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I’ve visited hundred of schools, conferences and speeches in most U.S states and in American and International schools in Africa, Europe, South America, Australia, the Middle East, Asia and Central America.
I begin my visit with a talk about why I started writing, the process of writing and re-writing and tell anecdotes about some of my books.
Then I give a 40-minute power point presentation of my adventures that inspire many of my books, showing awesome photographs of scuba diving on coral reefs, investigating shipwrecks under the sea, close encounters with whale sharks, leopards, elephants and lions. Also hot air ballooning, talking to penguins in Antarctica, swimming with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands, on safari in Africa, riding camels in front of the pyramids of Egypt, and polar bears I saw on my way to the North Pole. There are many oohs and ahs from the children when I show my pictures. I talk about the effects of climate change on animals and their environments.
I tell them about my friends who have illustrated my books (Tomie de Paola, Ezra Jack Keats, Simms Taback and others) and I tell them how Nola Langner and I started working together in third grade as writer and illustrator and I tell them how they can do that, too, with their best friends or working by themselves.
I give K classes a special treat. I go into their classrooms and read TOO MUCH NOISE to them. They love to chime in with the animal sounds. There are enough parts for a class play.
I meet with small groups of classes for more talks and questions. I autograph their books. Lunch is usually with the teachers or with students who are interested in writing.
I tell the children that they don’t have to travel or know how to scuba dive or never leave their hometown to become a writer. I talk about the poet Emily Dickinson who wrote thousands of poems without leaving her home town.
I tell them that they already have lots of things they can write about – their interests, favorite ice-cream flavor, their family, the most embarrassing moment in their life, and feelings. I tell them that sad or mad feelings make great stories and poems, and as an example, I read a couple of poems from my book, FEELING SAD, FEELING MAD, FEELING BAD, FEELING GLAD.
I give the children tips about being a writer. (Always carry a notebook and write down words you overhear in conversations, thoughts and ideas. Wake up and look in the mirror and mean it when you say, “I am a writer!” Read GOOD books.) Every author I know agrees that the best writers are the ones that are always reading. Turn off the computer and the TV and start a story. Start in the middle, the end – anywhere. Don’t worry about the spelling in your first draft. You’ll fix mistakes up later.
“I’m not a writer,” I say, and the children look puzzled for a moment. “I’m a RE-writer. I write parts of my books 25 times at least. It’s called revising. I want to make my books the best they can be, for you!”
I end by asking them to suggest a title for my newest book and talk about why titles are so important.
Sometimes, there is an after-school tea with parents or a library talk in the evening. I’m very flexible and can change the focus of my talk to suit the needs of the teachers and librarians.
My programs fill the entire school day, with visits to the morning and afternoon K classes, two hour-long presentations, four 20-minute small group visits, autographing, and lunch with either the students or teachers. If a school arranges for other school visits nearby, I can do three-day visits at a reduced rate. Contact me for more information on fees and availability.
Because I write for different ages — K students up to 6th grade, I can speak to the entire school. I change my presentation to match the grade levels.
It’s wonderful when the children read my books ahead of my visit. (They get so excited!) They know the questions they want to ask. Some schools do projects for different books and they are so proud to show them to me — from researching sharks to making STONE SOUP to putting on a play about THE SECRET SOLDIER or doing a funny Dr. Diabolical skit from SQUEALS & SQUIGGLES & GHOSTLY GIGGLES.
I always have a fine time in schools. I can’t count the number of stone soups I’ve tasted. I answer all the children’s letters that pour in after my presentations.