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Author Visits to Schools
student art
"I loved the way Mara dealt with our students.  She asked intelligent questions and treated them with respect and humor.  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

"Staff and students loved your presentations!!  You engaged the students and left them wanting to hear more." 
Baker Elementary School, Pittsburgh, PA


Click for quick answers, or just scroll down:

What kinds of programs do you offer?
Do you do Skype visits?
Do you have programs 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?

Assembly programs for grades K-6

Gingerbread for Liberty! coverHOW TO COOK A STORY (grades K-2, ~35 minutes)
(Focus: Elements of a story)

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

Every 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?"

Chik Chak Shabbat cover"The teachers told me that you were great.  You really understood how to keep the attention of K and 1st graders. They loved that you reinforced curriculum with the parts of a story."
Coudersport Elementary School, Coudersport, PA

"This was one of the best author visits I have seen, and over 25 years, I have seen a lot!  Thanks for coming!"
Richboro Elementary School, Richboro, PA

(grades 2-4, ~45 minutes)
(Focus: Writing process, prewriting through publication)

Milo and Jazz logoCommon 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

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!)

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

"I can highlight the importance of revising/editing for the rest of the year
students will have more motivation and a solid experience to refer to."
East Pikeland Elementary School, Phoenixville, PA

"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

ADVENTURES IN RESEARCH (grades 4-6, ~50 minutes)
(Focus: Finding and evaluating sources)

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.Mesmerized cover

I 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 showed them the primary and secondary sources and really involved them in the process!"
—Severna Park Elementary School, Severna Park, MD

Around America to Win the Vote cover"The slides in your power-point, strategies and  examples used to explain the steps to research were spot on and
meaningful to the students."
Bel Air Elementary School, Cumberland, MD

"The students were talking about the blindfold activity and advice on how to put information in your own words...We really appreciated the focus on research and how to do it well.  No other author has offered this." 

Coudersport Elementary School, Coudersport, PA

student project

WRITING WORKSHOPS (for smaller groups)

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.)

Skype Visits?

Yes, I do! More information on my page at the Skype an Author Network.

Anything but Ordinary Addie cover"Oh my gosh, the kids are buzzing with excitement!!! Thank you so, so much. You went above and beyond."
Farmington STEAM Academy, Farmington, MI

"That was amazing! Our very first Skype author visit ever!
Thank you so much for talking to my students. We will remember this for a long time!"

Callejo Elementary School, Dallas, TX

Born to Swing cover"Your SKYPE phone call with my 2nd graders was FABULOUS!  I am so impressed with the thought you put into the call, answering each question and expanding on your answers. If your ears are ringing today, it is me showering you with compliments in our teacher's lounge!"
—Highland Elementary, Sylvania, OH

"After we hung up, all the students were putting in their requests for various books. Can't wait to read them all."
Westby Elementary, Westby, WI

Older Audiences

I speak to large and small groups of teachers, librarians, writers, parents and children, and the general public. Just ask! A few of the places I've appeared:
  • Spring Festival of Children's Literature, Frostburg, MD
  • Bank Street College of Education, New York, NY
  • School Library Journal Day of Dialog at BookExpo America, Chicago, IL
  • New York Public Library, New York, NY
  • Kutztown University Children's Literature Conference, Kutztown, PA
  • Doha International Children's Book Festival, Doha, Qatar
  • Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators Summer Conference, Los Angeles, CA
  • Lititz Kid-Lit Festival, Lititz, PA
  • Virginia Festival of the Book, Charlottesville, VA

My fee varies depending on distance and number of programs. I offer substantial discounts to schools within two hours of Lancaster, PA. (This includes parts of Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey as well as 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 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 (for instance, a hotel may provide a free or discounted night's stay for a visiting author). 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 or check out 21 Ways to Fund Author Visits.
  • Inspiration: The All-Time Greatest School Fundraiser |$2000 In 3 Hours
  • 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.
Organizing an Author Visit   Geared to parents' clubs, from

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