples. The faculty first assesses the required number of pages submitted for each category and then makes a determination as to who will be invited into the elite program. What can a writer expect if they are accepted into the program? The answer is simple: Hard work, constructive criticism, and hopefully a validation for their idea and dedication to their craft. Each manuscript is reviewed by the workshop leader and then by every student in the class. Afterwards an hour long discussion citing the strengths and weaknesses of the work takes place. “As co-director with Dennis [Lehane], I always encourage faculty to consider all of the student manuscripts as textbooks for the workshop and,” as Sterling Watson explains, “use all student writing to help all students improve. Students come to us to learn not to seek praise.” “Writing is a lonely thing,” adds Karina Berg Johansson. “To me it was important to find trusted readers to measure my work against and whose work I could read and learn from through giving feedback. At WIP I found both teachers and valued friends whose opinion I treasure above all else.” Swedish author Karina Berg Johansson developed her young adult novel at the conference.