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 The Feedsack Dress: Talks and Workshops.

Reading for Life

My life as a writer started when I became a reader in a one-room school. Some of the books I read remain popular with young people today. They certainly continue to influence my writing.

I reflect on how reading affected my writing during my formal education, my work as a magazine editor and freelance writer, and my novels today. Readings of short excerpts from The Feedsack Dress and my Show Me mysteries illustrate points.

Time: 30 to 45 minutes
Audiences: Libraries, book groups, classrooms, organizations

Developing Your Novel Idea

Turning an idea into a finished manuscript involves much more than putting words on the screen. I draw on examples from the Show Me mystery series and The Feedsack Dress in describing the four-step process followed in writing novels.

1. Coming up with a workable idea—recognizing the chaff and cultivating the seeds
2. Researching—learning genre conventions, using written and human resources, and deciding what facts readers have to know
3. Writing—finding your story, creating characters, and selecting point of view
4. Rewriting—evaluating the whole and polishing the prose

Time: 1.5 to 2.5 hours
Audiences: Writers, libraries, book groups

Interviewing for Fact and Fiction

Life teaches writers many of the skills needed to conduct the informal interviews typically needed while writing fiction. This session tells how to apply those skills and journalistic techniques for casual and in-depth interviews.

Time: 1 to 1.5 hours
Audiences: Writers, high school and college students

Polishing Your Prose

Good writers rewrite, but finding the faults in our own material challenges all of us. We need to focus our editorial eyes. My visual assessment system gives an objective way to identify such weaknesses as monotonous sentences, boring verbs, imprecise nouns, and ambiguous pronouns.

Time: 1 to 2.5 hours
Audiences: Writers, editors, teachers, writing students