SCBWI’s 2017 programming a real page-turner

By Faran Fagen

For Fun Friday, thought I’d share an article I recently wrote about all the great things the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators does for lovers of childrens books in South Florida. Some familiar Tuesday folks you might recognize. Enjoy!

The characters in books should feel like authentic walk-off the page people. They exist before your story takes place, and endure long after you close the book, at least in the minds of your readers.

This was the message relayed by Wellington author Stacie Ramey as part of a monthly series of writing workshops at the West Boca Raton Library in partnership with the Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI).

Ramey’s October lecture on character development encouraged the 40 writers in attendance to put themselves in the shoes of their characters and to discover more about their characters’ backstories and possible futures.

The workshop was the eighth of 2017 in a series created by SCBWI to promote the written word throughout South Florida. The classes are offered the third Saturday of the month, and culminate with a short trip to Panera Bread for casual follow-up conversation with food, coffee and friends.

“These workshops have helped me hone my craft in so many ways,” said Ramey, whose third young adult novel, The Secrets We Bury, debuts in March of 2018. “Lorin Oberweger’s workshop on iconic characters was fantastic and taught me how to write epic characters.”

Oberweger, of Tampa, is an editor, ghost writer, and literary agent. One of the aspects she touched on in her workshop, one of the first of the year, was getting to know your characters and their good traits by “how they battle adversity”.
For Cathy Castelli, an aspiring children’s book author from Delray Beach, her top “Aha moment” came during a workshop taught by author/illustrator Fred Koehler, of Lakeland.

“He asked us to write a death scene without using all the words generally associated with death. It was certainly a way to avoid the cliché,” said Castelli, who attended several of the library events. “The workshops are important because I can get into too much of a routine with my writing. Attending a workshop stirs up my work in the best way possible.”

Castelli also attended an SCBWI Boot Camp in October. The Boot Camps, offered in Wellington, Davie and in various cities throughout the state, offered a full day of writing craft and helpful hints. SCBWI expanded its activities this year for those who can’t attend the annual SCBWI conference in Miami in January.

This year’s SCBWI Miami conference, Jan. 12-14, features Greenacres resident Shutta Crum, one of the guest speakers and author of 16 children’s books.

“We have some great speakers coming to the conference,” said Davie’s Dorian Cirrone, SCBWI Florida Co-Regional Adviser. “I’ve always wanted to meet Melissa Manlove, who is a senior editor at Chronicle Books. She discovered the best-selling picture book, Goodnight, Goodnight Construction Site in the slush pile. We also have Sylvie Frank from Paula Wiseman Books/Simon and Schuster and Amy Fitzgerald from Carolrhoda.”

Literary agents attending the conference include Oberweger, Jennie Dunham, Nicole Resciniti and Marcia Wernick.

Author Jonathan Rosen of Tamarac will be speaking on the first book’s panel at the conference. His debut book, Night of the Living Cuddle Bunnies, was released over the summer.

In the monthly library series, Cirrone’s teachings pushed Boca Raton author Debbie Reid Fischer to rethink how to write a modern-day version of an old classic novel.

“I’m already outlining a new novel based on her excellent tips,” said Fischer, whose middle grade novel, This is Not the Abby Show, received three book awards last month. “Now I have a new book in the works and I’m so excited.”

Fischer, known for her sharp wit in her young adult and middle grade novels, was a library speaker on the topic: Humor, Pacing and Plot.

“It’s always worth it to show up to these workshops,” Fischer said. “You never know what the result will be from a nugget of inspiration or instruction. If you come away with just one thing you can use, it’s time well-spent.”

On Nov. 18, author and writing coach Joyce Sweeney, of Coral Springs, gave the West Boca Library workshop: From Image to Inspiration, from noon – 2 p.m. Sweeney shared the story of her poetry collection, WAKE UP, and read selected poems.
South Florida SCBWI Meeting Volunteers Mindy Weiss of Delray Beach and Marjetta Geerling of Hollywood run the monthly library workshops. Contact Weiss to RSVP, if you have questions, or want more information:

For more information on either local events or the upcoming SCBWI Miami conference, visit

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