Speaking

I'm a pretty high energy person and my classroom visits are both lively and engaging. I have worked with all ages and prefer classroom settings to auditorium style presentations as I have a very hands-on approach and like to get the students involved in the presentation. I deeply respect the creativity, sensitivity and intelligence of young people and try hard to get that message across when speaking with them.

I am comfortable simply talking about my background and my process, but I am equally at home using my time with students to teach them about writing. I like to work with teachers to figure out how I can best serve their students in the time that I am in the classroom.

I also work with adults, teaching both fiction and nonfiction topics.

Working with Kids

I published my first book when I was in second grade. A local author came to our classroom and gave us the enthusiasm and the tools to write and illustrate autobiographical books about the things we love. That book became one of my treasures—I am still proud of it.

Now it is my turn to be the author in the classroom, and I derive great joy from being able to instill in children that same sense of pride and adventure as we explore together their storytelling voice. Through creative exercises, children come to see that stories are everywhere, we just need to know how to look for them.

I have put together several programs detailed below, and in addition I work with teachers and librarians to develop custom programs of several hours or several days that help them achieve their specific classroom goals.

For Elementary and Middle School Students

Creating Believable Characters

In this one-hour session I use lessons from favorite authors to teach students how to use their own emotions to create believable characters. We also talk about Setting and the role that setting plays in describing the character and her emotional state.

How to Write a Research Paper

In one classroom session I share with students, step-by-step, the process used to write a research paper by delving into the life on an historical character. We visit how to select a compelling topic, how to sift through books and web-sites to pull out the most relevant information, and how to format that into a typical structure (Introduction, Body Paragraphs, Conclusion).

Writing through the Senses

How do our senses help us find stories? In this class, which can take place in one classroom period or over several, children explore the way that stories come to us. We look at compelling illustrations, hold unusual objects, listen to music, and smell flowers, vanilla or freshly cut fruit. We write in bursts after each sensory input, noticing how we, and our stories are affected. Finally, we do a groups exercise in which we use our senses to explore a memory, and finish up by putting that memory into written words.

Poetry Workshops

We look for the extraordinary in the commonplace, exploring creative ways to describe common objects using metaphor, simile, unusual adjectives and active verbs. Next, children are introduced to a host of poetic forms, finally writing their own poems based on subject matter that optionally ties in with classroom curriculum.

Kids Are Authors – Writing and Illustrating a Classroom Book

Each year Scholastic Books hosts the Kids Are Authors contest. It is a competition open to kids in grades K – 8 which encourages kids to use their reading, writing and artistic skills as they work together to publish a classroom book.

Under my guidance, students brainstorm together to develop a story. Each child then contributes to the process of writing, editing and illustrating the classroom book. This is a fabulous opportunity for kids to practice teamwork and communication in a setting that encourages thoughtfulness and creativity. Children derive a strong sense of pride and accomplishment upon completing the book and submitting it to the Kids Are Authors contest.

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For Older Students

Reading Like a Writer: Learning from the Masters

Critical essays were a significant component of the work I did in graduate school as I worked toward an MFA in writing for children and young adults. This involved dissecting works of children's literature to understand the techniques of craft used by an author to make their book succeed (or not). Upon graduating in July of 2009 I started the StorySleuths blog where I and several fellow writers focus on a different novel each month. We investigate the novel, searching for clues about how to improve our own writing.

I enjoy bringing this kind of analysis to the classroom, working with students in upper-middle or high school to teach them how to explore children's literature for clues about how to improve their own writing. I work with the classroom teacher to select the reading and topics for that semester, then each classroom session involves both discussion and writing as we identify techniques being used, and apply them.

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Expository Writing Exposed

Assign a classroom of kids an expository writing project and listen to them groan. My love of expository writing shines through as I share with kids fundamentals about research (primary versus secondary) and we discuss valid sources (Wikipedia is not a source, but it is a terrific pathway to sources). We talk about what makes nonfiction writing exciting, and how research finds its way into many works of great fiction, too. This classroom length discussion includes brief writing exercises.

 

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