Marilyn Taylor McDowell’s experience in bringing quality children’s literature to young readers includes running an elementary school library, booking cultural arts events for a rural middle school and being the proprietor of a children’s bookshop where she hosted numerous themed events and designed and taught writing workshops for children.
Marilyn is now the award-winning author of the mid-grade novel, Carolina Harmony, a Booklist pick for Top Ten Historical Fiction for Youth in 2009. She is currently completing her second historical mid-grade novel, and is a mentor in local community-based programs, still happily connecting young readers with great books.
Marilyn’s presentations are low-tech and personal. She invites students to listen to stories, encourages participation in music and song and even takes children on a walk along a woodland path through visualization.
She begins by engaging her audience with a story about how a catbird flew into her imagination and then invited her to fly along, right into story.
She explains to students that storytelling is an ancient art and this oral tradition continues. Everybody has a story to tell and Marilyn challenges all students to value their stories, and then segues into the art of writing or “telling it on paper.”
Using her mid-grade novel, Carolina Harmony, as an example, Marilyn demonstrates:
- The first draft is messy.
- Ideas develop and grow in the act of writing.
- Research is fun – discovering the details.
- Keep going – Believe in your work – Never Give Up!
Her presentation concludes with the continuation of the catbird story. In Marilyn’s novel, the main character, Carolina, wears a catbird pendant. Marilyn reminds students why the catbird is so important to Carolina. She then tells them how the catbird became a talisman for the author and how it offers encouragement and reminds the author to tell the stories closest to her heart.
Marilyn reserves time for students to have their questions answered. Typically, time runs out yet students are encouraged to write to the author with their comments and questions. The author provides teachers with an addressed envelope for student’s notes and letters. Marilyn will respond right away. She knows this is a wonderful way to keep enthusiasm high and is a way to make the author visit “last,” providing a further connection with students and reminding them of the importance of their own writing endeavors.
The Basics for School Visits
As Marilyn’s presentations typically run 45 minutes to an hour long, she sets a maximum of three presentations per day.
However, Marilyn offers a separate 30-minute flannel board and puppet storytelling event for Kindergarten.
These are low-tech presentations, and it is essential that students and author see and hear each other. Classrooms and grades can be combined according to developmental level. The author prefers to address her audience in the classroom or the media center.
$450 per day plus travel expenses (flight + hotel). For visits within driving distance, the travel expense will be mileage calculated at the IRS standard rate (50¢ per mile as of Jan. 1, 2010). If the driving distance is over 2 1/2 hours, a hotel stay may be required.
Schools in nearby communities that work together to bring Marilyn Taylor McDowell into their schools can both receive a discount if Marilyn is scheduled to present back to back (example, School One is visited on Monday and School Two is visited on Tuesday).
Marilyn will be happy to collaborate with teachers, librarians and media specialists on ideas to create and promote a very special author event.