One of the great things about writing is the opportunity to share with the kids for whom I write.
Meeting with them, talking to them and getting them to realize their own potential and possible passion for writing is something that gives me great pleasure.
Below are some examples of workshops I have created for these visits. My presentations can also be tailored to your needs, and I am happy to give talks on the writing process to aspiring adult writers as well.
Come join me as we try doing all the fun things an author does!! An author’s best work happens when they write about something they know well. So what special talents or hobbies do you have that could make for a great story? Let’s pick one. Perhaps we want to write about what it’s like to be a pilot. We’ll need to do some research first. Should we try on a pilot’s helmet and see how it feels? How can we describe this feeling to others? And every story needs great characters. So let’s create some together. How can we make them interesting and memorable? And when we’re done with the work of an author, let’s put our ideas, characters, and research all together to create our own very special story!
A boy who wants to break the world record for the most clothespins clipped to one hand? A girl who can remember everything with one quick glance and then re-draw it perfectly? A dog that can dance the polka? Great characters help make your story have punch. Memorable characters have quirks and distinctive voices. So how do authors go about creating these unique characters? Come find out during this 45 minute presentation. And then, using some recycled Halloween costumes, let’s create some characters of our own. No preproduced characters are allowed (eg. Little Red Riding Hood). Only originality is acceptable. Eventually, you will come to see that the most interesting characters are the ones with the most unusual traits, and that an author will know more about her character than a reader will ever learn.
Writers are like magicians. We pull stories from our heads like magicians pull rabbits from their hats. Right? Wrong! It may look simple but writing a book, like performing magic tricks involves lots of practice, hard work and many failures! We’ll take the time here to examine how a writer’s job is much a like a magician’s, full of patience and determination and creativity. And how, if the writer, like the magician is successful, they both can create the illusion for their audience of pure and utter magic!
Dragons? Aliens from outer space? Zombies? Is it really necessary to go that far afield for really great stories? Absolutely not! Let me show you how easy it is to find wonderful stories right in your own backyard by “stealing” from your family or friends. Hear how I pirated all my ideas from those who love and trusted me most. And let me show you how a little bit of reality and research are hidden in every one of an author’s books. Then, I’ll share with you some easy questions based on the four components of a book that you can ask your own family or your friends to prompt discussions and ideas you might steal for your school assignments. Who knows? By the end of the presentation, an idea for the next Great American Novel might just be discovered lurking in your classroom!
AUTHOR EXPLORERS AND THE QUEST FOR PUBLICATION (4th, 5th, MIDDLE SCHOOLERS and HIGH SCHOOLERS) – 1 HOUR:
Do you wish you could step back in time and be an explorer of old? Writers’ jobs are, in fact, a lot like being the captain of a ship on a voyage of exploration. You don’t know what you might encounter: unexpected dangers, uncharted waters, high seas, destructive storms, or odd creatures. Come on the voyage with me for an hour and see how you, too, can become the captain of your own story. Learn how you can make that voyage as successful as possible through choosing such things as the best boat, the most interesting crew, and the most reliable maps! Explore the time-honored traditions of research, revision and rejection that are part of the writing journey. Together, we’ll examine all the dangers, glories and pitfalls of being a writer and how forethought and planning can make the voyage to publication a successful one!
All writers make loads of money and are followed by paparazzi wherever they go! Right? We wish! As with most things in life, fame and fortune doesn’t materialize without a lot of hard work. So come along with me on the journey to becoming a rich and famous star. Learn how most rags to riches stories involve a lot of slogging through the dirt before you even get a sniff of success. From tapping into your creative side to discover a unique story, to digging through journals and letters and libraries to create settings and gather facts, to creatively presenting your narrative in a way that both intrigues and inspires, you will learn about all the hurdles an author must overcome in order to rise to the top. And once there, the job is not done –from creating book trailers to blogging and virtual visits, learn what authors must do once they’ve “arrived” to remain rich and famous!
Have you read THE SACRIFICE or QUEST? Are you dying to know more about the story behind these stories? Specifically geared to THE SACRIFICE or QUEST, these presentations cover the research, writing and editing that went into bringing these stories to life. We will discuss challenges faced and obstacles overcome while researching the era of the Puritans or the age of explorers. We will discuss voice and its importance in any novel. You will be able to do some exercises relating to voice from real characters in the book. To finish it off, we end with a bubbling cauldron of moral questions. (These presentations are only for students who have read the book).
If you really want to be a writer, then this is the workshop for you. We’ll start with an in-depth talk about plot, character, dialogue and setting. We’ll examine voice and tension, strong first lines and character motivation. We’ll talk about climax, why arc is so important to any story and the significance of cliffhangers. And then, you’ll get a chance to do some writing on your own. Like real-life writers in college classes, we’ll share our work when you’re done and discuss what is good and what might need improvement. We will examine the value of revising and editing to produce a better book and make you a better writer.
PIRATES, GHOST BUSTERS AND GRAVE ROBBERS (HELPING KIDS PLUMB THE PAST FOR STORIES) FOR TEACHERS AND LIBRARIANS:
“I don’t know what to write about” is a commonly heard complaint from students. So how can you turn that complaint into compliance? Introduce your students to the idea of becoming pirates, ghost busters or grave robbers – all jobs I am sure they’ll take on with enthusiasm. How? In an hour long presentation, I will cover the tactics I have used as a writer of historical fiction to uncover great story ideas. From pirating others’ lives to searching in graveyards for hidden gems, I have used many techniques to discover unique ways of looking at historical events that are both interesting and fun for middle schoolers. Given originally at the Virginia Teacher’s Association’s Conference in Williamsburg, VA, my presentation offers librarians and teachers nine fun exercises to help prompt students into discovering the past. I provide handouts and great websites for further research, including the four qualities that make for good historical fiction.
School Visit Packet
Step by Step
BEFORE THE VISIT: It is best to plan a visit at least three months in advance. This allows time to firm up dates and prepare the kids for the upcoming presentation. Once the particulars of the visit are settled, I will send a contract, listing the date, the honorarium, any expenses to be reimbursed, the location, time and number of presentations. This contract will need to be signed and returned.
PREPARATION FOR THE VISIT: It is helpful if, before the visit, kids can be made aware of my books. If the teachers would consider reading one of them to their class beforehand, even better. In the “FOR TEACHERS” section of my website are discussion questions and/or activities for each of my books. I have been at schools where the kids are required to come up with a few pre-prepared questions. This has always sparked lively and fun discussions, and I highly recommend it. Promoting the visit through posters and school-wide announcements generally add to the excitement of the day.
EQUIPMENT NEEDS: I will need an LCD hooked up to a computer. I am technically challenged and do not know how to set the system up. So, you must have the system ready to go with an LCD and a laptop. I will provide the flashstick. I also will need to have water available during my presentations.
LUNCH: As my voice tends to give out toward the end of the day, I do keep my presentations to a maximum of four one-hour sessions per day. I am happy to have lunch with teachers or kids who have questions, but do ask there be lunch if I am to be there all day.
BOOK SALES AND SIGNINGS: My books can be ordered through local bookstores or the publishers themselves. (The contact department and phone numbers are provided in the BOOKS AND REVIEWS section of this area) I am happy to stay afterward and sign. I always find that having the books on hand for purchase makes a visit more memorable. Sending home order forms before the day is a good way to ensure that parents, too, are aware of the visit, and that every child, who wants one, can have a book for signing that day.
Short Author Bio:
Kathleen Benner Duble had sixteen car accidents before she was twenty-one. Being an at-home writer keeps her from hitting the road (or anyone else)! She is the author of nine books for children. Kathleen loves digging for unique historical fiction plotlines and encouraging students and lovers of books to look for great stories right in their own backyard!
Kathleen Benner Duble grew up surrounded by very talented individuals. Her father was a jet pilot in the Pittsburgh Air National Guard, and her sister, Lauren, went on to receive her wings and become a tanker pilot for the MAINEiacs in Bangor, Maine. Because Kathleen had sixteen car accidents before she was twenty-one, Kathleen’s father would not let her try her hand at flying. This was probably a very good decision.
Kathleen’s mother and younger sister, Mara, were both highly successful executives, fighting for spots in a mostly male-dominated corporate world. As Kathleen hated confrontations of any kind, this was not a wise choice of career for her either.
Her family despaired. What to do with a girl who barely looked up from the book she was reading to explore the world? Send her to college!
Kathleen graduated cum laude from Miami University, Ohio in 1980 (an easy task as most of college involves reading). She walked out with a diploma and a degree in Creative Writing. At last, she had found her calling.
But what do you write about when you’ve spent your whole life with your nose buried in a book? Kathleen began to look around. And for once, instead of princes and princesses and tales of adventure, she saw her own family right there in front of her with their unique stories to tell. Kathleen got to work.
In February 1999, she had a short story published in Highlights Magazine for Children, a story about a botched music recital with her sister. Her first book, Bridging Beyond, a young adult novel, about her grandmother, came out in May of 2002 and was an IRA Notable Honor Book. Pilot Mom, again about her sister, came out in May of 2003 from Charlesbridge Publishing. Her third book, The Sacrifice, a story about an ancestor discovered by her father, was released in October of 2005 by Margaret K. McElderry. This middle grade novel was a Junior Library Guild Selection, received a starred review from Booklist, was a 2005/2006 Book Sense Pick, a Jefferson Cup Noteworthy book, and an ALA BBYA nominee. It is also a Louisiana Reader’s Choice nominee, a Keystone State Award nominee, a William Allen White nominee, a Nevada State Reader’s Choice nominee, a Virginia Reader’s Choice nominee, a Great Stone Face nominee, a Sunshine State Young Adult nominee and a Massachusetts Children’s Book Award nominee.
In 1983, she married her very smart and talented husband and began to steal from him. Hearts Of Iron, about his family’s summer place, was released in October of 2006 from Margaret K. McElderry. It was a Winter Book Sense Pick and a 2007 IRA Teacher’s Choice.
In Bravo, Zulu Samantha! from Peachtree Publishing, Kathleen turned once again to her father to create the character of the crotchety old grandfather who is miffed at being forced to retire from the Air Force. Her father was an excellent role model! Bravo Zulu, Samantha! was an Agatha Award nominee, a Maine Student Book Award nominee and a Society of Librarian’s International Book Award Honor Book for Language Arts: K-6 novels.
In March 2008, Quest, a Cybils award nominee and a Boston Author’s highly recommended book, was released from Margaret K. McElderry. This book tells the story of Henry Hudson from four points of view, Hudson’s seventeen-year-old son, his girlfriend (a spy), his younger brother and one of the men who mutinied against Hudson. Kathleen found this story while reading to her daughters and waiting for the school bus.
In July 2008, The Story of the Samson, a NCSS Notable Trade Book, was published by Charlesbridge Publishing. The amazing adventures of this little boat were discovered by Kathleen while on a trip to Nova Scotia with her parents.
Phantoms in the Snow, her book from Scholastic that was released in 2011, tells the story of the Tenth Mountain Division (they were called Phantoms because they dressed all in white) and Noah Garrett, an orphaned pacifist boy who is sent to live with the tenth’s heroic soldiers. Kathleen found this story while trying to learn to ski (a skill she has still not managed to acquire) and by meeting a real live Phantom herself.
In Madame Tussaud’s Apprentice, from Merit Press, Kathleen explores the French Revolution from the point of view of the famous wax figure maker of the time. It was tough having to do her research for this book in Paris!
In her newest book, The Root of Magic, from Delacorte, Kathleen delved into the age old question: “Are we in charge of our lives or is our life pre-planned for us?” Fate versus free will is something that has interested her greatly, and she had a fun time adding a little magic as she dug deep into this conundrum.
In 1987, she became a mom – her very favorite job! And luckily, she got the job a second time in 1990. She is currently working on stealing stories from her two teenage girls, who live far more daring and exciting lives of intrigue and deception than Kathleen does.
Kathleen lives in Massachusetts with her wonderful husband and two fabulous girls. They all love to travel, but none of them are pilots. You can read more about Kathleen and her work on this website and you can also schedule a visit
ROOT OF MAGIC
MADAME TUSSAUD’S APPRENTICE, PHANTOMS IN THE SNOW
BRAVO, ZULU, SAMANTHA!: LISA ROWE AT 800-241-0113 X112
QUEST, HEARTS OF IRON AND THE SACRIFICE:
CUSTOMER SERVICE: 1-800-976-1726
IF PROBLEMS, PLEASE CONTACT JODIE COHEN AT
PILOT MOM: 800-225-3214
BRIDGING BEYOND: PLEASE EMAIL ME