What's the One Question Everyone Asks Writers?
love visiting schools and have enjoyed talking with young people
(usually in grades 4 and up) in a number of states, including
Massachusetts, Maine, Colorado, Michigan, and Nebraska, and I've
been a writer-in-residence in several Massachusetts schools.
When I talk with kids about writing and about my books, I usually
tell them I'd rather answer questions than make a speech, but
I also say that I'll start by answering the one question most
people always ask anyway: Where do you get your ideas? I explain
how what I found in the fridge one dark night when I was hungry
led to my vampire books, and how four little silver circles in
an old jewelry box helped lead to my Fours Crossing fantasy sequence.
usually go on from there to the kids' own writing, to some of
my other books, to how a book is made, to how writers are paid,
to the writing process (including revision!)—whatever the group
seems to want to know about. If they're interested, I show them
book contracts, research material, proofs, messy revised manuscripts,
and so on. Sometimes with younger kids I've used creative dramatics
(which I used to teach), or intriguing props to help them develop
their own story ideas and/or characters.
adults and older kids, depending on the group, I often focus
on specific books—Dove & Sword,
for example, if the group is interested in historical fiction; Annie
on My Mind and/or The Year They Burned
the Books if they're interested in my books about gay
and lesbian characters and themes, and/or in censorship issues; Endgame if
they would like to discuss that book and/or the problems of bullying
and its prevention.
LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender) issues in general and the history and development of LGBT literature for children and young adults are special interests of mine. I've spoken about them at "diversity day"-type programs, and to various other groups of young people, including those in gay-straight alliances, plus to groups of librarians and teachers.
Because I was deeply involved
in combating the censorship attempt in relation to my book Annie
on My Mind (my nonfiction book Witches has
also been under fire, and a couple of others as well), I've done
a good deal of speaking about censorship and challenged books
(other authors' as well as my own). This has been primarily to
regional and state library associations in many parts of the
country, and in conjunction with the American Library Association's
Office for Intellectual Freedom. I've also spoken before such
groups as the American Civil Liberties Union and the National
Association for Multicultural Education, and I've both spoken
and run workshops on various subjects at writers' conferences.
Bulllying, a subject touched on in children's literature for many, many years, has recently received increasing attention both in books for children and teens, and in the press. At last, school personnel and other professionals who work with young people have become more aware of the damage bullying can do to victims, bystanders, and yes, to bulllies themselves. The main character in my book Endgame, which is about a school shooting, has suffered sorely at the hands of bullies. Because of that, and because studies have shown that bullying has been a factor in many real-life school shootings, bullying itself is usually part of my talks about about Endgame.
I feel strongly that bullying is not, as some adults believe, a "normal" part of childhood that therefore should be allowed to run its course. And I am deeply disturbed that it has moved into cyberspace and, in both its traditional form and as cyberbullying, has led to the suicide of some of its victims and has been a factor in school shootings, in addition to causing the pain, fear, physical and emotional damage, and absenteeism that have always been its outcomes.
There are now a number of good books for kids about bullying, and I, like other children's and YA authors, have recently begun to add speaking about some of them and about bullying and bullying prevention in general to the other topics that engage us.
Because I encourage
a lot of interaction with any group I address, I prefer small
groups to large ones, especially when I visit schools, although I do occasionally make exceptions.
When I go to a school, I find I tend to run out of steam after
about four 40-45-minute class sessions, so I prefer not to exceed
Wherever I go and whatever the subject, I always enjoy meeting new people, talking with them, and learning from them. Regardless of the place or the situation, staying in touch with my readers is one of my special pleasures!
To book school, library, or conference appearances, please contact me, or, if you're primarily interested in Endgame, firstname.lastname@example.org. For Skype visits to classes, libraries, or GSAs, contact me or Monica Carter at LGBT Writers in Schools.