It’s every writer’s dream: to be discovered and have their book—the one they slaved over for hours, weeks and years—finally published. For many writers, that dream seems unattainable in today’s competitive publishing world, with an epicenter that lies thousands of miles from Aspen. But for the students and emerging writing fellows of Summer Words, the literary festival and workshops of Aspen Words, the small program’s access, discovery and path to success has become a signature draw.
This June, a roster of world-renowned teachers, editors and agents, including Margot Lee Shetterly, Peter Ho Davies and J. Courtney Sullivan, descend upon Aspen for a series of workshops, public panels, and agent and editor meetings—that might change the trajectory of a writer’s life.
While participating in a workshop last summer with Dani Shapiro, journalist Eilene Zimmerman met agent Tina Bennett, who, afterward, was able to sell her memoir for publication. “I owe a debt to Aspen Words,” she says. “I can’t imagine how you get an audience with editors and agents highly regarded in the industry without it. I wish I had done it 15 years earlier.” She joins nearly 20 other Summer Words alumni—nearly 500 have participated in the program since 2013—who have gone on to score major publishing deals or awards. The list also includes Anna Noyes, Safiya Sinclair and Stephanie Danler, among many others.
When Danler participated in 2014, she had just graduated with her MFA and had a completed manuscript. She was drawn to Summer Words for its novel-editing workshop. After a week studying with Kathleen Anderson, Danler left with copious notes and sold her novel within four months in a two-book deal for a six-figure sum. Sweetbitter went on to become a The New York Times best-seller and debuted as a television series this month on Starz. “That summer was the happiest time of my writing life,” says Danler. “It was a magic state, a beautiful point where you are taking yourself seriously as a writer but you don’t have anything else to do but write.” June 17-22