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TEACHERS AND SCHOOL LIBRARIANS
The designation on the title page of my novel Summer of the Skunks is:
Country life, Southern states
Family life, Southern states
Southern states, history, 20th century
That’s where my story comes from. But where do your students come from?
They are from the world of iPads and action-filled video games played on flat screen TVs, of 3D movies and organized sports. What could they possibly have in common with country life in the 20th century?
No matter what the century, they’ve likely smelled skunks. But skunks under the house?
Those who live near waterways know about pontoon boats. But a pontoon boat in a cow pasture?
Too many have firsthand knowledge of alcoholism. But as to befriending and hiding away an adult alcoholic…?
With a free-loading relative and some firecrackers added in, the Clark siblings’ ‘summer of the skunks’ is, to quote a Booklist review, “…wracked by intense but passing storms” spiced up with hilarious misadventures.
READINGS — As a visiting author, I enjoy reading from Summer of the Skunks and, on occasion, from my other writings. Though single classes or groups such as an entire grade level provide more opportunity for Q and A, I am also available to read to an entire student body.
WORKSHOPS — My main zeal is to be with students in a small-group setting where we can enjoy each other, and where I can introduce them to my writings. However, I am experienced in conducting workshops either in individual classrooms or in a designated room set up for writing where groups come and go.
My workshops are best for Intermediate (grades 3-5) and Middle School (grades 6-8). Best case scenario is to meet with each group for 45 minutes to one hour on at least three consecutive days. I prefer scheduling half days.
My over-all objective is to have students not only write, but enjoy writing and look forward to future writing situations.
In the process, students will recognize their own experiences as valid and valuable resources. We will practice prewriting and, as time allows, revision. The focus will be more on content than mechanics.
For best results, I prefer workshops to be small groups of 18 or fewer students. I follow the Tennessee Arts Commission guidelines of regulatory details. These include spelling out what supplies and services the school will furnish, and in-class expectations such as teachers being present and participating.
I can provide copies for students who want to buy my book. Hopefully a time for this can be scheduled before the buses run.
If the cost of my author visit is beyond your school's budget, one option is to split the visit with another nearby school. I am open to adding a reading at a community organization or library.
The following are some teacher comments on file from workshops with grades 3-5:
"My students are doing a better job of writing now."
"Well planned and organized."
"Special education students very involved."
"(Students learned) how to use details and decide on what to write."
"My children have developed an appreciation for writing that they did not have before."
Their nearly unanimous complaint?
"Needed more time!"
An aside worth mentioning as to whether in-school arts are essential:
"Yes, education needs the help of individuals outside the school environment."
I offer an in-service with specifics on how to use writing as a teaching tool across the curriculum.
My workshop on How to Write a Five-Paragraph Essay prepares students for tests that require an essay. Though its strategies were developed and fine-tuned during the seven years I taught at-risk high school students and prepared them to take the GED, the process is effective with younger students.
LITERARY/CIVIC CLUBS, LIBRARIES, WRITING GROUPS
I welcome opportunities to introduce myself and my books to the community with readings and discussions. Favorite topics for presentations/workshops with writing groups include ‘from memory to fiction,’ ‘getting your facts straight in fiction’ and ‘what holds novels together.’
Here are some facts to help build a case for inviting me into your libraries and classrooms:
SUMMER OF THE SKUNKS has been a Sunshine State Young Reader’s Award Nominee, was named a “Book of Note” by the Tri-State Young Adult Review Committee [of Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey], and was on the 2005-2006 Volunteer State Book Award Master Reading List.
This geographic divergence denotes an interest level beyond the ‘Southern’ category.