speaking

Creating Writing Workshops and Sharing a Love of Reading

I enjoy shar­ing my love of read­ing and writ­ing. Noth­ing is quite as sat­is­fy­ing as cre­at­ing live­ly writ­ing work­shops for chil­dren and young adults in which par­tic­i­pants cul­ti­vate aware­ness, exper­i­ment, and share their orig­i­nal “works-in-progress.” With a Mas­ters of Arts in Teach­ing (MAT), I’ve had the oppor­tu­ni­ty to facil­i­tate craft explo­ration in a wide range of writ­ing projects—from poet­ry and dra­mat­ic mono­logues to folk tales and his­tor­i­cal nar­ra­tives. These have includ­ed a vari­ety of writ­ers from pri­ma­ry age through ear­ly high school. For more than 22 years I served as a cre­ative writ­ing instruc­tor for under­grad­u­ate and grad­u­ate stu­dents at Colum­bia Col­lege of Chica­go. I cur­rent­ly work with writ­ing pro­gram grad stu­dents at North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty and Nation­al-Louis Uni­ver­si­ty.

My pro­fes­sion­al back­ground was in jour­nal­ism. I grad­u­at­ed from North­west­ern Uni­ver­si­ty Medill School of Jour­nal­ism (BSJ 1975), where I learned a great deal about track­ing down sources, gath­er­ing and orga­niz­ing facts, and com­ing up with a sto­ry arc. I also learned how to engage a spe­cif­ic audi­ence, write con­cise­ly and clear­ly, and revise over and over—all help­ful skills in cre­at­ing fic­tion or non­fic­tion. Writ­ing for young read­ers has been a chal­leng­ing, and reward­ing jour­ney. They are among the most demand­ing read­ers I know.

Over the years I’ve come to believe that writ­ing can­not be taught direct­ly. Skills and con­fi­dence in writ­ing can only be revealed through deep read­ing of ter­rif­ic lit­er­a­ture and by exper­i­ment­ing with our own ideas. Curios­i­ty, sta­mi­na, and a will­ing­ness to go deep­er into our work and our revisions—these are all qual­i­ties writ­ers need no mat­ter what their ages. Being a long-term writer is a lit­tle like being a race horse—no mat­ter how much tal­ent you have, you need to have heart to make it to the fin­ish line.

Since 1986, when my first his­tor­i­cal nov­el, Addie Across the Prairie, was pub­lished, I have cre­at­ed 41 works of fic­tion and non­fic­tion for dif­fer­ent ages from the very young to adults. While Addie and the three oth­er books in the series were based on my family’s expe­ri­ence home­steading in Dako­ta Ter­ri­to­ry in the 1880s, I have cre­at­ed many oth­er kinds of books for dif­fer­ent readers—from pic­ture books for the very young to full-length biogra­phies for young adults and a nat­ur­al his­to­ry mem­oir for adults. I thrive on vari­ety.

Please con­tact me to ask about hav­ing me speak to your school, library, con­fer­ence, or writ­ers’ group.

Marshall School
At Mar­shall School in New Jer­sey
National-Louis Universiity
Speak­ing at Nation­al-Louis Uni­ver­si­ty’s Writ­ers’ Day
Evanston Book Festival
At Evanston’s Book Fes­ti­val