I have taught English literature, creative writing, and academic writing classes at Stony Brook University, Brandon University, and the University of Winnipeg (as of January 2019). I also love to work with teens and am available for author visits and writing workshops in libraries and schools. As a member of the Writers Union of Canada, I am eligible for the National Public Readings Program and the Ontario Writers-in-the-Schools Program. Both of these programs offer subsidies to schools and other organizations for author visits. For more information, visit my page at the Writers Union of Canada website, here.
Discussion Questions for schools or book clubs, prepared by Toronto District School Board English teacher and librarian Heather Davidson, are available here.
becoming a writer
In this presentation I tell the story of how I went from a shy kid who lived inside her books to a grown-up who writes them, with time for an age appropriate reading from my book, Q&A period and an idea generating writing exercise that helps students discover the stories they have in them to tell.
Voice is a term that’s used a lot when talking about writing, but what does it mean? And how do you get one? I can’t write a character until I have their voice in my head. In this interactive workshop students and I work together to unpack the idea of voice in writing. We'll look at diverse examples of strong voices in literature. I talk about how I crafted Jolene’s voice in my novel and do a reading from the book. Since voice connects to so many other aspects of writing such as character, plot and setting, I incorporate relevant literary terms as we go. Finally, I lead students in writing exercises that experiment with different aspects of voice and help them generate ideas. This workshop can be adapted to any grade level over grade 6 and can run anywhere from 50 minutes to 3 hours.
the writing process
Jane Austen wrote while her mother and sister sewed next to her in the sitting room. Hemingway wrote standing up before it was cool. Joan Didion likes to sleep in the same room as a book when she’s approaching the end of a draft. The advice about how to write is endless, overwhelming even, but what’s really important is figuring out how you write. This workshop introduces students to different writing techniques and concepts with the goal of demystifying the writing process. We’ll look at examples of different drafts of a poem, a short story, and an excerpt from my own novel, to show what that process can look like. We’ll do brainstorming and free-writing exercises and discuss editing and workshopping techniques. We’ll talk about all the various aspects of a story, how different writers work, and how to shake up your writing practice when you get stuck. Can be adapted to any grade level and time slot.
Once in awhile you find a book that completely envelops you with its story, and with a character whose head you can so wholeheartedly put yourself into that it almost hurts. You feel their pain and you are elated at their joys. You don’t want to put it down because you need to find out they will be ok first. This is that book and Jolene is that character. She will appeal to teens because she speaks their language and their fears. She will also be loved by all us adults who know what it’s like to live in those teenage insecurities and emotions. This is one of those rare novels I would recommend to any reader because we can all be made better by walking for a moment in Jolene’s shoes.
Curriculum Leader English Languages and Library
Georges Vanier Secondary School