Miami Dade College News and Events: Authors’ Careers Take Off with Help from FCLA’s Writers Institute

Miami, Wednesday, May 20, 2009 – Roxanna Elden, a creative writing and English teacher at Hialeah High School, decided to write a book, a funny and practical guide for new teachers, but soon discovered the world of publishing could be a daunting place. That’s when the teacher decided to go back to school.
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With just 20 pages of notes in her hand, Elden signed up for her first Writers Institute workshop, titled “Putting Your Passion into Print, in 2006. The Institute is a component of the Florida Center for the Literary Arts (FCLA) at Miami Dade College. Two years later, she returned for a revision workshop and met her agent, Rita Rosenkranz.

“It’s a long road to getting a book published, but in my case the Writer’s Institute was like an express train, moving me to each new milestone faster than I could have gotten there on my own,” Elden said.

Elden’s book, See Me After Class: Advice for Teachers by Teachers, will be released on June 5, 2009.

The Writers Institute was established in 2005. Held each spring, the Institute offers four days of creative writing workshops to help budding writers learn the craft and how to get published on fiction, nonfiction, poetry, memoir and more taught by distinguished visiting writers.

“We are very proud of the Institute’s growth, especially because we have stayed true to our mission of offering solid, serious writing instruction for writers who are serious about their craft,” said Alina Interian, FCLA executive director. “There are no shortcuts to writing well and we place a lot of emphasis on helping people improve, but once they are where they need to be, then the Institute is also there to help them get to the next step – a book contract.”

This year, the roster of celebrated authors teaching at the Institute included poet Major Jackson, renowned storyteller and American Book Award-winner Percival Everett, memoirist Esmeralda Santiago and Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni, a recipient of the American Book Award, among many other brilliant writers.

Lissette Mendez, FCLA program coordinator, said one of the main advantages of attending the Writers Institute is the small class size, which is typically limited to 15 participants.

“The professor reads the work, other students in the class read it, so everyone gets a lot of one-on-one attention,” Mendez said. “There’s no point in going to a workshop with 30 people. If you are really going to work on your writing, you need a small group.”

The workshops also bring writers face-to-face with agents and other publishing professionals who can offer practical advice. The Pitch-O-Rama, which is how Elden met her agent, allows writers the opportunity to pitch their story ideas.

Lily Prellezo, author of Seagull One: The True Story of Jose Basulto and Brothers to the Rescue, also launched her writing career with help from the Institute. Her book is schedule for publication in the fall of 2010 by University Press.

It was literary agent Janell Walden Agyeman who last May advised Prellezo to try publishing her book through a university press. By then, she had completed Seagull One and had received her share of rejection letters.

The workshops are tailored to help writers not just be creative with words but also shows them how to navigate the complex publishing process and promote their books after receiving that coveted acceptance letter.

“Right now I’m working on getting the word out,” Elden said. “Making the book successful can take as much work as writing it in the first place. The Institute had a workshop this year called ‘You Wrote a Book…Now What?’ There really is something for every part of the process.”

The Florida Center for the Literary Arts at Miami Dade College promotes reading and writing throughout the year by consistently presenting high-quality literary activities open to all in South Florida. FCLA’s Writers Institute and creative writing courses offer writers the chance to share their work with a supportive, yet critical community of writers whose goal is continual development. All workshops are non-credit and open to everyone in the community.

For more information about the Writers Institute, please call 305-237-3940 or visit