Oct 16, 2015: Teen mother-daughter book club reading I Remember You, NYC
Nov. 3, 2015: Watkinson School, Hartford, CT
May 14, 2016: Rochester Area Teen Book Festival, Rochester, NY
I love visiting schools, libraries, book clubs, girl scout troops. I also love smiling awkwardly via skype and answering letters.
I have been teaching creative writing workshops since I was a camp counserlor and I currenty work, with young writers at Writopialab.org in New York City. When I visit to your school or group or guest teach, I create a program based on the size and interest of the group, ranging from a small discussion to a larger presentation, reading, and question and answer series, to some workshops I've developed to help kids or teens find their voices as writers.
Schools and libraries I have visited since the release of Slipping in 2008 include: Klem North Elementary (Webster, NY), The Key School (Washington, DC), Sidwell Friends (Washington, DC), Farmley Elementary (Hudson, MA), Midland Middle School (Bethesda, MD), JFK High School (Hudson, MA), Prospect Hill Academy Charter School (Somerville, MA), Arthur D. Healey School (Somerville, MA), Somerville Public Library, Cambridge Public Library, Bethesda Public Library, KIPP Academy (Washington, DC), Sidwell Friends (Washington, DC), St. Ann's School (Brooklyn, NY), Brooklyn New School PS 146 (Brooklyn, NY), PS 241 (Brooklyn, NY), Bank Street School (New York, NY), San Antonio Country Day Montessori (San Antonio, TX), East Hampton Middle School (East Hampton, NY).
Here are two workshops I offer to help kids find creative writing inspiration from my work.
Little Blog on the Prairie: Process Writing and Character through Butter Making
This exercise revolves around a passage in Little Blog on the Prairie on making butter. The one page description shows Gen at work, miserable and learning slowly how to use a butter churn to turn fresh cow's milk into first cream and then butter. The description is one of my favorite passages in the book because it combines a real sense of Gen's character with her disgust at the process of making butter as well as all things frontier.
In the workshop, I read the passage with the students, and then we then make butter ourselves using marbles, small plastic containers, and heavy cream. It introduces students to what I started to think of as "process writing" when reading Little House on the Priarie and writing Little Blog--writing that very clearly describes a process, almost like a recipe or a DIY blog, but all the while creating a mood or a feeling or establishing a character--furthering a story.
So, after students have made the connection between what they have seen and felt and tasted! (When the butter is finished we spread it on saltine crackers and sample it), students take a crack at writing the butter-making process from the perspective of a character of their own creation. Then, we share.
I Remember You: Time, Time Travel, and Perspective
In I Remember You, I'm writing in the voice of an adult character looking back on her high school self, though for the most part you feel that that high school existence is happening right now. Verb tenses slowly shift to give the impression of Juliet stepping back in time.
At the same time, Lucas is stepping back in time in a much more literal way, revisiting his high school self by inhabiting his high school body, bringing enough of his adult memories along with him that he is able to understand how strange this is, and to enjoy what he most missed from that time in his life.
To help teens notice this in the book, I read a few passages where this effect is taking place, then challenge them to their own act of fictional time travel through a writing exercise where they write about themselves, but from the perspective of adulthood. The trick is to portray through their writing not just what they are like now, but what they will become--to create a specific adult character. At the end of the exercise, we share our results.