featured speaker at writers' conference speaking about writing, poetry, and the Common Core 2003 White House Easter Egg Roll Camp Terry counselors doing "Lion Pose" yoga with Janet Wong

I’d Love to Speak to Your Group—in Person or Virtually!

The world of school visits and conferences has changed forever—and Zoom programs are here to stay! I’m so grateful to have been invited to speak all over the world in person—from Boston to Borneo—to share my stories and writing tips with children, teachers, librarians, parents, writers, toy companies, marketing experts, and women leaders in need of a creative nudge. Meeting people is my favorite part of my work, and I do miss being able to sit and chat over lunch and coffee. But I also love seeing children (in their little Zoom boxes) breaking into smiles, eyes wide with surprise and delight because they have a “close-up view” of the things in my Poetry Suitcase. There are some things that come across incredibly well via Zoom (that would be harder to show in person). So, whether you’re scheduling in-person or virtual events, please consider me for a visit. You can contact Allyson at Booked.com, an experienced bookseller who works with hundreds of schools and has seen me in action!

Lawyer to Poet

Almost 30 years ago I was the Director of Labor Relations at Universal Studios Hollywood, negotiating union contracts and firing people. The worst part was it was starting not to bother me. One night I announced: “I think I’m becoming a mean person”—and my husband agreed! I wanted to do something that would make me feel good. And I couldn’t think of anything more important than working with kids.

But I had been a substitute teacher when I was working my way through Yale Law School—and being a teacher is the hardest job I’ve had. I knew I wouldn’t survive as a teacher. Searching in a bookstore for gifts for my two-year-old cousin, I looked down at my armful of books and the idea hit me: “Someone wrote these books. Why not ME?

Children’s Author to Publisher

My first twenty-one books were published by traditional publishers such as Simon & Schuster, Harcourt, Candlewick, FSG, and Charlesbridge; I had been featured on Oprah and CNN; and I’d spoken all over the world, including at the White House. As a way to thank teachers who had supported my work, I started volunteering for literacy groups and was honored with appointments to the NCTE Commission on Literature, the NCTE Award for Excellence in Children’s Poetry committee, and the IRA Notable Books for a Global Society committee.

It was at one of these conferences that teachers first told me they needed more help with teaching poetry. So, in 2012, my friend Sylvia Vardell, a professor of children’s literature at Texas Woman’s University, and I set out do to just this: to create books that contain engaging poems for children AND mini-lessons or useful tidbits for teachers, librarians, and administrators. The dozen books that we’ve created, published by Pomelo Books, have become part of the curriculum in thousands of schools nationwide.

I love to share the story of my transition from lawyer to author to publisher. I’m told that my keynotes, assemblies, and workshops are inspiring, which warms my heart. It is my hope that you will hear my stories and get going to make your own dreams happen for you.