Writers on Bicycles with Appearance by Director Carey Winfrey
Directed by Carey Winfrey
Ever since John dos Passos told the recently divorced and remarried Ernest Hemingway he ought to give Key West a try, in 1927, the island of bones has been attracting writers of all stripes and interests. The poets Wallace Stevens, Robert Frost and Elizabeth Bishop soon followed Hemingway, to be joined in turn by Tennessee Williams, Thomas McGuane, Truman Capote, and countless others: Dan Gerber, Lawrence Shames, Hunter Thompson, Richard Wilbur, John Ciardi, John Hersey, James Merrill, Ralph Ellison, John Malcolm Brinnen — the list goes on and on. Today the number of writers who live or winter on Key West is rivaled only by the island’s feral chickens, and includes some of the most notable authors in the United States. In late 2011, having just retired as editor of Smithsonian magazine, I was looking for a project to keep my mind from turning to mush. (As a writers’ groupie, I also wanted an excuse to meet these eminent scribes.) I settled on the idea of making a documentary film about Key West as seen through the eyes of its many writers, living and dead, as well as a look at a cross-section of American writers — fiction and non, top-rank and self-published — through the prism of the special and unique town in which they live and work, at least for part of the year. In January 2012, my wife Jane and I — me behind the camera, she taking sound — began videotaping our subjects. Over the next 15 months, we interviewed more than 30 writers (and an editor or two) on the theme of what has made Key West such a literary magnet. Our subjects included Robert Stone, Alison Lurie, Stuart Woods, Michael Mewshaw, Lee Smith, James Gleick, Rosalind Brackenbury, Phyllis Rose, Brian Antoni, Edmund White, Judy Blume, Bill Wright, Meg Cabot, Richard Wilbur, Marie-Clair Blais, and many more.