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What I Can Do in Your School

Let me detail my objectives for working with your students:

  • To introduce young people to a "real writer" so they will note that regular people like themselves write the books they read (or don't read, but might!)
  • To encourage them to think about what they read and speculate on what happens next.
  • To sharpen the sensory awareness of all students, on the premise that clearer awareness of the world around them and of their internal environment will enable them to write more freely and colorfully.
  • To assure all students that they have something of value to express, and to provide them with a variety of simple vehicles for that expression.
  • To provide each student with a writing experience in which s/he can succeed, regardless of conventional skills or creative abilities.
  • To enable students to view the sometimes odious experience of writing as fun, pleasurable, and satisfying.
  • [IF I'M ABLE TO WORK WITH A HANDFUL OF SERIOUS WRITERS] To provide a fair, honest critique of a piece of their writing, and to . . .
    • encourage them in their efforts
    • help them hone the creative and story-structure skills they have been working on with their teachers, and
    • guide them in setting realistic goals for themselves as future writers.

Here are some possible formats:

1. An Assembly (auditorium, gym floor, etc.): At such a gathering, I have an opportunity to chat about the writing process, my start, where writers get ideas, how artists design book jackets, etc. While this format isn't as effective as small-group meetings, it does encourage questions and has the advantage of covering every student in the school. Allow 45 minutes.

2. The Classic Class Chat: In the classroom or library, I talk and take questions about how I got started, show a few objects that have inspired me, discuss how books get made and illustrated, etc. Time allowing, this could include a few verbal "writing" exercises. This sort of presentation takes from 30-45 minutes and works with grades 4-12.

3. The Basic Writing Workshop: It focuses on sensory awareness and provides a guided writing experience that anyone can do, regardless of writing skill, mechanics, creativity, etc. Naturally, the creative kids will (if they choose to) do a more polished job, but everyone succeeds. There's time for sharing what they've written and a bit of POSITIVE feedback from me. I can always think of something kind to say, even about the most lifeless piece of writing. This sort of presentation takes 45-55 minutes and works best with anyone in grades 4-8, and with high schoolers who have at least a passing interest in writing. Please, no more than 30 in a group.

4. The Focused Fiction Workshop: I'd suggest three sessions of two hours each, spread over the week, or six hours all in one day, with students selected for their interest (though not necessarily talent) in writing. Students need decent language skills and enough confidence to participate in group experiences. A maximum of 20 students in each session. Involves a large variety of writing exercises, building toward a final product.

5. Experiential Talking/Writing Workshops with LD, PSA, BD, or Developmentally Challenged Students: In 20 to 45 minutes, I work with classes on sensory awareness and guided talking/writing experiences, according to the ability level of the class. I use lots of visuals. The mood is light, designed to assure success and a good time for all.

6. Open discussions with students in alternative high school settings, in relation to the political and social issues raised in my books: I'd recommend an informal atmosphere where people are free to express themselves on their own familiar classroom turf.

7. The Skinhead Movement and Multi-Cultural Appreciation: In preparation for my book SKIN DEEP, I've done considerable research on the neo-Nazi Skinhead movement in this country. I'm also involved in interfaith and inter-cultural programs, so I could visit with classes that are dealing with racial and ethnic sensitivity, etc. In the workshop setting, I'd recommend small groups of 15-20 people who are comfortable with one another and close to the same age, to maximize trust and sharing. However, an interactive lecture format is workable with larger groups of middle or high school students studying sociology or government. The cold facts on Skinheads are tempered by closing remarks on positive steps schools and communities can take to counteract racism, and on the value of pluralism.

8. I like working with parochial schools on ethical issues raised by my books. Jewish schools, JCC's, and synagogue youth directors can find me at Host a Jewish Book Author.


Go to:

Study Guide for Steal Away Home

Article in Kansas English Journal

Interview With Lois Ruby