Free 15-Minute Q&As
Each month I set aside a limited amount of time for short Virtual Q&As. These are designed for groups who have read one or more of my books. It’s a really great way to connect with the author and ask questions about the writing process and the book your students have just read. I schedule these on a first-come-first-serve basis.
Please note: because I get so many requests for Q&As, I only offer one free session per school per year. This allows me to offer this opportunity to more students. Additional sessions may be scheduled as paid visits. If you have multiple classrooms reading my book, you may combine for the Q&A, as you would for an assembly.
For Elementary and Middle School Students
In Response to COVID-19 and the need for Distance Learning
I now offer Zoom writing workshops. Appropriate for students in 4th through 7th grades, Let’s Get Specific, Let’s Get Creative encourages students through a variety of fun activities to use more vivid and descriptive verbs and nouns in their writing. In the second half of the workshop, we will create a verbal add-on story to learn about plotting, and then students will write and share creative stories of their own. The workshop runs about an hour and is most effective with 22 participants or less.
Here is a recent endorsement for my virtual teaching:
“Polly held several virtual writing workshops with our 5th and 6th grade students and exceeded our expectations in every way! She inspired and motivated our students, and they clearly felt engaged and interested during her program. We are eager to schedule her for a live event in the Fall of 2020.”
—Cathy Arvizu, MA, MLS, Middle School Librarian, 6th grade Advisor, The Episcopal School of Dallas
In this upbeat and interactive assembly presentation, I talk about what students need to do to become better writers. My advice is simple: they need to read, write and “unplug” from their electronics to leave time to daydream. I share stories of my own publication journey, from daydreaming and writing stories in my childhood to researching and writing Skyriders and The Neptune Project. I show students pictures of my manuscript at various stages in the revision process, I stress the importance of asking, “what if” when plotting a story, and I dress four volunteers in my scuba gear to help give a fun review and quiz.
Let’s Get Creative and Let’s Get Specific
Many students get stumped when it’s time to write. After creating verbal add-on stories, we will discuss some of the most vital elements of a story or novel. We will also talk about how important it is to be specific when writing. Students will revise and improve several very general sentences by using more descriptive verbs and nouns. Then students will have a chance to write and share colorful, specific paragraphs from their own stories. Please note: this workshop helps students work on skills they need to succeed on state writing assessments.
From Ideas to Scribbles to Published Novel: How My Story Became a Book
In this workshop, I share with students how I researched, plotted and wrote The Neptune Project and Skyriders. I also talk about different steps in the editorial process including the twelve page revision letter I received from my editor and share pictures of my manuscript at various stages in its production. Students will look at cover art and discuss the fact that they, as book buyers, have to judge books by their covers. Finally, I explore the basic elements of a novel, create verbal add-on stories with the students, and help them start a story of their own.
Please note: this presentation is geared for students interested in the publishing business, and they will need to bring writing materials for the second portion of the program.
Specifically for Grades K-2
All About Dolphins
In this presentation for younger students, I talk briefly about how I went about creating and writing The Neptune Project and how much I learned about dolphins while researching the book. I show colorful slides that help me to explain these marine mammals’ unique characteristics and behaviors. After discussing dolphins’ habitat, their place on the food chain, and their role as a predator in the ocean, we will also talk about why dolphins are classified as mammals. At the end, we will play an echolocation game with my dolphin and fish puppets to help students understand how dolphins use this amazing ability to find their prey.
Details about School Visits
I give presentations for students from kindergarten through eighth grades. If you are interested in booking me for a school visit, please contact Sarah DeVore at How Now Booking. Educators, if you are planning to sell books during my visit, you can purchase copies of Skyriders through Andrea Cruise (email: email@example.com) for a 40% discount. If you wish to order copies of The Neptune Project and The Neptune Challenge, you can contact the Hachette Book Group. If you are a new customer with Hachette, you can call their customer service at 1-800-759-0190 or email: order.desk.@hbgusa.com.
Virtual Visits: I enjoy doing virtual visits with students as well and charge $100.00 for an hour. I do find these visits are much more productive if the students are prepared in advance with specific questions they would like to ask me about my book and my writing. If you could like to set up a virtual visit, please contact me at: NeptuneProject1@aol.com. (Download any of the following documents as PDFs)
- Suggestions on how to host a GREAT school visit: School Visits FAQ
- Suggestions on how to run book sales: Book Sales FAQ
- Skyriders Discussion questions
- The Neptune Project Discussion questions
- The Neptune Challenge Discussion questions
- The Neptune Promise Discussion questions
- Skyriders Educators guide
- The Neptune Challenge Teacher’s guide
- The Neptune Project Common Core teacher guide
- The Neptune Project Teacher’s guide
- The Neptune Project Teacher’s guide handouts
- Resources and STEM ideas for using The Neptune Project in schools
- The Marine Life Internet Scavenger Hunt
- Book order form without The Neptune Promise
- Book order form with The Neptune Promise
For School Family Nights and Environmental Clubs
In the process of researching The Neptune Project, I learned a great deal about climate change, marine biology, genetics, and issues threatening our oceans today. I can talk in depth about the STEM aspects of The Neptune Project, and I also offer a program that is more focused on marine issues like coral bleaching and acidification.
For Junior High Students
Great Beginnings: How to Hook Readers from Page One
Working with individual classes, I talk about dynamic openings. Students discuss great first lines and incredible opening scenes in books and movies. But what is the right place in a novel to begin the story? I know from personal experience that’s not always easy to determine. After exploring the concept of the “inciting incident,” students will have a chance to create their own first lines and opening paragraphs and share them.
Developing Real and Unforgettable Characters
Working with individual classes, I talk about the challenge of creating believable and memorable characters. I encourage students to discuss strong protagonists in recent young adult fiction and classic novels. Although writers need to know their characters’ backstory, we’ll discuss the perils of loading too much of that information into a short story or book. Using character questionnaires, students will then write and share at least one paragraph about an intriguing character they’ve imagined.
World-building Workshop for Young Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers
How do you create real and believable new worlds for your reader? What kinds of details do you need to weave into your story? Whether you want to write fantasy or science fiction, you have to get the simplest details right, from characters’ names to the food they eat. In this fun, practical workshop, I’ll share hints and writing exercises which will help teen authors create vivid new worlds for their readers.
Resources for Educators
PDFS FOR DOWNLOAD:
Here are some testimonials from educators about my school assemblies and writing workshops.
“Polly’s presentation and workshops were terrific. She did a wonderful job of sharing her writing process and getting the kids excited about creating their own stories. Following her visit, even some of my most reluctant readers began sharing books they’re working on. We can’t wait for Polly’s next visit.”
—Libby Creamer, Teacher Librarian, Soda Creek Elementary, Steamboat Springs, CO
“One of my students wrote more in Polly’s 45 minute writing workshop than he wrote the entire school year. He was so engaged and excited.”
—Carrie Abalos, 4th grade teacher, Strawberry Park Elementary, Steamboat Springs, CO
“Polly Holyoke presented to our entire fourth and fifth grades, and she was amazing. Students were engaged and involved in learning about reading, writing and the editing process. Polly was able to hook her audience, keep the kids’ interest, and spark their excitement.”
—Christine Russell, Teacher Librarian, Strawberry Park Elementary School, Steamboat Springs, CO
“Our district (Midway ISD) hosted Polly Holyoke (author of The Neptune Project) the last week of January and she was phenomenal. She is a former teacher and has great control of the students. She brings a wonderful message about unplugging, daydreaming, and writing. She visited all 6 of our elementary campuses, our 2 intermediate schools and our middle school. She offers a presentation for larger groups as well as a writing workshop for smaller groups. Both were excellent. Teachers and students were impressed and all copies of her book stay checked out. In fact, we sold almost as many copies of her book after her visit as we did before, which I think is a testament to her great presentation.
Check out her website for details on pricing, number of sessions she offers, etc. and send her an email. She responds quickly and is wonderful to work with. She is very willing to travel anywhere in the US—and if you live near a body of water, you already have the perfect setting for getting your students excited about this novel and its upcoming sequel. Enjoy!!”
—Diane McDaniel, Librarian, River Valley Intermediate School, McGregor, TX
“This was the best author presentation I’ve attended. I loved that it was interactive and building on exactly what we do in the classroom. Several of my students are continuing the story they started that day. It matched perfectly with our curriculum, standards, and was very engaging!”
—Fourth grade teacher, Press Elementary/McKinney ISD
“WOW! The assembly that Mrs. Holyoke provided our campus was truly amazing. As a former teacher, she knew exactly how to hook the kids into her lesson about reading and writing and she knew how to keep three hundred students engaged the entire time she was here. Her assembly was interactive and informative for our Third, Fourth and Fifth graders. She has a real gift for not only writing, but also for teaching.”
—Jacqueline Shannon, Meadows Elementary Librarian
“Polly Holyoke has a real gift for teaching. Her assembly at my Title 1 school was an engaging ‘hands on’ presentation. The kids are still talking about it and are making plenty of trips now to the local library! She definitely tapped into the sensory modalities for learning. Our students asked critical thinking questions during her assembly and now are so excited about reading and writing! They are interested in parts of speech and using more descriptive verbs, adjectives and adverbs. Her visit and its results exceeded my expectations! I hope we get her back at our school again.”
—Melanie McDonald M.S., CCC/SLP Speech/Language Pathologist at Meadows Elementary, President Texas Speech/Language/Hearing Association
“My class has a very diverse group of students that are at multiple different learning stages and Polly Holyoke was able to engage each student with her workshop. I was thankful for the creativity that she inspired in my students because it let them see that writing can be exciting. She showed them how to use their imaginations to stretch a simple sentence into a full blown story. I have been using the techniques she taught them in our daily writing lessons by encouraging my students to use visual language in their personal writing.”
—Beth Price, Wallace Elementary 4th Grade, Richardson ISD
“Polly came to Westbank Library to present her world-building tween writing workshop. The presentation itself was very well structured and Polly was wonderful about including all the kids in each activity. She also had them write a paragraph at the end and she had something positive and constructive to say for everyone. We had a large number of kids and Polly, like any great teacher, handled the number of kids, and the mix of personalities with aplomb, all while staying on point. I had a bunch of parents stay and all were impressed with the attention to detail of the class and the subject matter. But for me the best part was the fact that she engaged all the kids ( even the one ones there under duress : ) in an intellectual activity while showing them how fun writing can be.”
—Kristi Floyd, Programs Manager at the Westbank Libraries
A note about all workshop content: I’m flexible! After teaching seventh and eighth graders for a decade, I can adapt and change programs to suit teachers, students and curriculum.
Girl Scout Workshops
Greetings to all you Girl Scout Leaders out there! I was actually a Girl Scout leader for my daughters’ troops for ten years, and I love Girl Scouts and everything this organization does for girls. I was thrilled when I heard they had re-written their program materials to focus on three major themes, including storytelling and water. I’m still developing some water/preserving-our-seas workshops, but I do have two writing workshops that can help Senior and Junior Girl Scouts fulfill specific badge requirements.
So You Want to Be a Novelist?
In this workshop Seniors complete the first three steps toward earning their Novelist badge. I discuss the joys and challenges of a professional writing career, how to query agents and publishers, and places teens truly can sell their work today. Please bring a spiral notebook or writing pad.
The Joys of Scribbling and Scribing
In this workshop Juniors complete four of the five steps towards earning their Scribe badge. I talk about my own career and the different ways authors can make a living, from writing nonfiction articles for newspapers to writing imaginative stories for major publishers. Please bring a spiral notebook or writing pad.
Afternoon with an Author
I also can work with several troops at a Service Unit event. I can give a Power Point presentation which includes information on how I became an author and the various careers available in publishing. Then I will conduct writing exercises with the girls. This is a two hour program with a five minute break, appropriate for Junior, Cadette or Senior Girl Scouts. Participants should bring writing materials. I will sign my books for any girls who bring their copies to the event.