I’ve given the following presentations to writers, libraries, organizations, and students. I adapt these to fit the needs of a specific audience. For additional topics, go to Show Me Mysteries: Talks and Workshops.

Recalling the Days of The Feedsack Dress

Readings from the book portray farm life in 1949 and the
difficulties the only 13-year-old girl wearing a feedsack dress faces at a new school. Discussion focuses on remembering and researching the period and a key theme in the book: coping with being different.

Time: 30 to 60 minutes
Audiences: Classrooms (primarily fifth to eighth grades), book groups, libraries, women’s organizations

Putting Our Past into Fiction: Memory Is Not Enough

Many of us want to give a true picture of some part of our lives without reciting the facts. That impulse gives birth to many novels, including some of mine.

The Feedsack Dress isn’t autobiographical, but it offers an accurate portrayal of the people, place, and time. I share what I learned about drawing on personal history for fiction and writing the truth without recording actual events.

I also read short excerpts from the book to illustrate how to incorporate our personal and local history to drive the plot, reveal character, and establish the setting.

Time: 45 minutes to 1 hour
Audiences: Writers, libraries, organizations, book groups

Writing Historical Novels for Young Readers


All novelists follow a basic four-step process, but writing historical fiction for middle graders and young adults involves some special considerations.

  1. The idea—coming up with and shaping an idea that appeals to your intended readers and the adults who buy the books
  2. Research—finding the facts that can drive your plot and draw readers to your characters
  3. Writing—plotting, creating characters, and choosing point of view before and while you put words on the screen
  4. Rewriting—evaluating your own work, using feedback from others, and polishing your prose

Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Audiences: Writers and aspiring writers