School Visits, Classes & Seminars
Answering requests for readings, school visits, seminars and classes, Janet Muirhead Hill has devised several programs. For school visits, Janet can provide interactive sessions with various exercises to stimulate creativity and imagination, adaptable for various age levels. She will share her experiences as a writer of what she calls "true fiction" and give reading, author talks, lessons, seminars, or classes that can span anywhere from a 20 minutes to a nine or ten hours, depending on the need.
First an foremost, Janet considers herself a writer of fiction—"true fiction"—for children. She defines true fiction to mean, "fiction that reflects experience rather than escaping it, stimulates rather than deadens," as Wallace Stegner put it, and at the same time, fiction that "seeks to improve life, not debase it." (John Gardner) The fiction she writes tackles issues that today's youth must face in their own lives. Although she writes from a fertile imagination, and her stories take on a life of their own in the writing process, she demands that her writing remains true to the characters she creates, to the premises she sets up, and to technically probability. In her seminar, she teaches how to do this, as well as how to stimulate creativity, write concisely, and hook readers and hold their interest. She also shows the need to see many points of view, while telling a story from just one. Further, she likes to emphasize the importance of believing in oneself and following one's convictions and dreams. She says, "Children are our most important resource. We will be handing a difficult world to them as they mature. Let's give them the tools—self-confidence, independence, integrity, and skills—to manage it wisely."
Janet gives teachers the following choices of presentations.
- Beginning the session with hand puppets, she will tell the story of how the Miranda and Starlight books came into being. Then, she will read a chapter, take questions, and discuss the writing process, giving the students material and opportunity to create their own stories.
- She engages the children in storytelling games by giving them a first sentence, a picture, or other stimuli to start the creative process. She encourages participation, inviting them tell or read their stories aloud.She shows and discusses the illustrations that complement the story, launching a discussion about their aspirations. She emphasizes the importance of having the confidence and perseverance to follow their dreams.
- Any of the above for K-3 can be adapted for this group.
- Discussion of the writing process, particularly where ideas come from and how to put them into story form. Follow this with writing exercises: (a) freeflow timed writings to circumvent writers block. (b) ask them to write a story based on a picture. (c) ask them to write a story based on a beginning sentence or five random words. Then allow them to share and discuss their stories.
- Present a lesson on concise writing, editing, and eliminating unnecessary words. She gives students the analogy that they are employers and that the words are employees. It is up to them to find words in their writing that are not doing a job and "fire" them.
High school, college, and adult ed. courses or seminars:
- Janet has developed a course outline for teaching "Writing True Fiction." It is a 9 hour course, but can be distilled into as much as half that if necessary, or may be expanded to one or two more sessions. It can be adapted for a workshop for community adult education, teachers, or for high school and college classes. Lessons covered include: "Writing what is true to you," "Showing, not telling," "Writing with a true purpose," "Staying true to your Characters," "Characterization," "Conflict", "Stimulating Creativity," "Tightening your writing," "Editing"and if time allows, "Writing Flash Fiction".
Suggested fees for her presentations are approximately the minimum standardized by the Montana Arts Council. Montana schools may contact the Montana Arts Council for partial payment of these fees.
Fees: $200.00/ day, $150/half day, or $600.00/ week.
Mileage: $0.45 per mile
Meals: $23.00 per day
Lodging: $65.00 per day, if more than 2 hours from home.
Fees for the course on Writing True Fiction need to be negotiated for it may vary in length, number of students, and distance from home.
To book Janet for an event, call toll free: 866-685-3545. After the initial phone call, Janet's preferred communication is via e-mail. She likes to involve teachers in planning the visit by giving them an overview of what she can offer and letting them choose what they believe is best suited for their students and their course of study at the time. This way we can have everything in order ahead of time. If desired, she is happy to bring books to autograph for anyone interested in purchasing them, and can provide flyers with order forms to send home with the students prior to the visit.
Depending on the activities they choose, the teachers can encourage the students to familiarize themselves with Janet's books, her publishing company and her biographical information by going online, and by reading some of her writing ahead of time. If students write something creative ahead of time, it can be used in lessons on writing and editing, though they will have opportunity to write in Janet's workshops as time and desire allows.
Suggested followup activities which Janet is willing to help coordinate include:
- An "open mic" type of reading for the students to share their creative writing, either in a school assembly or an evening in the community would be fun. It should include a chance for the audience to ask each reader questions, giving them a preview of what an author might do as part of promoting his or her book.
- She would also be willing to help the teacher and students produce and publish an anthology of short stories that the students write and edit as the result of her visit.
- Each of the six books of the Miranda and Starlight series have tests prepared and available on Accelerated Reader.
- Raven Publishing is creating a literature unit/study guide for the Miranda and Starlight books for classroom and homeschool use.
Children at risk:
Janet has a love for and interest in all children, including those with special needs. She will adapt her vists and programs to the needs of any group.