Summer Literary Seminars (SLS) is one of the world’s foremost, one-of- a-kind international literary and cultural organizations, founded in 1998 and currently operating on three continents: North America (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), Europe (Tbilisi, Georgia), and Africa (Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya).
After ten years (1998-2008) of running its groundbreaking series of seminars in St. Petersburg, Russia, SLS established its flagship programs in Nairobi-Lamu, Kenya; in Vilnius, Lithuania; in Montreal, Quebec (its home base) and, as of July 2017, a large-scale program in Tbilisi, Georgia — a complex and beautiful ancient city in a remarkably fascinating country.
Over the years, SLS has played, and continues to play, a pivotal role in bringing together the North American and international literary and cultural communities, fostering the artistic cooperation between the two and serving to increase mutual understanding across the cultural and geographic divides. It connects prominent and emerging writers from all walks of life for a richly variegated array of literary and cultural offerings. SLS sees it as the crucial part of its mission to increase the literary and cultural visibility of every locale of its presence.
Past faculty members of the SLS programs include Poet Laureates of the US, winners of the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and the MacArthur Foundation Genius Award — such luminaries as, for instance:
Jonathan Ames Jami Attenberg Jonathan Baumbach Aimee Bender Andre Bernard Jill Bialosky Christian Bok
Amy Bloom Kevin Canty Laura Maria Censabella George Elliot Clarke Billy Collins Robert Coover Robert Creeley
Toi Derricotte Stephen Dobyns John Dufresne Cornelius Eady Dave Eggers Stephen Elliot Tibor Fisher
Mary Gaitskill Vivian Gornick Saskia Hamilton Robert Hass Steve Heighton Robin Hemley Brenda Hillman
Edward Hirsch Tony Hoagland Fanny Howe Denis Johnson Wayne Johnston Radhika Jones Ilya Kaminsky
Elizabeth Kendall Joe Kertes Sam Lipsyte Phillip Lopate Glyn Maxwell Fiona McCraeWilliam Meredith Erin Moure
Eileen Myles Josip Novakovich Padgett Powell Francine Prose Claudia Rankine Dawn Raffel Ariana Reines
Rachel Resnick George Saunders Lynne Shareon Schwartz Rebecca Seiferle Gary Shteyngart Johanna Skibsrud
Christopher Sorrentino Anthony Swofford Catherine Tice Lynne Tillman Deborah Treisman Paula Vogel
William T. Vollman Binyavanga Wainaina Mac Wellman C.K. Williams Lawrence Wright
Over its history, SLS has brought well over 1200 emerging writers to Russia, Kenya, Lithuania,Georgia, and Montreal. Since SLS is not affiliated with any university and is the largest independent international literary program in the world.
SLS enjoys its place as one of the most dynamic and innovative program of its kind, one profoundly affecting everyone who participates in its programs. Many of its participants over the years have cited the SLS programs as a life-changing experience. As Ann Giesken-Kelsey said:
“I have attended several writing conferences, and they were all very interesting and helpful. Yet, SLS was so much more than that. Most conferences pride themselves on having approachable faculty, but yours act as mentors and friends. How pleasant it was to have lunch with an accomplished writer. Even more commendable was that SLS faculty were present and politely attentive for hours of student readings. I have not experienced anything close to this level of involvement at other conferences.”
Or as Francisco Fermin Cantolan, another alum, put it:
“I truly will remember SLS as one of the greatest moments in my life.”
Past faculty members, too, have attested to SLS’s importance and unique feel:
“SLS is one of the most exciting and important intellectual venues in the world right now; absolutely the most important seminar of its kind… SLS is at the center of a discussion I am hearing more and more in the US, about the moral role of fiction… well, what I’ve heard students say is that they have never felt more artistically alive, more convinced of their own potential to find the beauty in life and write about it… The beauty of the program is that it makes for a kind of two-way diplomacy.”
– George Saunders
“SLS… offers an intense intellectual, artistic and human experience unlike any other… an outstanding and transformative enterprise.”
– Fanny Howe (renowned poet and novelist)