School Visits

PS11 School Visit

I’d love to visit your school!

As an author, I spend a lot of time on my own, writing and editing my books. So one of the best parts of my job is visiting schools, meeting students, and sharing what it’s like to be a working novelist. I have developed a series of workshops designed not only to read my work, but also to inspire an interest in creative writing, music-making, and a lifelong love of reading and storytelling. All workshops can be tailored to fit your classroom’s needs, and mixing and matching is okay. So please feel free to let me know what best suits you!

Reading & Discussion Hour: A Song for Bijou (1 hour)

I will read selections from my middle-grade novel, A Song for Bijou, discuss the music and experiences that inspired me to write the book, and moderate a discussion with the students about writing and creativity.*

*Depending on budget and availability, I can bring along a master drummer of the Haitian rara music featured in A Song for Bijou to play for the students, and teach them some of the rhythms featured in the book.

Reading & Discussion of Rules to Rock By and Companion Album (1 hour)

After I wrote my first novel, Rules to Rock By, I formed a real-life band based on the book’s central characters, and together we produced an album and toured bookstores and clubs around the country. In this workshop, I will read selections from Rules to Rock By and talk about the similarities and differences between writing prose and crafting songs. I’ll even bring my guitar and sing a couple tunes from the album!

The Soundtrack of Your Life (1.5 hours)

This is an expanded version of Reading & Discussion of Rules to Rock By and Companion Album. With the extra time, I’ll go into more detail about the craft of songwriting. Then I’ll lead an activity in which kids are encouraged to write new lyrics to well-known pop songs using major autobiographical events from their lives. They’ll see the songs come to life when I sing them accompanied by guitar.*

*Depending on budget and availability, I can bring along famed reggae musician Ossie Dellimore, a native of St. Vincent and longtime resident of New York City, to play and sing along with me.

Writing a Novel: How Did This Get Made? (1.5 hours)

In this workshop, I’ll take students along on the journey of writing a novel: the first spark of the book’s central idea, drafting the outline, writing, revising, getting feedback, editing, collaborating on the design, and at last, seeing the final product in print and sharing it with the world.

Writing is a lot of fun, but hard times are an inevitable part of the journey, too, and overcoming those frustrating moments can make the difference between the success or failure of a book. I will show students excerpts from “behind the scenes”: early book concepts that never made it off the ground; nascent versions of published works that changed directions drastically; and actual revision letters from my editors.

Finally, students will be asked to think of a time when they were frustrated and felt like giving up. Then I’ll lead a creative writing exercise geared to turn that experience into a written work of art.

Prerequisite: Students should have read at least a portion of A Song for Bijou in advance.

Stranger Than Fiction (1.5 hours)

After the publication of 2010’s Rules to Rock By, about a sixth-grade rock band, I formed an actual band, The Bungles, with real kids and adult rock stars, recorded an album, and toured the East Coast. When A Song for Bijou (2013) came out, I gave the book to the members of Dja Rara, the Haitian American band that inspired the novel, and invited them to appear with me on radio and television.

In this workshop I will read parts of Rules to Rock By and A Song for Bijou and discuss my creative process, which not only involves fictionalizing real people, but collaborating with them once a novel is in print. Then I’ll lead a fun creative exercise designed to help students learn to mine their own lives for inspiring story ideas. I’ll conduct a timed creative-writing exercise to help them bring their own true tales to life.

I’d love to visit your school!

For all inquiries or to invite me to your school, get in touch:

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