Author Visits

I love to visit schools. When I was a child who longed someday to be a writer, I would have been thrilled if a real live author had ever come to my school. None ever did. But now I go to schools every chance I get to connect with young writers and young readers. I have spoken to writing conferences and school groups in Indiana, Illinois, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan, Missouri, Florida, Utah, Vermont, Oklahoma, and Colorado.

In my standard presentation (45 minutes), for grades three through six, I begin by sharing some of my own childhood writing (all embarrassingly autobiographical) and then showing how I now take the real events that happen in my own life and shape them into stories that may take a very different form. I also spend a lot of time on the process of writing, tracing a book from idea, through successive drafts, two stages of critique from my local writers' group, and finally, the devastating final critique from my editor. I want the students to see that all authors revise in response to criticism, that we all find criticism excruciatingly painful, but that we all end up being grateful that we were lucky enough to be given suggestions that could make our work better. I like to leave 15 or 20 minutes for questions at the end. Upon request I will do my famous ape dance.

For younger grades (kindergarten through second), I give a simpler and usually shorter presentation, focusing on the books I have written for that age group, and giving special attention to how an author works with an illustrator to create a book that is a true collaboration.

For middle-school and high-school students, I work with students who are in the process of shaping their own stories. Here I present workshops on plotting, developing character, and crafting the picture book.

I also offer writing workshops for elementary and middle-school students, focusing on the central idea of "show, don't tell." We brainstorm together about a possible character trait, such as klutziness, perfectionism, or bossiness, and develop action-packed, funny, poignant scenes that would reveal that trait. I also have students try to come up with all the different ways that they can take a simple declarative statement like "Gus felt sad" or "Gus felt angry" or "Gus felt proud" and show this in action or dialogue.

I am comfortable speaking to children in a wide variety of settings. I have done all-school assemblies as well as small- group seminars. I think the most successful format, for my kind of presentation, is to speak to, e.g., all the fourth grades in one session, all the fifth grades in another, with a maximum of 75 students (or so) in a session. This gives students more opportunity to ask questions and leaves them with the feeling that they have not only seen, but met an author. But I am happy to present in other formats as well.

FEES: $1000/day (4 presentations), plus expenses
Denver metro area: $600/day (4 presentations)

CONTACT: (303) 928-0649
47 Benthaven Place, Boulder, CO 80305