The Best Kind of Research

Since I write nonfiction, everything I write is based on facts. Even if I "know" a fact, I have to back it up with research.

Often, my research is spent finding good online resources. Other times I pour through articles and books or interview experts through email or phone calls.

But sometimes, my research takes me away from my desk and away from my library.
Last week I made some phone calls to some of the museums and homesites related to Laura Ingalls Wilder and her Little House books. I needed some questions answered for my forthcoming book. (Look for it in 2020.) One of the people I spoke to volunteered at the Almanzo Wilder Farm in upstate New York. Jim answered all of my questions. Yet, that conversation convinced me I needed to get to the farm. I knew I'd get answers to questions I didn't even know I had if I went.

It wasn't easy, but Friday morning I came up with a plan to get me there. I was on the road later that afternoon ready for a research trip. You can read about my  at my blog, Little House Companion.

Most of us can't plan an overnight research trip in a few hours, but sometimes, when time is running out, you figure out what to do.

Kindergarten Loves Books

Recently I visited a kindergarten classroom for an informal author visit. I read parts of my book, Flowers, to them. They especially enjoyed the pollination activity and my "author visit assistant" Abee.

The students know flowers have the important job of making seeds for plants and insects, like honey bees are flowers' helpers.

And, they ♥ books.
I'm available for a limited number of author visits for the 2018-2019 school year. Book early if you're interested!

New Books!

Last year I was asked to write two books as part of Rourke Educational Media's series called Earth's Continents. This entire series excites me. I learned so much in my research and consultations for Africa and North America. Both of these continents are full of fascinating facts.

With a limited word count, it was difficult to choose what information to include in the main text. Thankfully sidebars and photographs are plentiful! 

The Earth's Continents series will be available in July. We'll be ordering the whole series for my family. If your school or public library needs to update their books about continents, I hope you'll consider this series. Learn more about ordering Africa and North America here.

Each book includes an activity and a recipe. I never would have thought to make peanut butter stew if I hadn't been writing about Africa. My cousin's husband shared his family recipe for atole, a sweet corn drink. I think of it as a warm corn smoothie and a hug from El Salvador.


Author Visit FAQ

Author visits let me teach children and talk about nonfiction writing. It doesn't get much better than that!

Recently, more schools have been asking questions regarding school visits. So I thought I'd answer these questions all in one blog post. (If you and your students are interested in some general questions about me as an author, you'll want to read this FAQ blog post.)
Why do you do school visits?
I do it to connect with students and excite and inspire them about reading, writing, science, and history. If a school chooses to sell my books, that's great, but it's absolutely not necessary.
Can you visit my school? 
I make every effort to make school visits possible. However, it's always helpful if the school has a flexible schedule.
Do you travel for school visits?
At this point most of my school visits are within driving distance though some require overnight accommodations. As long as a school is willing to pay for travel expenses, we can probably work out an author visit outside of my area of southeastern Pennsylvania and nearby Maryland and Delaware. Flexibility with dates is definitely helpful for nonlocal author visits.
How much notice do you need to book an author visit?
This completely varies. Ideally, I need at least 6 weeks notice. But I also have other personal and professional commitments (including deadlines) that prevent me from committing to an author visit. I do recommend you book early if you prefer a specific day, week, or even month.
Can you visit my library, book store, Scout group, homeschool group, church, or other group?
I would love to make that happen! Let's chat!
How much does it cost? Can you provide my school with a discount?
For the 2017-2018 school year, school visit fees are as low as $275 for a single presentation for local groups. See more author visit pricing here. Outside of my local area, fees are a bit more, and require more than one program. I try to keep my fees low (and have even been told by schools they are low). If fees are a concern, let me know. I don't want that to stop you from having an author visit.
What age groups do you work with?
Elementary and middle school students are my primary audience, but I've talked to high schoolers and preschoolers, too! I adapt each program for the age of the audience. Some programs are better suited for certain ages though.
Can you provide an evening program for parents? What about training for teachers?
Yes! I love talking to parents and teachers, too. As a former teacher, I know many teachers don't feel quite prepared to teach children to write nonfiction. I can help with that with a nonfiction teachers' workshop I've developed specifically for educators.
What are your programs like?
Each program is different, but I put a lot of energy into every one! If you've read the program descriptions and still have questions, I am happy to answer them. If you're curious what educators think of my programs, you'll want to read what they've said about them here. You may also want to check out this newspaper article.
How long are your programs?
It depends on the age of the audience. For kindergarteners and first graders, I prefer to keep the programs to about 30 minutes. Programs for older audiences are typically 45-55 minutes, but I can adjust the programs to your group's needs.
Do you provide writing workshops, too?
I can! I especially like to visit a classroom multiple times as an author-in-residence.
Will you do a book signing while you are here?
That's up to you as the organizer of the event. If you're interested, students preorder books ahead of time.
What can we do to help you with your program?
I love this question because if you want to have your students really excited during an author visit, it takes a bit of preparation beforehand-but not much! Read the books or even just passages from a book to the students. Visit this website with the students. Help the students think of questions in advance of what they really want to know about writing, insects, or whatever. (I've even seen students read questions because they didn't want to forget them!) Try to build excitement with your students in the weeks prior to my arrival. I highly recommend you read author/illustrator Kim Norman's story about two similar schools with completely different outcomes for her author visits.
What else should I know?
I love author visits. Really, but there are things you can do to help prevent hiccups in the day. Please have the slideshow all set up before I arrive. I appreciate a microphone, but it needs to be cordless. I move around so much that I'll trip over the cord! My author visits are full of energy, so please allow time for lunch (and a place to sit and eat) in the schedule. And remember, your students will get the most out of the author visit investment if the staff invest some time in preparing the students in advance for it.
How do I book you for an author visit with my school?
Contact me! The best way is to email me at After our initial communication, we may find it easier to talk on the phone. That works, too! I look forward to working with you!

I hope you'll still consider an author visit as an investment in your students with me or another author! It's amazing to hear how excited children become after hearing an author's personal story.