Early each Spring, as Positano begins to awaken, as buildings are painted, shops restocked, as restaurants shake the winter from their tablecloths, a group of thirty writers arrive at Le Sirenuse for a week of workshops, discussions, and readings. They come from all over the world as they have for the last nine years to attend what has been recognized as the one of the best writers conferences in the world: Sirenland.
Sirenland has its roots in Le Sirenuse owner Antonio Sersale’s desire to reconnect Positano with its literary past, a past that included John Steinbeck and Gore Vidal. When he met the writer Dani Shapiro, my wife, at a dinner party in Connecticut ten years ago, he asked her if it might not be fun to bring a group of writers to the hotel to talk books, writing, and all things literary. This is not the kind of invitation that one turns down.
With the help of Hannah Tinti, editor of One Story Magazine, we brought that first group of ten writers to Positano in March of 2007 for a one-week workshop with Dani. The first week flew by. The farewell hugs and tears in the lobby of Le Sirenuse after that initial workshop told us that we would be returning again and again.
Sirenland grew in the first few years from those ten writers to twenty, then thirty. We began bringing well-known teachers over to lead workshops — from Karen Russell to Susan Orlean, Jim Shepard to Anthony Doerr. Students have ranged in age from eighteen to eighty, and are among the most interesting and enriching people we’ve ever encountered, on or off the page.
But what makes Sirenland sing its song is, of course, the magnificence, warmth, and grace of Le Sirenuse itself, and the marvelous family at its helm. The Sersales have created a hotel unlike any other. Le Sirenuse is a feast for the senses, a nurturing place where every wish is met. In the magic of Positano, creative dreams are born and flourish. The happy accident of that Connecticut dinner party ten years ago has now touched hundreds of lives, and has given birth to stories and books that might not otherwise have been written.
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