Over the course of four jam-packed days, the Sanibel Island Writers Conference brings together a variety of writing workshops, publishing panels, readings, concerts, and a daily cocktail hour, all set against the backdrop of Sanibel’s beautiful beaches and laid back island atmosphere. In addition to featuring a number of prominent writers, including Edwidge Danticat, Richard Blanco, and Roxane Gay, the conference also brings together words and music by featuring concerts and workshops by musicians such as Dan Bern, John Darnielle and Henry Rollins. In anticipation of the 11th annual Sanibel Island Writers Conference, taking place later this week, Conference Director Tom DeMarchi’s recounts his top 10 memorable moments from the first 10 years.
- Singing the harmonies of “Save it for a Rainy Day” with Richard Russo during Gary Louris’s concert.
- Experiencing temporary paralysis when my five-year-old son Charlie leapt onstage and nearly knocked over a $3000 guitar during Wesley Stace’s concert.
- Lightning storm and power outage during Walter Kirn’s reading.
3a. Later that night: Singing “When You Wish Upon a Seashell” with Walter at dinner.
- Lightning storm and power outage moments before Richard Russo’s keynote address. (The scent of ozone fills me with dread.)
- Seeing dozens of people reduced to tears during Tim O’Brien’s reading, then realizing I was crying, too.
- SIWC’s inaugural year, 2006: Everyone gathered back at Steve Almond’s hotel room, emptying bag after bag of Halloween candy onto the bed and taking turns rolling around to see who can get the most Snickers stuck to their clothes.
- Sitting between Susan Orlean and Andre Dubus while they argue—good naturedly but with increasing volume—about the positive and negative effects of cell phones on reading habits. I resisted the temptation to videotape the exchange.
- Watching Beth Ann Fennelly recite poetry from memory for fifteen minutes without once looking down at her book.
- Watching my boss’s eyes pop when Neal Pollack, dramatizing an excerpt from his new book on yoga, sat center stage in lotus position wearing very loose, very short shorts.
- Watching John K. Samson and a student passing a guitar back and forth and completing a song that had been started earlier in Samson’s songwriting workshop.