I’ve done a variety of presentations at PAX Prime, GenCon, Emerald City Comicon, Northwest Bookfest, and Wordstock, and I had the pleasure of being a 2012 Industry Insider Guest of Honor at GenCon. Here are some of my favorites:
Sympathy for the Devil: Creating Killer Villains
Fascinating and devastating in their sharp suits, with their killer smiles, and their eyes that will eat you alive, villains are strong, smart, and motivated. They have that lean and hungry look. They stand alone. And say what you like about villains, but they know what they want. And that confidence is sexy. Without the villain, there is no story. Without the villain, the heroes aren’t heroic. And without the villain, things are a lot less interesting. What is Star Wars without Darth Vader? Who is Harry Potter without Voldemort? Kick your book up a notch and learn the secrets behind creating killer villain in this seminar.
So, You Want to Be a Hero: Creating Captivating Heroes
Heroes. They could as easily be called dreamers, idealists, or idiots. Driven by demons of their past, heroes fight for abstract concepts like truth, love, and honor, and would risk life and limb for people they’ve never met. It’s not a very sane approach to a long life or happiness. But despite all that, we need our heroes. They stand up and fight when every sensible soul is saving their own skin. They care when everyone else has given up hope. They are the best of us. But what drives them to risk it all—and what makes them so compelling? And most importantly, how do you design a good one? Learn about creating compelling characters in this seminar.
Making Magic Work: Designing Magic Systems
Magic is the backbone of fantasy. It should make you want your own wand—and look for the signs of enchantment in found objects. It should make you concentrate really hard on a couple of twigs wound with grass, willing it to turn into a flower. And it should make you open doors and hope, just for a second, that you’ll emerge in another world. But to do all that, you’re going to need to think seriously about exactly how magic works in your world. Sure, you can make things up in fantasy, but consistency is what gives your story the elements of surprise, tension, and believability. Magic opens up whole new worlds of possibility—and with those, possible holes in your story. Learn how to take people over to the other side in this seminar.
How to Craft a Damn Good Fight Scene
A hallmark of the fantasy tradition, nothing gets your pulse pounding like a good fight scene. It’s better than coffee in the morning, and worse than a Red Bull at night—especially if you’re trying to get to sleep sometime before dawn. And yet, despite their frequency, there’s nothing harder to write. Take your fight scenes to the next level with this seminar.
Kids Presentations & Workshops:
I’ve done presentations and interactive writing workshops for the Girl Scouts, schools, conventions, literacy events, and libraries. My favorites involve working with the kids to write their own stories. There’s nothing like having a book you wrote that you can take home when you’re a kid—and still sit down to read twenty, thirty, or even fifty years later.
How a Book Is Made (2nd-5th grade): A Power Point presentation filled with pictures on how a book is made, from the start of the idea, through the writing, editing, and art creation, all the way to the printing press. In addition, I go into detail about my books and my publisher in particular. Depending on scheduling, I often work in concert with Emily Fiegenschuh, the cover artist for three of my books, in the presentation. Kids and teachers alike have had a strong positive response to this style of workshop.
Shared World Workshop (2nd-5th grade): Kids work together with me to create a shared world. The world includes three kingdoms with different kinds of people, three different rulers, and three adjectives for each kingdom. Then we come up with three or so plot hooks, like one queen’s crown has been stolen, or there’s a monster in one kingdom’s woods. All the kids create stories in that world and illustrate them. Finally, the kids share their stories. All the stories are bound into a book called “The Stories/Adventures of [Name of the World].”
Writing Prompt Workshop (3rd-12th grade): In this one, we start with an object and, as a group, we develop a short story by asking questions. We write good questions on the board. Once the kids get the hang of it, I bring out five to ten interesting objects and put them on a table in the front of the class. Every kid chooses an object to write about, and then they write and illustrate a story inspired by it. The questions we came up for as a group help guide the kids in story creation. After all the stories are complete, we the kids share their stories. All the stories can then be bound into a book for the classroom.
Monster Story Workshop (1st-5th grade): We start with a discussion of different kinds of monsters. Then the kids each design their own monster. They decide things like its personality, where it lives, what it eats, what its family life is like, what it likes and dislikes, and what it looks like. They then illustrate and write the story of that monster. Depending on scheduling, an artist may be available to come along and describe the process of creating monsters from an artistic standpoint. All the stories are then bound into a book.
- For examples of my writing advice, please check out my column, Writers Don’t Cry.
- For reviews of my work from writers, please check out my testimonials.
- Ready to schedule an event? Please contact me.