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.