BOOK TALKS, WORKSHOPS, AND PRESENTATIONS
My favorite part about teaching is having students achieve those “wow” moments when they unlock a technique, see behind the curtain of an author’s intent, and understand that, yes, they can do that too. I love to guide students toward being better writers and more insightful readers, while having fun in the process! (Contact me!)
ANY of the following can be tailored to
*meet the needs of audiences from middle grade to adult
*fill any length of time
*fit any setting from classroom to library to festival workshop and beyond
For middle school and high school students, these workshops work best with one classroom of students at a time. There is, however, room for flexibility on this point. For adults college-age and beyond, any size audience would work.
For book groups, etc. who have read In A World Just Right, I would love to come in for a conversation about the book. A book group guide is available here. We can talk about the questions in the guide and/or the questions from the group. I can give you behind-the-scenes info and engage in conversation about any aspect of the writing or publishing of the book. I’m happy to tell what I was thinking when I wrote it, but I’m also eager to hear what you were thinking while you read it.
Plot and Character Arcs
Which comes first, the plot or the character? Different authors will give you different answers, but the truth is that no matter which is conceived first, both plot and character are dependent on one another. In this workshop we will look at plot arcs and character arcs in popular stories and how they intersect to tell those stories. Then we will build two characters, give them obstacles to face, and gain an understanding of how the stakes in a story must rise until the ultimate desire of a character is risked. This is an eye-opening journey into how story works and will provide you with tools to create powerful fiction yourself and to deconstruct fiction by others.
Techniques for Characterization
Who are some of your favorite characters? What makes you love, hate, pity, or admire a fictional person? There are many layers to building a believable and memorable character, and in this workshop we look at some of your most beloved characters and the techniques their authors used to make them so. Several short and fun exercises will illustrate the effective use of such elements as backstory, tokens, choices, and selection of detail as we work toward creating our own special characters.
How does an idea become a published book? We’ll discuss the steps involved in writing and publishing a novel. There will be plenty of show and tell, from an actual agent query and editorial letter to real-life rejections and critique partner feedback. See just how many stages a manuscript must go through before it reaches a bookstore shelf.
Creative Writing Revision
This workshop for fiction writers will look at what to say when giving feedback and how to get the most out of feedback given to you. A variety of techniques for revising fiction, from large, plot-arc-scale considerations to close-up wording considerations will be discussed. Actual feedback from critique partners, editors, etc. will be shared from drafts of In A World Just Right.
A full critique workshop can be added where a sampling of student fiction is critiqued and discussed in class as a way both to model critiquing and to apply revision methods.
The Promise and the Pay-off
The ultimate novel ending, one that resonates long after the last page is turned–how does a writer achieve this goal? A memorable ending is a craftable thing, not a mysterious or lucky product. This is a Powerpoint presentation and discussion that looks at elements of the inevitable, yet unexpected, ending. From character arc, to theme and motif, to plot charts, to devices such as peripeteia and anagnorisis, you will learn how to make a promise to the reader that you deliver on with satisfaction. Examples from fiction and film will be discussed.
Love your characters too much? Don’t like getting your hands dirty? Or maybe you’re just not sure how to do what the experts say you must–torture your characters. In this workshop, participants will learn approaches to using character setbacks and suffering as a means of characterizing, plotting, and delivering the ultimate pay-off. Using specific examples from published literature, a practice activity, and discussion, this workshop will give you all the tools you need to make your characters suffer hard and suffer for a reason.
Let’s explore speculative fiction (science fiction and fantasy). We will look at the definitions of sf and f and the differences between them. Discussion will focus on favorite sf and f stories and characters and what we can learn from them, both for their art and their message. Activities will center around world building and generating unique speculative fiction premises. We will also take a look at spec fic flash fiction.
Brilliant Techniques I’ve Seen Authors Use That You Can Too
Let’s look at some of the literary techniques that students sometimes see as too abstract or hard to grasp and not only discuss them in everyday terms but offer examples of how they are being used by authors of today’s popular fiction. Topics might include an effective use of symbolism, figurative language, plot twist, characterization, sensory language, motif, opening line, voice, point of view, dialogue beats, object repetition, and more. Students may choose to share favorite things they’ve seen authors do in books, whether they know the literary name for it or not, and we will integrate this into our discussion. By focusing on the fiction they know and love, students will be better able to see how these great techniques they learn in English class make it into today’s popular books in ways that bolster storytelling. Students will leave with specific ideas and examples that they can immediately apply to their own reading and writing.
What the Author Meant Vs. What Your English Teacher Says
Students wonder: Did that author really put that in there, or is this just stuff English teachers make up? How much does the author’s intent matter? How much does the reader’s interpretation matter? What value is there in reading beyond the surface? These questions and more will be discussed as you talk to someone who has been on both sides–teacher and author. We’ll discuss what literary elements were consciously included in In A World Just Right and share interpretations readers have given. Examples of the same dichotomy will be provided using works from the canon and from contemporary popular works. You will gain plenty of ideas for how to access the deeper meaning of any book for yourself.
This workshop can be enriched with written student preparation beforehand, each choosing three quotations from In A World Just Right and writing a brief paragraph explaining why each quotation was chosen.
A full critique workshop can be added where a sampling of student work is critiqued and discussed in class. Alternatively, literary analysis outlines could be prepared with attention to use of supporting evidence, inclusion of proper citation, and/or discussion of the difference between research and plagiarism.
I can also tailor talks on writing techniques limited in scope and combinable to fit whatever timeslot. These are easy-to-do, super fun writing exercises. Also, if there is one venue (or Skype) you want to commit to for a weekly class that runs for 6-8 weeks, these would be good weekly topics:
Selecting detail: characterization
Selecting detail: tone
Showing versus telling
Hooks and story openings
Simile, metaphor, and other lit devices
And so on . . .
Have another topic you’d like me to speak on? Lets talk!
I am in the fortunate position of having many author friends who write young adult and middle grade literature. Currently I’m teamed up with three eastern Massachusetts authors for group presentations and workshops:
If you are interested in booking our group for an event, please contact me and/or visit my partners’ websites for more information.
I live on the North Shore of Massachusetts. If you are looking for a book talk, and I can drive to your venue in under 1 1/2hours, I will gladly come for free. Otherwise, depending on your location, I could do a free 20-minute Skype book talk, or we can negotiate compensation for travel.
For workshops and presentations: I ask $200 for the first hour and $100 for each additional hour. I am happy to repeat a workshop up to four times over the course of a school day. If I am requested to prepare more than one of the above workshops in a day, a fee of $100 will be asked per additional prep. I am happy to volunteer to lunch/meet with special students and/or to sign books in addition.
If I am requested in northeastern Massachusetts or southeastern New Hampshire, there is no additional fee for travel expenses. Outside of this area, I may request compensation for travel time and expense.
I am happy to negotiate multiple-day workshops.
I offer generous discounts for visits that include the bulk purchase of books.
I am happy to discuss the possibility of doing a workshop via Skype.
Contact me for more information, to negotiate rates, and/or to make a booking.
SOME RELEVANT RESUME DETAILS:
I hold a BA in English from Dartmouth College and an MA and MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University.
I taught for fourteen years in a public Massachusetts high school. My classes ran the entire spectrum from inclusion freshman genre studies to senior Advanced Placement literature. I was active in the development and/or redevelopment of challenging, high-interest courses including interdisciplinary world studies, British literature, creative writing, and speculative fiction. My specialty continues to be teaching creative writing, expository writing, and literary analysis to students of all ages and abilities, and my favorite way of getting students to write well is to teach them how to critique and be critiqued in a group setting.
Beyond my high school classroom, I have taught adult education novel-writing classes and high school/middle school creative writing workshops. I have presented graduate-level material at the In Your Write Mind Workshop at Seton Hill University, and have presented at the International Literary Association (ILA) and National Council of Teachers of English (NCTE) national conferences.