Marsha can do presentations on a single aspect outlined below, or she can tailor to your school’s needs, combining several themes in a single presentation. Contact us for further information
A Passion for Books
One of Marsha’s most popular presentations is about her own literacy struggles.
Marsha tricked her teachers into thinking she knew how to read until it all caught up with her in grade 4 when she failed the provincial reading exam. Adding insult to injury, they made her repeat the whole year. As the tallest and oldest kid in the class, she didn’t want to be seen learning to read with little skinny books and she was too proud to ask for help, so she taught herself how to read by taking out the fattest book in the children’s section of the Brantford Public Library — Oliver Twist. She kept on renewing it for a whole year. Reading that book was a turning point in her life. She decided that she loved reading big fat fiction, and wanted to write it too.
Marsha’s story resonates with students, especially those who are struggling academically or who feel “different”.
A picture book from start to finish
Marsha reads portions of her rough drafts and shows students how many changes she had to make in Silver Threads and Enough. She also shows them early artwork and lets them compare it with the published artwork. She enjoys regaling the kids with stories of mistakes.
Marsha loves giving keynote addresses! She recently gave 8 keynote addresses over two days at the Literacy For Life conference in Saskatoon. Each session had 500 students! Marsha has given keynotes at high schools, writing conferences, and teaching conferences as well. Her largest audience for a single keynote was 1200 — that was for the Calgary Young Writers’ Conference in 2009.
Presentations on specific books and themes
Marsha’s books gently deal with such universal issues as multiculturalism, immigration, discrimination and genocide. She likes to plunge her readers into difficult times so they can consider how they would have reacted under similar circumstances.
Marsha’s late mother-in-law lost half of her classmates to the Nazi Lebensborn program in WWII. Marsha talks about the true story that inspired this historical middle-grade thriller.
Daughter of War
Marsha talks about the real history behind the novel: the Armenians who were killed in Turkey as part of the official policy of “Turkey for the Turks” but also about the heroic Muslims who risked their own lives to save Armenians. She talks about the ten years of research and her many drafts, and how she ended up writing the final draft in a single mad month.
Prisoners in the Promised Land
Marsha’s own grandfather was interned during WWI in Canada as an “enemy alien”. Her 2007 Dear Canada diary novel is about a young girl who was interned in the wilds of northern Quebec during the first World War. With interactive questions and answers, Marsha discusses how she found out about what happened to her own grandfather and why it spurred her to write this book. She also talks about how she did her research.
“Who remembers the Armenians now?” (Hitler, 1941)
Marsha talks about the real people and the history behind her Armenian genocide novels, Nobody’s Child, The Hunger, and Aram’s Choice, Daughter of War, and Call Me Aram.
Kobzar’s Children: A Century of Untold Ukrainian Stories
Marsha reveals the background, research, and real people behind her Ukrainian books.
Marsha does a storytelling session with her folk tale picture book, Enough about one girl and her father and how they saved one village from the Ukrainian Famine (Holodomor). For K to 3, this is primarily a straight storytelling with questions and answers at the end. With older students, Marsha delves into the concept of fiction vs non-fiction, what is truth, and the chilling consequences of telling the truth.
A story in a box. What would you take with you if you were leaving everything familiar behind to travel to a new country? An interactive question and answer storytelling session about Aram and his decision to come to Canada.
Grades I will present to: K to university
Maximum number of students per session: For younger grades, 45. For older grades 45 or fewer works best but I will present to larger groups.
Is this flexible? Sometimes a school wishes to accommodate all of their students. This is especially true for northern and remote schools. In these situations, I will be flexible.
Workshops available? If yes, for which grades: grades 3 to university
Maximum participants for workshop: 16*
*please note — Marsha recently developed a modified writing workshop that can be used with as many as 60 students at once, but teacher assistance is essential.
Do you offer…
Professional Development Workshops? Yes — teaching history through fiction/teaching teachers how to teach creative writing/many other topics on demand
Grade 12 Writers’ Craft Workshops? Absolutely! I love doing Writers’ Craft Workshops.
Venues I am comfortable in: (classroom, library, auditorium, gymnasium) — all but prefer library
Is this flexible? yes
List any equipment or other requirements you have: a bottle of water, lunch if I’m staying over the lunchtime, and a map of the world when presenting to students K to 5 if possible.