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Speaking and Teaching


The calendar is here.

A professional bio is here.

My home airport is ATL — Atlanta, Georgia.

Speaking/Teaching in Adult Settings:

— I work with educators, often in a professional development setting, and talk about my 25-years experience as a writer, and teaching writing using children’s literature and students’ life stories, beginning from what you know, what you feel, and what you can imagine. Teachers learn, in a hands-on way, how to write their own stories, and how to take what they learn into the classroom.

— I speak on various topics at conferences, workshops, and other gatherings, revolving around the Writing Process, Making Mistakes as a Path to Success, Writing From Life Experiences, Writing Historical Fiction, The Tasks of Fiction, Teaching Writing in a Classroom Setting, Paths to Publication, The Value of Mining Your Life for Story, and the Importance of Storytelling as a Path to Character Development, Social Justice, Change, and Peace. I tailor a talk to your particular conference, theme, and demographic.

School Visits/The Writing Program:

Sometimes I am a “present” in schools, where I come in at the end of the school year and do an assembly program for fourth graders who have just finished testing and are not familiar with my books. We have fun.

Sometimes I am the writer-in-residence for a grade or grades, and we have a day, or two, or five of writing stories together. Sometimes I am the author who wrote the One-School or All-Grade Read and students know my books better than I do (especially if they are on The Battle of the Books list!). There are many ways to structure a school visit.

Sometimes I see all students in a school population, K-5 or K-8, or all middle schoolers, all 9th-graders, etc. Sometimes I come for just one grade, all day long. You can see the many ways I work in schools detailed at my calendar page. Schools have different needs and goals, and my job is work with you to bring you what you envision for your students and teachers.

A short email to inquiry (at) will provide you with logistical, planning, and pricing details for a day, half-day, or session in your school, with students and teachers. Some details:

I’ve taught creative writing and memoir/essay/personal narrative for over 20 years in different settings, including schools across the country, American schools around the world, MFA programs in Vermont and Massachusetts, and in the education department at Towson University (ECED422: Writing Techniques for Teachers) in Baltimore. I hold an MFA in Writing from Vermont College.

I do a variety of teaching, some for adult writers at conferences, workshops, residencies, and institutes; some with teachers, which is mostly professional development (working on their writing skills, and how to teach writing in their classrooms); and some with young, emerging writers, which I outline below:

When I visit schools, I teach. Within the assembly program, in all grades, K through college, I use my books and others’ to tell stories that center on personal narrative, non-fiction, and fiction. I teach a variety of writing skills while incorporating close reading and research skills. Where do ideas come from? How can we capture them? What do we do when we’ve captured them? How do we turn them into stories and give them voice, texture, meaning, flow, rhythm, and heart?

Assemblies are instructional time. Each one is engaging, interactive, and differentiated by grades/ages, size of each grouping, the books I select, and the stories I tell. We may sing, dance, write, draw, listen, talk, laugh; and we get a lot done within a 45-to-60 minute assembly time frame, or a half-day or full-day workshop.

I do up to four assembly sessions in a day, two in a half-day. I like 90-minute blocks for writing workshops, which equals two assembly sessions, but I work with you to structure the day according to your scheduling, pacing, and curricular needs as well as standards. We can talk about your STEM and CCSS goals for a visit as we prepare for the day together. Or not. Again, whatever works for you.

In the middle school setting, I use my documentary novels, COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION, to talk about the inquiry process in reading and research, the connection between fiction, non-fiction, biography and personal narrative, the notion of including songs, photographs, digital resources, and other primary source material in the finished product, and ways of telling: “Everything is a Remix” is one way of putting it.

When I visit schools, I partner with teachers. I’ll be working with you during assembly and often in separate professional development workshops just for teachers after school. My goal is for you to get in touch with and trust your good common sense and ways of telling and writing that will inspire you, as well as your students. I leave you with an array of tools you can immediately put to work in your classrooms.

My books and others are the backbone of each assembly. The books I’ve written span grades K through college. ONE WIDE SKY is a counting book for youngest readers and writers. FREEDOM SUMMER  is for all ages. The Aurora County Trilogy (LOVE RUBY LAVENDER, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS, THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS) work well with grades 2 through 6. At the other end of the spectrum, COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION are documentary novels, the first of their kind. They are often used as read-alouds in fourth- and fifth-grade classrooms, and are used in middle school and high schools curriculums, especially in schools that teach cross-curricularly.

In assembly, I show how personal narrative turns into stories. Students and teachers bring notebooks to assembly and leave with stories to tell. We inspire one another. Students will see themselves as part of a story, embrace that story, understand its importance, and ask to begin writing as soon as they get back to their classrooms. Be prepared to write with them!

I consider it a trust to be given instructional time in your school; I always learn as much as I teach.

To start a conversation about The Writing Program, school assembly programs, library visits or conference speaking, please begin here.

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