General Manager Adrian Stivala of Forever Bungalows

General Manager Adrian Stivala at Forever Bungalows

October 24, 2017
By Michelle Trauring
The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

In the literary world, fiction writers are rock stars.

They have legions of fans, midnight releases, film franchises and merchandise—or, at the very least, a loyal readership.

The same cannot be said of nonfiction writers.

“They are the workhorses of the world,” according to Donna Kaz, the director of the inaugural Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference. “We’re the journalists, we’re the essayists, we’re the content writers for websites and blogs. There is a need for a conference focusing on nonfiction, which is why I’m so excited about this.”

On Thursday, November 2, Sag Harbor hotel Forever Bungalows will transform into a three-day writers’ workshop and retreat, hosting 14 new voices from New York, Massachusetts, New Jersey and Ohio to Alabama, Colorado, Idaho and Florida, Ms. Kaz said, with a focus entirely on creative nonfiction.

“There really are no creative nonfiction workshops,” said Jennifer Brooke, a co-owner of Forever Bungalows. “Usually, nonfiction is the vegetable on the plate, and the entrée is fiction. I write memoir and essays, and I like the idea of making art out of truth. To have a workshop focused entirely on that, and not the lesser sibling to fiction, is very interesting.”

Author Patricia McCormick will speak at Forever Bungalows

Author Patricia McCormick at the Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference

Under the watchful eye of Forever Bungalows general manager Adrian Stivala, the conference will follow a tight schedule, including peer reviews and critiques of works-in-progress, author talks with Roger Rosenblatt and Patricia McCormick, panels on publishing, productivity and craft, and even a slam.

“I’m looking forward to seeing how it plays out. I’m definitely intrigued by the focus on creative nonfiction, because the phrase itself is contradictory,” Mr. Stivala said. “This is one of the many ways we’re trying to anchor ourselves into the creative fabric of Sag Harbor and to engage with the community, certainly during the off-season.”

The location made perfect sense to Ms. Kaz, who sees the eco-hotel as a “cozy place for people to gather and exchange ideas, to get away from their lives for 72 hours and just focus on being a writer.”

“I don’t know who said this first, but this is one of my favorite lines of all time that I talk about whenever I teach: ‘An idea kept inside one mind develops slowly,’” she said. “This is a chance for writers to spark ideas by sharing their work with other writers.”

The group workshop environments will be constructive and encouraging, she said, though she still expects the writers—who were hand-picked from a batch of applicants nationwide—to be nervous.

“You know, it’s very scary to be in workshop, to present something that’s not polished, that you’re in the middle of working on, that you need help with,” Ms. Kaz said. “But I’m trying to create a very supportive, positive atmosphere at the conference, with a total dedication to nonfiction, memoir, autobiography, essay and true crime.”

From nearly the second they step foot on the property, the writers will be at work, she said, and she doesn’t expect them to stop until Sunday afternoon.

“It’s really jam-packed. It has to be,” she said. “It’s 72 hours, from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. each day, of just talking about writing, actually writing, critiquing writing, listening to writers, listening to people about the business of writing.

“I really wanted to make it as compact and get the most out of that time,” she continued. “Once they leave, they will have a whole lot of knowledge about their own work, and about the business of being a writer.”

The inaugural Sag Harbor Creative Nonfiction Writers Conference will be held from November 2 to November 5 at Forever Bungalows in Sag Harbor. For more information, visit