School Visits, Conferences, and Motivational Speaking

Writing can be lonely. This is why I love getting out in the world and meeting kids, teachers, librarians, and groups of business creatives!

But—maybe because I spend most of my working time alone—speaking is also exhausting. So I limit myself to about 20 speaking events a year. This has me “on the road” about a week of each month, which is just the right amount for me. (Please see my note below about Skype/Zoom options!)

If you can book a year in advance, that will be ideal—but don’t hesitate to contact me with short notice for an event, just in case we can make it work. (If we can’t, I can help connect you with one of my writer/speaker friends.) You’ll find my most popular workshops described below, but we can come up with something new for your group, too!

Contact Me

Please contact me at I’d love to hear from you if you have questions about my books, my speaking events, or even your own path as a writer. I receive about 500 emails a day, though—so you might not hear from me on the same day. Usually I’m able to answer emails within 2 or 3 days, though—so if you send me a note and don’t hear back, just send another!

To save you some time and wondering, here are the most frequently asked questions:

Do you do Zoom visits?

Yes—Zoom, WebEx, Google Meet, Crowdcast, Microsoft Teams—I have worked with all the platforms, and I love to do these sessions! My fee is $250-$500 for a 30-45 minute session. If your budget is tight, I can do a session for $250, but I won’t be able to offer the substantial additional support via email, Google Docs, Padlet, or Flipgrid that I like to offer. If you are at a school that can afford $500/presentation, please opt for this “upgraded” level of service. Having extensive post-visit follow-up with students does create more of a sense of community and helps make a virtual program more special.

How much do you charge for a school visit or conference?

Depending on the time of year and the nature of the event, I can be flexible—but generally speaking, my fees are $500/session (virtual); $2000/day (local; less than 2 hours of driving); $2500/day (2-4 hours of driving); and $3000/day plus travel (if overnight travel is required).

Can you be my mentor?

I wish I had enough time to be a mentor to all the writers who have asked me to help them. I had a terrific mentor, the simultaneously stern and generous Myra Cohn Livingston. She even sold my first book for me, to her longtime editor Margaret K. McElderry. One difference between Myra (when I met her) and me (in my current life) is that I travel at least one week per month. Send me an email with your questions and let’s go from there—I’d love to hear from you.

A Typical School Visit Schedule

Zoom Visits

When I visit a school via Zoom, I usually do 2 sessions per day. This is because it’s often difficult for schools to schedule all grades during the same day. When I do a Zoom poet-in-residence, I usually have 2-3 sessions with each grade, spaced over the course of a month.

In-Person Visits

When I visit a school, the day’s schedule usually resembles one of these options.

Option 1 (in an auditorium, cafeteria, or gym)
30 min. assembly for grades K-2
45 min. assembly for grades 3-5
45 min. writing workshop for grade 4
45 min. writing workshop for grade 5

Option 2 (in the library)
30 min. mini-assembly for K-1
30 min. mini-assembly for grades 2-3
1 hour hybrid assembly/writing workshop for grade 4
1 hour hybrid assembly/writing workshop for grade 5

In my assemblies and mini-assemblies I use my Poetry Suitcase full of props to share poems on a wide variety of topics, such as:
—finding inspiration in family stories
—writing about everyday life
—dealing with rejection and failure

Writing Workshops
My favorite workshop for students is a metaphor/simile gift poem workshop that I call “My Mother Is a [BLANK]” (see below). Every student in my writing workshop will leave with a first draft of a poem plus an understanding of:
—rhyme, repetition, and rhythm
—the revision process (blending multiple drafts)
—nontraditional ways to publish

The hybrid assembly/writing workshop format blends a 25-minute assembly with a 25-minute writing workshop (with transition time in the middle).

Workshop Options

Need a creative nudge? Here are some of the workshops that I offer for students, teachers, librarians, marketing professionals, designers, writers, and anyone in need of inspiration.

In this session, every single poem gets kids hopping, stretching, running in place, and growing like trees!

Poetry Suitcase.
My suitcase is filled with a wide variety of props—a shark, noodles, a dog, a cat, a big pencil, and much more. Kids love choosing things from the suitcase, which makes them extra-eager to hear the poem that goes with the prop.

5 Tips for Being the Best Writer You Can Be.
In this session, I give 5 tips that motivate students and give them the confidence to achieve breakthrough writing. I also set up a metaphor/simile “gift poem” exercise that they can do on their own.

You Can Do It Right Now: A Social Justice Workshop
In this session, I share poems that will inspire participants to do what they can to change the world, starting with their own “little corner of the world.”

Share This with Your Decision Makers!

I understand that choosing a speaker for an event is usually a committee decision. One easy way for you to suggest me as a speaker is to share these two things: this printable info sheet and a summary of the “My Mother Is a [BLANK]” writing exercise that I usually do with students. You can send a link to this page or print and share in person. Good luck!