I have speaking experience in elementary schools and international scientific conferences. I have taught in lecture halls and in highly interactive programs in college dorms. I am available for school and library visits and other speaking engagements, either in person, or “virtually” from my Madison, Wisconsin home.
I will work with groups to develop the appropriate program, incorporating science literacy, autism awareness, the writing and publishing process, or the life of Bayard Rustin.
Ms. Houtman . . . made the talk very age appropriate, and she not only talked about writing, but shared examples of her writing and how she changed it to make the book more informative and interesting . . . Ms. Houtman made writing a real life, understandable and doable process. I highly recommend Ms. Houtman as a presenter. Her presentation was the most engaging of any book talk I have heard.
--Paula Bauch, Randall Elementary School
A sampling of recent presentations
Sciency Fiction: Not Just the Facts
Sciency Fiction is fiction in which accurate, non-speculative, current science is integral to the story. It can be a bridge to fictional narrative for those students who read primarily non-fiction and a bridge to science for those who prefer novels. I share some examples of sciency fiction and talk about how authors include science in their fiction. I can also share ways to use sciency fiction in the classroom.(Here is a list of sciency fiction titles.)
For a downloadable pamphlet about Sciency Fiction, click here.
Bayard Rustin: The invisible activist
Bayard Rustin was a gay African-American Quaker whose work for peace, nonviolence, human rights and civil rights was significant, but largely unrecognized. I introduce students to the man, his influence on Martin Luther King, Jr., and a life spent fighting injustice.
How to Write, Revise, Revise, Revise, and Publish a Book
The emphasis is on . . . you guessed it . . . revision. I show some of my techniques for brainstorming and organizing ideas, editing, copyediting, page proofs, and so on. I show how cover art is developed with five versions of the cover of The Reinvention of Edison Thomas. I also read a passage from an early draft and the final version of that same passage to show how it had changed. Target audience: Upper Elementary to Middle School.
Not in So Many Words: Make Your Manuscript Lean and Mean
Concise writing, where every word counts, is important for any kind of writing, and especially in writing for children. In this session, we’ll look at ways to tighten up a bloated manuscript, whether it’s fiction or nonfiction, picture book or YA novel. We’ll start with the big picture (is this chapter really necessary?) and work down to the word level (using one strong word instead of two or three weaker words). We’ll look at issues like narrative structure and flow, showing vs. telling, voice, setting, exposition, and trust in the reader. We will work together on exercises to practice trimming the literary fat.
Nonfiction: Finding the story in the facts
A story, whether fiction or nonfiction, is not just a series of events or facts strung together. Each element relates to the others in a cause-and-effect way to pull the reader along. We will work together on an exercise to choose facts and arrange them in a way that conveys the truth of our story.
Free 20-30 minute Q&A Skype visits for groups that have read my book
Contact Me for more information