Young Adult Author Visits

To foster instant creativity with the young adult age group you must give them activities that assure success without the pressure of judgment or harsh criticism. Just like the little ones they love games and short writing exercises.


Give each student ten random words, with one bonus word. Use each word to write an original poem or short story (flash fiction—one page or less in length) and then share each with each another.

1)      Give each student this list of words and sample poem.

1.      Window
2.      Atlas
3.      Wire
4.      Opaque
5.      Casserole
6.      Figurine
7.      Thistle
8.      Storage
9.      Chink
10.  hackney
Plus: snorkel
Example of a poem:
Gazing out the grubby window
At the opaque day,
I strain to see a reflection
the figurine staring back at me.
This is a hackneyed life wrapped
and trapped in wire?
  1. Be sure to leave time to analyze the words on the list themselves. What do students notice about the words on the list? What parts of speech–noun, verb, adjective–are they? What makes a “good”/creative/juicy/inspiring word for such an exercise?
  2. Have kids choose 5 words to use in an original poem. You can ask them to slant the poem toward your book in some way.
  3. Give them 5-10 minutes.
  4. Ask for volunteers to read their poem.
  5. What have they learned about writing and poetry from this lesson?
  6. Another approach is to put them in small groups to work on the poem together.
  1. Warm students up by asking what they thought about your reading excerpt: What did they like about it? What was it about? Follow up with “why” questions, and ask that students support their answers with specific words and phrases from the story. Write their thoughts on the chalkboard.
  2. Give each student a handout with a story excerpt that covers the topic or topics you are covering.
  3. Segue into questions that are more directly about the aspect of playing with language on which you want to focus (action words, dialogue, metaphors, etc). How does the author use specific words?
Action words: Underline specific word choices that bring the action to life. Describe how the imagery is crafted by action words?

Dialogue: Identify the characters in the story excerpt: their roles, status, age and relationship to each other. Discuss how the writer plays with the characters’ dialogue (distinct tone and word choices) to reveal information about each character.
4.      Write a poem or short story in which you play with language in the manner of one of the author’s discussion.
Metaphors: Underline the metaphors in the passage. Why does it work or not work for you?
5.      With their answers on the board, ask some synthesizing questions: What have they learned about playing with language from this lesson? How might they experiment with specific word choices and meanings in their own writing, in your class and in others they might be taking that semester?

Directions:  Give students a heads up about the board game they will be playing after your reading. Use index cards to create game cards with questions about your book on one side and the answers on the other side.  Print game boards on card stock paper. Break the group up into groups of 4 or 5 students. You can use buttons as player pieces.

Roll die to see who goes first. Others follow in a clockwise direction. They roll the die, take a card, answer the question correctly and move the number of dots on ONE die.  First player to reach the end of the game wins.  Continue playing to find out who comes in second, third, and fourth place.

Draw the map of an island on a crinkled up paper bag.  This will show that the map is old. 
Now add some features like mountains, caves, volcanoes, rivers, swamps, or lakes.  (This is a great way to give your kids a geography lesson!)  How about adding an old, deserted pirate town?   Remember that islands don't have to be tropical.  There are also rocky islands, jungle islands, and since this is an imaginary story, how about rainbow islands, candy islands, islands made of toys, or any combination of elements you want.
Decide who lives on the island. Maybe it’s a clan of long-lost Vikings, rock people, wacky animals, or talking birds.

Finally, start the story by bringing to the island a main character or two. What would happen when two kids get shipwrecked there, or a time-traveler shows up?  They need to have a goal as well.  It could be as simple as trying to get home, or finding an object that's needed to save the world.
Because you have a picture of your island it is easy to create a plot as your characters move from one part of the island to the other.  Create a problem to overcome at each feature.
Line1: Your first name
Line 2: Who is...(Descriptive words that describe you)
Line 3: Who is brother or sister of...
Line 4: Who loves...(three ideas or preople)
Line 5: Who feels...(three ideas )
Line 6: Who needs...(three ideas)
Line 7: Who gives...(three ideas)
Line 8: Who fears...(three ideas)
Line 9: Who would like to see...
Line 10: Who shares...
Line 11: Who is...
Line 12: Who is a resident of...
Line 13: Your last name

Example Bio-Poem
Allison Nicole

Creative, intelligent, fun, responsible, self-disciplined, and enthusiastic

Sister of Meghan Darby, Melinda, Chris and Harrison
Loves to create art, make up plays and commercials, ride Daddy's Harley, and run track
Who needs the telephone, her hair brush, macaroni and cheese, her friends and family

Who gives her MeMaw much joy, her father and mother much pride; brother and sister love
Who feels joy with her friends, creating art work, running, watching movies and eating

Who fears going from one room to another, not doing well on tests, zits and coming in last

Who would like to own a Harley, win the 880, see her room neat and tidy, win the lottery

Who shares her secrets, her worries, and her love with MeMaw

Who is an honor roll student, a typical 13-year old, a friend to Amber, Melissa and Christy

Who is a resident of Jacksonville, Florida

Author/educator Kathy Stemke

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anthony stemke said...

These are some very clever ideas, I can see them working effectively at author visits.
Thank You for posting this.

Carolyn Howard-Johnson said...

Wow! This is fantastic, right down to the image which would be great for a Pinteret pin! And I'm printing it out for the ESL and Accent Reduction tutoring I do!


Carolyn Howard-Johnson
Excited about the new edition (expanded! updated! even more helpful for writers!) of The Frugal Book Promoter, now a USA Book News award-winner in its own right (

Unknown said...

Glad you like it Anthony and Carolyn.

NancyCL said...

WONDERFUL suggestions, Kathy, and I'm sure you'll keep your audience well focused!

Shirley Corder said...

Some clever suggestions, Kathy. Wish I had some young people to practice on.

Unknown said...

Thanks Nancy and Shirley.

Heidiwriter said...

Wonderful ideas, Kathy! I just spoke to three classes of middle school students at our local Young Authors Conference and was pleased with the number of kids who are actually READING and WRITING! It gives me hope!

Unknown said...

Thanks Heidi. I love working with this age group. I'm teaching an SAT class right now. Soooooo much work.

Magdalena Ball said...

These are incredible ideas Kathy. I've been doing a once a week prep session with my daughter and a friend of hers (they're taking a selective school test soon), and I'm going to use these. Thank you.

Anne Duguid Knol said...

Just amazing to have so many new to me workable ideas handily packaged together in this one post.Definitely one to share. So many thanks.

Karen Cioffi said...

Kathy, What a great list of activities to use with young adults. Thanks so much for sharing. I love the image you used!

Karen Cioffi Writing and Marketing

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy! These are all wonderful ideas. Thanks for sharing them.
: )


Margaret Fieland said...

Kathy, terrific ideas for author visits. I'm saving them.

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