West Boca Goes To BAM!


Evelyn Garcia

Photo of all the authors who attended.

Evelyn Garcia, Reporter

We boarded the bus at 8:30am and We got to the BAM (books, music and art) festival at 9:47am located at the Mandel Public Library of West Palm Beach. Once we got there we headed straight to our first panel of the day that took place in city hall, commission chambers.

The Authors of the Ask Me Anything Panel.

Our first panel was at 10:00 am where I visited the Ask Me Anything: Craft & Getting Published panel where authors Donna Gephart, Joya Goffney, Carmen Oliver, Neal Shusterman, Eric Elfman, Randi Pink, and Lily LaMotte answered student questions. One of the questions asked was “when did you want to write and what difficulties did you face? Most of the authors agreed that writing under a contract was really difficult, but they found different ways to get their mind flowing rather than just sitting in a room waiting for an idea to come. Neal Shusterman also began talking about how we should never say “writer’s block” because it just seems like an excuse and that by changing up your environment and just living helps that creative mind flow. They also talked about rejection and I especially liked what one of the authors said, which was that every good story will find a home. Joya Goffney also stated the importance of being able to distinguish writer’s block from burn out which she had difficulty doing. After the panel finished answering questions, we were allowed to get our books signed by the authors. Randi Pink was kind enough to give me an inspirational quote. 

“Write this moment! Journal it. Rap it, Turn it into a poem.  But do NOT LET THIS moment pass without allowing the world to read and experience your beautiful words” –Randi Pink

Karla Zalamar winner of Flash Fiction challenge with Stephen Kozan.

At 11am I visited the Get published: The BAM! Flash Fiction Challenge. Here we sat down in a room with a bunch of other people and author Stephen Kozan had us write on one page a story that is purely fiction for a chance to win best paper and have the opportunity to get your story published. My best friend Karla Zalamar who is also a West Boca Raton High School student won this competition and is now getting published next year! Check out Alexandra Kimbrell’s upcoming article for more information about this organization.


At 12:00pm I visited the Nuerodivergent- think outside the box panel where authors Neal Shusterman, Pablo Cartaya, Kathleen Glasgow, and Donna Gephart spoke. Here we talked about the characters that the authors wrote about that are considered neurodivergent and what inspired them to write about it. One of the things that spoke to me was the process of being a “witness to writer” where the authors shared their experience of what they have seen and experienced and put it in writing so that people can have a sense of understanding of what a family member or friend is going through and maybe even to understand themselves. They also talk about how sometimes a story may go one way and then turn another direction almost as if the story is telling you how it wants to be written.


Street chalk art.
Where the art was being sold along with book

At 1:00pm I walked around outside where they had street chalk art, book sales, art for sale, and bands playing. It truly was a wonderful experience with beautiful spring weather and such a talented community to be surrounded by. 

Photo with authorss Neal Shusterman and Kathleen Glasgow.

At 2:00pm I visited the Murder, Mystery, & Mayhem panel with authors S. Isabelle, Kathleen Glasgow, Neal Shusterman, and Kalynn Bayron. Here we talked in depth about mysteries and Mr. Shusterman made a great point on how all stories are technically mysteries because it is the mystery that brings you from one chapter to the next.

I am so glad that I went to the BAM festival because it truly was inspiring and really helped you find different ways to improve your writing. This festival can be very enjoyable even if you are not interested in having a writing career because you get to see all the art, listen to the bands, create an art piece, and learn new things. I believe that it was a very fun learning experience and I was so excited to meet all the authors and hear about their stories. They were truly inspiring and wrote amazing and touching stories. I cannot wait to see what the BAM festival of 2024 will have in store. 


Quotes from the authors I met:

  • “It’s meeting fans and readers that inspires me!”- Neal Shusterman
  • “Keep writing! Don’t give up!”- Eric Elfman
  • “Never stop Dreaming! You’rennever too young or too old to live your dreams. Believe in yourself”- Carmen Oliver
  • “Find your inner spice!”- Lily Lamotte
  • “Figure out who you are first.”- Joya Goffney
  • “Be the spark that changes the world”- Pablo Cartaya
  • “With all good wishes and happy reading!”- Donna Gephart