A Writer Teaching Writing

About 12 years ago, I began visiting schools so I could meet the children who read my books, talk with them, and learn what they were interested in. I enjoyed it so much I looked for teaching jobs in the schools too. As a result, for the last 10 years Iíve taught writing to Kindergarten through eighth grade and now work with mostly third and fourth grades in several NJ schools as an artist in residence, which means I see the same children each week for the entire school year. I also make short visits and have been to more than 100 schools in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and my home state of Indiana.

When I began teaching I was surprised to realize how much I knew about the writing process. I was also surprised to see how eager children were to write with me. Writing is one of the hardest things Iíve ever done so I try to share ways I have learned to make it easier with children. There are no formulas for writing, only structures and some rules, so I teach them that they have to make choices when they write, and think through a story or essay before they put pen to paper. In my classes there are no bad ideas, only ones that work better than others, which I believe is an important critical thinking skill to get across and an excellent way to build a childís confidence.

I teach children writing from a writerís point of view, which is different from a teacherís. I use my own books to demonstrate lessons and always make my workshops interactive. Interaction means I always learn something from the children, too. I am always fascinated by the way they express their unique ideas, feelings, and observations, and I find them a constant source of inspiration for my own material.

Selected Works

SACAJAWEA, A Guide to Lewis and Clark
In 1805, 16-year-old Sacajawea, a Shoshoni Indian, left St. Louis with Lewis and Clark to explore the Louisiana Purchase and help obtain horses from her tribe in Idaho. Carrying her newborn son on her back, her courage and contributions to the two-year expedition surprised the entire corps.
Picture Book
It Happened At Woodstock
In simple terms, this forthcoming picture book tells the story of the world-famous 1969 music festival, emphasizing the surprising size and peaceful nature of the event, with collage artwork using iconic photos of Elliott Land, official Woodstock photographer.

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