One of my favourite things to do is to visit schools and talk to students about the writing process, books and publishing. I also give writing and publishing workshops to groups of all ages. With COVID, I am visiting schools virtually, which allows me to speak anywhere in the world!
Other topics covered include getting an agent, publishing, writing, conservation and Ancient Egypt. Please send me an email if you’d like me to come and speak with your group.
Usually I give a brief background of my writing and agenting experience and how/why I was inspired to write my novel, do a short reading from my book, then focus on one of the areas below or combine elements from each. All workshops can be customized.
Creative Writing Workshop
Students are given some warm-up questions to discuss in groups, for example: “What are your favourite genres?”, “What makes you keep reading a story?”, and “What are some things you like/don’t like to see in books?”. Moving into the creative writing component of the class, I typically focus on setting or a sense of place, as this is something that plays an integral part in my own writing. I have students think of a place that they love or thought was interesting and write a descriptive paragraph, making sure to use all five of their senses. Depending on the group, I sometimes have them switch with a partner and, with guidance, have them offer constructive feedback.
Usually for teens or an older audience, I discuss the ins and outs of publishing a novel. From concept creation to book deals with traditional publishers vs. self-publishing, I take students through the entire journey and answer any questions they might have. Putting the students in groups or pairs, I then have them come up with a concept for a book to pitch to the “publisher”. This involves a catchy title, a brief description of the plot and characters, and those with artistic inclinations often enjoy creating a sample book cover to go with their presentation. Writers’s groups may present their own projects.
Environmental (or other) Themes in Writing
Here I delve deeper into my own experiences and what inspired me to write Kissing Frogs (my travels to Panama and learning about their culture and conservation issues affecting the frogs there and around the world). I have students discuss themes that they think are important in literature and why. I encourage children to talk about books that have affected them or that they really enjoyed. Students are then asked to choose an endangered animal and encouraged to do some research on it (if there’s access to materials or computers – the library is an ideal place for this) and write a paragraph based on the viewpoint of the animal then read to a partner.
Reading / Colouring Workshops for Younger Audiences
For younger audiences I usually read the original version of “The Frog Prince” fairy tale and ask the children basic comprehension questions. “What did the frog get from the well for the Princess?” I then hand out print-outs of frog/jungle colouring pages for a fun hands-on activity.