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Teaching and Speaking

  There are many ways to structure a school visit or speaking engagement.


  1. 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.

2.  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 or One-Community Read and students know my books better than I do (especially if they are on The Battle of the Books list).

3. 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. Schools have different needs and goals, and my job is work with you to bring you what you envision for your students and teachers.

4. I speak to adult audiences on a variety of topics, usually dovetailing with particular conference or convention themes, flavoring them with personal stories and thoughts about writing or teaching or the messy glory of life and the ways we tell our stories and are connected.

A short email to inquiry (at) will provide you with logistical, planning, and honorarium details for a day, half-day, or session in your school with students and teachers. Turn-around time is prompt. 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 and speaking, 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 treat each assembly as instructional time. We have fun and learn a lot. 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 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?

Each assembly 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 1962 and REVOLUTION 1964 (and soon, book three, ANTHEM 1969), 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. You’ll recognize that I’m working with you during student assemblies. Sometimes I do separate professional development workshops just for teachers. My goal is for you to get in touch with and trust your 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 about the natural world, written in rhymed couplets for youngest readers and writers. FREEDOM SUMMER  is for all ages. The Aurora County Quartet (LOVE RUBY LAVENDER, EACH LITTLE BIRD THAT SINGS, THE AURORA COUNTY ALL-STARS, A LONG LINE OF CAKES) 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 as mentor texts in middle school and high schools curriculums.

ANTHEM, Book 3 of the Sixties Trilogy, is a companion to COUNTDOWN and REVOLUTION and is scheduled for publication in Fall 2019.

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 writing workshops, school assembly programs, library visits or conference speaking, please begin here.

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