Since the 1920s, the Sunshine State has distinguished itself as a picturesque setting where writers such as Ernest Hemingway, Robert Frost, Carl Hiaasen, Elmore Leonard, and Marjorie K. Rawlings lived and left their works as a literary legacy.
Nearly 100 years later, the lure of a coastal city like West Palm Beach, with its sugar-sand beaches, tropical rainforest climate, and blue skies is still hard to resist, propelling men and women of letters to find inspiration here.
Well-versed and diversified, West Palm Beach is growing a community of writers in theatre, TV & film, as well as poetry, fiction, non-fiction, young adult, and children’s books published in many languages, and supported by bookstores, libraries, conferences, and writing programs.
Here are two great choices to get you writing in West Palm Beach:
Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach
Aspiring Author Institute
January – April; September – December 2017
When you think of checking out a book, indubitably your local library is probably your first choice. But have you ever considered taking a writing class at your local library? Here’s your chance.
Two years ago, The Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach Library, which is located on 401 Clematis Street, in DowntownWPB, launched a new program called the Aspiring Author Institute, which consists of a series of 16 workshops designed as a helpful resource for first-time authors who are interested in self-publishing.
“It has never been easier for writers to self-publish their books,” said Joyce Pernicone, Mandel’s Programming Librarian. “There are so many tools available today and so we created the Institute to be a support in our community for people who wanted to try their hand, not just at writing something, but also at going through the process of publishing their books themselves.”
These free workshops are mostly all offered during the day, allowing budding writers to gain insight into the world of writing. “When we started the program in the winter of 2015, we offered basic classes such as How to Start with an Idea, How to Develop Characters, and How to Create Plot,” explained Pernicone. Last fall, they took advantage of the National Novel Writing Month challenge to write a novel in a month and several students completed 10,000 out of the 50,000 required word-count.
Writing is curiosity and the Institute saw that in our community. So they introduced the Mystery genre to students who were up for the intellectual challenge of solving the crime. “There are so many popular mystery books that we figured there would be enough interest,” said Pernicone, who helped bring in a selected group of authors, including a retired spy to teach the classes. According to her, the authors are not necessarily New York Times Best Sellers, but they are doing quite well on Amazon, in terms of sales and reviews.
The majority of the people who attend these classes are over 40. Many just want something to do, while others are retired seniors who want to write their stories or have found writing to be a way of expressing themselves. And then, there’s also another group who like writing YA [Young Adults] or children’s books. These are typically stay-at-home moms who have a bit more flexibility in their day and are able to take an afternoon class.
“We want to grow a writing community here in West Palm Beach,” said Pernicone, who points out to all the different positive effects that writing one’s story provides—creativity, problem solving, and sharing. “When people give a book they wrote to their relatives, it is cherished because it is personal; it is their story. And it is the perfect gift, because you are giving them a part of yourself.”
For a listing of classes or for more information, call the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach at 561-868-7701 or visit wpbcitylibray.org.
Palm Beach Dramaworks
Submission Deadline: January 31, 2017
“I am truly grateful to be here,” said Jennifer Faletto, playwright of Domestic Animals, a developmental play being produced by Palm Beach Dramaworks [PBD] in their Perlberg Studio Theatre on 201 Clematis Street, from January 13 – 22, as part of their Dramaworkshop playwriting program, a lab for developing new plays. Each season, playwrights both local and nationwide submit their plays for consideration to be further developed in PBD’s Perlberg Studio Theatre, a 37-seat studio designed specifically for developmental plays.
Two years ago, Faletto submitted her script to the Dramaworkshop and it was one of ten that William Hayes, Producing Artistic Director picked to be developed. What happened next was nothing but a writer’s ultimate fantasy. Faletto was invited to be part of the Dramaworkshop, where she, in conjunction with three actors and the director, Margaret M. Ledford, Artistic Director of City Theater in Miami’s Summer Short, helped shape her script through a series of workshops and staged readings. A year later, the play was produced in front of a small invited audience. Faletto went back home to Boulder, Colorado, and proceeded to do some re-writes. She later on sent another draft to Hayes, who told her, “We’re moving forward!”
Last November, Faletto was invited back to meet with Ledford, actors, and new Dramaworkshop manager Jeremy Quinn for another workshop. “This time, we were doing it for real!” Faletto exclaimed. “This doesn’t happen everywhere. I am feeling some deep gratitude!”
“Jennifer’s right, this doesn’t happen everywhere,” added Ledford. When Hayes called her a year ago and told her that he was interested in exploring this drama workshop to broaden our canon of local writers and artists, Ledford was thrilled. “This program is fantastic,” she explained. “It really gives an opportunity to playwrights to develop their work in a safe space, and with some really talented artists, even before a director comes on a scene. The talk that they have during readings is so informative. By the time the director or other actors get involved, you have a play that has really good bone structure, or may just need some extra meat on the bones.”
As director of the developmental play, Ledford had two purposes: to go through this process and help Faletto come up with the strongest script possible, and meet a specific production deadline. “We set a time to work on things that needed to be fixed, and then I set out to do director magic,” said Ledford, who at the time of this interview was looking forward to show night anticipating the audience’s reaction. They essentially have the last word on whether the playwright’s message is clear or not. After this performance, it is up to the playwright to take it to wherever she wants to take it.
The next Dramaworkshop deadline is January 31. For submission guidelines, go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org/dwguidelines.php.