South Florida has a perhaps surprisingly strong books culture, and not just because it has been home to major writers such as Ernest Hemingway and Zora Neale Hurston. It also is home to Books & Books, a remarkably successful Miami-based chain of independent bookstores, and as the Miami Book Fair it helped found has grown, newer players have appeared on the scene to celebrate the art of the written word.
Here’s a look at what will be on the good South Florida bibliophile’s calendar this season:
Key West Literary Seminar: This always sold-0ut January gathering on the party island at the south end of Florida is in its 37th year, and explores a particular literary theme each year. This year, it’s “Under the Influence: Archetype & Adaptation from Homer to the Multiplex.”
From Shakespeare and Homer to African folktales, early 20th-century novels and comic-book heroes, the literary archetype will be explored in four days or readings, conversations, lectures, panel discussions — and, of course, parties. No less an eminence than Margaret Atwood of Handmaid’s Tale fame will be on hand at the seminar Jan. 10-13, and so will the prolific Joyce Carol Oates.
Other participants include Emily Wilson, whose female-centric translation of Homer’s Odyssey has drawn raves, and Marlon James, the Jamaican-born academic whose A Brief History of Seven Killings generated no less a fan boy than late-night comic Seth Meyers. Also on the agenda are Joseph Cassara, Valerie Martin, Daniel Mendelsohn, Michael Mewshaw, Victor LaValle, Danielle Page, Dexter Palmer, Rowan Ricardo Phillips, Colm Tóibín and Kevin Young, poetry editor of the New Yorker.
There is only space for about 400 people at the Seminar’s home, and the registration fee ($675) is steep. But it’s already wait-listed, and you can try your luck by visiting the Seminar’s website at www.kwls.org.
Miami Book Fair International: The drama over the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court will be followed by a high court spotlight of a different sort when Justice Sonia Sotomayor comes to the Miami Book Fair International during its 34th annual run this year from Nov. 11 to 18 at Miami Dade College in downtown Miami.
One of the largest literary gatherings in the nation, the Book Fair will welcome 500 authors this year, giving readings in four different languages, and outside on Biscayne Boulevard, thousands of readers will descend on the three-day street fair (Nov. 16-18) to get their volume grooves on.
Joyce Carol Oates, who also is at Key West this year, adds to the novelist wattage along with Celeste Ng (Little Fires Everywhere), Amy Ephron (Carnival Magic) and Andre Dubus III (House of Sand and Fog), among others. In addition to Sotomayor (Turning Pages), non-fiction standouts include Mohammed Al Samawi (The Fox Hunt) and magazine editor Tina Brown (The Vanity Fair Diaries).[Miami Book Fair International; miamibookfair.com, 305-237-7258)
Festival of the Arts Boca: The combination literary-musical festival in the city’s Mizner Park retail plaza returns for its 13th season in 2019, running from Feb. 28 to March 10.
The Authors & Ideas portion of the festival, which takes place this year along with live performances by the Boca Symphonia, movies in the park and a concert by trumpeter Arturo Sandoval (other acts will be announced later), will feature the eminent historian (and part-time Palm Beach County resident) Doris Kearns Goodwin, who will discuss her book Leadership in Turbulent Times, which focuses on the careers of four American presidents (Lincoln, the two Roosevelts, and Lyndon Johnson, all of whom she has written about previously).
Another Pulitzer winner, David Sanger, reads from his latest book, The Perfect Weapon: War, Sabotage and Fear in the Cyber Age, while former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Pinsky will read some of his works, accompanied by a live jazz ensemble. Other authors include constitutional scholar Jeffrey Rosen, who will speak about the Constitution in the 21st century, while a panel featuring Dr. Agnes Binagawaho, former minister of health in Rwanda and Tom Bollkyl, director of the global health program at the Council on Foreign Relations, will discuss the topic, “Global Public Health Today and Tomorrow.”[Festival of the Arts Boca, Mizner Park, Boca Raton; tickets available at festivalboca.org or by calling 866-571-2787]
Palm Beach Poetry Festival: Miles Coon found himself at odds and ends a few years back after selling his company, and since he wasn’t called on much to consult, he decided to go back to school at Sarah Lawrence College.
It was there that he discovered a love for poetry, tried his own hand at it, and 15 years founded a festival in Delray Beach devoted to this special literary art. Scheduled this year from Jan. 21-26, the festival at Old School Square has established itself as a winter happening as well as a gathering of unusual passion and camaraderie, as poets from around the country meet with aspiring talents in workshops and the general public in a wide variety of readings and talks.
This year’s festival features special guest Sharon Olds, the author of 11 books of poetry and winner of the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for poetry. New this year is a poet at large, which will be filled by Tyehimba Jess, who won the Pulitzer last year for his collection, Olio.
Workshops will be led by eight award-winning poets including: Ellen Bass, Laure-Anne Bosselaar, Stuart Dischell, Aracelis Girmay, Campbell McGrath, Mathew Olzmann, Gregory Pardio and Eleanor Wilner. Individual conferences will feature poets Lorna Knowles Blake, Sally Bliumis-Dunn and Nickole Brown.
Registrations to join the workshops are being accepted through Nov. 12.[Palm Beach Poetry Festival, Delray Beach; palmbeachpoetryfestival.org]
Broward Public Library Foundation – Literary Feast: The Feast was established in 1988 to support public library programs and has raised more than $4 million to support Broward County Library literacy programs.
Details of this year’s feast, on March 2 at the Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale, are still being finalized, but the following authors had been confirmed as of mid-September: Caren Neile, founding director of the South Florida Storytelling Project, and New York Times best-selling authors Tilar J. Mazzeo (Back Lane Wineries of Sonoma) and Andra Watkins (Hard to Die) will speak about their books.
As part of their LitLUNCH series, novelists Pam Jenoff (The Kommandant’s Girl), Lydia Millet (My Happy Life), mystery writer Lori Rader-Day (The Black Hour) and former White House stenographer Beck Dorey-Stein (From the Corner of the Oval) will discuss their books.[Broward Public Library Foundation, Fort Lauderdale; bplfoundation.org, and check Facebook @bplfoundation for more details]
Palm Beach Book Festival: Founded five years ago by Lois Cahall, an author and former newspaper reporter, the Palm Beach Book Festival focuses on serious literary subjects.
“We are a ‘thinking’ event, not a society event,” Cahall says.
This year’s festival is scheduled for Mar. 14 -16, with events and authors to be announced. Events are held at the Colony Hotel and The Breakers on Palm Beach, and on the campus of Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton.
Past events have featured high-profile authors including Erica Jong, Amor Towles, Jeffrey Toobin, Sebastian Junger and James Patterson. The 2019 lineup will be announced Jan. 4, and tickets will go on sale the same day.[Palm Beach Book Festival; palmbeachbookfestival.com, or fauevents.com for events held at FAU]