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MIAMI BOOK FAIR’S SPEAK UP! CREATIVE WRITING SERIES AN INVALUABLE RESOURCE

Written By Josie Gulliksen
March 9, 2023 at 4:21 PM

Speak Up! showcase from 2019 allowed young and aspiring writers to present their works to an audience. Image courtesy Miami Book Fair.

Attending the Miami Book Fair’s weekly Creative Writing workshops, ‘Speak Up!’, is an invaluable opportunity for aspiring writers to hone their craft. Led by experienced authors and educators, participants of the weekly workshops gain valuable insight into the art of storytelling, as well as learn how to develop their own unique writing style. The workshops, offered from 3-4 p.m. through April 15 for students ages 13-19 designed to give participants the tools to write eloquently and with creativity.  Best of all, admission is free.

Currently, they have several poetry workshops then they move on to fiction writing and culminate with the finale, an April 15th intensive all-genre workshop led by Journalist and Author Romina Garber who was raised in Miami.

“The host writer is the perfect instructor for this because she has a background in journalism. We want the students to have a good background in writing. This year we’re also opening it up to essays. We want it to be creative writing even if it’s academic,” said Ismery Pavon, program coordinator for Miami Book Fair.

Young writers from the 2019 Speak Up showcase, at The Porch at Miami-Dade College Wolfson Campus. Image courtesy Miami Book Fair.

Leading the other remaining sessions on March 11, 18 and April 1 is author Claire Ahn whose debut novel “I Guess I Live Here Now,” explores themes of transcultural experiences and the traditions, values and legacies that shape us.

“Claire Ahn was a speaker at the Book Fair and the students really gravitate toward her story,” said Pavon. “We usually try to have the same instructor for 2 to 3 different workshops so the students can get to know them and keep expanding on their story.”

The Speak Up! Program debuted in Fall 2019 and is accessible to local, national and international students making it a global series. Currently they are testing out some in person events, perhaps a reading with an instructor.

Speak Up! Workshop hosted online. Image courtesy Miami Book Fair.

During the workshops students get time to do prompts and writing sprints all while getting to know the instructor in that one hour. During this Spring series they’re averaging 15 students per session, many times the same ones and that is the intention.

“We want it to be that the next workshop students attend they don’t miss a lot. We see a lot of the students returning every weekend,” said Pavon.

Participants present on-stage as part of the showcase, after developing works through the mentoring process. Image courtesy Miami Book Fair.

Seventh grader Miranda Gomez-Anzures said this is her third time participating in Speak Up events; her first one was the 2022 Summer Camp in July followed by the Mentorship Program where she was mentored by author T.P. Jagger.

It’s an invaluable experience for Gomez-Anzures who said, “this experience has allowed me to meet new people, learn from experienced authors and poets, and craft multiple small stories. It has also allowed me to share my work with other authors and mentors who could read my work and give me feedback on it.”

The mentors provide suggested readings to the students as well as guide them through the writing process.

2021 Fall Speak Up! Workshop with Julie Marie Wade. Image courtesy Miami Book Fair.

“Several of our students have been through the mentoring program,” said Pavon. “Last year one of the students moderated the poetry panel. The idea behind Speak Up! Is to build their portfolio and also prepare them for writing college essays.”

That is precisely Gomez-Anzures’ goal. She hopes to learn more about editing poems and writing better quality stories as well as learn about different techniques authors use for both writing and coming up with new ideas.

Learn more about the Miami Book Fair Speak Up! Creative Writing Series HERE.

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