True confession: In early elementary school I struggled to enjoy reading. (Gasp!) Yes, it’s shocking and true. But in fourth grade, meeting an author at school changed my life. After her presentation, Elizabeth George Speare signed my copy of The Witch of Blackbird Pond and talked with me. She saw me as a reader. After that, I too saw myself as a reader. Then my amazing and persistent school librarian (my mother) invited other authors to our school, and I was hooked on books. Permanently.
Now here I am, a few years later, excited to pass along the gift they gave to me by writing for children, by visiting schools, by hooking kids on books, by convincing them to see themselves as readers and writers. I love my job!
Sessions: 3 presentations, plus extras (see below)
Program Length: 45-50 minutes (shorter for K’s)
Audience: Any size, though smaller groups make for better discussion
Schedule and Cost: If you’d like to invite me to your school, please contact me for schedule and pricing.
I enjoy talking with students and their teachers about writing. I usually begin my presentations by telling a personal story or reading from one of my books. If a digital projector is available, I project the book so everyone can see the pages easily. Using lots of visual props, I show-and-tell my way through stories and often enlist students or teachers in a demonstration or an impromptu readers’ theater production. At the end of my programs, I like to give students a chance to ask questions. Then I am happy to sign and personalize books.
In addition to three formal presentations a day, I’m also willing to talk informally with a small group of students or teachers over lunch; to pop into a class for a brief, casual chat about writing; or to visit a kindergarten class for a reading. If you have other ideas, I’m flexible and I’m yours all day.
Grades K-2: Where Picture Books Come From
In this program, I talk about how ideas find me. To give students a glimpse
into the process that creates the books they love, I use actual pieces
of the writing and publishing phases—from scraps of ideas and early
drafts to printed galleys and books. I often stage an impromptu play based
on one of my books, chock full of audience participation.
Curriculum support: math, reading, writing, literacy, math vocabulary, manners.
Grades 3-8: Wow, Awesome! How to Write Exciting Nonfiction
I work to write nonfiction books and articles that keep my readers on
the edge of their seats. The editor of Ranger Rick Magazine calls my work “pull-you-in-and-don’t-let-you-go
writing.” Drawing on my professional experiences as a reporter,
science editor, and nonfiction author, I share insider tips that kids
and teachers can use in their writing: how to find fascinating facts,
how to have fun revising (yes, fun!), and how to transform “dry-as-dust” beginnings
into dazzlers. I explain how I use research sources including books, the
Internet, and primary sources such as interviews. I talk about my writing
process, discuss how I work with my editors, and show early drafts. Time
permitting, kids will demonstrate a real firefighter’s training
shelter (see chapter 1 of Fire in Their Eyes).
Curriculum support: nonfiction writing, science, butterflies, endangered species, plants and trees, careers, heroes.
The pre-visit packet will help you get your students, teachers, and the whole school community “revved up” and ready for our day together. It contains:
To prepare your students, it’s important to read my books to your class or have the students read them independently. Reading and talking about my work will help your students have a richer, more meaningful experience when they meet me.
Download the teacher's guides (pdf)
Book ordering is easy if you start early—at least six to eight weeks before my visit to your school. This should allow plenty of time for ordering and delivery. And because many local bookstores give discounts to schools, a book sale can pay off for your school. As a fund-raiser, books are:
Schools pre-sell books prior to my visit. This is the least amount of work and easily handled by parent volunteers. Most schools also order extra copies to have available for last-minute shoppers. After you talk with your bookseller, you can modify the sample order letter and send it home to parents.
Although books can be ordered directly from my publishers, most schools find it more convenient to order from their favorite local booksellers.
Please allow a minimum of 10-15 minutes between presentations so I can “re-group” and set up before the next program and, sometime during the day, time for lunch.
The best location is a room where I can set up all my props and books for the day and where students will be comfortable, either seated on the floor or in chairs set in a half-circle around me. I love being in libraries (generally comfy but not crowded, cozy yet enough room for demonstrations, and surrounded by my favorite things – books!). There’s a subtle, positive “message” when we meet in the library. But if you have a space better suited, that’s terrific. If it is a large, echoey room like a gym or cafetorium though, we’ll need a microphone and speaker system.
Contact me to arrange a visit or for more information. Thank you!