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Author Visits to Schools

What kinds of programs do you offer?
Do you do Skype visits?
Do you have programs for middle and high school students? For adults?
How do we contact you, and how much do you charge?
Our school can't afford an author visit. What can we do?
How should we prepare students and teachers for your visit?
We want an author, but we don't want you . . .

Assembly programs

Milo and Jazz logoSECRETS OF A SUPER STORY (grades 2-5, any size group, ~40-50 minutes)

Common Core Writing Standard 5:  With guidance and support from peers and adults, develop and strengthen writing as needed by planning, revising, and editing. Click here for instructional objectives

Do super sleuths Milo and Jazz solve their cases on the first try? No way! As any young mystery fan knows, the detectives' path is littered with false leads and slip-ups. But Milo and Jazz stick to the case like Velcro and, working together, come up with the answer in the end.

In this program, students learn that writing a mystery (or anything else!) is just like solving one. From the first brainstorming session to the final wrap-up, it takes persistence, collaboration, and a willingness to toss out ideas that aren't working and try new ones. (Tired of hearing your students whine about revision? Wait till they see how many drafts an editor requires!)

School equipment needed: laptop-compatible projector and screen; microphone

"I loved the mysterious entrance, and the humor.  It was so beneficial to our kids to see the writing process in action. 
Your presentation was very well thought out and gave clear, real life examples of every step of the writing process."

—Woodbrook Elementary School, Charlottesville, VA

"I loved the focus on the idea that writing is never perfect the first try."
Livingston Avenue School, Cranford, NJ

"I loved the way Mara dealt with our students.  She asked intelligent questions and treated them with respect and humor.  Her presentation and disguise were on target with the 3rd graders.  The students were captivated by her presentation."
Samuel Gompers Elementary School, Philadelphia, PA

"The presentation taught the students all about the writing and editing process in a fun and memorable way. It was interactive and held the students' attention very well. . . . The presentation was done with humor and heart."
—The Millington School, Millington, NJ

"Since your visit our library's Milo & Jazz mysteries have been the most circulated items in our collection. I have something like 3 of each title and they are NEVER in the library. BRAVO!"

Stone-Robinson Elementary School, Charlottesville, VA

HOW TO COOK A STORY (grades K-2, any size group, ~30-35 minutes)

Common Core Writing Standard 3:
Write a narrative recounting a series of events in order, using details and providing closure.

Chik Chak Shabbat coverEvery kindergartner knows that "the author writes the book"... but how? In this short, interactive assembly program, we learn how to gather the ingredients a story needs and put them together in the right order with a beginning, a middle, and an end. I also answer kids' favorite questions about picture books, such as "Which come first, the pictures or the words?"
ADVENTURES IN RESEARCH (grades 4-6, any size group, ~40-50 minutes)

Common Core Writing Standards 7 and 8:  
Conduct research projects using multiple sources. Take notes, assess the credibility and accuracy of each source, and integrate the information while avoiding plagiarism.

Gingerbread for Liberty coverI was a kid who hated research. I struggled with taking notes and "putting it in my own words." Then I grew up and discovered that doing research is an ADVENTURE. Join me as we spy out secrets, dig for hidden treasure, elude pitfalls and outwit the enemy (untrustworthy sources!)and come home with a story to amaze and thrill our friends.

"I loved how you kept the students engaged and led them through your process of researching without just saying I did this and I did this... you showed them the primary and secondary sources and really involved them in the process!"
—Severna Park Elementary School, Severna Park, MD

ALL ABOUT MESMERIZED (grades 2-6, any size group, ~30 minutes + Q&A)
Mesmerized cover
LIVE or via SKYPE!

For schools and libraries with a special interest in Mesmerized: How Ben Franklin Solved a Mystery that Baffled All of France. I answer commonly asked questions about Mesmerized while covering topics of general interest such as research and the writing process.


Grudge Keeper coverWriting Workshop:
Synonyms and Antonyms
(grades 2-4, up to 50 students)

I had a lot of fun with synonyms and antonyms when I wrote The Grudge Keeper, and your students can too! Hunting for synonyms in the story, we discuss how synonyms have almost the same meaning (but not quite!) and how important it is to choose just the right word. Together, we brainstorm happy, friendly antonyms for the cranky, grouchy, quarrelsome, belligerent, pugnacious, and obstreperous words we found. Then students work individually to write a synonym-filled story of their own.

The Case of the Buried Bones coverWriting Workshop:

(grades 4-6, up to 50 students)

Using examples from the Milo & Jazz Mysteries series, we talk about why it helps to have a plan before you write and how your plans may change during the drafting stage. As a group, we brainstorm ideas for plot, setting, and character. Then students work in small groups to write a proposal including key elements such as mystery, culprit, red herrings, and solution.  (Note: This writing workshop is designed to follow the Secrets of a Super Story assembly.)

"The children in grade 4 were excited to begin working on their very own Milo and Jazz stories.  You help further fuel their passion for applying the writing process to create quality work." The American School of Kinshasa

Skype Visits?

Yes, I do! See above for schools with a special interest in Mesmerized. More information on my page at the Skype an Author Network.

Older Audiences

I have retired my assembly program for Get Real: What Kind of World Are You Buying? but I am happy to do small-group workshops and/or large-group Q&A with middle school and high school students who have read the book. For assemblies, "Adventures in Research" can easily be adapted for an older group.

I also speak to groups of teachers, librarians, writers, parents and children, and the general public. Just ask!


My fee varies depending on distance and number of programs. I offer substantial discounts to schools in my home area of eastern Pennsylvania. I also offer discounts for multiple visits in one school district.

Please email me for details, letting me know where you are and what schedule you have in mind:
email address

Funding author visits

As every teacher knows, time spent in the classroom is just the tip of the iceberg. Visiting authors put in many hours planning, preparing, organizing, gathering materials, communicating with the school, and traveling. All that takes time away from our regular job—writing!

For schools, this means an author visit can be pricey. Here are a few tips: 
  • Think local! Authors live everywhere, and many charge significantly less for nearby appearances. You will also save on travel expenses, meals, and lodging. Or, if you really want a particular author who isn't local, team up with other nearby schools. Often authors will reduce their rate for multiple school visits in the same area.
  • Think local again. Parents' clubs often raise money for author visits. Locally owned businesses may be willing to help out. And schools can offset some of the cost of a visit by selling the author's books—autographed, of course! 
  • Watch this short video, Finding Funding for School Visits and see this Sample Letter of Request for Funding.
  • Still too strapped? Try applying for a grant.
Amber Brown Grant  From the Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators.
Grants for Librarians  A comprehensive list, with links.
McBookWords Scroll down to "Funding an Author Visit" for links to grants.
Grants for School Visits  Posted in 2004; some may be out of date.

Preparing for an author visit

When you book me, I'll send you a letter with specifics about your program. These links can also help you get started:

Ten Tips for a Perfect Author Visit  By author and former school administrator Michael Shoulders.
The Perfect Author Visit   Courtesy of Dan Gutman, author of many hilarious books including the My Weird School series.
Invite an Author: Planning, Fundraising, and Tips for Success  Although this is aimed at schools inviting Scholastic authors, it includes lots of good general info on author visits.
Hosting an Author  From the childrensauthorsnetwork (a small group of authors who do school visits).
Organizing an Author Visit   Geared to parents' clubs, from

Authors who do school visits

Eastern Pennsylvania

A. S. King
Adam Lehrhaupt
Ame Dyckman
Debbie Dadey
Donna Jo Napoli
Jordan Sonnenblick
Josh Berk
Kay Winters
Lee Harper
Lisa Kahn Schnell
Marie Lamba
Matt Phelan
Sandy Asher
Susan Campbell Bartoletti
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Eastern Pennsylvania - Find a Speaker


Author School Visits by State
Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators: Find a Speaker

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