Interacting with people of all ages is one of the highlights of being an author and writing instructor. —and about 100 times more fun than revision! However In school presentations I do talk about the importance of revision and how mere curiosity and “small moments” can lead to story ideas and story beginnings. Narrative non-fiction is the focus of my nature presentations. Librarians and teachers have praised them as engaging, inspiring, educational – awesome!
My goal is to ignite children’s imaginations and motivate them to plunge into writing, storytelling and art full STEAM ahead! Past questions from children are the foundation of my presentations. Library Media Specialists have a choice of presentations that integrate Common Core Curriculum standards.
Note: Each presentation A full-day booking can be tailored to include a mix of presentations; and/or creative writing workshops for grades 4 and 5. and/or afterschool presentations for educators: A Crash Course in Children’s Publishing or Developing “Small Moments” into stories suitable for books, magazines and online publications.
“How did you feel when President Barack Obama read THE MOON OVER STAR on TV?”
Awestruck. Moonstruck. Star Struck. Dumbfounded. Baffled. Dazed. Honored. Thrilled. Thankful.
The 50th anniversary of the first moon landing is July 20, 2019! It’s the year to celebrate those who dreamed, those who dared, those who persevered—and those who achieved.
THE MOON OVER STAR, illustrated by Jerry Pinkney, is the story of a girl named Mae—the granddaughter of a poor farmer—who is dreaming of becoming an astronaut as she and her family watch the first moon landing. The year, 1969, was one in which girls’ career opportunities were limited. For girls, becoming an astronaut was among the most impossible dreams to dream. Standing up to discouragement and rising above the limitations of poverty, race and gender demanded from the dreamer courage, determination and persistence. Mae did just that.
While the main character, Mae, might have been based on the life of Dr. Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, she isn’t. Jerry chose to transform the “I” of my text into an African-American girl. He named her Mae, after his mother. Star is a real town in Texas. My son’s second grade teacher was on her grandfather’s farm in Star watching the moon landing on TV, surrounded by a family as warm and loving as Mae’s, both the character’s and the real-life hero’s.
THE MOON OVER STAR contains aspects of each letter of STEAM.
“Why is there nature?”
One of my favorite questions is now the title of this interactive science presentation. To attempt to answer that, we follow the scientific method of asking questions, observing, making guesses, researching and communicating findings. HOW does a butterfly eat? WHY are some eggs pointy? WHERE did that rock come from? WHAT does a cave swiftlet build a nest with? (spit) WHO eats beetles? WHEN did nature begin? I talk about the writing process—the journey from idea to book, including curiosity, focused thought, research and revision, all of which require discipline and perseverance.
I also emphasize that nature is the best source of renewing one’s mind, body and spirit, and is particularly relevant in today’s age of rapid technology and standardized testing. Studies show nature relieves anxiety and has the power to improve performance on cognitive tests, memory tasks and problem-solving.
Focus: the S in STEAM.
Out of all the books you have written, what is your favorite?
DREAM SOMETHING BIG, illustrated by Susan Roth, the biography of an Italian immigrant who, with found objects and trash, spent his free time building Nuestro Pueblo, Our Town, an enchanting fantasy of towers, fountains, glass cactus gardens, birdbaths and even a ship! By recycling, reusing and repurposing, Simon Rodia channeled his innate skills as an architect and engineer into a national landmark now known as The Watts Towers. Except for cement, wire mesh and steel rods, his materials were free. Neither circumstance, lack of riches, a time clock nor ridicule kept him from making his dream a reality. It’s likely this unsung genius had dyslexia. He “wrote” his story with art. The book is dedicated to my son, friends and heroes with dyslexia and I weave that into the presentation.
Focus: the E and A of STEAM.
“Why did you write about an orange?”
AN ORANGE IN JANUARY, illustrated by Julie Maren is an (unintentional) Social Studies book inspired by a homeless man. On a cold, wet January day in 2002, he stood to the side of a long line of post-holiday traffic holding a cardboard sign that read: HUNGRY, HOMELESS, Please help. I witnessed an act of kindness and tenderness so lovely, I knew I had to write about it. The story first appeared in an anthology of “ordinary heroes” published by Guideposts. Later, a fellow author read it and said, “You know this is a picture book.” I hadn’t.
What I’d observed was one of those “small” moments that had a remarkable ripple effect. Angelic teachers appear in many forms, whether in classrooms or by the side of the road. This book follows the journey of an orange from orchard to playground. Why the orange ended up on a playground instead of in the hands of a hungry man is a story itself of the publishing process.
The standard session is 55 minutes. A full day includes up to 3 presentations (a half day, 2). Both can include “Lunch with the Author,” and/or a book-signing, and upon request, a brief one-to-one or small group mentoring conversation with students who need an extra bit attention and encouragement.
A full day is $1000, a half day, $700. Travel expenses, modest lodging, and a small per diem are additional expenses. Often, two or more schools in a district partner to reduce expenses.
My books should be on-hand at the presentation site, along with a table for their display. If available, a cordless microphone makes it easier for all to hear; a projector, clicker and the school’s computer to show my PowerPoint; preferably a document camera; water—and coffee please! A big hit and something I enjoy is “Lunch with the Author” with a small group of students and/or educators. Any food is fine, whether it’s take-out, potluck, the school or a nearby cafe. I have no dietary requirements.
Yes! We will arrange a meeting according to your time zone, national or international.
I hope so! But they’re optional. Children usually want at least one book after a presentation. Too, book-signings are a fun way to chat with them individually. The fee for a virtual visit of up to 45 minutes is $100.00.
It’s easy. The very best way is by working with a local bookstore—an independent one when possible! They can handle orders and offer discounts to your school. These booksellers will return to the publisher any unsold books. Ordering directly from the publisher is also an option, but it requires time and effort, and any unsold books purchased through this venue cannot be returned.
You should sell prior to the day of the presentation but do order extras so they’re available on the day of the visit. When you order through a bookstore, you only pay for what’s sold, so it’s ok to order more for people who haven’t prepaid. I recommend having on hand adhesive labels I can sign for students who will be purchasing/receiving books after the date of presentation.
We had learned about authors, but to meet one face to face is an amazing treat! Dianna was engaging to my young students. She let them lead with warm up conversation and had everyone comfortable and all in. This is so hard with Kinders virtually (or in person!). I was impressed and grateful that she shared a screen with a digital version of her book “Loony Little” so my kids could follow the story and enjoy the illustrations. After we listened, Dianna helped my kids make connections and apply critical thinking about how they can make a difference in slowing climate change. I am a big fan of revealing to small children the power they have and their purpose and impact on the world. I have been using Ms. Aston’s books in my classroom for years, throughout several units. Her work is perfect for connecting students to nature, inspiring them to wonder, and provoking them to think critically. Thanks Dianna!