School & Library Programs

Core Program

Length of Presentation

The program lasts approximately one hour; that includes a question-and-answer segment.


The Core Program is a lively, interactive presentation in which I use physical props and metaphor games to explore characterization, story structure, and revision. I introduce the students to my novels, Well Wished, The Folk Keeper, and Chime, and walk them through the process of writing them. I solicit their reactions to the material I present, and together we develop principles about:

  • crafting a gripping beginning of a story or novel (I read the beginning of an early draft and we analyze why it was unsuccessful)
  • creating narrative energy by connecting with what the protagonist wants
  • maintaining narrative energy by developing an active protagonist
  • revising a story or novel (I share part of an editorial revision letter and talk about how it helped me revise my novel; I also show overheads of actual revisions).

Writing Workshops

Length of Presentation

The program lasts approximately one hour.


The exercises in the Writing Workshops are derived from the material presented in the Core Program. I try to keep the groups small enough that I can respond personally to at least one piece of writing from each student. I respond in front of the entire group, and while I may give suggestions for improvement, my responses always focus on the positive. The students:

  • develop a character using one of the character exercises introduced in the Core Program
  • craft the opening of a story for that character
  • create a convincing and compelling fictional world through using precise and vivid details that evoke all of the senses
  • create a convincing and compelling fictional character through using sensory details that show us (rather than tell us) how the character feels.


Teacher Seminar

Length of Program

The program lasts approximately an hour (this leaves plenty of time for questions).


If the school is interested in but unable to take advantage of the Writing Workshop option, I offer a Teacher Seminar in which I lead teachers through the exercises I would have covered with the students during a Writing Workshop. As I am able to cover more ground when I work with teachers than I am able to cover when I work with students in a Writing Workshop, I am able to leave the teachers with more material than I present during a typical Writing Workshop. If a school chooses this option, I would send in advance a handout I have prepared which, in extensive detail, describes the exercises and contains a short bibliography of the books I use to illustrate the exercises. The school may then make a copy for each teacher who participates. Unless special arrangements are made, the Teacher Seminar must take place during the school day.


Additional Details

Group Size

I can present the Core Program to a fairly large group—an entire grade level, say—although smaller is better, as it's interactive and participatory. I limit the Writing Workshops to 30 students.


I can present up to four programs a day. The school is free to determine the schedule that best suits its needs, except that I cannot run a Writing Workshop with students who have not first attended the Core Program: I need always to open with the Core Program. So, for example, I could begin a day with the Core Program, then run three Writing Workshops; I could present the Core Program twice, then run two Writing Workshops, etc. In many larger schools, I present the Core Program four times. If the school is interested in the Teacher Seminar option, I typically present the Core Program three times, followed by the Teacher Seminar.


for Core Program

I will need an overhead and a screen. If, due to audience and/or room size, I will need a microphone, it would really help me to have a lavaliere mike. I find a hand-held mike to be a hindrance, as I use lots of props and need both hands free.

for Writing Workshops

I will need a blackboard or a whiteboard and chalk or marker. The students will need several pieces of lined paper, and a pencil or pen.

for Teacher Seminar

Each teacher will need a copy of the handout I will have sent in advance.

How you can help me

During the Writing Workshops, I always circulate among the students while they are writing, commenting (positively!) on what they have written. It is helpful if the teacher(s) can do so too, as I cannot get to every student during a single writing exercise. I ask that the teachers not use the time during either the Core Program or the Writing Workshops to grade papers; I have found that this distracts both students and me. I need plenty of water during my presentations, and if I'm visiting your school a full day, I'd love some lunch!


Please email for a current fee schedule. I have a full-day fee (up to four presentations) and a half-day fee (up to two presentations). I do not offer the half-day option outside the Chicago area unless an interested school can secure a commitment from another local school for the other half of the day, and if necessary, provide transportation between the two schools.