Thanks to social distancing edicts, and to protect participants, the Southampton Writers Conference is returning to Stony Brook Southampton in a virtual format for the very first time this summer. While it wasn’t what the annual writing program’s organizers had imagined, COVID-19 forced a decision, and they decided the show must go on.
“The Southampton Writers Conference has been a staple of the Hamptons summer for 45 years,” award-winning novelist, essayist and Stony Brook Southampton MFA program professor Roger Rosenblatt said in a statement about the new, temporary format. “Given the choice between breaking that tradition or taking it online, we chose to make the virtual as valuable—and as much fun—as possible.”
This year’s virtual Southampton Writers Conference will run online from July 8–12 at substantially reduced rates. Rosenblatt, who is a member of the conference faculty, will be joined by regular workshop faculty members Billy Collins, Matthew Klam, Melissa Bank and Frederic Tuten, as well as new workshop leaders Jami Attenberg, Paul Harding, T Kira Madden, Matt Phelan, Camille Rankine, Karen Thompson Walker, Maryrose Wood and Susan Verde.
In addition to the daily workshops, which encompass poetry, fiction, memoir, children’s lit and graphic novel, there will be guest lectures and readings from a dazzling array of writers, agents and publishing professionals including Meg Wolitzer, Suzanne Gluck, Kathy Engel, Bruce Holsinger, Jynne Dilling Martin, Courtney Maum, Caitlin Mullen, Melissa Rivero and Emily Temple.
While many conferences around the country—from Skidmore to Yale to Sewanee—have chosen to take this summer off, Southampton Writers Conference co-director Christian McLean says he was “adamant about continuing,” adding, “Now more than ever, we need the community and support of our fellow writers.”
According to McLean, the biggest challenge is building an online environment that “mimics the real connection of our conference.” To accomplish this, the conference team researched platforms and support systems extensively and now feel confident they’re putting together a virtual format that will be both entertaining and educational.
“We have restructured the way the daily schedule works in order to provide an environment that’s comfortable for a student working from home, wherever that might be,” McLean continues. “We’ve had applications from as far away as Cyprus for this year, which is so exciting.”
For lovers of good writing, there is a five-day lecture and reading series pass available for $150.Visit stonybrook.edu/writers for more info.