My dual career as a children’s author and science journalist allows me to tell some unique stories, and I’ve visited more than 100 schools across the country in the past few years. The large, assembly style talks are meant to entertain, inspire and give kids a deeper look into the writing process. Generally I stress the idea that the same process applies whether you’re writing a one-paragraph news article, a homework assignment or a full-length novel. And I try to be funny. Usually these attempts are successful.
I’m comfortable working with Kindergarten through 8th grade, but not all at once, and I always tailor the talks to the audience, so the little kids aren’t hearing the same stories as the tweens. There’s a significant STEM component to all my talks, which feature flying robots and self-driving cars along with marked-up manuscript pages from novels, outlines and early notes from my books, and more. I’ve outlined a few of the talks and workshops below, but I’m also happy to tailor presentations to a school’s particular needs.
Some recent comments:
“Fantastic. So engaging. He really knew how to grab 10-11 year olds…Great lesson in explaining the importance of planning, editing, and revising.” – Hingham, MA Elementary School
“You were really enthusiastic and funny.” – Kiley, Grade 4
“The students were very engaged…they were eager to continue the writing started with Mr. Mone.” – 5th grade teacher, Marshfield, MA
“You were extremely funny. Really, I mean it.” – Aimee, Grade 4
“Besides the funny stories, I liked how you taught some things.” – Julia, Grade 5
Large Group Presentations
The Writing Process (3rd-8th)
My typical talk for large groups (cafeterias, gyms, auditoriums, fields, spaceships, etc.) begins with a focus on science and technology journalism before turning to fiction. At the start I review some of the wilder stories I’ve written over the years for magazines like Popular Science and Discover. I stress the importance of becoming an expert in whatever subject you write about, whether it’s brain surgery, flying cars, surfing, or family history. Then I talk the students through the entire process of writing a book, from the initial idea through the planning, the creative writing, the revisions, and the finished work. This talk is forty to fifty minutes long, and designed to entertain, educate, and inspire. I can also condense the entire presentation to 30 minutes, and not merely by talking faster.
The 39 Rules of Writing (3rd-8th)
There are enough bad books about the rules of good writing to fill a library. I’ve handpicked a few of my favorite rules, thrown in a few that I despise, and added a collection of random suggestions from kids to create my own exhaustive and occasionally contradictory list. For example, “Rule #12: Don’t start with a title. Write the story first, see where it takes you, then think about what to call it.” I do believe in that, and I find that it’s a good lesson for kids, who often suffer from self-inflicted writer’s block because they refuse to start writing until they think of their title. But I also believe in the next rule, # 13, which says, “Ignore Rule #12 if you come up with a really good title.” Each of the rules has its own little story behind it from my own experience as a writer.
Pirates, Robots, and Paper Bags (K-2)
An introductory presentation for younger kids focused on the basic elements of stories, including setting, characters, and plot. We focus on the different settings and characters in my pirate adventure, Fish, and work together to invent a pirate villain of our own. My rudimentary cartooning skills come in handy here, and this presentation lasts for 30 minutes, and fits up to 50 kids. With the youngest grades, though, I prefer to visit one classroom at a time.
Revising the Writer (4th-8th)
We completely tear apart and reconstruct The Adventures of Super Q, a story I created in seventh grade. We start with the big picture, then zoom in and run through exercises that give the students a deeper understanding of voice, sentence structure and fluency, word choice, and more. This is a great way to show kids what revision actually looks like on the page, and how to make a mediocre story shine. The exercises change based on the grade.
“Greg made revising fun which is a huge help to our work as teachers….a wonderful learning experience!” – 5th Grade teacher, Essex, MA
Treasure Hunting (3rd-6th)
Working both as a group and independently, we write a scene from a treasure hunting story set in a familiar place, such as the school gym. The students collect sensory details on the setting in question before class. We then use those details to bring the scene to life. This is a great exercise for showing kids the entire writing process; we outline, draft, and revise the scene in a single hour. It’s intense, but fun.
These programs are designed for three days or more.
Spark to Story (K-3rd)
As an author-in-residence, I work with students to conceive a story as group on the first day. On the second day, we plan out the story and details. Then I run home, or back to my hotel, and write it, and on the final day we read, review, and revise the quasi-finished piece. The students become a part of the process, yet they also feel like they own the finished story. More detailed examples, including a PDF of a few of the finished products, are available upon request.
Creature Feature (1st-3rd)
Over the course of several days I work with students as they research, outline, and draft a nonfiction piece about an interesting creature. The students also pick an assignment for me, and I end up researching, planning, and writing my own piece, modeling the process for them.
Mission to Mars (3rd-6th)
In this nonfiction writing workshop, we focus on the question of whether NASA and other space organizations should send humans to Mars. As a group we plot out the pros and cons of the mission – the risks, benefits, and rewards. After this session, each student drafts his or her own piece of persuasive writing based on these facts. They can either write in favor of a mission or oppose the idea. When I return for subsequent sessions, we share these drafts, then work together to revise and sharpen them.
Rates and Schedule
For references, fees and schedule, please contact the wonderful and very friendly Janet Zade, founder of Zade Educational Partners. She’s here:
Zade Educational Partners / 33 Talbot Rd / Hingham, MA 02043