One of the great things about writing is the opportunity to share with the kids for whom I write.
Meeting with them, talking to them and getting them to realize their own potential and possible passion for writing is something that gives me great pleasure.
Below are some examples of workshops I have created for these visits. My presentations can also be tailored to your needs, and I am happy to give talks on the writing process to aspiring adult writers.
HOW DOES AN AUTHOR DO HER JOB? (K and 1st GRADE PRESENTATION) – 30 MINS:
Come join me as we try doing all the fun things an author does!! An author’s best work happens when they write about something they know well. So what special talents or hobbies do you have that could make for a great story? Let’s pick one. Perhaps we want to write about what it’s like to be a pilot. We’ll need to do some research first. Should we try on a pilot’s helmet and see how it feels? How can we describe this feeling to others? And every story needs great characters. So let’s create some together. How can we make them interesting and memorable? And when we’re done with the work of an author, let’s put our ideas, characters, and research all together to create our own very special story!
WHAT A CHARACTER! (FOR 2nd and 3rd GRADERS) – 45 MINS:
A boy who wants to break the world record for the most clothespins clipped to one hand? A girl who can remember everything with one quick glance and then re‐draw it perfectly? A dog that can dance the polka? Great characters help make your story have punch. Memorable characters have quirks and distinctive voices. So how do authors go about creating these unique characters? Come find out during this 45‐minute presentation. And then, using some recycled Halloween costumes, let’s create some characters of our own. No pre‐produced characters are allowed (eg. Little Red Riding Hood). Only originality is acceptable. Eventually, you will come to see that the most interesting characters are the ones with the most unusual traits, and that an author will know more about her character than a reader will ever learn!
EVERY FAMILY HAS A STORY TO TELL (4th, 5th, MIDDLE SCHOOLERS and HIGH SCHOOLERS) – 1 HOUR:
Dragons? Aliens from outer space? Zombies? Is it really necessary to go that far afield for really great stories? Absolutely not! Let me show you how easy it is to find wonderful stories right in your own backyard by “stealing” from your family or friends. Hear how I pirated all my ideas from those who love and trusted me most. And let me show you how a little bit of reality and research are hidden in every one of an author’s books. Then, I’ll share with you some easy questions based on the four components of a book that you can ask your own family or your friends to prompt discussions and ideas you might steal for your school assignments. Who knows? By the end of the presentation, an idea for the next Great American Novel might just be discovered lurking in your classroom!
AUTHOR EXPLORERS AND THE QUEST FOR PUBLICATION (4th, 5th, MIDDLE SCHOOLERS and HIGH SCHOOLERS) – 1 HOUR:
Do you wish you could step back in time and be an explorer of old? Writers’ jobs are, in fact, a lot like being the captain of a ship on a voyage of exploration. You don’t know what you might encounter: unexpected dangers, uncharted waters, high seas, destructive storms, or odd creatures. Come on the voyage with me for an hour and see how you, too, can become the captain of your own story. Learn how you can make that voyage as successful as possible through choosing such things as the best boat, the most interesting crew, and the most reliable maps! Explore the time‐honored traditions of research, revision and rejection that are part of the writing journey. Together, we’ll examine all the dangers, glories and pitfalls of being a writer and how forethought and planning can make the voyage to publication a successful one.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A RICH AND FAMOUS AUTHOR – (FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS AND HIGH SCHOOLERS) – 1 HOUR:
All writers make loads of money and are followed by paparazzi wherever they go! Right? We wish! As with most things in life, fame and fortune doesn’t materialize without a lot of hard work. So come along with me on the journey to becoming a rich and famous star. Learn how most rags to riches stories involve a lot of slogging through the dirt before you even get a sniff of success. From tapping into your creative side to discover a unique story, to digging through journals and letters and libraries to create settings and gather facts, to creatively presenting your narrative in a way that both intrigues and inspires, you will learn about all the hurdles an author must overcome in order to rise to the top. And once there, the job is not done –from creating book trailers to blogging and virtual visits, learn what authors must do once they’ve “arrived” to remain rich and famous!
THE SACRIFICE OR QUEST (FOR MIDDLE SCHOOLERS AND HIGH SCHOOLERS) – 1 HOUR:
Have you read THE SACRIFICE or QUEST? Are you dying to know more about the story behind these stories? Specifically geared to THE SACRIFICE or QUEST, these presentations cover the research, writing and editing that went into bringing these stories to life. We will discuss challenges faced and obstacles overcome while researching the era of the Puritans or the age of explorers. We will discuss voice and its importance in any novel. You will be able to do some exercises relating to voice from real characters in the book. To finish it off, we end with a bubbling cauldron of moral questions. (These presentations are only for students who have read the book).
SO YOU WANT TO WRITE, RIGHT? (FOR SERIOUS WRITERS AND SMALL GROUPS):
If you really want to be a writer, then this is the workshop for you. We’ll start with an in‐depth talk about plot, character, dialogue and setting. We’ll examine voice and tension, strong first lines and character motivation. We’ll talk about climax, why arc is so important to any story and the significance of cliffhangers. And then, you’ll get a chance to do some writing on your own. Like real‐life writers in college classes, we’ll share our work when you’re done and discuss what is good and what might need improvement. We will examine the value of revising and editing to produce a better book and make you a better writer.
PIRATES, GHOST BUSTERS AND GRAVE ROBBERS (HELPING KIDS PLUMB THE PAST FOR STORIES) FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS:
"I don't know what to write about" is a commonly heard complaint from students. So how can you turn that complaint into compliance? Introduce your students to the idea of becoming pirates, ghost busters or grave robbers – all jobs I am sure they’ll take on with enthusiasm. How? In an hour‐long presentation, I will cover the tactics I have used as a writer of historical fiction to uncover great story ideas. From pirating others' lives to searching in graveyards for hidden gems, I have used many techniques to discover unique ways of looking at historical events that are both interesting and fun for middle‐schoolers. Given originally at the Virginia Teacher's Association's Conference in Williamsburg, VA, my presentation offers librarians and teachers nine fun exercises to help prompt students into discovering the past. I provide handouts and great websites for further research, including the four qualities that make for good historical fiction.
Is it live or is it Memorex? Visiting virtually can be an easy and cost effective way for students to meet an author face to face. Check out my Skype video below, and email me if you’d like to arrange a virtual visit.
Click here for Skype video