I am an extrovert in an introvert's job. These days, I sit in my office at home and write manuscripts. But, because I am a librarian by training, I love to talk about all aspects of reading and writing.
If you contact me for an event or visit, please suggest the days that will work best for you; my writing work is more fluid than your curriculum or work schedule, so chances are good that I will be able to work with your date.
My normal speaking fee is $500 plus travel expenses for a one-day visit or $800 plus travel expenses for a two-day visit. Beyond that, I charge $300 plus travel expenses for each additional day.
My travel expenses consist of a per-mile charge of thirty cents a mile if I drive to your venue or the cost of the airplane tickets and baggage fees if I fly to your venue. They also include a $25-a-day charge for meals. If I have to stay in a hotel, I pass on that hotel cost to you. I live in northern California and fly out of either Oakland International Airport (OAK) or San Francisco International Airport (SFO) if I need to fly to your event.
I enjoy any and all occasions to talk about books and reading and to connect with readers. Below are some of the talks I give.
Public libraries invite me in to talk to their teenage readers. But the teenage readers bring along their families (or the families bring the teenage readers). Other people see the posters and drop by, and before I know what's happened, my "teenage" audence ranges from toddlers to grandparents. That's fine! I like to find out what the crowd wants to learn and let their questions guide me. Then I sign special postcards for every person who wants one, so even the tiny children go away with a souvenir.
A variety of book clubs, from middle-school classes to adults, have invited me to visit. Talking about my books with people who have paid me the great honor of reading them is a tremendous joy.
I have done school visits of all sorts, at every grade level. I have talked to an auditorium full of students whose ages ranged from seven to thirteen, and I have sat down to eat a sandwich with middle-school students during a Meet the Author lunch.
Some schools invite me to visit all their language arts classes and discuss books and reading with the students. In these cases, I talk about the exciting aspects of being a writer, how a book is shared between writer and reader, where I get my ideas, and other general topics. Other schools ask me to talk about writing as a career. Some schools ask me to meet with their gifted and talented students to discuss creative writing problems they have encountered.
Some schools have asked me to visit every grade level so that the students could meet a real author. This was particularly important when I lived overseas in Germany, and my audience was a school full of American military dependents who might never have lived in the States. I have started out such days telling a story to the kindergartners and asking them to draw me a picture about it, then worked my way up until I was giving serious writing advice to the high school students.
Schools have invited me to their Young Author celebrations, and some have held Young Author conferences. For these, I usually give a one-hour talk on technical aspects of fiction writing, such as point of view, description, characterization, and dialogue. I have also given keynote addresses for the celebrations.
Writers' groups have invited me to discuss the process and pitfalls of publication with them. This gives me the chance to deliver truly detailed talks, and I enjoy answering the questions.
Perhaps my favorite thing to do is a two-day fiction-writing class at a school, usually for the language arts students. I can do this if I have two one-hour sessions with the same students. I teach the students the basic elements of a story, guide them through the pre-writing process, and then present common fiction-writing problems. The students do no writing; instead, they help me by answering questions during a fast-paced back-and-forth discussion.
I have taught this class to fourth- and fifth-graders as well as to middle-school students, and their teachers have been pleased with what the students learned. The students have been involved and interested as well: in every session, they have continued to ask questions right up to the last minute about every aspect of writing and publication.
One of the most challenging and rewarding talks I give is a motivational presentation to at-risk gifted students about difficulties I have had to overcome in my life. This is a topic I can really sink my teeth into. I've told students that I was a freak at their age—and I've shown them the photographs to prove it. I was a miserable outcast during middle school, but the choices I made during adolescence enabled me to achieve my goals.