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Happy 10th Anniversary FL SCBWI!

I had an amazing time at the 10th annual SCBWI Florida Regional Conference in Miami.  I'm lucky to live in an area with such a wonderful SCBWI group, filled with incredibly supportive and talented authors and illustrators.  Here's a special tribute that I included in the FL SCBWI listserv that I'd love to share with all of you, and hope you'll be able to join us for a future conference.  The January conference in Miami is a great excuse to escape the snow for a weekend, and our June conference is on Disney property, so you can easily turn it into a family vacation.

I'll paste the tribute part of the listserv below, and will add the rest in a second post--it includes some wonderful market info (including contests and a fun picture book challenge with deadlines in the next two days).

Hi everyone.  I want to thank our amazing RA, Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld, wonderful new ARA, Marcea Ustler, and all the fabulous volunteers for making the FL SCBWI conference in Miami an absolutely incredible experience for us.  I can’t rave enough about the speakers.  And thank all of you for making our 10th anniversary such a special event.

One of my favorite parts of the weekend was when Linda was given a beautiful necklace, a celebration cake, and several of our successful authors told her how much all her hard work and dedication helped their dreams come true.  Surprise again, Linda—because I contacted everyone and now you’ll have it in writing.  Any time you’re running around trying to replace a faculty member who can’t come last minute or any of the other issues that come up, you’ll remember how many people you’re helping…and how grateful we all are to you.


Joyce Sweeney

 Author of fourteen novels and one book of poetry.

She has twenty-nine students published and is now also directing plays.


I remember Linda contacting me about creating a possible SCBWI chapter...I told her, I'll do anything to help you make that happen.  We had that little conference at the elementary school and the next year, Linda had found a hotel and rounded up Judy Blume.  I knew that with SCBWI helping me I could go from a small time mentor to an Uber-mentor...and it happened.  SCBWI was not only an amazing place for me to find talented writers, but also to meet agents and editors to whom I still make referrals.  I have 29 people published from my workshops alone and I think the total number of people published in these past ten years from all of SCBWI Florida is about 40 people. We have incredible success stories like Alex Flinn who has a feature film coming out of her novel Beastly.  Or Christina Gonzalez, whose book has gone into multiple printings.  And other, quieter careers that are equally fullfilling.  Linda is a true fairy godmother to us all and she's also a wonderful writer. I know you'll all agree it's her turn to get some of that fairy dust!


Marjetta Geerling

Author of FANCY WHITE TRASH (Viking, '08)



At the very first SCBWI Miami Regional Conference in 2001, Alex Flinn (who I'd met only a few weeks before) introduced me to Joyce Sweeney and told Joyce she should work with me. Joyce mentored me, referred me to agent George Nicholson who took me on as a client in '02, and my first book sold in '07. Without my SCBWI critique groups and contacts, I probably would've given up long before the first contract came along. Thank you, Linda, for helping to create such a supportive community for children's writers in Florida!



Danielle Joseph

 Author of Shrinking Violet (MTV/Pocket Books, 2009)

Indigo Blues (Flux, 2010)

and Pure Red (Flux, coming October 2011)


Linda Bernfeld has done an awesome job in helping many writers reach their dreams. She has put together ten years of amazing SCBWI conferences, outdoing herself each year. Not only is she busy running two Florida conferences a year but she also runs a weekly critique group. I have been in Linda's critique group for almost nine years now. I have learned so much from the group and conferences which has helped me better my writing tenfold, eventually signing up with an amazing agent and am now awaiting my third book to be published this coming October. Thanks, Linda, you rock!


Debbie Reed Fischer

Author of Braless in Wonderland (Dutton)

  and Swimming with the Sharks (Flux)


The first time I attended an SCBWI conference, my head reeled. Not because of the wealth of information being presented, or the authors, agents and editors with whom I was casually mingling, but because of the overwhelming feeling that I had found my people. There were others who read and wrote YA?! And they weren’t in the closet like me! They read childrens' books openly and talked about getting published!

Incredible. I was not alone.

A lady sitting next to me during one of the sessions pointed to Joyce Sweeney in the crowd and said, “She’s a great workshop teacher and all the authors know her.” So, once again, I rustled up some courage and approached Joyce. Again, a warm welcome, more introductions, an overwhelming feeling I was among people who understood me and would guide me to where I needed to go on this writing journey.

I took Joyce’s class, and a few months later found myself in the weekly critique group she led, which included Norma Davids, Dorian Cirrone, Danielle Joseph, Adrienne Sylver, Janeen Mason, Gloria Rothstein, Laurie Friedman, Flora Doone, Linda Rodgriguez-Bernfeld, and many others. My new mentor, Joyce, explained that I would have to read what I had written and then we would discuss it.

 Talk about courage. Why didn’t I just stroll down the street in my bathrobe and zit cream mask? That would have been easier than sharing my words with people who were going to slice them and dice them and put them under a microscope.

But I learned. I became a better writer. I learned what I did well as well as what I had to work on. Most important, I created close bonds with other writers, which is so much of what SCBWI is all about. By the time the second conference rolled around the following year, I had a critique session with an agent named Steven Chudney, who told me within minutes of my pitch that I talked too much. Very perceptive! We laughed, and luckily, he decided to read what I had to say instead of listening to me babble. A few months later I officially had an agent. At that same conference, I met an editor from Dutton named Mark McVeigh, who later bought my second novel, Braless in Wonderland and became my editor.

So to recap: I met my teacher/ mentor, my agent, and my editor at SCBWI conferences. All because of a few chance meetings leading me to SCBWI.

And I met Linda. None of it would have been possible without Linda Rodriguez-Bernfeld. She gives up her own writing time for the demands of SCBWI, works hard all year to bring in the best of the best. All year, we writers look forward to the conferences where we strengthen those bonds.

That is why you MUST show up to these SCBWI conferences because you never know who you will meet that will bring you closer to your goal of being published. I am a prime example. 

To quote The Cat Ate my Gym Suit’s Paula Danziger, who spoke at the first conference I attended, “We make our own success. Put yourself in the right place, hope it’s the right time, and do your best.”

So, thank you so veryveryvery much, Linda, for providing the right place, year after year, and inspiring us to do our best. We are forever grateful.


Adrienne Sylver

Author of Hot Diggity Dog: The History of the Hot Dog


I first met Linda when I attended a critique group at the South Miami Library. I don’t think the group had had many meetings yet, and I remember that it was a small group, maybe just Linda, Sandy, and perhaps Susan at the time. From the minute I walked in the room, I was made to feel welcome. It was a place I belonged and it was an atmosphere where we could learn together. Linda really set the tone for what would become Florida SCBWI. Our little critique group grew over the years and moved to several different locations, but that feeling and camaraderie has never changed. Our much larger statewide organization is filled with people who are always willing to share, whether it’s advice on how to improve a manuscript or the feeling of joy when one of us sells a book. And while we may joke that Linda loves being an R.A. because it gets her a trip to L.A., we know that she is making the trip for us. Every time she returns, she’s got a list of terrific editors, agents, and authors who are willing to come to Florida to share their expertise. I’m happy to say that I’m an SCBWI success story; I met my editor at an SCBWI-Florida conference. Without Linda, that wouldn’t have been possible. And without Linda, we wouldn’t be sitting here this evening celebrating ten years together. Linda consistently puts the needs of others before the needs of herself, and she deserves a huge thank you from all of us.


The last speaker had us all in tears—it was Linda’s son, Brian.  And here’s what he had to say:


First off, Mom I helped you out this whole time because you've always been there to support me. I was seven when you started all of this.  I had no idea what it was, but I knew it was at my elementary school and there were cookies, and ever since then I haven’t wanted to miss one. You have always been there for me no matter what, going to my games, taking me to the hospital. And I have seen that you still have been able run these amazing conferences. I have seen and heard from experience going to all these events that you really run one hell of a show. And I can say with pride that 'Linda is my mom.' And for everything you have ever done for me, thank you, because I know if half of your work ethic has rubbed off on me, I will be one amazing and successful kid when I go off to college.  


Brian also has a message for us:  Tell everyone thank you so much for helping and supporting her. She wouldn’t be able to do this without any of you guys. She gets all the credit, but you guys are the heroes.


And here’s a special message from our wonderful, hard-working RA, Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld:

How do you say thank you for such a lovely gift? Not only the necklace, which I adore. The necklace is perfect. I love pearls and the Golden Kite Medallion is beautiful. I am going to have fun showing it to everyone the next time I get together with regional advisors.

But the truth is, the best gift was the parade of friends giving such wonderful testimonials about my small part in their success.  Plus, the testimonial of my awesome son. It meant so much having my family there to witness those speeches.

Organizing the conferences is a labor of love. I truly enjoy finding the speakers. I enjoy having them here and I love the fact that now Florida conferences have the reputation as the place to be for speakers. But they don’t come just because Florida is warm and they have fun at our events. They come because other editors are telling them if you have a chance to go to Florida, take it because the level of writing here is tremendous. I provide the opportunity but you provide the talent and the hard work that makes this state a goldmine for editors and agents.

We had at least 18 requests for manuscripts coming out of the January conference. Wow. That’s a tribute to you. And it makes it much easier for me to reach out to someone and say, “how would you like to come to Florida?”

The Mid-Year Workshop is scheduled for June 24-25 at the Coronado Springs Hotel in Disney World. I still haven’t settled on the number of intensives but we will definitely have an Illustrators’ Intensive, probably a Picture Book Intensive but I’m still trying to figure out the Novel Intensive. We are toying around with an idea but I don’t know if it will be in place of the Novel Intensive or in addition to the Novel Intensive. More on that soon.

The Workshop itself will have the Picture Book Track (Emma Dryden, Alan Katz), the Middle Grade Track (Joanna Volpe), the Young Adult Track (Kathleen Duey) a Poetry Track (Lee Bennett Hopkins and Kristen Daley Ren) plus an Interactive Media Track that I’m still finalizing. Emma Dryden will be speaking in that track as well as the PB track. Lisa Wheeler will be involved in the PB Intensive.

Because of the many family medical crises this year, I did not have the opportunity to pin down all the speakers before the January conference. But I’ve made great progress since then and I hope to have things settled by the end of next week.

There are so many people to thank after an event, especially an event as successful as the regional conference. I always manage to forget someone so I’m going to apologize in advance.  

ARA Marcea Ustler - She has proven to be unflappable in the midst of chaos.

Joyce Sweeney – She is an excellent sounding board and mentor.

Vivian Fernandez - She helped keep things on track.

Mindy Weiss – Mindy spends a lot of time making sure the lunch and dinner choices are correct and printing out name tags.

Kerry Cerra – Kerry did a wonderful job with the critiques

Michelle Delisle – Not only did Michelle help with critiques, she also sent out email blasts that boosted attendance.

Meribeth Shank- She donates books for the raffle and she helps out at the registration desk.

Linda Shute – For doing such a great job with the pins and the anything to do with illustration.

Marjetta Geerling – Marjetta creates wonderful gifts for the speakers and makes sure they are picked up at the airport.

Larissa Hardesty – Larissa made beautiful scrapbooks for the speaker gifts.

Kimberly Lynn Strickler – Once again Kimberly made beautiful decorations. I loved the raffle gifts and those wizard hat centerpieces were awesome!

Danielle Joseph and Adrienne Sylver – for being there when I needed back-up and all the back-ground work they do.

Thanks again, Linda, for putting together such an amazing conference for us!  I can’t wait until the Orlando Workshop on June 25th (intensives will be on the 24th).  I’ll share the names of the rest of the faculty with all of you as soon as they are confirmed, and hope to see a lot of you there!

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Mindy's head shot
Mindy Alyse Weiss
I write humorous middle-grade novels with heart and quirky picture books.

I'm an Administrator on the SCBWI Blueboard, the FL SCBWI Newsletter Editor and Critique Group Coordinator, and a proud member of From The Mixed Up Files...of Middle-Grade Authors

I've been married for twenty years and have two beautiful daughters, an adventurous Bullmasador adopted from The Humane Society, and an adorable Beagle/Pointer mix pup who was rescued from the Everglades.

I've been published in Highlights three times and placed in the 80th Writer's Digest Competition.


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