The Story of Sirenland

“The conference exceeded my expectations in virtually every way and even fulfilled many I didn’t know I had (or should have!). From the critiquing and teaching methods as a whole, to all the great friends and colleagues I made, to of course the amazing surroundings, both outside and in, the conference was a joy.”

- Eric Grunwald (Sirenland 2009)

The Story of Sirenland

Sirenland began in 2006 at a dinner party, when Nancy Novogrod (editor of Travel & Leisure magazine) introduced Antonio and Carla Sersale (owners of Le Sirenuse Hotel) to writers Dani Shapiro and Michael Maren. Longtime bibliophiles, Antonio and Carla dreamed of bring the literary world to Positano, an Italian village known for its stunning beauty that has inspired many famous artists, from John Steinbeck to Rudolph Nureyev.

Soon after meeting Antonio and Carla, Dani received an email with the subject line: “Ciao from Positano!” inviting her to bring a group of writers to Le Sirenuse for a week in the following spring.

Dani and Michael reached out to author Hannah Tinti, co-founder of the award-winning magazine One Story, to see if she’d be interested in organizing a writer’s conference with them in Italy. Hannah asked, “Do I get to come?” And when they said yes, she said yes too. They have been running Sirenland together ever since, bringing all the complex pieces of this beautiful puzzle together.

The first conference place in March of 2007, with just eleven students, in a workshop led by Dani Shapiro. In 2008, Sirenland expanded its numbers and began hosting additional workshops. In 2010, authors Jim Shepard and Karen Shepard were invited and have returned nearly every year since, becoming a vital part of the conference’s spirit and growth.

Now fifteen years later, Sirenland will host four workshops in 2023, led by Dani Shapiro, Hannah Tinti, Jim Shepard and Susan Choi, studying a mix of fiction and memoir. The conference includes panels and craft talks, generative writing sessions, one-on-one conversations as well as our infamous open mic night.

Sirenland has brought many wonderful authors to Positano over the years, including Meg Wolitzer, Richard Russo, Tobias Wolf, Karen Russell, Saïd Sayrafiezadeh, Scott Cheshire, Mia Alvar, Nam Le, Daniel Mendelsohn, Anthony Doerr, Andrew Sean Greer, Dalia Sofer, Andre Dubus III, Susan Orlean, Alexander Chee, Lila Azam Zanganeh, Jonathan Burnham Schwartz, André Aciman, Peter Cameron, Jess Walter, and Elizabeth Gilbert.

But the most important part of Sirenland has always been the students who come to Positano and take part in this special week.  Deep friendships have been formed here, as well as closely-bonded support groups and the first seeds of manuscripts that have become award-winning books. We hope that you’ll join us.