Mysteries that Matter
This middle grade novel (written for ages 8-12) is well suited to the school and library market. With its themes of conservation, community science, and ecology, Trouble at Turtle Pond adds an engaging complement to a STEAM curriculum. The novel can also complement an English Language Arts curriculum, as it introduces young readers to the classic elements of mystery novels; the team of young sleuths piece together clues, investigate suspects, and analyze the suspects’ means, motives, opportunities, and alibis. Additionally, the novel supports a social-emotional learning curriculum in its exploration of friendship issues, from making new friends to resolving conflicts peacefully. It models mindfulness practices, as the Backyard Rangers engage in sustained observation activities, paying attention to the natural world around them. Finally, the novel speaks to neurodiversity by presenting a sleuth with diagnosed ADHD and a range of other characters
who think and see the world a bit differently.
I am an experienced public speaker, workshop leader and teacher. I have taught writing, literature, and English as a Second Language and worked in educational publishing. I love connecting with young readers, and am happy to tailor my author talks and workshops to complement your curriculum.
I currently have some availability in late April, May and June 2023, and am booking for Fall 2023.
(Special offer for schools partnering with Zoo New England’s HATCH program – free virtual visits and half off in-person visits; details below!)
I also invite you to check out and share my resources on TeachingBooks.net with students, including an audio account of the backstory for Trouble at Turtle Pond, an audio name pronunciation guide (it’s fun!), and a guest blog post on my journey from teaching to writing.
Fees for Virtual Visits are as follows:
30-minute Virtual Visit: $50 (15-20-minute slideshow presentation and short reading, followed by Q&A) (FREE for World Read Aloud Day and the month of February – offer ends 3/1/23)
45-60-minute Virtual Visit: $100 (20-30 minute presentation followed by Q&A; can include an interactive component like a writing activity or discussion, or a longer Q&A session)
60-minute Online Writing Workshop: $100. Workshops can be chosen from my topic list and modified for the length of time and the age group. Popular topics are finding ideas, writing mysteries, and nature writing. Please contact me for details. My virtual writing workshops use images for prompts, and can be tailored to different age groups.
In-person Visit: Half-Day: $250, up to two sessions (presentations or workshops) (If the location is greater than 60 minutes driving for me, I do charge a modest travel fee).
In-person Visit: Full-Day: $500, three to four sessions (presentations or workshops). (If the location is greater than 60 minutes driving time for me, I do charge a modest travel fee).
Long Distance In-Person Visits: $500 minimum daily rate, for up to four sessions (presentations or workshops), plus travel stipend (based on location).
SPECIAL OFFER FOR HATCH PROGRAM PARTNER SCHOOLS!
If you are a school working with Zoo New England’s HATCH program and are headstarting turtle hatchlings in your school, I am offering free virtual visits, and in-person visits at a 50% discount of the rates listed above.
Please reach out to me if you are interested in an author visit but feel that the prices may be a barrier for your school or program. I feel strongly about providing all students access to authors and book events in schools. I am open to reduced or waived fees in certain situations.
Here are some of my most popular topics for school and library visits. All of these can be modified for a virtual visit; I will screen share, talk, and answer questions. All of my talks have a strong visual component. I use PowerPoint, with lots of photos I’ve taken myself.
NEW! Hatching a Book: How My Volunteer Work with Blanding’s Turtle Hatchlings Grew Into a Novel. This talk is well-suited for grades 4-6, and can help to bridge science and ELA. I tell the story of how my son took care of hatchlings in his classroom through Zoo New England’s HATCH Program, and how I got involved as a turtle helper too, as a parent and classroom volunteer. Gabe and I went on to do more work as “turtle helpers” in our community, including helping local biologists to track nesting female turtles, helping turtles cross our busy roads, and, finally, fostering ten hatchlings in our guest bedroom for a month to prepare them for their “headstarting” year in school classrooms. I share some facts about endangered Blanding’s turtles in New England and how a network of biologists, kids, teachers, and parents are working to protect them and to boost their population at Great Meadows National Wildlife Refuge in Concord, MA. I then talk about how I turned my real-life experience as a turtle helper into a story to make a bigger impact. I discuss why and I how I chose to write it as a novel instead of a nonfiction account. I share photos from my research to show ideas that influenced the novel. Finally, I encourage kids to explore what THEY are curious about, in nature or elsewhere, and to develop a narrative. This talk uses a lot of photos and typically takes around 30 minutes. It can be extended with a Q&A session and/or more interactive opportunities. Note: This presentation was developed under the guidance of Creature Conserve’s Arts + Sciences Mentorship Program (www.creatureconserve.com).
NEW! Becoming a Nature Sleuth: How I Write Eco-Fiction. This presentation describes how I plan, research, and write “Backyard Rangers” books with a conservation lens. From finding seeds of inspiration in nature, to taking myself on field trips, to volunteering with conservation groups, to collaborating and partnering with researchers and scientists, writing eco-fiction has made me a creative conservationist. This presentation can also incorporate writing exercises to get young writers inspired to write their own stories with conservation themes or about environmental concerns. It can also be extended to incorporate a discussion of eco-mysteries and how I work conservation themes into the mystery genre. The entire writing process from planning to revising / editing is covered along the way. This talk uses LOTS of photos, including many of wildlife I have encountered in my community. Note: This presentation was developed under the guidance of Creature Conserve’s Arts + Sciences Mentorship Program (www.creatureconserve.com).
A Book’s Voyage. How does a book become a book? Using examples from my own journey to publication (which began in grade school with teachers’ encouragement!), I explain how an idea can get developed, drafted, revised, and eventually sold to a publisher and into the hands of readers. I also discuss the process of revising and editing with a professional editor, marketing books, writing for oneself versus writing with audience awareness, and what an author’s life is really like.
Write What you DON’T Know: Researching a Book. My novels are meticulously researched and cover a wide range of topics. In addition to writing about different cultures, I have delved into such diverse topics as the Japanese yakuza, the life and work of Vincent van Gogh, bike mechanics, bicycle racing in South America, archaeology, goldsmithing, and Turkish shadow puppetry. Using examples from my work, I will discuss the types of sources I turn to, how I evaluate these sources, how I organize my research, and how I juggle researching with writing. This talk works best for older middle school or high school students.
Demystifying Mysteries. This discussion covers the craft of mystery writing, hitting the basic elements: sleuths, crimes, alibis, red herrings, and, of course, carefully planted clues. I discuss problems and challenges mystery writers (especially those writing for younger readers) can sometimes run into, and how we attempt to overcome them. (Note: This topic can also run as a writing workshop, and I’m happy to tailor the workshop to the needs and age of the class if you are doing a unit on mysteries).
Writing about Places. My novels take us to locations around the world, as well as closer to my home in Massachusetts. I discuss how I have turned my travel experiences into fiction – including “travels” in my own neighborhood. I also share some of my favorite tools for descriptive writing that create a strong sense of place. (This can also be a writing workshop tailored to the needs and age of your class, and it works quite well with younger students).
Author Q&A. I am available to answer questions about any of my books, writing craft and process, or the writing life. This format is best suited for my free 20-30 minute virtual classroom visits or for book clubs.
My new middle grade novel, TROUBLE AT TURTLE POND, has an accompanying Discussion and Activities Guide, which was developed under the guidance of Creature Conserve’s Arts + Sciences Mentorship Program (www.creatureconserve.com) and with input from classroom teachers and arts educators. A PDF of this guide can be downloaded for free. Please feel free to print it out and to share.
My three YA novels are TOKYO HEIST, LATITUDE ZERO, and BLUE VOYAGE. TOKYO HEIST was an Indie Next Pick and LATITUDE ZERO was a Junior Library Guild Selection. BLUE VOYAGE was selected as a Massachusetts Book Awards Must-Read for 2016. TOKYO HEIST is available in a paperback reprint edition from Speak / Penguin Random House. LATITUDE ZERO and BLUE VOYAGE are hardcover only and currently out of print, but still available in libraries and as e-books.
The three YA novels are stand-alone mysteries set in other countries (Japan, Ecuador, and Turkey) and feature strong female sleuths. They are marketed for grade 7 and up, but are appropriate for slightly younger readers too. Free Readers Guides with discussion questions and extra activities are available for each of my books and can be downloaded here: