Recent and Forthcoming Appearances:
December 1st, Lake Zurich High School, Lake Zurich High School Writers Day
December 13th, 3PM, Book Stall, Winnetka, IL, Book Launch Event for Somewhere There is Still a Sun
January 9th, 2016, 11am-1pm, Highland Park Public Library Read-a-thon Kickoff
January 23rd, 1-4pm, Evanston Middle School Lit-Fest, Evanston Public Library
March 9th, Attea Middle School, Glenview, Illinois
April 11th, Evanston Township High School, Evanston, Illinois
April 23rd, The Book Cellar’s Second Annual Chicago Young Adult Book Festival. All day, starting at 10AM at Everybody’s Coffee. More info here.
May 16th, Northbrook Junior High, Northbrook, Illinois
May 20th, Conley Elementary, Algonquin, Illinois
I’m available for school visits, discussions via Skype, library talks, and more. Contact me.
There are a number of different topics I can cover at a school visit, and I work with each school to decide which combination is the best fit for their students and curriculum. I’ve presented to all grades from 4th through 12th with great success.
My presentations are extremely interactive. It’s rare I ever talk for more than ninety seconds straight at any point in my presentation without directing a question at students. In this way, I keep the students engaged and focused.
With elementary and middle grade students, In addition to talking a little about myself and how I started writing, I mainly address the writing of 33 Minutes as a springboard into a larger discussion about writing in general. Together with the students we explore:
– What’s involved in turning a personal experience (in this case, the loss of a best friend) into a work of fiction. Here I illustrate the way non-traditional approaches to storytelling (a non-linear narrative, a compressed time frame, a deliberately ridiculous scene, etc.) can compensate for an ultimately sad story and make for a fun, inviting book.
– How the freedom inherent in fiction writing can allow us to be “true” to a real experience even as we rework it almost entirely.
– Why rewriting and revising are an inescapable part of the creative process. Here I emphasize–drawing on specific examples from the seven drafts 33 Minutes went through–how a good story will always need to be reworked before it can become a great story.
Overall, I foreground matters related to writing in order to make students feel more comfortable discussing the difficult and sensitive themes of this novel, which include the loss of friends, social isolation, and bullying. I’ve found that approaching these subjects directly will cause students to close up, and yet they’ll eagerly talk at great length about these same issues if they feel they’re actually discussing how to write a story on such topics.
With high school students, I discuss topics such as narrative structure and defamiliarization, using creative activities in order to teach students how to apply these ideas. These activities and follow-up discussion lead into a presentation on my own approach to writing fiction.
“Todd Hasak-Lowy held the rapt attention of 125 hoping-for-a-snow-day fifth graders, no small feat in and of itself, with stories of his own middle school years and how those experiences became part of the 33 Minutes narrative. Mr. Hasak-Lowy’s entire presentation was as fast-paced and quick-witted as his writing. His ability to engage students in the conversation was remarkable and even that rogue questioner, whose question is meant to get a few chuckles from his peers, was acknowledged and his question legitimized. Of great delight to the teachers and students, was the discussion of revisions. Mr. Hasak-Lowy read a portion of the first draft and the comparable section of the published text and led the students in an insightful critique of the two versions. So open another tab on your browser and send off an email to Todd Hasak-Lowy at email@example.com. Schedule a visit for your school. You and your students will not be disappointed.” — Linda, Librarian, Park Ridge, Illinois
“Todd Hasak-Lowy visited Attea Middle School in Glenview and shared his experiences writing the memoir Somewhere There Is Still a Sun with our two 7th grade teams. Mr. Hasak-Lowy presented the amazing story of Michael Gruenbaum, a survivor of the Terezin Concentration Camp in Czechoslovakia during World War II. What makes this book unique is that it is told in the first person and allows the reader to view the Holocaust from the eyes of a middle school aged boy’s perspective as it is unfolding around him without any historical context in which to frame his experiences. The students were captivated by Mr. Hasak-Lowy’s discussion of how he developed the story and worked with Mr. Gruenbaum to bring it to life. I would highly recommend Somewhere There Is Still A Sun and Mr. Hasak Lowy’s presentation to any group who is exploring the Holocaust. The story will help students connect to history in a personal way.” — Laura, Librarian, Glenview, Illinois
“Funny, clever and engaging. Todd Hasak-Lowy knows how to relate to students. He brings humor and honesty to some of the difficult issues of middle school and makes those issues more approachable. He immediately connected with our students, and I honestly have never seen them more engaged. After his visit, our teachers made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed Todd’s presentation, and the students were talking about the visit for days to come. Another sign that his visit was a success, they have all been clamoring to check his book out from the library.” — Lisa, Librarian, Wilmette, Illinois
“Todd Hasak-Lowy had my students falling out of their chairs. Actually, he fell out of his chair first, but that was only to get their attention and get them writing. Todd was able to share his knowledge of narrative style in an engaging and intelligent way. Holding the attention of fifty high-school juniors right before summer vacation is no easy task, but Todd did so with humor and grace. It was a fun and educational presentation that accompanied his fantastic new novel told in lists.” – Justin, Teacher, Berwyn, IL
“Todd was great! Interesting, engaging and inspiring. He visited our seventh and eighth graders to talk about writing and discuss his books for young people, all of which now have lengthy hold lists in the school library. Our students and teachers loved his writing lesson. Students participated in a writing activity, which ensured that everyone was involved and engaged throughout the presentation, and students were excited to share their work in front of their peers (and many classes continued to discuss the activity after the presentation ended). The lesson provided a shared experience and new vocabulary that teachers referred back to since the visit. I was especially impressed by how well Todd connected to our reluctant readers – many students who normally lack enthusiasm for reading and writing were excited about the writing activity and Todd’s books, which is awesome.” – Amanda, Librarian, Northbrook, IL
“Our students loved meeting and learning from Mr. Hasak-Lowy! It was so interesting for them to see how a book can begin with a small idea and develop into an engaging novel. The students made the connection that their own writing process is similar to that of a real author. Mr. Hasak-Lowy inspired excitement for both writing and reading in our students!” — Carrie, Principal, Evanston, Illinois
“Middle School can be a crazy time, as Todd knows well. It can also be a tough crowd to please, but Todd’s talk about the writing and evolution of 33 Minutes really resonated with our 6th and 7th graders. Thanks to Todd’s sense of humor and open spirit, the students were engaged and inquisitive, and we all enjoyed the presentation.” — Liz, Librarian, Oakland, California
“This week Bannockburn School hosted local author Todd Hasak-Lowy. He saw two different groups, grades 4-5 and 6-7. Todd was a fantastic presenter. The students were thoroughly engaged and entertained with his presentation. He did a particularly great job with the 6-7 group, as they can be difficult to impress. Todd was able to connect with them and they enjoyed his stories of making and losing friends as a part of growing up. I would highly recommend Todd as an author visit for your school.” — Kathy, Bannockburn, Illinois
“Todd had the students laughing and engaged in his presentation as he shared his childhood photos and middle school experiences. The teachers were impressed with the way in which he managed the students as he taught them several writing strategies. Todd’s presentation is the perfect balance of entertainment and education. Many of our students are waiting to check out his books; we just can’t keep them on the shelves!” — Renato, Librarian, Highland Park, Illinois
“Todd had the ability to connect to every student and make them feel included in his presentation. He was funny, engaging, and relatable. I would highly recommend him as a guest speaker for audiences of all ages!” — Carrie, Librarian, Highland Park, Illinois
“Mr. Hasak-Lowy, I can’t express how important your author visit has been to our students. Many of our fifth graders will soon make that difficult transition to middle school and your book will help them realize they aren’t the only ones who might experience a difficult time. Many students approached me following your presentation to share their interest in reading your book. Thank you so much for your time and effort in visiting our school, but more than that, for sharing your childhood story with a little humor along the way.” — Ellen, Librarian, Gainesville, Florida
“From showing pictures of himself as a middle schooler to asking students to reflect on the writing process, Mr. Hasak-Lowy’s presentation was highly engaging. Our students learned something and had a blast.” — Kefira, Librarian, Evanston, Illinois
“Mr. Hasak-Lowy shared some of his writing insights, as well as how the plot from his book came to be. Students were able to connect to Mr. Hasak-Lowy is many ways, especially when he discussed his childhood friendships. He certainly inspired our students to read and write!” — Eileen, Teacher, Aurora, Illinois