When I was a child, I had a very strong image of authors: they were special people who lived in ivory towers (a la “Rapunzel”), writing all day every day. Passenger pigeons delivered their manuscripts to publisher and within a day or two a box of marvelous books would be delivered to the foot of the tower.
Unfortunately, I didn’t meet a published author until I was in college—so my childhood fantasy probably set me back decades in my career. For that reason, I believe it’s very important for authors—particularly children’s authors—to visit schools and discuss the art and craft of writing.
I’m happy to tailor my talks to a school’s particular needs, but I also offer specific programs for school visits, all of them aiming to encourage students to pick up a pencil or position their fingers on a keyboard as soon as I say goodbye:
- The pencil can become a magic wand: Who is a writer? What tools do they need? How do they put words onto paper? How can we use our Imagination, Curiosity, Observation, Language, & Time most effectively?
- From Imagination to Publication: The book-production process.
- The Story of Our Stories: Children’s literature through the ages.
- Writing S’mores: Putting the pencil to the paper and producing amazing narratives.
I frequently work in schools as an Author in Residence, visiting several times a year and making myself always available to work with teachers and students on book projects that include:
- Life stories: Excellent for early writers, who will work with their parents to get facts, figures, and family stories.
- Alphabet books: Involves discussion of non-fiction; research and writing techniques for poetry and prose; how pictures not only help tell our story, but the illustrator’s stories as well; how to produce a book.
- Creative writing, fiction & non-fiction: The definition of a story and techniques for writing narratives that answer all the necessary questions: Who? When? Where? Why care? What happened? How did the character respond? The cause-and-effect dynamic that leads to a successful conclusion.
- Oral histories: Journalistic techniques for choosing sources, interviewing, note-taking, writing narrative non-fiction, and book production.
- Memoirs: A subcategory of life stories, in which the theme is like the hub of a wheel and all stories/aspects must relate to one defined theme. These lessons relate to writing effective essays, including college/scholarship/job applications.
In my manual and workbook, Writing S’mores, I offer no-fail templates for writing narratives, essays, characters and place descriptions. That is the summary of what I’ve learned and what I teach in classrooms.