School Visit: Cherry Valley-Springfield

This past Friday I had the pleasure of presenting to and running writing workshops at Cherry Valley-Springfield. It was a fantastic day, in spite of the brutal cold outside, and that was due to the phenomenal students, who were a fabulous audience as well as engaged writers. I loved the energy and enthusiasm and truly hope the everyone who is reading my work or is working on their own is enjoying.

For any educators reading this post, who are wondering what a typical presentation/workshop day is like, let me provide some details, and if you feel as if you’d like me to visit, please reach out.

The American Hotel

While not required, I was quite appreciative of the fact that CV-S was able to put me up the night before my visit, because driving a distance in the morning in winter in Upstate, NY can be daunting. And I was THRILLED to stay at The American Hotel. From their website: The American Hotel was built ca. 1842 by Nicholas LaRue. After being vacant for more than 30 years, current owners Doug Plummer and Garth Roberts purchased the decaying structure in 1996. After an extensive five year renovation, the American re-opened its doors May 23, 2001. 

Not only was it a beautiful building, but the food was outrageously good. Just check out this Rachel Ray approved Maple cake dessert.

Now, for the actual day. I typically provide an auditorium presentation, where I can speak about multiple topics regarding writing and publishing. At CV-S, I spoke to grades 7-12 about what I write and why I write it. I managed to complete this multi-media presentation within 35 minutes, but I can hold a crowd’s attention for an hour if needed.

*I would love to include pics of the CV-S crowd, here, but for privacy reasons that’s not happening. Therefore, imagine an auditorium filled with teens, not on their phones (props to CV-S for that enforcement), and thoroughly paying attention, while wearing these fantastic pins, made by the awesome school librarian Audrey Maldonado.

After lunch, I met with two separate groups for writing workshops, the high school students first, and the middle school students second. I typically ask that these sessions are filled with students who are genuinely interested in writing, and CV-S certainly respected that. Between the two sessions, I taught 40 students about how to plot and structure a story, and then how to make each section of that story come alive with particular writing strategies. For 90 minutes, on a Friday, before a long weekend, each session was fully engaged. I credit that to the selection of students and their genuine interest.

In each session I help guide the students through their own writing with a whole-class example. The HS students created a bank-robbery-out-of-necessity story, which ended on a poignant note. The MS students created a story about going over the top to demonstrate one’s love, with all things, a jar of pickles. They created a sweet and sensitive story in which a incredible flashback sequence was strung through to add depth to the story’s ending.

Look, it’s me teaching.

Fun was had by all, and I have no doubt that the students who are now reading my books because they saw me are more engaged with that reading. The students who are writing with my strategies now have new paths of entry into their stories. Having authors visit (not just me) is a powerful way to bolster students’ reading and writing skills. It was a phenomenal day with phenomenal teens. I had a blast and was so happy to be invited. So, thanks again, CV-S! For the educators out there, if any of the day described interests you, then reach out, because I hope to see you soon.

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