Books are not the only way in which I share my knowledge and enthusiasm: I also conduct writing workshops and give speeches on the subjects I have researched. Below are a few of my topics. If you are interested in a particular topic, please contact me to ask about my schedule and fees.
When Women Played Baseball:
The Story of Margaret, Nellie, and Rose
In 1934 two teen girls, one from Illinois and one from Indiana, played hardball on a bloomer girl baseball team: a team that stopped in Wheeling, WV, specifically to pick up a third teen. These three young women — Margaret Gisolo, Nellie Kearns, and Rose Gacioch — came from very different backgrounds and had different reasons for playing baseball. When the season was over they followed different paths. But playing baseball on Maud Nelson's last bloomer girl team profoundly affected their lives and helped determine their careers. This presentation was chosen by the Illinois Humanities Council as part of its Road Scholar programs for the 2013-2014 season.
Mountain Passes in American History
In this riveting Powerpoint-type presentation, American history is told through the story of six mountain passes which played a critical role in the nation's growth. The story includes presidents and explorers, mountain men and engineers, merchants and settlers. Courage and determination, generosity and oppression, intelligence and carelessness — all are present in the confrontation between the westward-bound and the mountain passes they confronted.
Thinking Like a Mystery Writer
This 60-minute Powerpoint-type presentation explains how novelists think and how mystery writers follow or deviate from that thinking. The talk is full of examples from well-known mystery novels.
Self-Publishing Through CreateSpace: The Step-by-Step Process
This Powerpoint-type presentation gives a colorful, easy-to-comprehend program on how to self-publish a physical, hold-in-your-hand book at no cost, using Amazon's CreateSpace program. The visuals depict the real-life, step-by-step process of publishing a book through CreateSpace, from signing on and setting up an account; to making decisions on page layout, type face, and cover design; to submitting and proofreading; and, finally, to publication of the book. Those who attend this presentation leave feeling they have gained essential how-to knowledge for publishing their own book.
Jack and Larry
This is the true story of Jack Graney, his bull terrier Larry, the Cleveland major league baseball team, and the pursuit of the pennant. Jack Graney was a man of many firsts: leadoff batter, first man to face Red Sox pitcher Babe Ruth, first man to collect a hit off the Bambino, and first (and only) major leaguer to own a dog which was the official team mascot. This is a story of devotion, commitment, and persistence, illustrating what it means to be major league. The talk is accompanied by visuals and by a short reading from the book, Jack and Larry.
Keeping the Wolf from the Door: A Look at Idioms
This presentation examines aspects of folk wisdom as seen through idioms -- idioms about domestic animals, wild animals, work, relationships, and the environment. A few examples based on observation of domestic animals include: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make it drink” which has been around for 900 years; “Let sleeping dogs lie” for 600; “chicken feed” for only 200. This hour-long program is given with a colorful Powerpoint-type presentation featuring the idioms.
Charlie Chan's Poppa: The Life of Earl Derr Biggers
Because of my 1999 Timeline article, “Charlie Chan’s Poppa: The Life of Earl Derr Biggers,” I am often consulted by people wanting to know more about Biggers. Recently I was interviewed by Cloverland Productions for a Biggers documentary for 20th Century Fox’s DVD release of its Charlie Chan films. During the 1910s Earl Derr Biggers was a widely known and highly loved author. Had it not been for a 1919 vacation to Hawaii, where, lying on the beach, he conceived of “the perfect murder,” Biggers might have continued as a popular writer of middlebrow fiction. Instead, he moved into the mystery field by creating the Chinese-Hawaiian detective, Charlie Chan. In Chan, Biggers created a highly sympathetic, complex character who went against the racist Asian stereotypes (such as Fu Manchu) then prevalent in American culture. From the moment Chan stepped onto the pages of The House Without a Key (1925), Biggers life changed forever. “Charlie Chan’s Poppa” focuses on Biggers life and how it led to the creation of Charlie Chan. This speech is given with an entertaining slide presentation.
Writing Fiction and Nonfiction
For years this was my most popular workshop, a 4-5 hour overview on writing adult fiction and nonfiction. In both the fiction portion and the nonfiction portion I provide pertinent handouts based on real-life query letters, proposals, sample chapters, and work schedules. Throughout the workshop I include information on getting published.