Mysteries that Matter
I am an experienced public speaker, workshop leader and teacher. I have taught writing, literature, and English as a Second Language in the Boston area and in South America and worked in educational publishing for many years. I love connecting with young readers, and am happy to tailor my author talks and workshops to complement your curriculum.
Due to COVID-19 restrictions, all of my visits are currently virtual-only.
For the 2020-21 school year, I am offering free 20-minute school visits for a Q&A session. I am happy to visit your class or group by Skype, Zoom, or Google Meets.
Fees for Virtual Visits are as follows:
45-minute visit: $90 (presentation + Q&A; all ages)
30-minute visit: $75 (presentation + Q&A; all ages)
20-minute Q&A session: Free (all ages)
Online Writing Workshops: Please contact me for details; I am happy to customize for your particular class, club, or group.
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.
• 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.
• A Story’s Voyage. A variation on “A Book’s Voyage,” this discussion focuses more on the writing process – getting ideas, drafting a story or book, revising and editing, getting “unstuck,” writing with audience awareness, and dealing with criticism. I share real-life examples of how scenes from my books transformed across drafts and how I overcame certain story problems.
• Gearing up to Write: Ideas and Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? How do you know if your idea is a “good” one? In this dynamic, interactive presentation, I share unusual places where I found ideas and my process for developing them into bigger story ideas. I also give examples of where other authors often find ideas, and lead participants through a series of fun brainstorming activities to generate ideas of their own.
• 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.
• 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 exotic locales, and I also set some scenes closer to home. I discuss how I have turned my travel experiences into fiction – including “travels” in my own city. 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, releases in 2022. I am currently working on fresh content for workshops and talks related to this book, so check back for more details! This book has strong tie-ins to STEAM curriculum, and was inspired by my son’s project-based learning in grade four, volunteer work we have done together with a conservation group, and our ongoing efforts to be citizen scientists in our community.
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.
These books 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. Readers Guides with discussion questions and extra activities are available for each of my books and can be downloaded here: