School Speaking Engagement 2024


In May 2024 was the day of my first speaking engagement as an author at a local high school.

After a brief introduction of myself and my book, “Mad Money & Murder”, I gave the students a brief explanation of the various aspects of being an author. Which included a description of each aspect of my genre—cozy and traditional mystery with a splash of supernatural. They learned a bit about independent publishing, marketing, and the value of using an editor. The business side of writing.

Then the fun began. I told them I attended a bunch of author panels at the 2005 San Diego Comic-Con. These panels had big-name writers: Robert Jordan, Kevin J. Anderson, and James Rollins, to name a few. The one question I heard asked by attendees over and over again was “How do you come up with ideas?”. In my opinion, for writers, this is not the hard part of writing, but the easy part. The hard part is staying focused on the one story idea and working through it to completion. So, I took it upon myself to teach the students that they too could come up with their own story idea. I had already decided beforehand that I wanted to be able to teach the students how to use my new favorite writing tool: mind mapping.

Mind Mapping

Each of the eight groups started with the same individual, a person they were all familiar with: the pizza delivery driver. I lead them through the steps:

  1. Creating a brief physical description of our driver,
  2. The house they were delivering to, and
  3. What happened when the delivery driver showed up at the house.
  4. Occasionally, a student would yell out a suggestion and they or someone else would immediately discount it. I wrote it down anyway. I did the same if two students yelled out conflicting ideas. These moments became a teaching opportunity. Write the ideas down no matter what, because eventually, you will notice one idea will have spawned more ideas than the other. Sometimes, they would throw out a wild idea and the consensus would come out that it was too far-fetched. Until I drew on history or other books, movies, or television shows to show them that the idea wasn’t so off the mark.

Suggestions were coming fast and furious, and I was doing my best to keep up with writing everything on the board. During one session, I stopped everyone with a simple, “Look at this.” Early on, the group had said their older female pizza delivery driver always wore baseball caps. Later, they offered the idea that she was also a cancer patient. I drew a line between the two ideas, given separately during the process, and there was an audible gasp from the room of students as a connection was made. The pizza delivery always wore hats because she was losing her hair due to her cancer treatments. Connections among individual ideas and even among individual characters show how useful this tool is to writers.

During another class period, while I was again dealing with ideas being thrown at me from every direction, one student’s voice rang out over the others. “Wow, it practically writes itself!” And there it was. A student had grasped the power of what I was showing them.

Our poor pizza delivery driver was put through the ringer that day, but it was a productive day over all. I had students come up to me after sessions and thank me for teaching them about mind mapping. There were students who want to write and are looking forward to using it as a writing tool. I even had a student who plays, runs, and writes role-playing games for his friends and he had written himself into a corner while creating an adventure for his table. He told me he’s going to use mind mapping to help get himself out of that mess. All the while, he was frantically jotting down ideas in a notebook.

Thank you

All in all, it was a fun, busy, and productive day. One I hope to duplicate in the upcoming school year at this and other high schools.

Thank you again, Wylie High School (in Abilene), for having me as a guest speaker. I hope you’ll allow me to visit again.

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