I believe that writing belongs to everybody. My goals are to show children, teens and adults the wealth of their own stories, to share the joy of creating, and to demonstrate that writing is a process. Stories aren't something outside of us. We live stories. We hear and feel poems. We just have to practice writing them down. You don't have to know where to start. You don't have to have the right words. You don't have to know how to spell the words you do have. You just have to begin and keep going.
If you are interested in workshops, library programs, conferences, school visits, or individual study, email me. Click here to download a pdf of my program brochure.
To get a feeling for my school visits, watch this video from my visit to Bloom Elementary School in Louisville, KY:
Programs at Schools
I offer two kinds of school programs: Meet the Author and Writers' Workshop.
In the Meet the Author session, I show slides of home and family — where I grew up and where I live now, pointing out how my books come out of this experience. I talk about journal-keeping and bring several notebooks to show the kids. (Their favorites are the waterproof one and the one you can eat!) To emphasize the importance of revision, I have students unroll a scroll of all the drafts of Mother to Tigers, and talk about the writing road I traveled to find the right words. I end with a demonstration of the printing process and time for questions.
MTAs are large-group sessions. Ideally, I see as many students as will fit in the library, usually between 70 and 100. If the numbers are so large that we need to be in a gym, I can accommodate that, but you lose some of the connection kids feel when they're up close and gathered in a book-filled space.
In Writers' Workshop, I give students writing prompts and guidance as they work, and invite them to read what they've written. I don't critique individual pieces, but I do give suggestions for how to keep exploring what they've got on the page. My goal is not a finished product but an exciting experience of the process. I can focus on poetry, fiction, journal, or playwriting, depending on the age of the writers. WWs are done in small groups. Both programs require other teachers to be in attendance.
I do three one-hour sessions per day or two one-hour and two half-hours to accommodate the youngest children. For more information, email me.
I don't encourage or judge writing competitions because I feel they create more negative than positive writing experience. By its nature writing is generous and individual, not competitive. Books have to compete in the marketplace, but writers are NOT competing. We're part of the great circle of readers and writers, all of whom have something to contribute.
Watch a video from a visit to Newtown Friends School in Newtown PA:
Teacher Workshop on Teaching Writing: This will get teachers writing, too, because I believe you have to have confidence in yourself as a writer to teach others the process. I'll provide a basic approach along with specific exercises and a list of resources.
Family Literacy Presentation for Parents: I emphasize the importance of reading, writing, and sharing family stories with your kids. This includes some of the Meet the Author material, so parents can see examples of where writing comes from.
(Some schools choose the Teacher Workshop or Parent Presentation as one of their three programs, so that I do two sessions with students and one, after school or in the evening, with adults.)
Programs for Libraries
Library Talk: This is generally a Meet the Author geared to the age group involved. It features slides of my most recent picture book and the story of how it came about.
Writing Workshop for Adults: I can keep this exploratory or focus on a specific genre. As in my work with kids, I stress the abundance of material each writer has to draw on and offer a number of avenues to find that material.
GED Workshops: Because of my work with adult new readers in writing Choices, I often work with older students who are beginning writers.
Community Reading Programs:With a Hammer for My Heart was chosen for the Northern Kentucky One Book One Community program, involving four library systems and area schools. Click here to see the program brochure.
I tailor my presentation to the theme and request of the organizers. I often write a new piece for the occasion. Break-out sessions are usually MTA, but I may look at a specific issue such as collaboration, censorship, or Appalachian literature.
If you are interested in any of these possibilities, email me for more information and to book appearances.