Thursday, February 13, 2020

Building A School Visit is just like Building A...Sandcastle! (Jodi Moore)

Around the time I was shopping When A Dragon Moves In around to various agents and publishing houses, my friend Loren was working hard on her degree in library science. “I know it’ll be published,” she said (as good friends will say), “and you’ll be my first author visit.”

And happened! Loren graduated, a lucky school snapped her up and Flashlight Press agreed to publish my debut picture book!

“Can you come the end of May?” Loren asked me over the phone.

“YES!” I Tigger-danced around the room. Then, reality hit. “But...I’ve never done this before. What do I do?”

There was a moment of silence. “I don’t know. I’ve never done this before either.”

Since research is something both librarians and writers love, we set off to find out: by asking teachers what they wanted in an author visit.

“Encourage our students to write,” one said.

“Talk about the parts of a story,” another suggested.

“Discuss the need for revision,” a kindergarten teacher (yes! A KINDERGARTEN TEACHER) weighed in. “These kids think they can get it right the first time.”

And so, using my husband's original sandcastle as a visual metaphor, I crafted concrete, relatable, interactive presentations with grains of inspiration as shared by teachers themselves.

Here’s what I provide:

K through 4th grades:

“Building a strong story is just like building a sandcastle!” 

From "organizing tools" and "digging for ideas" to "building a strong base" and "re-reading and revising", students are introduced to the parts of a story, including the daunting "story arc" using the award-winning picture book When A Dragon Moves In.

Primary grades: Students will first be detectives, fixing spelling and punctuation errors; then will act as artists, “painting a picture” with words. They will then participate in Cool Kids Theater, acting out a scene from the book, learning how to “immerse themselves” in the writing process.

Upper grades:  Using The Wizard of Oz as an example, we will discuss adding dimension to stories and layering characters (adding a little “meat” and a lot of “heart” to the “skeleton” of the tale) as well as Character vs. Plot-Driven work.

And you never know…the DRAGON may even MOVE IN!
Towards the end of the presentation, students will “meet” the dragon and explore a professional masking technique used in theater, thereby infusing a bit of art inspiration...and recycling!

NEW for 5th-12th grades:

“Unleashing the Power of Words”

A picture may be worth a thousand words; however, if we choose our words carefully, we can express ourselves with the power and flair to rival any artist.

In this session, students examine the rich emotion and nuances reflected in the illustrations of a picture book and then explore innovative methods they can use to strengthen their own words and concepts to develop believable, 3-dimensional characters, vivid settings and gripping plots.

Discussion topics include: What’s the difference between a plot-driven and a character-driven story, and why should we care? Can a character be all good or all bad? Adjectives and adverbs…creative or crutch?

Because here’s the thing: stories have the power to teach, to connect and to heal us. I share examples of books that serve these needs, and close by impressing upon students that there are stories missing the world needs to hear…their own.

As authors, we speak to the most important audiences in the world. This letter took my breath away, and reminds me of my mission, my passion and my responsibility. Every day.

I’d love to connect with you and your students. Contact me at for further details and scheduling. All attendees receive hand-signed bookmarks at the end of the presentation/day. Hope to hear from you soon!


  1. Nicely done. Kids, especially younger ones, love getting attention from someone new, mysterious and interested in them. Visiting classrooms creates magic and energy that flows both ways.

    1. Magic indeed! Sometimes I think *I'm* the one who benefits more than anyone from visiting schools - the kids are SUCH an inspiration and a gift!