I love talking with readers and having the chance to share my passion for history and research, writing, and my novels’ characters and themes. I learn something myself from the audience each time—a lovely and rejuvenating gift for any author.
Audiences large or small, young or “old,” in-person or virtual are equal delights for me. I have presented in formal situations like the National Gallery of Art or the Museum of the American Revolution; enjoyed the give-and-take of panels for organizations like the National Archives, NCTE, and literary festivals such as the Southern Festival of Books; and chatted with small, intimate gatherings of book clubs, library study groups, and writers’ workshops.
I particularly relish talking with students and educators. My books range in reading level from Kindergarten to Twelfth Grade, and the majority fall into the 6th-9th grade curriculum in terms of complementing/contextualizing history, civics, and the English literary canon. (Several of my novels, for instance, explore WWII, the American Revolution, and the Cold War’s Red Scare and Berlin Wall.) I especially enjoy being with a variety of classes in one school when teachers have developed an interdisciplinary study unit. (One WWII unit pulled in the History, English, French, Music, Science, Art, and P.E. departments!)
While discussing the history and facts contained in my novels to give a quick overview of the time period, I also show students the treasure hunt joy of research and primary documents in creating stories. I do that with examples from my own works (Alexander Hamilton’s letters to Peggy, for instance) and then providing creative-thinking prompts during the Q & A conclusion of my talk. I come armed with plenty of visuals!
You can get a sense of my presentation style on these videos and in the photos on this page.
Some additional specifics:
If you wish, I can jump centuries and novels from assembly to assembly, as grades may prefer to talk about different topics or eras. (I have gone from kindergarten with my picture books to high schoolers with the more advanced, older YA historical novels.) As a former magazine journalist, I can also address nonfiction writing and reporting techniques as well. It keeps the day interesting to have the variety! I am happy proof that once a person knows how to write, he or she can enjoy writing in multiple genres.
A full day includes up to three assembly presentations, a book signing, and an informal lunch OR afterschool session with selected students or teachers (if desired). Workshops (see below) are also available.
The most rewarding experience for your students is if they have already read the novel I am to discuss, or had some exposure to it, although I am happy to introduce them to the topic while there. Please take a look at my https://lmelliott.com/teachers-librarians section for lesson plans and discussion guides. Each individual book page also offers links to learning more, bios, “pop” culture of the era, etc. If you are teaching one of my books as part of your ELA, social studies, or history curriculum, please share your lesson plan with me and I will tailor my talk to those topics.
Books may be purchased from my publishers at a 40% discount when ordered for an author visit.
I am happy to Skype or ZOOM with students of all ages—that means adults and their book clubs, too! I can provide an hour-long session with a 30 to 40-minute presentation plus time for Q&A.
I do ask a small fee for such presentations, but the amount is negotiable if you are doing an all-class or all-grade read of one of my books, or if my presentation is tied to a book fair where my works are sold. I ask you to guarantee that you will not record my presentation to share with others.
You can see examples at https://lmelliott.com/videos.
Workshops can complement or be substituted for school assemblies or be offered as a stand-alone opportunity.
The Craft of Research and Writing
Focus on helping students understand how to “read” primary documents to both interpret history and to create stories. I display photographs or primary documents, ask students to tell me what they see, what they think it means, and then create a sketch, dialogue, or character study, using the photos as a springboard to both critical thinking and imagination. Emphasizing the most important “rule” of writing: show rather than tell.
This workshop can also be presented to teachers, providing educators with strategies for helping students analyze primary sources (and media) and techniques for promoting historical inquiry.
Creative Non-Fiction/ Reporting Stories
I was a magazine journalist for two decades, writing 5,000 word stories, covering women’s issues, mental health, and the performing arts. As such I can talk about interviewing, reporting, how to spot a story, and how to distill a large, unwieldy topic into a compelling, human narrative—techniques of “creative nonfiction.” I focus on the importance of multiple viewpoints, corroborating sources, revision, and editing, as well as writing to space.
This workshop can also be presented to teachers, providing educators with techniques for teaching creative writing.
Fees for appearances or presentations at schools, public libraries, book festivals, and professional conferences vary depending upon the length of day and travel. Please contact me for more information.